Though actor Barry Nelson first portrayed bond in a 50s-era television series, the Bond brand didn’t take off until the first feature film was released. 1962’s Dr. No proved to be a huge hit for fans of the Ian Fleming novels and those new to the secret agent.
Even better, Sean Connery was responsible for building out the very first Bond personality based on Fleming’s 1953 debut novel. Throughout the ages, each actor has infused the role with their own interpretation of James Bond. Some have opted for a comedic Bond, others for a troubled and broody type.
Along with fashion, spy gadgets, and a tilting scale of suaveness, Bond’s character also changes his favorite table game at the casino. Originally, Bond spent time playing Chemin-de-fer baccarat and sipping on drinks that were shaken (not stirred). However, in recent years, Bond has spent more time playing Texas Hold’em poker.
In future iterations, the secret agent man might even head into cyberspace. Today’s gaming world is largely mobile, as many prefer an online casino over a trip to a brick-and-mortar establishment. Will Daniel Craig’s final installment incorporate a virtual casino floor, or will this jump into the future be left for upcoming installations?
Whoever portrays Bond in the future may have some say in the matter. Going through the top Bond performers by decade highlights just how influential an actor’s interpretation of the character can be—both for the film and for fans.
1960s: Sean Connery
What makes Connery one of the most memorable Bond performers? He was dapper, witty, and cool. However, Connery was originally called on to play the role of Bond because of his appearance and status as a handsome icon of the 60s. It was writer Raymond Benson who used the exact words ‘dapper, witty, and cool’ to educate Connery in how Bond should be played.
Connery may not have come up with the scheme of super-slick secret agent man, but he played the role like it was second nature (more on this below).
1970s: Roger Moore
Typically, Sean Connery and Daniel Craig receive the lion’s share of glory for their portrayal of bond. However, Roger Moore, much like Pierce Brosnan, is a sleeper star when it comes to the franchise.
Moore broke a few rules, like driving a Citroën instead of an Aston Martin. Moore’s Bond is also the most traveled and the most amorous. He’s gone to outer space, fought off a python, used alligators as steppingstones, and managed to sneak in a few cheeky lines along the way. Oh, and Jaws.
1980s: Sean Connery… again
So, what was it about the original man of mystery (Barry Nelson notwithstanding)? As mentioned above, Connery slid into the role easily. His comfort playing Bond was evident in his dialogue; in Thunderball, he quips, “Do you mind if my friend sits this one out? She’s just dead.”
Just like his dialogue, Connery’s Bond was also creative with his kills; he used piranhas, nuclear reactors, and poison darts to battle some of his toughest enemies. To be fair, Connery’s role in 1983’s Never Say Never Again wasn’t part of the official Bond franchise, and wouldn’t be counted on this list by most Bond diehards. Even so, Connery easily outshines the 80s latecomer, Timothy Dalton.
1990s: Pierce Brosnan
Move over Sean Connery, there’s a growing movement of Bond superfans who think Pierce Brosnan owned the role. Brosnan portrayed a darker Bond, who had just as many kill counts as laconic one-liners. His taste in women valued intellect alongside beauty, while his antics bordered on creative genius.
In addition to having a host of the most advanced gadgets (until the Craig era), Brosnan’s Bond also relied on tricks like stopping his own heart to fake his death and maneuvering a tank like it’s a Mercedes.