If someone asks you what your favorite spy movie is, it’s almost impossible not to think of James Bond. With gadgets, gizmos, guns, girls and thugs, James Bond is the brave good guy who introduced global audiences to the thrill of on-screen espionage. Although the world has had time to reflect on the flaws of this flawed character and his over-the-top machismo, Bond remains one of the most exemplary and immortal characters to ever exist in modern media. Although James Bond has been present in film (and literature) for more than 70 years, there seems to be no end in sight, with new actors being considered for new iterations of the role every decade or so.
How many James Bond actors are there?
James Bond, the most famous film spy of all time, has been portrayed by several actors since his film debut in 1962. In total, seven actors played the role of our beloved spy: Sean Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. All of them added their own unique touch to the character and all are worth mentioning in this article.
1. Sean Connery – 1962 – 1967, 1971, 1983
Films:Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever, Never Say Never Again (non-EON production)
Best known for his role as James Bond (although he has appeared as an actor nearly 100 times on IMDB), Connery is undoubtedly the best and most popular actor to ever portray the slick, sexy spy. Although Connery certainly deserves the title, it must have been more like tailor-made dress shoes for him to be the first to slip into these metaphorically gigantic shoes. Having starred in some of the best Bond films of all time to date (Goldfinger, Dr. No), the story of his success after these films is no longer a secret.
2. David Niven – 1967
Films: Casino Royale (non-EON production)
A truly unique performance comes from the comedic prowess of David Niven: a sadly largely forgotten role from a top British actor. As the only parody film on this list, Niven stands out for its uniqueness, but falls short due to the absolutely polarizing tone of this one-off film. Although this film has achieved cult status over the years despite its critical reception, Bond fans are quick to forget it in the crowd.
3. George Lazenby – 1969
Films: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The only actor to play Bond just once – in a serious role – is George Lazenby: an unfairly hated replacement for Sean Connery at the time. Even though his acting performance in the seven iterations was indeed at the bottom of the list, the immediate hatred he received even before the film’s release ensured his fate as the definitive James Bond. Over 50 years after its release, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has been hailed by audiences as a greater gem than originally imagined. Some even say that it is essentially one of the best Bond films, but hardly pays any attention to poor George.
4. Roger Moore – 1973-1985
Films: Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill
Roger Moore holds the record for the most Bond films in which he has starred, going on to an impressive 12-year, 7-film streak as James Bond. Even though the quality of the films he starred in varied widely, Moore became a much easier pill for audiences and fans to swallow. The average Roger Moore Bond film gives the character a rather cheeky, silly quality and is significantly cheesier than Sean Connery’s predecessors, but ultimately ticks all the boxes that a Bond film should have.
5. Timothy Dalton – 1987-1989
Films: The Living Daylights, License to Kill
Arguably one of the most underrated actors to play Bond is Timothy Dalton: Mr. Eyebrows himself. Although he ultimately underperformed audiences, resulting in his paltry two-film run, Dalton brought a darker quality to the character that echoed the tone of Bond -should change films forever. As always, the focus is always on the actor portraying the character rather than the film itself, which is why these two arguably underrated Bond films have been largely overlooked – probably because License to Kill has been a fairly popular film title ever since.
6. Pierce Brosnan – 1995-2002
Films: GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day
Commonly referred to as second best (to some The The best actor for the role of Bond, Pierce Brosnan, was almost immediately accepted by viewers and critics alike with his sharp looks and undeniable charm. Using the Bond film’s near-perfect formula, Pierce combined the greatest things from previous versions and made them his own. Although the films are a bit over the top at times, the depiction of all the elements of the Bond film can be viewed through a completely new lens that makes them truly unique.
7. Daniel Craig – 2006-2021
Films: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Specter, No Time to Die
Daniel Craig, another actor who was heavily criticized even before the release of his first Bond film, has since created his very own, very special series of Bond films that are now considered a great reimagining of what Bond films should be can. As the first Bond film series to follow a clear chronological order and progression of events, Craig was given the rare chance to develop the character into a dark, bitter, lonely tale with an earth-shattering conclusion. These films also broke the fourth wall a bit by enshrining in the canon the concept that 007 is just a number: when he’s gone, someone other than 007 takes his place.
How to watch the James Bond films in order
If you’re looking for a more detailed list of how to watch all the movies by actor or release date, our guide to the James Bond movies in order is for you. Even though most Bond films don’t follow a continuous narrative across the entire timeline, it’s still very useful to have a complete list of all Bond films, their release dates, and who starred each.
Connor Sheppard is an Oregon-raised culture writer for IGN. Fascinated by pop culture and films from a young age, he has become an experienced critic and consumer of all media. While pursuing his bachelor’s degree in digital communications at Oregon State University, he discovered his love for writing and an appreciation for certain actors and directors in the many films he watched.