James Bond has a rigidly defined personality. He is a gentleman spy who enjoys drinking martinis, seducing enemy agents and outwitting megalomaniacs. He’s as cool as ice, maintains grace under fire, and doesn’t let his emotions get in the way of his government-sanctioned wet job. 007 is one of the ultimate action hero archetypes.
Every Bond actor, from Sean Connery and George Lazenby to Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, has captured this archetypal character beautifully. Within this archetype, each performer has found their own unique angle. From Connery’s coolness to Craig’s emotional engagement, each actor brought their own unique qualities to the familiar role of James Bond.
6 Sean Connery was the coolest link
Sean Connery got the Bond characterization right off the bat. From the moment he introduced himself as “Bond, James Bond” in Dr. No, Connery’s 007 was a beloved icon. Not everything in Connery’s Bond films holds up today – especially their treatment of female characters – but the actor’s turn as 007 is timeless.
More than half a century later, Connery’s Bond is still the coolest. With his confidence and effortless charisma (even in the face of spy-movie madness), Connery’s Bond performance is likely to remain an unparalleled portrait of human coolness for another half-century and beyond.
5 George Lazenby was the most sensitive link
George Lazenby only played Bond in one film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and the film’s technical achievements — like its cinematography and musical score — eclipse the model-turned-actor’s performance as 007. But Lazenby still gave a terrific performance and, like his peers, made the role his own. Lazenby was the first actor to succeed another as Bond, and Connery naturally left him with huge shoes to fill.
In the end, the biggest hit of Lazenby’s performance is that he didn’t try to emulate Connery’s coolness; he humanized Bond with a heart of gold. Lazenby’s Bond is arguably the softest and most sensitive version of the character. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is more of a love story than spy bullshit. Throughout the film, he falls in love and marries, and in the heartbreaking final scene he breaks down and cradles his dying bride in his arms.
4 Roger Moore gave 007 a wry sense of humor
After Connery briefly returned to the role of Bond for Diamonds are foreverRoger Moore took over with Live and Let Die and ended up staying in the role for more movies than any of his peers. Moore’s take on 007 wasn’t to everyone’s liking — his films rely heavily on silly puns and slapstick gags — but his Bond performance is certainly unique.
Connery had nailed all the one-liners, but he gave a mostly straightforward dramatic performance as Bond. Moore’s Bond films were so humorous that they border on sly self-parody with a 007 dressing up as a clown and running along the backs of alligators.
3 Timothy Dalton’s take on Bond was faithfully dark and brooding
Timothy Dalton only played 007 in two films before being replaced by Pierce Brosnan, but his dark and brooding portrayal of the role has been hailed as the most faithful. Dalton brought equal parts sharpness and pathos to the cold-hearted assassin who finds love in Living daylights and the vengeful killing machine bent on avenging Felix Leiter in License to kill.
Dalton’s Bond isn’t entirely callous and insensitive – at the end of Living daylightshe risks being murdered just to see his girlfriend’s first solo cello performance – but his turn as 007 is the closest to Ian Fleming’s original characterization of an unstoppable killer.
2 Pierce Brosnan combined all the best parts from previous 007 performances
By the time Pierce Brosnan took over the role of Bond starting with golden eye in the 1990s, audiences were very familiar with the character. By then, enough actors had played the role that every fan had a personal favorite (usually the one they grew up with) and subsequent performers taking on the role inevitably invited comparisons to their predecessors.
Brosnan’s 007 movies have been criticized for their overuse of CGI and underuse of story logic, but he was undeniably an awesome Bond. He has the suaveness, the dramatic abilities and the excess of charm necessary to convincingly portray the role of 007. Perhaps the greatest strength of Brosnan Bond’s performance is that he managed to combine all the best parts of every previous Bond actor. Brosnan’s Bond shows the coolness of Connery, the sensibility of Lazenby, the goofy humor of Moore and the grizzled edge of Dalton.
1 Daniel Craig gave the most emotionally charged performance as Bond
Audiences don’t necessarily go to Bond films to be taken on an emotional journey. They go to Bond movies to see a tuxedoed spy in and out of gunfights and car chases, traveling all over the world in pursuit of an evil villain. But if a Bond movie can do all of that and take audiences on an emotional journey, it’s an even greater experience. From its beginnings in Royal Casino, Daniel Craig defined himself as a more emotionally engaging Bond than fans were used to. The previous cast had kept 007 emotionally at a distance from the audience, but Craig brought them into Bond’s world and played him like a real human being.
Across five films, Craig’s Bond fell in love, was heartbroken, fell in love again, was heartbroken again, fathered a child he cared about most, and made the ultimate sacrifice to save the Heracles virus world. . Every step of the way, Craig moved away from playing an action movie archetype and leaned into the humanity of each painful internal conflict. After the deeply moving emotional closure of no time to diewhen Eon finally finds Craig’s replacement for the next Bond reboot, they’ll have a lot to do.