James Bond: Ranking Six 007s
6. George Lazenby
When Steve Jobs once remarked that he saw the Beatles as the ideal business model, he praised Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison. But then he said, ''I don't know what Ringo did.'' It's kind of the same with George Lazenby, a car-salesman-turned-model-turned actor, who seems like he's self-consciously transforming himself into a cipher in his one and only Bond flick, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Oddly enough, that's one of the absolute best 007 movies — but not because of Lazenby, who shows more personality when undercover as a fussbudget genealogy expert than he does as Bond proper. Luckily, that film had one of the alltime best villains, Telly Savalas as Ernst Blofeld, and one of the best Bond Girls, Diana Rigg's Tracy. Scratch that. She's a Bond Woman.
5. Pierce Brosnan
In many ways, Brosnan's Bond combines the best aspects of his predecessors: Connery's confidence, Moore's wit, Dalton's determination. But it's hard not to think that each of these virtues was diluted in Brosnan's portrayal. His 007 is the idealized '90s metrosexual male: sensitive, self-aware, cultured, an aesthete. His films reflect the times with plots about cyber-warfare, media moguls run amok, and Middle Eastern oil pipeline monopolies, and so does he. Unlike his forebears, he doesn't project his singular identity onto his time. And that can make him seem a little invisible in his own movies.
Finest hour: GoldenEye, the movie that justifies Bond's continued existence in the post-Cold War era.
4. Daniel Craig
Every few Bond movies or so, the franchise gets a little out of control. Boy, did that ever happen in 2002's Die Another Die, with Pierce Brosnan's 007 driving an invisible car after a diamond-studded goon inside a melting ice palace. Daniel Craig pulled Bond from the brink. His ''blunt instrument'' approach to the character doesn't mean his Bond is any less intelligent or witty than his predecessors. For all his chiseled machismo, he did one thing that'd rarely been attempted: he made Bond vulnerable, someone who bruises both inside and out.
Finest hour: Casino Royale, in which Craig brilliantly deconstructs Bond's own iconography. Shaken, not stirred? ''Do I look like I give a damn?''
3. Timothy Dalton
Dalton was Daniel Craig for an America that wasn't ready for Daniel Craig. His brooding, internal portrayal of Bond as an existential loner was perfect for topical films that pivoted on keenly-felt '80s anxieties: the final throes of the Cold War in 1987's The Living Daylights and the rising drug trade in 1989's License to Kill. Reagan-era audiences weaned on Roger Moore's tongue-in-cheek excess didn't know what hit them. What they missed, though, was Dalton's sly charisma, perfectly embodied at the beginning of The Living Daylights when he calls M to say he'll be exactly one hour late, only to see he's on the yacht of a most attractive heiress. ''Better make it two.''
Finest hour: License to Kill, a tightly-coiled revenge thriller with unusually brutal violence. Benicio del Toro? Meet industrial shredder.
2. Roger Moore
After six definitive portrayals of 007 by Sean Connery, the pressure on Roger Moore in 1973 to deliver a Connery imitation must have been enormous. Instead, he made James Bond his own — and an icon of the Me Decade. Where Connery was a hard-charging Alpha male, Moore's Bond is graceful. He's a man so perfectly in sync with the universe around him that he can skip across the backs of alligators like stepping stones to escape certain death. Today, fans of a harder-edged Bond may scoff at his 007's ability to disarm an opponent as much with his wit as with his Walther PPK. Moore's coy trademark smirk always shows that he's having as much fun as everyone in the audience. And isn't that really what it's all about?
Finest hour: For Your Eyes Only, a back-to-basics reboot after the excessive nonsense of Moonraker, that showed Moore could be as badass as anybody.
1. Sean Connery
The first. The original. The best. The moment he puts down his cigarette lighter and deadpans, ''Bond, James Bond,'' in 1962's Dr. No, it's like 007 emerged fully-formed, Athena-like, from Ian Fleming's head. Sure, parts of his portrayal haven't aged well, like when he tells a conquest to scram because of ''man talk.'' But the whiff of chauvinism you catch watching his films is undercut by Connery's oddball charm and quirky delivery. Who could forget his pronunciation of Pooh-sy Galore? Connery's vodka martini-smooth combination of brute strength, Oxbridge intellect, and supreme self-confidence still makes him the ultimate fantasy figure for men — and women — everywhere.
Finest hour: Dr. No, the film that not only launched the Bond franchise but modern action cinema.