“Bond. James Bond.” These classic words would launch a cinematic empire that would span five decades and six actors portraying the role of agent 007 on the big screen. Sean Connery is still the quintessential James Bond for fans of the series’ golden age. It’s easy to see why when considering classics like From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball. Although critically savaged when On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was released in 1969, George Lazenby has gone on to gain a cult following for his solo appearance as 007.
Roger Moore took over for seven films during the seventies and eighties, becoming the Bond for a new generation that would come to embrace his more comedic antics in the role. Shakespearean actor Timothy Dalton assumed the role in 1987’s The Living Daylights to considerable critical acclaim, although he has become less fondly regarded as 007 over the years.
After Dalton’s two appearances as Bond, Pierce Brosnan resurrected the character in four hugely popular (if not always critically acclaimed) films of the nineties and early 2000s. The brooding Daniel Craig took over the role for 2006’s Casino Royale and steered the series into a much darker direction.
But just who is the best James Bond?
The James Bond You Would Most Trust Fighting With You in a Street Brawl
Sean Connery brought a raw energy to Bond’s fighting style. Just watch the fisticuffs in You Only Live Twice when Bond sneaks into Osato Chemicals. Connery’s Bond is a brute. George Lazenby was agile in his action sequences, but the choppy editing style of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service made it difficult to get a clear look at his fighting ability. Roger Moore moved like a cinder block. Not very light on his feet. You wouldn’t believe he would hurt a fly (or could catch a fly).
Timothy Dalton was more brutal than Moore but lacked the sprightliness of Connery. Pierce Brosnan had a terrific balance of elegance and directness in his action sequences. Daniel Craig just went for the jugular and wanted to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Winner: Tie between Sean Connery and Daniel Craig
The James Bond You Would Most Want to Have Coffee With
Connery was a real charmer as 007, but you’d have to watch your back. His Bond could be your best friend one moment, then turn around and shoot you because he was ordered to. Lazenby came across as an average all-round nice guy who’s genuinely interested in relationships (as evidenced in the fact that his Bond was the only one to marry). Moore was a charmer too, but in a breezy way that puts you at ease.
Dalton’s 007 always looked like he was too grumpy to be speaking with anyone at all. Great for a secret-keeping spy, but not the best for social time. Brosnan could be both erudite and a man of the people at the same time – able to appreciate the sophisticated things in life but not above talking about last night’s football game. Craig’s Bond didn’t drink coffee. Only the hard stuff.
Winner: Pierce Brosnan
The James Bond You Would Most Want to See Performing Stand-Up Comedy
Connery was both vicious and witty as Bond. Nobody could deliver a one-liner better than him after dispatching a baddie. Lazenby was much more down-to-earth, but seemed much less comfortable with the humorous side of the coin. Some would argue that Moore wasn’t playing Bond so much as mocking Bond. Whether disguised as an alligator or shooting a laser gun on a space station, Moore’s eyebrow-cocking and offhand dialogue delivery were comedic gold.
Dalton is a fine actor, but was not known for his knee-slapping antics in the role. Brosnan found a nice balance of grit and humour, while Craig’s Bond was deadly serious.
Winner: Roger Moore
The James Bond You Would Most Trust as Your Babysitter
Connery had the charm, but his 007 would be too focused on his current mission to make a good babysitter. George Lazenby played the character as a more sensitive, one-woman kind of guy. He was believable when he told Tracy that he loved her in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Moore didn’t seem like he’d take babysitting seriously (or any mission for that matter).
Dalton seemed too intense to be a good babysitter. Little Johnny or Annie probably wouldn’t find a good playmate in Dalton’s Bond. Brosnan’s 007 seemed down-to-earth enough to get the job done well, but Craig’s Bond probably didn’t like children. Period.
Winner: George Lazenby
The James Bond You Would Most Want to See Performing Shakespeare in the Park
Connery could do anything. Shakespeare. Indiana Jones. Even Highlander movies. Lazenby was likeable as Bond but lacked the dramatic range of his predecessor. Moore was even more lacking in the dramatic range department, but his natural charm could go a long way with some of Shakespeare’s comedies.
Timothy Dalton’s voice immediately commanded respect and authority, shimmering with a timelessness that made his words sound melodic. It didn’t hurt that he once performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Brosnan’s 007 lacked the hard edge of Dalton’s, but still delivered a great deal of wit and gravitas that could do The Bard proud. Craig had a crackling intensity that would be great in a Shakespearean tragedy. This one’s a tough call.
Winner: Timothy Dalton
Six very different actors playing one legendary character. Who made the best James Bond will be up for debate as long as the character remains in the world’s collective consciousness. Only one thing’s for sure – agent 007 will continue to thrill cinephiles for generations to come, no matter who plays the role of Bond, James Bond.
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