1 franchise, 6 decades, 25 films, 6 actors, 1 criminal secret organization, 1 vodka martini shaken, not stirred. That’s the legacy of the James Bond franchise that all started when author Ian Fleming wrote and published his first novel Casino Royale in 1953 and would go on to write 13 more novels after that and 9 short stories in which the final novel contains 4 of those stories. Adapted for TV, radio, comic books, but most importantly for the big screen by Eon Productions, owned by Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli, the pair’s company would go on and produce 25 films that would be the 6th highest grossing film series and the longest running one that sees no end in sight with changing times.
Ranking something whether it’s the actors who put on the tuxedo or the countless Bond girls or the villains and their private islands worth billions of dollars or the best theme song (It’s Skyfall by Adele) will always stir a debate. Its subjective there is no “correct” ranking of anything, Bond, James Bond included. Then why do this and put all this effort if it doesn’t matter? Because it’s fun to have intelligent conversations about how you or I may view a franchise and everything that embodies it. There’s no point in ranking it but I love seeing someone else’s interpretation of a film or series as I’m sure countless others do. Its why criticism exists.
The Bond franchise since its inception in 1962 has operated on a formulaic basis to making these films that resemble an assembly line with each story getting swapped out of the template set in place. Of course, the first film in the franchise Dr. No set the tone for all subsequent films to follow. It hasn’t been the cleanest process, but a Bond film can be spotted from miles away given how the plot unfolds. Opening each film is an explosive sequence that sets the tone. From there, the opening credits with the Bond theme sung by the biggest musical acts of the last 6 decades. After the credits finish, Bond flirts with Moneypenny (played by Lois Maxwell, Caroline Bliss, Samantha Bond & Naomie Harris), gets his mission from the head of MI6 M (played by Bernard Lee, Robert Brown, Dame Judi Dench & Ralph Fiennes) and gets a glimpse and tour of the high-tech gadgets and technology by Q (played by Desmond Llewelyn, John Cleese & Ben Whinshaw). Bond will then go on his mission, encounter the lovely Bond girl, get captured by the megalomaniacal villain and then save the day all without breaking a sweat in the face of danger.
Given how repetitive the process is, the franchise is largely predictable with how each film plays out. Spotting the three acts within each film is quite easy but the films are still exciting to watch, nonetheless. It’s not a homerun with every single outing but the entertainment value is sure to keep viewers returning to each film.
As far as the actors who have worn the tux, seduced the girl, collaborated with Felix Leiter and the CIA, and stopped Spectre and the countless criminal organizations, each man has brought something different to the character of Bond that makes the character unique from the other 5. Sean Connery crafted Bond as the first actor in bringing him to life from the pages of Flemings novels. In my book, he’s the quintessential Bond who had everything for the character to looked at for a reference going forward. Most importantly Connery’s charisma stands out among the personality traits. George Lazenby came next which brought in the royal elegance of Bond. Roger Moore had the humor. Timothy Dalton brought the ferocity. Pierce Brosnan made Bond into a superhero and Daniel Craig brought humanity to the character.
Again, raking anything and everything in the Bond franchise (or any franchise) is all subjective and up for interpretation. What I like and consider good may not be what the next person thinks but it’s how we speak about it all that makes the conversation interesting and intelligent.
Since this is a ranking of the films, this is how Id rank the 6 wonderful actors who have played the titular fictional MI6 secret agent turned global action icon.
1A) Sean Connery
1B) Daniel Craig
2) Timothy Dalton
3) Pierce Brosnan
4) Roger Moore
5) George Lazenby
For the films, here is how I rank all 25 official Eon released James Bond films:
25) A View to a Kill
23) The Man with the Golden Gun
22) Die Another Day
21) Live and Let Die
20) Quantum of Solace
18) The World is not Enough
17) Diamonds Are Forever
16) Tomorrow Never Dies
15) You Only Live Twice
14) For Your Eyes Only
13) The Living Daylights
11) The Spy Who Loved Me
10) License to Kill
9) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
7) No Time to Die
5) From Russia with Love
4) Dr. No
1) Casino Royale
No film or franchise is without flaw. James Bond since the earliest days has had flaws that have gradually been addressed over the tenure. How the franchise has treated women, for example could cause an outrage with Bond girls only serving as a trophy or a reward for Bond saving the world. Thankfully, that has changed over the years to allow women to be equally as important to the story as Bond is. They are looked at as equals which will only improve their significance going forward. Who wouldn’t want to see a bad ass female led 00 story? I would. From Judi Dench’s improved characterization of M to Phoebe Waller-Bridge writing No Time to Die, women have come a long way in the franchise and I’m eager to see more.
Well, there you have it, my subjective rank of all 25 James Bond films with a ranking of the actors who played the role. On any given day, Sean Connery and Daniel Craig could change from 1A to 1B. Bond, no doubt, this franchise has influenced generations of stories with its stylistic and sheek aesthetic to the sometimes-clever sometime cringy tongue and cheek humor and dialogue to the stunning and explosive action sequences. Gadgets, technology, the fisheye shot, the legendary theme song composed by Monty Norman, an Aston Martin, and a vodka martini will forever be enshrined in film history as well as the men and women who brought this franchise to life.