Best Bonds of All Time, Ranked

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It’s one of the most iconic roles in film history: The name’s Bond, James Bond. Only a select group of actors have had the chance to play the character, with Daniel Craig about to finish his run with the long-anticipated No Time to Die. Before him, five other actors have “officially” played Bond: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan. With the question still very much in the air about who will play Bond after Craig hangs up his tuxedo—perhaps one of these actors?—here’s a look back at the best bonds of all time, ranked.

Best Bonds of All Time, Ranked

David Niven in 1967 'Casino Royale'
David Niven in 1967 ‘Casino Royale’ Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

7. David Niven

It’s probably not even fair to compare David Niven (and Peter Sellers) to the rest of the best Bonds, as the two actors played the role for laughs in 1967’s Casino Royale, but the film remains a notable part—even if not an official part—of James Bond history. Based on the same book that would later launch Daniel Craig to superstardom in his 2006 Bond debut, the film is a parody of spy films of the era, including the Sean Connery-led Bond films. The entire cast was filled with stars: Niven had already won an Oscar for Best Actor and Sellers was considered one of the most popular comic actors in the world. Other Hollywood legends like John Huston, George Raft, William Holden, Peter O’Toole, and Orson Welles all appeared, with Welles playing the villain Le Chiffre. The movie went very meta in making fun of the Bond films, even bringing in original Bond girl Ursula Andress from Dr. No to play Vesper Lynd. Both Sellers and Nevin take on the mantle of Bond in the movie—and while the tone is obviously completely different from any other Bond flick before or after, seeing each in a tuxedo taking on the villainous organization “SMERSH” (a thinly disguised joke on Bond’s Spectre), makes one wonder if either of the talented stars could have actually pulled off a “real” James Bond film.

Number of appearances: 1

Bond film: Casino Royale (1967)

Fun fact: James Bond creator Ian Fleming originally wanted Niven to play Bond in Dr. No, but the producers went with Sean Connery instead.

Portrait of Timothy Dalton as James Bond in 'The Living Daylights'
Timothy Dalton as James Bond in ‘The Living Daylights’ Moviestore/Shutterstock

6. Timothy Dalton

Timothy Dalton stepped in with a pretty big challenge, coming after Sean Connery and Roger Moore, among the best Bonds, who each played the role for over a decade. The filmmakers of Dalton’s two Bond movies wanted to show a different side of the character, one that was more in line with Ian Fleming’s book version of Bond, rather than the playboy-type most fans were used to seeing. The result was a performance more in line with what Daniel Craig would end up doing later—a serious, business-like Bond who battled against KGB agents and drug cartels rather than flamboyant villains. Dalton only had two movies to make his mark—lawsuits ended up derailing his chance at making another movie before Pierce Brosnan was handed the reins—so it’s hard to compare with the best Bonds of the bunch. That said, both films are solid and 1989’s License to Kill might be one of the best Bond titles of the series.

Number of appearances: 2

Bond films: The Living Daylights (1987) and License to Kill (1989)

Fun fact: The Bond series hadn’t used an Aston Martin since 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but the company made a return to the franchise with The Living Daylights, and they’ve been used in every Bond film since.

Aston Martin car used: Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante

George Lazenby in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service'
George Lazenby in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ Robert Dear/AP/Shutterstock

5. George Lazenby

George Lazenby has the inglorious milestone of being the only official James Bond actor to star in just one film in the series, taking over for Sean Connery in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The film has one of the darkest and bleakest endings of any Bond film—spoiler alert: after marrying “Bond girl” Tracy, the couple are attacked by iconic Bond villain Blofeld, leaving Tracy dead and Bond holding her in his arms. Like we said, bleak. In part due to that dark ending, the film was not well-received at the time, but over the years both the film and Lazenby’s performance have been re-assessed by critics and fans alike as one of the better entries in the series. Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh calls it his favorite Bond film, while a 2012 poll from 007 Magazine saw fans vote it as the greatest of the series. Lazenby bowed out of the franchise after just one film, allowing Connery to return on what was a then-record salary of $1.25 million. While he was short-lived as Bond, Lazenby went on to have a lengthy film and television career—which is still ongoing—and he remains active on Instagram, frequently posting about the Bond series and his time filming his one movie.

Number of appearances: 1

Bond film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Fun fact: Lazenby’s role as Bond was his first-ever film appearance. He had been a model and starred in commercials before being cast in the role.

Aston Martin car used: Aston Martin DBS

Maud Adams, Roger Moore, and Britt Ekland in 'The Man with the Golden Gun'
Maud Adams, Roger Moore, and Britt Ekland in ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ Courtesy Everett Collection

4. Roger Moore

Of all the best Bonds, Roger Moore’s portrayal might be the most representative of the era his films were made in (the 70s)—and he reflected that with his dashing charm and over-the-top persona, bringing comedy to the series that contrasted Connery’s gruff-but-suave Bond. Moore’s Bond was less serious and way wittier, but he also took the character to new heights. Moonraker saw Bond battle villains in space, including Richard Kiel’s memorable henchman Jaws. Moore was already a bit of an established name before taking on the role of the superspy, having starred in television series like The Saint and Maverick, but Bond brought him worldwide stardom and he stayed in the role for over 10 years and seven films—the longest consecutive James Bond until Daniel Craig.

Number of appearances: 7

Bond films: Live and Let Die (1973), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985)

Fun fact: Moore was the oldest actor to portray Bond, as he was 57 years old when his final film, A View to a Kill, was released in 1985.

Pierce Brosnan in ' Goldeneye'
Pierce Brosnan in ‘ Goldeneye’ Moviestore/Shutterstock

3. Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan did a solid job as Bond, with GoldenEye as his best entry of the series—a movie that spawned one of the best video games of all time. While Brosnan’s turn as the iconic spy doesn’t quite reach the level of best Bonds like Daniel Craig or Sean Connery, he helped bring the franchise back to worldwide prominence after Timothy Dalton’s turn left some fans cold. The six-year break between movies was a long one for Bond, and that put pressure on Brosnan to deliver a performance that would get fans jazzed again. On that level, he certainly delivered. Brosnan’s Bond brought back more of the flamboyant villains, secret lairs, and wild gadgets to the series after Dalton’s more serious-tinged films, for better and worse. The action scenes are incredible throughout the series, but the gadgets and storylines often veered into the ridiculous (like invisible cars and DNA restructuring), and some of the dialogue was cheesy. In the end though, Brosnan helped bring the franchise back to life and formed the bridge that led the Bond series from its traditional roots into the big-budget blockbusters of modern Hollywood.

Number of appearances: 4

Bond films: GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002),

Fun fact: Brosnan was hired to play Bond before Timothy Dalton was brought in, but was forced to return to his series Remington Steele instead. The show had been canceled, but when NBC decided to bring the show back, Brosnan was obligated to return and he had to give up the role. Clearly it all worked out in the end.

Aston Martin cars used: Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, Aston Martin DB5

Daniel Craig in 'Skyfall'
Daniel Craig in ‘Skyfall’ Danjaq/Eon Productions/Kobal/Shutterstock

2. Daniel Craig

After starring in five films, Craig has firmly established himself as one of the best Bonds ever—maybe even the best of the bunch. Craig’s portrayal brought the character to contemporary times, creating a more realistic, gritty version of the spy following Pierce Brosnan’s more polished take. When he was first cast, fans signed petitions against him, complaining he was too blonde and not tall enough to play Bond, but once Casino Royale hit theaters, people quickly changed their tune. The film opened with Bond earning his “00” designation, allowing Craig to show Bond work his way up to becoming the expert spy we all know and love. Craig’s Bond took punches, got bruised, sometimes failed, and fought hard, crafting some of the best action scenes of any blockbuster movie to date. Craig has the distinction of giving Bond its first billion-dollar film with Skyfall, the Sam Mendes-directed movie that many critics saw as a modern high-point for the series. The five Academy Award nominations, including the major category of Best Cinematography, and two wins only bolsters that point. One thing that helps Craig’s Bond stand out among the actors who came before him is the through line of his first relationship: his tragic love for Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in Casino Royale. While Craig’s Bond had his fair share of beautiful women along the way, it’s Lynd he kept coming back to, even into No Time to Die. Brooding over Vesper’s death gave Craig a chance to give Bond some added depth and humanity, and is one reason why fans have become so invested in his version of the character.

Number of appearances: 5

Bond films: Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012), Spectre (2015), No Time to Die (2021)

Fun fact: Craig beat out actors like Henry Cavill (yes, that Henry Cavill), Sam Worthington, Goran Visnjic and Dougray Scott for the role of Bond.

Aston Martin Cars used as Bond: Aston Martin DB5, Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante, Aston Martin DBS V12, Aston Martin DB10, Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, Aston Martin Valhalla

Sean Connery on set of 'You Only Live Twice'
Sean Connery on set of ‘You Only Live Twice’ Eon/Ua/Kobal/Shutterstock

1. Sean Connery

When it comes down to naming the best Bonds, it’s hard to beat the original. Connery starred as Bond in six “official” movies and once in the non-Eon produced Never Say Never Again. (Connery was lured back to play Bond for that seventh and final time in the 1983 adaptation with a massive payday even though Roger Moore was also starring as the iconic spy at the time.) Many of Connery’s films are considered some of the most memorable of the series, including Dr. No, Diamonds Are Forever, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger, which was the first Bond movie to make over $100 million at the box office. Connery’s Bond established basically all the elements that would pop up in the series through the decades, including the slick wardrobe, suave demeanor, his taste for martinis, fancy cars, and high-tech gadgets. But more than that, Connery brought the perfect combination of charm, toughness, and humor to the role, something all the actors after him tried to emulate, for better and worse. It was Connery who took Bond on his shoulders and lifted him to the worldwide stage, starting a series that’s become one of the longest-running and successful in movie history.

Number of appearances: 7

Bond films: Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Never Say Never Again (1983)

Fun fact: Connery wore a hairpiece when he played Bond, as he started to lose his hair around the time he got the role.

Aston Martin car used: The Aston Martin DB5

There you have it, the best Bonds of all time. Ready for a martini?

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