Daniel Craig appears for the third time as James Bond in “Skyfall,” which is currently in theaters. The most ferociously debated topic involving the franchise will always be which of these men best filed the role of the world’s most famous spy. Below is the definitive answer, until someone else writes a better one.
6. Timothy Dalton
Number of Appearances: 2
Best Film: “License to Kill”
Worst Film: “The Living Daylights”
Dalton isn’t the worst Bond because he didn’t look the part or because the films in which he starred were bad (they’re actually pretty good). He’s the worst Bond because something never quite felt right with his performance. Dalton was too weary for the role, too rigid to be as charismatic as the character needs to be. It’s probably not all his fault, but he ultimately takes the rap.
5. George Lazenby
Number of Appearances: 1
Best Film: “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”
Worst Film: N/A
Lazenby had the unenviable task of replacing Sean Connery, who was both wildly popular and inseparable from the role. He does pretty good work, however, and his lone film is one of the series’ best. He famously quit his seven-film contract after just one film because he felt the character wouldn’t be able to adapt to the 1970s. Whoops.
4. Pierce Brosnan
Number of Appearances: 4
Best Film: “GoldenEye”
Worst Film: “Die Another Day”
Brosnan was the studio’s first choice to replace Roger Moore in 1987, but was contractually chained to his television series “Remington Steele.” They eventually got their man eight years later when he starred in “GoldenEye,” which reinvigorated the franchise for a new generation. The rest of his films were nowhere near as good and, in fact, got progressively worse.
3. Roger Moore
Number of Appearances: 7
Best Film: “The Spy Who Loved Me” or “For Your Eyes Only”
Worst Film: “The Man with the Golden Gun” or “A View to a Kill”
Roger Moore was James Bond for a whopping 12 years and remains the longest-tenured 007 in history. Better than any other actor in the series, Moore was capable of playing the character as a joyful and witty spy, somehow simultaneously cunning and playful. The plots he had to maneuver through – from the outer space nonsense of “Moonraker” to the circus climax in “Octopussy” – were some of the franchise’s lowest points, but Moore managed to endure in spite of them.
2. Daniel Craig
Number of Appearances: 3 and counting (he’s signed on for at least two more movies)
Best Film: “Skyfall”
Worst Film: “Quantum of Solace”
The rebooted Bond is a cold-blooded spy in the mold of Jason Bourne and Craig plays him with an icy aggression that the character has never had before. His first two films – the fantastic “Casino Royale” and the dopey “Quantum of Solace” – lack the smoothness that Connery and Moore were so effortless at showcasing. This is done intentionally, but it does take something away from the escapist natures of the series. What pushes Craig over the top is his performance is the brilliant “Skyfall,” which is the best Bond movie since the 1960s.
1. Sean Connery
Number of Appearances: 6 officially, appeared unofficially as 007 in “Never Say Never Again”
Best Film: “Goldfinger”
Worst Film: “Diamonds Are Forever”
It’s undeniable that every other Bond actor has been emulating Connery is some way. Try as they might to distance themselves, there’s always a certain nod to the series’ first star. From the way he dressed to the way he mangled words and occasionally chewed up the scenery, Sean Connery is the biggest factor in the early popularity of the character and will forever be the actor most associated with the role. No matter who else comes along, when anyone thinks of James Bond, they think of Sean Connery. What more can you say?