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Worst To First: Ranking the James Bond Actors

Bond Actors

With the arrival of a new James Bond movie, it’s time to reevaluate my rankings of the actors who have played 007.  I haven’t seen Spectre as of this writing (it opens in theaters today), but if advanced reviews are to be believed the latest Bond movie counts as another win for current 007, Daniel Craig.  Will that be enough of an edge for him to challenge Sean Connery for the top spot?

Let’s rank the James Bond actors from worst to first and find out

Lazenby - OHMSS

6. George Lazenby

Summary: George Lazenby was the second actor to play James Bond.  He inherited the role from Sean Connery.  Replacing Connery was no small task.  The actor and the character were so firmly linked together that there were doubts that anyone else could play the part.  After only one movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby was replaced by a returning Sean Connery which seemed to suggest that the Australian model was not up to the task.

What’s Good: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a very good Bond flick.  It’s sandwiched between a couple of weaker efforts from Connery who was basically cashing paychecks in his latter entries.  Lazenby has the look to be Bond.  And while he’s not a clone of Connery, his take on Bond had different strengths.  The Lazenby Bond was more vulnerable than his unflappable predecessor.  One wonders how Connery’s Bond would have handled the emotional requirements of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

What’s Bad: Unfortunately, audiences weren’t all that interested in a James Bond who could cry.  They wanted the charismatic Connery tossing off quips.  By comparison, Lazenby feels like a charisma black hole.  As an actor, Lazenby was a rookie and his lack of experience showed through.

Stats: I’m going to use this category to compare the number of kills, romantic conquests and martinis consumed by each of the James Bond actors.  Having made only one movie, Lazenby is on the low end of all three stats.  On average, he ranks low on all three measures, but he is not the lowest in any of them.

Verdict: When Timothy Dalton assumed the role of 007, he consulted with the previous actors to play the part.  According to Dalton, Lazenby’s advice was “Make more than one movie.”  It’s sage advice which Dalton followed.  At the end of the day, there is only one single-shot James Bond and that’s Lazenby.  Whatever potential the actor may have had would never be fully realized.  As a one-timer, Lazenby didn’t get the opportunity to put his stamp on 007.  If he had come back for more, he may have grown into the part.  But with just one movie, he will probably always be viewed as the guy who couldn’t replace Connery.

Next: Bond #5

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Posted on November 6, 2015, in James Bond, Movies, Worst to First and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 43 Comments.

  1. I’m a bit disappointed that Pierce ranks so low on the list. He had one great Bond film….. but what a great Bond film! Every Bond actor has lesser films to deal with, even Connery. The difference is, when push comes to shove I can put up with even the weakest Brosnan films because he solidly delivers in the role even when the material putters out. I can’t quite say the same for Moore, Craig, or even Connery.

    Goldeneye is my personal favorite Bond film, but that’s my opposite end take of it.

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  2. This ranking is pretty much the same way mine is.

    I think the main problem with many of the Moore Bonds and the last two Brosnan entries wasn’t the lead actors. But the scripts being written for them.

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    • I watched all the making-of features on the Bond DVDs and one of the things you take away is that the process of making the Bond movies does not support strong storytelling. Pretty much year-round, producers are scouting locations, looking for stunts and beautiful girls or interesting gadgets. Then they take what they can find and try to build a story around the coolest locations, stunts and gizmos they came up with.

      The job of the leading man is just to hold the center of the picture together. But he has very little impact on the quality of the movie overall. I think Brosnan could have done more modern Bonds like Craig. He just wasn’t served as well by the material as Craig has been.

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    • That is also a bit of an issue for Dalton–neither of his films has a really first-rate script of even the Goldeneye or Spy Who Loved Me class.

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  3. Craig will never be a better Bond than Connery. He is second best though. Out of six actors over a span of 53 years, second is pretty good.

    Brosnan gets a bad rap because of the writing on his Bond outings. He himself was a very good Bond. Dalton was deadly stiff. Lazenby was slightly wooden in his outing, but he showed a sense of humor and handled the death of his wife fairly well for someone who had done little to no acting up to that point. He was also good in a fight.

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    • Lazenby actually broke a stuntman’s nose during his audition. Believe it or not, this was seen as a plus for hiring him instead of a drawback. They wanted a rough and tumble guy which Lazenby was.

      I’m not so quick to say Craig will never eclipse Connery. Let’s say Craig makes one more movie and it’s as good as Casino Royale, Skyfall and apparently Spectre. Pretend he ends his run with 4 really solid movies and one that was middling. That’s a better run than Connery had. Craig will never be more iconic than Connery. But depending on your criteria, I don’t think Connery is unassailable. For my money, Connery made three increasingly good Bond flicks followed by three increasingly bad ones. While Goldfinger and From Russia With Love are among the best, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds are Forever are among the worst.

      But even if Craig never surpasses Connery (and odds are he won’t), as you say 2nd place is still pretty damn impressive.

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      • SPECTRE’s Rotten Tomatoes score is currently lower than QUANTUM OF SOLACE’s.

        DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, GOLDFINGER, and THUNDERBALL are all among the best Bond films if you ask me. Connery also had the wit, the physicality, and the charisma requisite for the role. Craig comes up short in two of those categories.

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        • That’s a shame. It looks like reaction is still positive overall.

          If I make a top 10 list, Dr. No and Thunderball aren’t going to show up on it. I rank them upper-middle, but not among the best. Dr No I consider to be good. Thunderball, I consider to be watchable but I don’t enjoy it much.

          I agree Connery’s Bond is more multi-dimensional. It’s not for nothing that he is still considered the number one Bond decades later. But I don’t think he’s untouchable either.

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      • THE 007 COLLECTIVE – ‘ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE’

        http://thefilmfrontier.com/2015/06/24/the-007-collective-on-her-majestys-secret-service/

        How do you judge the quality of a Bond movie? Do you go by the performance of its star or by how all of the film’s individual elements work in unison to tell a cohesive story? You would think it’d be the latter but it seems like all everyone talks about when it comes to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is how bad one-time-and-done-James-Bond George Lazenby was in the role. And that isn’t fair. Sure, he never truly looked comfortable in the role, and he didn’t have the gravitas, charisma and ruthless devil-may-care screen presence of Connery but he’s far from the “terrible” reputation he’s been saddled with for 45 years. Granted, he was never a great actor (or even a very good one for that matter) but as far as James Bond goes… he’s actually quite good.

        Equally adept at physically-demanding action sequences as well as emotionally-driven romantic ones, Lazenby had a little bit of everything that the role demanded – he was suave, sexy, brutish, funny, cheesy and even romantic. He also brandished a gentleness that Connery would never be able to match. On top of it all, the man knew how to wear a suit. And my God, he could rock a kilt! Given some more experience with the role, I’d think he would have grown into a terrific Bond… had he not been such a bone-headed nitwit and thrown it all away.

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        • 12 Movies That Would Have Been Great With a Different Lead Actor

          http://screenrant.com/bad-movies-great-different-actor/

          ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE – GEORGE LAZENBY

          The response for this 007 film was mixed upon its release, although now that some years have passed, it appears as though this film has grown on several Bond fans. That being said, while the critical consensus today is that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a fine James Bond film, most agree that the movie would have been much better served with a different lead actor.

          After the successful run of the first five films in this spy series, Sean Connery decided to end his term as the iconic secret agent, and this left the studio with the task of finding the next James Bond. During the search to fill the void left by Connery, the studio turned to unknown actor and model, George Lazenby. Bond is only Lazenby’s second credited role, and for many critics, his performance reflects that fact.

          The film, and the franchise, would have most likely benefited from either finding a way to hold on to Connery, or from locating the next long-term solution to the Bond character before offering the part to Lazenby. Whether or not the casting directors should have gone in another direction after Lazenby’s subpar portrayal of Bond quickly became a moot point as Sean Connery decided to come back for the seventh installment of the franchise, Diamonds are Forever.

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  4. I’ve seen Spectre. It was released in Ireland early because we ‘share’ a film market with the UK and generally get films the same tiome London does.

    Spectre ISN’T bad, but at the same time I think the critical reception has been kind thanks to residual goodwill from Skyfall (which I enjoyed a lot on first viewing but honestly find falls apart after repeated viewings – I recognise that’s a minority view though.) Léa Seydoux is beautiful but bland and Christoph Waltz more or less plays his usual role – which granted makes him more memorable than the two nonentities Craig faced in his first two movies thanks to his charisma. Craig is good, but I don’t think he really goes places he didn’t in the first few films.

    (I’d probably rate Craig’s films as respectively a 9, a 3, an 8 and a 7 out of 10.)

    With Brosnan I think the World is Not Enough is honestly underrated. Yes Denise Richards seems bizarrely empty headed for a nuclear physicist and some of the humour is awful but Elektra King compares favourably with anyone else in the franchise and the pre-credits sequence is great.

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    • I agree about THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH. I started a re-watch of it last night. Sophie Marceau is gorgeous and the pre-credits sequence is pretty darn great. You’re right about that.nIt did get a little silly when he was in the boat on land, but big deal. I think Maria Grazia Cucinotta is totally underrated and I wish she hadn’t been dispatched so early on.

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    • I haven’t yet seen Spectre, so I’ll have to wait to weigh in there. I am with you that Skyfall doesn’t hold up as well to repeat viewings and is over-rated. I can also agree that TWINE is underrated. There’s some good stuff there. Unfortunately, there’s some pretty glaring weaknesses. Richards was miscast and some of the puns are groan-inducing. Also, Robert Carlyle was a disappointing villain. Much like Bane in Dark Knight Rises, he gets neutered when it is revealed he is really more henchmen than mastermind. Compared to Die Another Day, The World is Not Enough looks quite solid.

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      • I think I don’t mind the ‘reveal’ in TWINE so much because Elektra is the more interesting character and her relationship with Bond feels much more important than Talia and Bruce in Dark Knight Rises (who are, at best, friends with benefits.) Besides Renard doesn’t come with an existing background to live up to.

        I’d almost say The World is Not Enough works as a great microcosm of the Brosnan years, with their strengths and weaknesses in the one film.

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      • Yeah TWINE Is way ahead of Die Another Day. Skyfall to me holds up quite well. I agree that it did get more than a tad overpraised in 2012. It’s not on the same level as Casino Royale. But among 2012 blockbusters, it holds up way better than The Avengers. That’s one that does not hold up very well to repeat viewings.

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  5. For me, the top tier of Bonds is Connery, Craig and Dalton, with the other three as a second tier a little ways behind them. None of the six is, in my opinion, a truly bad choice as Bond; Lazenby is usually cited as the weakest casting choice, and his Bond has some definite positives.

    In my top tier, it’s hard to rate Dalton at the same level as the other two, as neither of his films is among the very best in the series (Dalton is probably the only one of the six actors who never got a chance to film a really good script). As for Connery v. Craig, Connery made two of the very best films in the series, while Craig made one. On the other hand, Connery made a pair of films that are among my least favorite in the series as well. I’m more likely to re-watch Quantum of Solace than either You Only Live Twice or Diamonds are Forever. At the moment, I’m going to go traditionalist and pick Connery as #1, but that’s with not having seen Spectre yet.

    At the second tier, it’s almost impossible to rate Lazenby anywhere but at the bottom; to rank him higher gives too much weight to unfulfilled potential, I think. As for choosing between Brosnan and Moore, that’s a very close call. I would rank two films from each in my personal Top Ten, but they’ve each made one or more stinkers. I’m going to give the #4 spot to Brosnan, very narrowly, because Goldeneye would be my first choice out of the eleven films they made between them.

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    • Thumbs up. Very well articulated. I am at 99% agreement with you. Obviously, I gave the edge to Moore over Brosnan, but it was a really close call. The only thing that put Moore ahead in my mind was that Moore was Bond for an entire generation. Brosnan’s tenure was too short for that. Quality wise, both are a mixed bag.

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  6. For me Roger Moore is the worst. Growing up it was mostly his films I saw on TV and it really put me off of James Bond. Dalton’s turn at Bond couldn’t shake my view of the character at the time. It wasn’t until Brosnan that I could really appreciate it again.

    Speaking of Dalton I had the hardest time ranking him because I don’t think I’ve seen his movies since maybe the late 80s or early 90s. I really need to sit down and watch them as I’m sure I’ll like them much better now. Because of the vagueness of his turn in my mind he ranked in the middle, basically sitting between the Bonds I definitely like (Connery, Craig, Brosnan) and the ones I don’t (Lazenby and Moore).

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  7. My list:

    Connery – Obviously
    Brosnan – The one that reminds me of Connery the most
    Moore – The funny one
    Craig – Lacks a little bit of charm
    Dalton – Lacks the charisma
    Lazenby – Didn’t really leave a mark

    The order is simply based on who i feel works best in the role (and not the slightliest on the quality of the movies they starred in).

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  8. The list was exactly how I voted. I’d like to mention that if George Lazenby is voted any higher than fifth by anyone, it has to be a prank.

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  9. I just bought Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only today for a decent price, and I plan to watch them tonight, probably right after I post this. I’m excited to see them again as it’s been many years since I’ve seen either one of them, easily at least 20 years or more. Yeah, it’s been that long! Let’s see if they are as entertaining now as they were for me back in the day…

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    • Spectre: 5 Awesome Things (And 8 That Sucked) In The New James Bond

      http://whatculture.com/film/spectre-5-awesome-things-and-8-that-sucked-in-the-new-james-bond.php/6

      Craig Is As Good A Bond As Ever

      Ultimately, this will always be Bond’s show, and the films live and die based on the quality of the lead. Craig stubbornly refuses to disappoint. His Bond maintains that fine, perilous line between winking dandy and thug, between Hollywood leading man and credible physical brute.

      So many of the tenures of past Bonds descended into camp, a detached comment on Bond itself, but Craig steadfastly inhabits the character deep into his blood and muscles. Much is made Craig’s incredibly physical endurance (the man is 47, he shouldn’t be able to do this anymore), but it’s the little moments that make his 007 so great. It’s when Bond, slightly drunk, draws his gun on a tiny rat that scampers into his hotel room and whispers “Who sent you? Who are you working for?” or when he quietly offers his word as his bond (pun intended) to another character. It’s these moments of quiet levity and power that hold these films together even when they threaten to fall apart.

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  10. I have always thought that Dalton was the most believable Bond.
    By that, I mean that he had to look of a guy that could Bond.
    He wasn’t overly smooth (Connery, Brosnan, and perhaps Moore), but if you understood the underlying nature needed for what amounts to an undercover assassin, then Dalton had that “it” factor.

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