Who Is the Best James Bond Actor? All 6 Leading Men, Ranked

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There's no doubt that James Bond has left an indelible mark on the film industry, producing 27 movies and countless moments that are etched into history and will never be forgotten. Six men have played 007 (well, technically seven, shoutout David Niven), and each has their own version. Fans have debated for years who the best James Bond actor is, and it seems that it's an argument that will not be settled any time soon.

6. George Lazenby: 1968–1969

best james bond actor george lazenby
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Films appeared in:

  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service

I feel a little bad placing George Lazenby in last place on this list but his appearance as Bond in just one film kind of forces me to put him here by default.

Lazenby's only appearance in On Her Majesty's Secret Service was a pretty big difference from the Sean Connery entries in the franchise, as it was a more serious take on the character. While it still maintained the campiness that fans love, it certainly was a new type of 007. While the film, as well as Lazenby's version of Bond, was not well received when On Her Majesty's Secret Service was first released, the movie's reputation has improved greatly in the years since.

In fact, it is now regarded as one of the best movies in the franchise and while Lazenby's performance (he was not a professional actor when he took the role) is a bit wooden and leaves a lot to be desired, On Her Majesty's Secret Service is still a great Bond film.

5. Roger Moore: 1972–1985

Best James Bond Actor roger moore
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Films appeared in:

  • Live and Let Die
  • The Man With the Golden Gun
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Moonraker
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Octopussy
  • A View to Kill

Roger Moore has appeared in more Bond films than any other actor, which isn't necessarily a good thing. For over a decade, he starred as 007, and his films were notable for fully embracing the campiness and humor rather than the more serious aspects of the character that would come with the Craig and Dalton eras.

Moore has plenty to love in his take on the character. His wit and one-liners are among the very best in the franchise. He looked to be having a ton of fun in his movies, to his credit. His charisma was off the charts in these films, and if you're looking just to have some fun with a Bond movie, Moore's entries are probably what you're looking for.

A View to Kill and Octopussy haven't aged all that well, a trait that they share with a lot of other Bond films, but there are still things to enjoy in there.

Let's not talk about Moonraker, though.

4. Timothy Dalton: 1986–1994

Best James Bond Actor timothy dalton
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Films appeared in:

  • The Living Daylights
  • Licence to Kill

Timothy Dalton was Daniel Craig before Daniel Craig was Daniel Craig, if that makes sense. Dalton's Bond was in stark contrast to Moore's, as he was dark, brooding, ruthless, and was, in fact, closer to the character that Ian Fleming had envisioned when writing the books.

While Moore went the light-hearted and campy route, Dalton took a much more serious route and wanted to separate himself almost entirely from the Moore era. Gone were the days of witty one-liners and womanizing (although those were still present in some capacity). Dalton's Bond was polarizing. The charm and humor were something people loved about the character, and, much like Lazenby's version, it took audiences time to fully appreciate what Dalton brought to the table.

His two films, The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill, were much more serious, and we got a hardened Bond that was out for revenge as much as he was out to save the world. In an era which action heroes like Schwarzenegger and Stallone dominated, Dalton's Bond got lost in the shuffle, but he was just as impressive as the rest.

According to Dalton himself, his Bond was a"man, not a superhuman; a man who is beset with moral confusions and apathies and uncertainties, and who is often very frightened and nervous and tense."

If this version of the character is what you're looking for, check out Dalton's movies.

3. Pierce Brosnan: 1994–2004

Best James Bond Actor Pierce Brosnan
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Films appeared in:

  • GoldenEye
  • Tomorrow Never Dies
  • The World Is Not Enough
  • Die Another Day

The James Bond of my youth, Piere Brosnan will always hold a special place in my heart for his run on 007. While the quality of his movies isn't always great (it can be argued that Die Another Day is the worst film in the franchise), there's no question that Brosnan was a great Bond.

Like how Dalton went out of his way to make himself different from Moore, Brosnan did the same by returning to a more campy route while still retaining some edge. Brosnan also found himself at a crossroads regarding how the public viewed the Bond character. The world had become much more progressive, and the Cold War was over, which left many wondering if Bond still had a place in the world.

The misogynistic, womanizing traits of the character were seen as relics of the past, which is even reflected in the film GoldenEye. Bond is called a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War" by M, and it was the film's way of acknowledging that the world had changed.

The "Bond Girl" presence is most definitely still felt in his movies, but they had become actual characters rather than just the damsel in distress like the past iterations.

Brosnan was, in many ways, a perfect combination of the Moore and Dalton entries. He was having fun with the charm and jokes but never went full schlock; he was serious when he needed to be but always remembered to have fun.

2. Sean Connery: 1961–1967, 1970–1971 and 1982–1983

Best James Bond Actor Sean Connery
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Films appeared in:

  • Dr. No
  • From Russia with Love
  • Goldfinger
  • Thunderball
  • You Only Live Twice
  • Diamonds are Forever
  • Never Say Never Again

Not placing Connery as the number one Bond will be controversial, this much I know. However, as the years have gone by and the films he appeared in have continued not to age gracefully, it's difficult to consider him the best of the best.

That being said, Connery was the original Bond, and he was everything you picture in 007. He was suave, charming, and funny in a way that made him the total package. Not to mention he was the first to say, "Bond. James Bond."

Connery created the blueprint and laid the foundation for what it means to be Bond, and while the other actors put their spin on 007, he was the originator. He made playing James Bond look like an extension of his own personality, leading to the character and the actor becoming forever entwined with one another.

Many consider him the best Bond ever, and it's hard to argue against that. He is what most fans picture when 007 is talked about, but in my mind, there was one who did it better than all the rest.

1. Daniel Craig: 2005–2021

Best James Bond Actor Daniel Craig
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Films appeared in:

  • Casino Royale
  • Quantum of Solace
  • Skyfall
  • Spectre
  • No Time to Die

It might be recency bias. It may be that Daniel Craig is the James Bond that was most present through my formative years. I was 16 years old when Casino Royale dropped, and from Craig's introduction, the black and white fight scene between Bond and his first kill, I knew that this would be something special. GoldenEye might have been the first James Bond movie I saw, but Casino Royale changed the game for me.

Craig's version of Bond is the most tragic and flawed 007 that we've seen yet, and despite emerging triumphant in every film, there is a palpable sense of danger that makes you question whether that will be the case.

His run recently ended with No Time to Die, and, as shown in that film, he was the first Bond to die on screen. This also wasn't a "well, maybe he survived" type of moment; he is certainly dead.

Daniel Craig's tenure gave Bond a much more layered dimension to the character, providing humanity not yet seen before. He grew from just being a suave spy into a cold, vengeful man that came to hate the job he was entrusted to do, one that was reluctantly pulled back into it on more than one occasion.

While not as lovable as Connery, Moore, or Brosnan, there is no question that Craig made his mark on the character and has cemented himself as the best of the best.

He has set the bar extremely high for whoever takes up the mantle next, and fans can only hope they are up to the task.

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