To date, 22 (official) movies have been made from the novels and stories written by Ian Flemming about the master spy, James Bond. Each one portrayed this amazing character slightly differently. But who was the actor who did it better than the rest?
Sean Connery – being the first actor to play James Bond, it is generally thought that Connery was the best of the bunch. This seems to be mostly because the first is usually the best, and of course, Connery was the one to set the bar for all that would follow. He was handsome, charming, athletic, cool under pressure and even had that boyish sense of fun that gave him the devil-may-care attitude. Most importantly, he kept his sense of humor throughout and had many off-hand remarks that would make us laugh. Despite the fact that he was too old in his last films, his Scottish accent and smooth voice kept him believably attractive to the women. Unfortunately, his age did play against him in his later films as the audience had a harder time believing he could do all the physical stuff that a spy could do. Still, many would say that Connery was not only first, but also the best of the Bonds.
George Lazenby – having only one outing as James Bond in the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby didn’t have enough time to truly develop his Bond. Lazenby apparently believes that he was the best Bond ever, and has been known to show up on the sets of the movies to give the other actors ‘tips’. The biggest problem with George was he just wasn’t a good enough actor to pull the part off. Mind you, he did include some humor in his version, but most viewers found him to be less attractive, not because of his looks, but because he didn’t feel as debonair and easy as he could have done. This is a shame since many find this to be one of the best stories of the Bond franchise.
Roger Moore – with the looks, and the experience of playing a spy in the TV series ‘The Saint’, Moore was an excellent choice to follow in the Bond footsteps. From then and even to this day, and much like Connery, Moore has a persona of elegance and intelligence that fits perfectly with the 007 characteristics. Moore also took his Bond to a slightly higher plain as far as humor was concerned, and is arguably the most light-hearted of all the Bonds. This, of course, is what some people found fault with – that Roger Moore didn’t take the part seriously enough, and even with incorporating many of the qualities he used in ‘The Saint’ he seemed to lack the fire and aggression that Connery had. So while Moore was one of the wittiest of all the Bonds, you can’t always kill your enemy with laughter.
Timothy Dalton – from almost the opposite end of the spectrum from Moore’s tongue-in-cheek Bond we got Dalton’s hardnosed James. Dalton’s main problem for many was that he just wasn’t good looking enough. It wasn’t that he didn’t have a handsome face, but rather that this is parenthesized with a pair of overly large ears that detract from the cleft chin and other chiseled features. Try as he might to disguise them with cover-up hairstyles, these did get in the way often, especially when he was doing some of his own stunts. Dalton himself believed he was being truer to the version that Ian Flemming wrote than any other actor before him. And while detractors of Moore’s style, welcomed a tougher Bond after Moore, many people found Dalton’s Bond overly serious, almost to the point of looking like he was burnt out, and on the verge of becoming an alcoholic.
Pierce Brosnan – much like Moore and ‘The Saint,’ Brosnan was known from the TV series ‘Remington Steele’ before his stint as Bond. In fact, Brosnan had been considered for the role of 007 at the same time as Dalton, but the Bond franchise didn’t want their James to look too much like TV’s Remington. After some time of distancing himself from the show, Brosnan become the 5th Bond. With his boyish good looks, Irish charm and bright blue eyes, he was certainly the best looking of all the Bonds, and someone that the women in the audience could swoon over. While some men found him to be a bit too pretty, he was able to prove he could stand his own as being rough and aggressive. With a twinkle in his eye, he brought back the humor that Dalton had eschewed, but kept it in check enough to keep it from becoming a parody. Brosnan didn’t have the hefty build of his predecessors, but that didn’t stop him from doing many of his own stunts and proving he was as much a man’s man as he was a lady’s man. After four successful films, Pierce decided he was getting too old to continue and decided against trying for a fifth film. One thing that Brosnan brought to Bond that no others did was vulnerability and realism. Brosnan’s Bond felt pain and sometimes couldn’t stop from showing it and didn’t have unnaturally miraculous healing abilities. So confident in his ability, this Bond even allowed himself to be paired with a couple of girls who were his professional equals and not just involved bystanders and potential bed-mates. Lastly, Brosnan stopped his Bond from smoking cigarettes because he thought that Bond was a type of role model for youth, and if his Bond smoked, it might influence youngsters to do the same – proving that you don’t have to smoke to be cool.
Daniel Craig – this was probably the most controversial of all the Bond castings. Names of potential actors flew around Hollywood at the speed of light, and when Craig was chosen, the public was frankly surprised. To begin with, Daniel is shorter and far less classically handsome than all his predecessors. Moreover, Craig is blond, and doesn’t have the high-class suave attitude of the others, looking far more comfortable in a dirty, sweaty t-shirt than he does under the stiff shirt and bowtie of his tuxedo. But Craig also brought back a more brooding Bond to the screen, one that today’s action loving public could get their teeth into. Here too we have a James that gets hurt, but can give as much as he gets. One of the drawbacks of this Bond is that we are sometimes confused by his actions. On the one hand he doesn’t even blink when he makes his third kill to achieve his “00” status, but in other places shows a reluctance to pull the trigger. More importantly, he showed a lack of judgment when getting emotionally involved with a woman, and almost lost his job because of it. Many believe that this type of harsh portrayal of Bond is more faithful to the Ian Flemming books, and have praised Craig for this. The producers of Craig’s first two movies played up on this darker Bond, partially to the detriment of the films, adding far too much computer graphics to some scenes that gave him some super-human powers during fight and chase scenes. But while that wasn’t Craig’s fault, many viewers would have preferred more consistency in their newest and rebooted Bond. With the franchise on hold indefinitely, and with three more movies in his contract, no one knows if they’ll try to fix these in future or not. At the moment, sadly, the drawbacks of Craig’s Bond are outweighing the pluses here.
So who was the best of the Bonds? Certainly there are many opinions about this. Most people would agree that no one has ever topped the original Sean Connery in the part, and one doubts that anyone could. How the rest of them rank really depends on taste. Personally, I’d rank them as follows:
1. Sean Connery
2. Pierce Brosnan
3. Roger Moore
4. Timothy Dalton
5. Daniel Craig
6. George Lazenby
Of course, if the next Bond movie is ever produced, there is a chance that Craig could prove that his Bond is a better one and get moved up in the ranks. But whatever your preference is, James Bond will always be a hero and one of the few action stars that appeal to such a wide audience.