When Daniel Craig took over the mantle of James Bond from Pierce Brosnan, it was obvious that the Bond franchise was undergoing major changes. Despite some early worries that the gritty new direction of the Bond franchise might not mesh well with previous films, Craig’s three films to date have been well received by long-time fans and new viewers alike. There have been five other actors who have played the character, however, and despite the positive response to Craig’s performance, there are some fans who still hold some of the older films such as those starring Sean Connery as the gold standard for Bond. So where does Daniel Craig rank among the six actors who have played James Bond in the last fifty years?
#6 – George Lazenby
George Lazenby only played Bond in a single film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” The film was released after Sean Connery had played the character five times, and attempts were made to connect it to the previous films by both the writers and Lazenby’s portrayal of the character. While Lazenby’s Bond was a bit closer in action to the character from the novels, his acting and some of the costume changes made during the film left a lot to be desired. If Lazenby’s agent hadn’t convinced him to leave the franchise after only one film, then he might have corrected some of the problems of his performance in later movies, but, as it stands, his performance as James Bond is less than satisfactory in many ways.
#5 – Roger Moore
Sean Connery briefly returned to the role of James Bond after Lazenby’s departure, after which Roger Moore took over the character. Moore played the character in seven films, more than any other actor to date including Connery. Unfortunately, his portrayal lacked the suave demeanor or intensity found in some of the other Bonds and many of his films received mixed reviews at best. His final film, “A View to a Kill,” was especially poorly received and has been referred to by Moore as the only Bond film he regretted making.
#4 – Timothy Dalton
When Sean Connery left the Bond franchise, Timothy Dalton was briefly considered as a replacement but declined the part because he felt he was too young at the time. He was approached again as a replacement for Roger Moore, and after a few false starts and scheduling conflicts, he finally accepted the role and appeared as Bond in “The Living Daylights.” Best known for his stage and TV roles at the time, Dalton portrayed the character in a significantly different way from those who came before but managed to capture the feel of Bond as portrayed in the novels better than any actor to date. He only starred in two films, with a planned third film encountering numerous delays that eventually caused him to resign from the part.
#3 – Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan was originally intended to replace Roger Moore after “A View to a Kill,” but had to drop out of the role due to scheduling conflicts. When Timothy Dalton resigned from playing Bond in 1994, producers called Brosnan and he was cast to play the character in “Goldeneye.” Playing the character as a suave, gadget-wielding superspy in four films, Brosnan saw the James Bond universe brought into the modern era where the Soviet Union had dissolved and a woman was the head of MI6. Though the popularity of Brosnan’s Bond was beginning to wane by the time that his fourth film “Die Another Day” was released, his revival of the character after “A View to a Kill” was seen as one of the most successful recasting choices within the franchise.
#2 – Daniel Craig
When Daniel Craig took on the role of James Bond in “Casino Royale,” it was considered by producers to be a semi-reboot of the franchise. His first scene on-screen showed Bond earning his famous “Double-O” status and taking on the mantle of 007 in the modern world, though a few characters such as Judi Dench’s portrayal of MI6 head was carried over from the Brosnan era. Given Craig’s more rugged looks and blonde hair, some fans protested the decision but were converted to true believers once his first film was released. Craig has released three Bond films to date and is contracted to play the character in at least two more films before stepping down from the role.
#1 – Sean Connery
Prior to Daniel Craig’s portrayal of the character, there was little doubt in anyone’s mind that Sean Connery topped the list of actors who have played James Bond. He created the character, and his portrayal of Bond in six films set the tone for many of the films that followed. Even when considering how different some of the actors who have played the character have been, the core identity of James Bond in the movies is still deeply rooted in Connery’s take-no-prisoners approach to the character.
It remains to be seen what the future will hold, of course. A number of fans already believe that Daniel Craig may have actually taken the “Top Bond” slot away from Sean Connery, and with at least two films left to go on Craig’s Bond contract, it’s entirely possible that critics and fans alike will eventually record Daniel Craig as the best James Bond of all time.