Ranking the Bonds (a Roger Moore memorial post)

Accept no substitutes, unless you're forced to.

Accept no substitutes, unless you’re forced to.

In breaking the news about his death this morning, The Guardian called Roger Moore “the suavest James Bond.”

The way I think of Moore.

The way I think of Moore.

OK. Maybe. I’d say Pierce Brosnan comes close, though.

The thing is, personally, I never quite accepted Moore as Bond, even though he played the part in more films than anyone. I thought of him as “The Saint.” Part of the problem in accepting him as 007 is that he had the rotten luck of following Sean Connery, who of course defined the role.

All of this is to build up to a Top Five List, in this case ranking the Best Bonds. Yes, I know; it’s been done to death. But it’s the first way I could think of to mark the passing of Simon Templar.

So here goes:

  1. Sean Connery. Yes, I know: It’s like picking the Beatles as “best pop group.” Barry in “High Fidelity” would sneer at me for being so obvious. But it’s not even close. He was Bond when Bond was cool — in the Mad Men, Playboy magazine era when wearing the right tux, drinking the right martini and having as many beautiful women as possible was fashionable, even praiseworthy. He wore his hyper-masculine image with just the right bit of irony, at a time when we boomers weren’t old enough to realize what a joke it was. Austin Powers showed us that, much later. (If you go back and watch the Connery films now, you’ll see Mike Myers wasn’t changing or exaggerating the details at all; the films really were that ridiculous.)
  2. Daniel Craig, particularly in “Casino Royale,” essentially an “origin story.” He’s the roughest, least-suave Bond, to the point that you’re a bit surprised to find out (in “Skyfall”) that he was of the landed gentry. He’s what you might suppose a guy with a License to Kill would be in real life — an ex-SAS ruffian who, if he showed up in a John le Carre novel (which he probably wouldn’t), would be confined to Scalphunters down in Brixton (think of the marginal character Fawn in Tinker Tailor and The Honourable Schoolboy).
  3. Roger Moore. He played the part loyally and with good humor for all those years, and if nothing else kept the franchise warm while we waited for another Connery to come along (which did not, and likely will not, ever happen). His was always the likable Bond, with the obvious question arising: Do we want Bond to be likable?
  4. Timothy Dalton. OK, so his films aren’t that memorable, and he only played Bond in one more film than that dabbler George Lazenby. But I thought he had a decent presence for the part, even though it was insufficiently explored. He’s the Bond we hardly knew.
  5. Pierce Brosnan. I hesitate to include him, since he brought so little to the part that I’m having trouble remembering the titles of the ones he played in. But I have to have five. The main thing I remember about the Brosnan films was that a BMW Z3 starred in one of them.

That’s my list. Your thoughts?

Daniel Craig: A bit of the old Ultraviolence.

Daniel Craig: A bit of the old Ultraviolence.

20 thoughts on “Ranking the Bonds (a Roger Moore memorial post)

  1. Jeff Mobley

    It’s always fun to imagine one era’s Bond actor playing the role in one of the other’s movies. For example, would Moore have worked in a movie like License to Kill? I doubt it. And Dalton’s earnestness would probably have destroyed the joy of the more ridiculous gags of the Moore-era movies. I feel like Brosnan struck sort of a balance in tone between the Connery Bond and the Moore Bond, but was not always as interesting. GoldenEye was his first, and probably his best, but I enjoyed most of his. I think the car in The World Is Not Enough was a Z8. It got cut in half by one of those crazy lumber-cutting saw helicopters, which was a very sad moment in that movie.

    Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        By the way, I liked the Z3, but I could never warm up to the Z4. The 3 looked as a sports car should, but they ruined the lines with the 4 — it has sharp edges, creases. Sports cars should be smooth and rounded…

        Reply
  2. Phillip

    And maybe next, a ranking of Bond themes? It’s been done of course, but everybody has their own tastes of course, and therein lies the fun.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, at least they got No. 1 right — it’s “Goldfinger” all the way.

      Then:
      2. “Thunderball”
      3. “Live and Let Die”
      4. “Skyfall”
      5. ‘You Know My Name’ (From ‘Casino Royale’)

      I put that last one on there in order to argue with the guy at that link, who listed it 19th. I thought that credit sequence, with the playing cards motif, was impressive, and the song went with it well — although not so well with the movie, I’ll admit…

      Reply
    2. Jeff Mobley

      On the songs:

      1. From Russia with Love
      2. Live and Let Die
      3. You Only Live Twice
      4. Nobody Does it Better (from The Spy Who Loved Me)
      5. We Have All the Time in the World (from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – not technically the theme, though, which was instrumental, and also very good).

      Reply
  3. Bryan Caskey

    Brosnan is being criminally underrated here. I mean, I’m about call David Pascoe to start an investigation to see if any improper funds influenced your rankings.

    Seriously, you have Timothy Dalton above Pierce Brosnan? That’s just ridiculous. Goldeneye was great, and the best Dalton film is way, way below that with maybe License to Kill. He was only in one other Bond movie – The Living Daylights, which was rubbish. That’s because Dalton was complete rubbish.

    Moore’s best movie was most clearly The Spy Who Loved Me, which is the one of my favorite Bond movies overall. The beginning scene where he skis off the mountain and his parachute opens up with the Union Jack is great. The theme “Nobody Does it Better” is also a top Bond Song.

    Reply
        1. Jeff Mobley

          Well, don’t forget that he played Pinkerton in that Jesse James movie American Outlaws, and also he was the bad guy with an awesome villain mustache in The Rocketeer.

          Really, though, I’m not sure License to Kill would have worked as well with any of the others.

          Reply
  4. Norm Ivey

    Connery is #1, though I have a brother-in-law who disagrees strongly. Moore is above Craig. Craig’s films are pretty much humorless. Don’t much care for Brosnan or Dalton.

    Live and Let Die should be #1 among the themes. Then Skyfall and Nobody Does it Better.

    Alice Cooper wrote a theme song for The Man with The Golden Gun that would have been the much better choice.

    Reply
  5. Phillip

    Absolutely Live and Let Die the #1 song. Skyfall (the song) doesn’t do much for me, at least as a song, kind of typical of a lot of our lame top-10 music of the current day, minor tonic key, just kind of going back and forth tonic-dominant, very foursquare beat, pumped up beyond what it merits by thick orchestration. Way underrated on that Rolling Stone list in my opinion (and I’ll admit, mostly because she’s just one of my favorite vocalists of all time, even when she already past her prime as she was in late 80’s when this was made) is Gladys Knight’s License to Kill.

    If you write for Rolling Stone, you should know the difference between a “cover” and an “homage,”—LTK references Goldfinger in only the first two chords of each chorus, an homage just as Skyfall tucks in a reference to the chromatic guitar Bond motif in its second verse.

    Reply

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