Ever since Dr. No arrived in theaters in 1962, James Bond has been a fundamental thread in the blanket of cinema. The character runs through the ages, updated and recast every so often that a new actor may take the reins of Agent 007.
The adventures Bond has undertaken have seen him go all around the globe—sneaking into renegade states like North Korea and old powers such as China—all in service of the British government.
Numerous men have taken up the mantle of Bond to varying degrees of success. Some found the material lacking and had trouble making it work, while others epitomized the reality of a highly-skilled assassin who kills for Queen and country.
But who was the best James Bond actor? Here’s our take as we rank them all the way to the top, along with their best moments.
6. Roger Moore
Roger Moore was the suave Bond. He took that particular element that Sean Connery brought to the role and expanded upon it without doing much else for the rest of the character.
The Moore iteration of Bond isn’t one that people look back on too fondly, but it was the 70s and Moore’s Bond fit the era. He lasted in the role for 12 years and played Bond seven times in his career.
The hammy action sequences—as well as some of the most insane plot choices—do make him “the Adam West” of Bonds when compared to the other actors, though it isn’t entirely his fault. The filmmakers deserve their share of the blame, too.
Moore’s age also didn’t help matters. He was 45 when he first played Bond and 58 when he gave it up. It’s evident in all the Bond movies he made, as he looks like an older gentleman who can’t seem to understand that he looks ridiculous.
Roger Moore’s Best Bond Moment
Of all the sequences that Moore’s Bond was involved in, his best was in The Man With the Golden Gun when he and Scaramanga face off on Scaramanga’s island.
5. George Lazenby
George Lazenby’s tenure as James Bond lasted only one movie (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), which was derided upon release by fans and critics for not being what Sean Connery’s Bond films were.
The physicality that Lazenby brought to Bond wasn’t something we’d always see, as Roger Moore’s iteration didn’t have the rugged brutality that Lazenby and Connery did. However, it was a trait that has now become integral to the Bond character.
In the end, Lazenby’s version was short-lived and largely disliked when it hit screens in 1969, but over the years, the style that Lazenby brought to the film is now understood as ahead of its time.
George Lazenby’s Best Bond Moment
Lazenby’s best sequence as Agent 007 came in the ski chase that Bond gets caught up in as he’s getting away from Blofeld in Switzerland. It’s tense, thrilling, and the essence of Bond.
4. Timothy Dalton
Hired to replace Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton brought a significantly darker tone to Bond than we’d seen before. The two movies he made as Agent 007 weren’t bad, either, and are looked back on now with more favor than when they released in the late 1980s.
Timothy Dalton brought an assuredness to Bond, a sense of grit that not only moved the character on from Moore’s 70s suave but also set the tone for the men who’d play him afterwards.
Dalton’s tenure as James Bond ended because of a massive studio dispute between the distributor and the rights-holders of the Bond catalog, leading to a six-year delay in Bond movies that voided Dalton’s contract.
Timothy Dalton’s Best Bond Moment
Dalton’s best moment came when his Bond set bad guy Franz Sanchez on fire during their climactic battle, horribly killing him and showing us what a man like Bond is capable of beneath the swagger.
3. Pierce Brosnan
The first Irishman to play Bond was victim to some awful and hyperbolic indulgence on behalf of the filmmakers—yet, somehow, he managed to come through his stint with a reputation as one of the better iterations we’ve seen of James Bond.
Pierce Brosnan was the right man to play Bond, but entirely in the wrong era. He was the original choice to succeed Roger Moore but couldn’t get out of his Remington Steele contract to play the part.
Brosnan was calm, collected, and had the right demeanor. Director Quentin Tarantino even said he’d have kept him in the role had he directed the movie after Die Another Day.
The only downside to Brosnan was that his charm was overplayed. Although, again, that also came down to the screenwriters who couldn’t seem to let the ghost of Roger Moore’s Bond die.
Pierce Brosnan’s Best Bond Moment
Brosnan’s best moment as 007 is hard to pinpoint since he had many stand-out scenes, but we’re going with his fight with Alec Trevelyan in GoldenEye. It was brutal, visceral, and what the series needed.
2. Daniel Craig
Here we have the man who re-invented James Bond for the modern age of cinema. Daniel Craig’s iteration of Bond isn’t overtly suave or overly full of swagger. Instead, he has raw brutality—the kind of edge that real service agents would have.
Sure, Craig has all the traditional Bond facets in his character as well, including the lust for women and a penchant for quips. But he’s a more fully-rounded incarnation of Bond than his predecessors.
Daniel Craig’s Bond truly feels pain and loss as a character, and he feels the weight and toll of the job that’s put upon him. That’s something no other Bond has ever brought forward as potently.
Across his five movies as Bond, Daniel Craig has built a legacy that will forever hold him in that role. Fortunately for us, his talent as an actor will make sure he isn’t typecast.
Daniel Craig’s Best Bond Moment
Craig’s best scene as Bond comes when Vesper Lynd dies in the sunken elevator. He screams to break open the doors and get her out, and the look on Craig’s face when he realizes that she’s dead is one that no other actor had ever managed for the character.
1. Sean Connery
The extent of Sean Connery’s influence over the character of James Bond is so great that Ian Fleming, the original author of the books, changed James Bond’s background to be Scottish after seeing Connery’s iteration of the character.
Put simply, Sean Connery is James Bond. He was physical, suave, calm, ruthless, and without remorse for the people he had to kill.
His introduction as James Bond told the audience everything we need to know about him: sitting at a poker table, cigarette lit, with the look of a man that needed no words, with the iconic utterance of “Bond, James Bond” that lives on in pop culture to this day.
Sean Connery’s Best Bond Moment
Connery’s best moment as Bond is the very introduction to the character in Dr. No. However, the image of him in the Aston Martin DB5 about to eject a henchman also lives long in our memory.