James Bond, and the actors that played him, are known and loved all around the world. But very few people realize exactly how many actors have had the fortune of portraying James Bond. ‘Common knowledge’ says that there were 6 men who played James Bond in the 23 Eon Productions films that have been made, obviously putting each of them in the top 10 best James Bond actors list. But Eon Productions is not the only company that has produced James Bond material. Two films were also produced by companies other than Eon Productions, as well as 2 television specials (one of which was a Bond documentary) and multiple radio adaptions. It can be difficult to pin down a list of ‘who is the best’ when it comes to James Bond actors, as no matter what evidence is offered, you cannot argue with the heart. Some people will argue someone was the-best-ever-no-question-about-it, and someone will else will argue the same actor was the-worst-ever-he-ruined-the-movie. “Best” and “worst” in regards to James Bond can be very subjective. That being said, here are the Top 10 best James Bond actors of all time, from Great to Greatest:
10) Toby Stephens
Toby Stephens is the only Bond actor to appear on this top 10 list that did not portray Bond on camera, though he is better known to Bond fans as Gustav Graves in Die Another Day. Stephens has voiced Bond in 3 separate BBC Radio 4 productions.
9) Barry Nelson
Barry Nelson is the first ever of all time actor to play James Bond. In a 60 minute TV special of Climax! Mystery Theatre, Nelson played Bond in a screenplay adaption by Charles Bennett of “Casino Royale.” This aired October 21st, 1954.
8) George Lazenby
George Lazenby was the only Bond actor to only portray Bond a single time for Eon Productions. While all Bond movie actors are note-worthy, as far as in the line up of best James Bond actors, Lazenby ranks low on the list.
7) David Niven
In 1967, Columbia Pictures produced Casino Royale, starring David Niven. While this was not part of the official Bond series at the time, it has later been re-made. Though producer Charles K Feldman attempted to push to make it as part of the official Bond movies, this was not successful, and so the original Casino Royale was produced as a satire. Feldman was successful, and the movie was met with positive critic reviews. Even though Niven only portrayed Bond once, in a film that was not part of the official Bond movie series, he played Bond so well that not only could no one forget him, the movie was finally remade in 2006 by Eon Productions.
6) Timothy Dalton
Timothy Dalton portrayed Bond twice, from 1987-1989. Though some may argue that Dalton’s Bond was by far the best, Dalton is often almost-forgotten when it comes to Bond actors. Perhaps this is due to the fact that he only played in two movies, or perhaps it is misfortune of the script or timing of the movies. The box office numbers without inflation show The Living Daylights to be a middling performance, and License to Kill shows up at the bottom of the list. When inflation is factored in, both movies show up as 3 worst in regards to box office numbers. Overall, Dalton’s portrayal of Bond did not leave much of an impression in the hearts and minds of Bond fans.
4 & 5) Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan
Deciding which of these two actors ranks higher than the other in terms of James Bond portrayal is difficult, if down-right impossible. Pierce Brosnan portrayed Bond for 7 years, from 1995-2002, in some of the greatest Bond movies ever. Die Another Day is #4 in the Bond box office gross list (without inflation) coming in only behind Daniel Craig’s 3 movies. Roger Moore is by far the most popular Eon Productions Bond actor, playing in a whopping 7 films. Moore portrayed Bond for more than 10 years straight, from 1973-1985. Even though Moore portrayed Bond more times than any other actor for Eon Productions, box office numbers and critic reviews do not put him at the top of the list. We will never forget him for his performances in iconic movies like Moonraker and Octopussy, but he will never be at the very top of the list of best James Bond Actors.
3) Daniel Craig
The newest up-and-coming Bond actor, Daniel Craig has played Bond 3 times, which is more than some of his predecessors. Craig’s more recent portrayal of Bond is the #1 of all Bond movies in terms of box office gross. Of course, this doesn’t account for inflation – tickets are a bit more pricey than they were 50 years ago – but even with inflation factored in, Skyfall in still in the top 3 Bond movies for box office numbers. Perhaps it is the changes in film making that has occurred in the last 50 years, or perhaps Craig has learned from his predecessors. Either way, the box office numbers support the critics opinions, Craig is among the great Bond actors of all times. We hope he has a chance to keep up the good work.
2) Bob Simmons
Unless you are a die-hard walking encyclopedia Bond fan, this name may mean nothing to you. But, even so, every Bond fan around the world has seen him as Bond. He could be argued to be the first ever actor to portray Bond on the big screen, though he had no lines, and his scene was brief. Dr. No, the first James Bond film ever released, opening in 1962, introduced James Bond with what would become a trademark of the series: the gun barrel sequence. As you watched through the barrel of a gun, James Bond walked across a white backdrop. Not unaware that he was being watched, Bond suddenly stops, turns, and shoots the assassin. As blood dripped down, covering the screen, indicating that the assassin was shot dead with one shot, Bond remains poised, and the scene fades as the Bond theme song plays. The actor that portrayed Bond in this sequence was stunt man Bob Simmons, and this sequence was used in two separate Bond films.
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1) Sean Connery
The first, and arguable best actor, Sean Connery is by far the #1 best James Bond actor ever. If someone says “James Bond” you likely see one of Sean Connery’s protrayals in your mind’s eye. “Bond, James Bond,” is likely played in your head in Sean Connery’s distinctive voice. Like Roger Moore, Connery portrayed Bond in 7 films, though one of them was not produced by Eon Productions, the 1983 production of Never Say Never Again. Sean Connery played such a good Bond, he made 5 films from 1962-67 and then was brought back in 1971 for another after Lazenby’s only Bond role. In addition, after adjustment for inflation of ticket prices 3 of the top 4 ranked Bond movies based on box office sales are Connery portrayals, one of which more than doubled the other film Skyfall.