Let us for once and all answer that great dinner party question with a few facts. Who has been the best Bond, according to longevity, memorable moments, acting chops and profitability?
Precisely 50 years ago, on October 5, 1962, cinema-goers first saw a suave British secret agent introduce himself to a glamorous brunette across a casino table. "Bond," he said, cigarette dangling from his mouth. "James Bond."
With Sean Connery impeccable in a tuxedo in Dr No, the famous spy series was away.
That leaves one man as the best Bond...
Twenty-two "official" movies later - with worldwide box-office takings of more than $5 billion - six actors have now played 007, with Connery followed by George Lazenby, returning for an encore, then followed again by Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and now Daniel Craig.
All have been dashing action men in their own way, equally capable of handling a purring Aston Martin, tangling with a henchman or turning on the charm for a Bond girl.
But who has been the best Bond?
Ask Roger Moore whether it's him and he'll answer "Only in the eyes of my wife".
To judge, we have to compare the 006 who have played 007 against various categories:
Establishing the role
Craggily handsome, convincingly physical and smooth with a one-liner, Connery defined Bond in the 1960s. Lazenby left little impression in his sole movie, before Moore brought more comedy, Dalton more earnestness, Brosnan more gloss and high-tech action and Craig more grit to the series.
But every subsequent Bond will always be compared to one actor: Sean Connery.
Moore has appeared the most as Bond - seven movies from 1973's Live And Let Die to 1985's A View To A Kill. He was a 007 for the '70s - debonair, droll, womanising and comically savvy enough, as required in Octopussy, to defuse a nuclear bomb dressed in a clown suit.
This category is the most difficult to assess because, for fans, every Bond actor has featured in memorable scenes.
Just to take a few grabs from the 22 movies, they include Connery being strapped down, with a laser about to slice him in half, and meeting Pussy Galore in Goldfinger; Moore skiing off a mountain and being saved by a Union Jack parachute in The Spy Who Loved Me; Brosnan steering a BMW by remote control through a carpark in Tomorrow Never Dies; and Craig's parkour chase through a high-rise construction site and deliciously witty exchange on a train with Vesper in Casino Royale. But there are hundreds more.
Some of the Bond fraternity must lose points for being associated with low points in the series.
Sad to say given he is Australian, Lazenby's acting in On Her Majes-ty's Secret Service was never likely to win him an Oscar - or possibly even another role.
Brosnan had that invisible car and dodgy big-wave surfing in Die Another Day. Moore ran like he had wooden legs and did not look remotely capable of bedding Grace Jones in A View To A Kill. And Craig was in Quantum of Solace, which disappointed so many fans after the brilliant Casino Royale.
Reviving the series
Credit, first, to Connery for setting up the series. But when it needed refreshing after a six-year break, Brosnan did it brilliantly in GoldenEye. And when it needed rebooting in the Jason Bourne era, Craig was perfect in Casino Royale.
Connery has won an Oscar, for non-Bond movie The Untouchables in 1988. He also managed to have a thriving career after a role that seems destined to typecast. But Craig is still the best actor of the bunch.
When Quantum Of Solace was released three years ago, it outgrossed every other Bond movie at the North American box office (although Casino Royale is the top-grossing film internationally) - no surprise given the high expectations and increased ticket prices over the years.
But when analysts adjusted the American box office for inflation, the highest-grossing instalment was Thunderball followed by Goldfinger. So kudos to Connery for his box-office appeal.
Living up to Ian Fleming's character
At the end of the novel Casino Royale, Bond's flinty lack of sympathy for Vesper shows his hard edge. Dalton had some of that in The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill but Craig, despite being blonde (the novel's character has "dark good looks"), has the most convincing edge.
The Best Bond?
Moore will have his fans from a generation who grew up on his movies and enjoyed the humour and the ever-more-outlandish stunts, gadgets and vehicles.
In five or 10 years, the best 007 might be Craig - but Skyfall will have to be better than Quantum of Solace.
That leaves one man as both the original and the best Bond. Connery, Sean, Connery.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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