As I am wont to do, I decided to take the idea a step further. After all, if we have a numeric ranking of the Bond movies, it's not too hard to come up with a system to rank each of the actors who have played Bond—a Mean Bond Rating, or MBR. (I gave each Bond performance a declining number of points based on each movie's ranking—20 points for #1, 19 points for #2, etc.—added each actor's totals together and divided by the number of Bond movies that actor has made.) Calculating an MBR based on EW's ranking yields some surprising results: the actor with the highest MBR is George Lazenby, whose 16 edges out Sean Connery's 15.67. Pierce Brosnan comes in third with a 10.25, with Roger Moore close behind at 8. Timothy Dalton is the clear loser with an embarrassing 3.5.
Of course, Lazenby almost has to be treated as a bit of an outlier, since his rating is based on a single performance. Had Connery not returned to play Bond in the stinker Diamonds Are Forever, then his MBR would have been 16.8. It may seem unfair to penalize Connery, who by EW's count, made three of the best five Bond films, and five of the best ten (especially since he only made 6 Bond films, unless of course you count Never Say Never Again, which I don't and neither does EW), but Diamonds is really a stain on Connery's record as Bond (so, come to think of it, is NSNA).
On the other hand. I don't entirely agree with EW's rankings. They get a lot right—I think, on the whole, that we can agree that Connery's Bond corpus is better than any other actor's—but, as with any so subjective a ranking, there are some idiosyncrasies. Live and Let Die at number 3? From Russia With Love only number 8? I know everyone hates Timothy Dalton, but was The Living Daylights really worse than A View To a Kill? I decided that some re-ranking was in order.
- Goldfinger—really, the perfect Bond movie
- From Russia With Love—my favorite Bonds are the ones where he's more of a spy than a superhero. In FRWL, Bond uses his seductive wiles to turn a double agent and obtain a code machine. Essential spycraft.
- The Living Daylights—seemingly alone, I love this film. It's a return to basics after the worst of the Moore years, and involves at least basic spycraft again. Also interesting for an almost un-Bond-like awareness of realpolitik in its use of the Afghan mujahedeen.
- GoldenEye—again, Bond seems to benefit from periodic fresh blood. Brosnan's first Bond is the one that really works. The "GoldenEye" is only just beyond technological possibility, and Sean Bean is excellent as 006.
- Thunderball—a bit over the top for me, but iconic. This is the Bond film that all the other films parody.
- Dr. No—Bond before he was Bond. (See my comment on real spycraft.) When Bond arrives in Jamaica, he shields his face with his hat to keep someone from taking his picture. That moment makes the movie for me. Too often in later Bonds, everyone seems to know exactly who he is. How can you be a secret agent if you're not a secret?
- You Only Live Twice—this one pushes it for me. The "I'm Japanese, really" makeup on Bond is, uhm, laughable.
- For Your Eyes Only—the best of the worst. We'll ignore Bibi Dahl and focus on the fact that Moore's Bond is chasing a code machine. (Read: real spycraft.)
- Moonraker—actually I kind of like this one. Bond in space is really silly, and oh! Jaws finds a girl! But Drax just works for me.
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service—you know, I hate Telly Savalas as Blofeld (actually, I hate most of the Blofelds—he's better when you can't see his face). Still Bond meets his match in Mrs. Peel. Much better than Patrick Macnee's turn in A View To a Kill.
- Die Another Day—better than your average Brosnan outing, but that isn't saying much. Rosamund Pike makes this film for me.
- Diamonds Are Forever—ugh. Just ugh. Connery's Bond starts to feel old. If only they hadn't tried to fix the problem by bringing in Roger Moore, who started out old and finished decrepit.
- The Spy Who Loved Me—I'm not actually going to comment on all the Moore Bonds. I have better things to do.
- The Man With the Golden Gun
- Live and Let Die—awful. Just awful. And racist to boot, not only in Mr. Big, but the hick southern cops.
- Tomorrow Never Dies—why not? We'd be better off if it did. And I usually like Jonathan Pryce.
- Licence To Kill—one of the few Bond movies where Bond looks bad in a tux. And what's with the "come on groom, let's go bust a drug ring, your bride won't mind" scene? Benicio Del Toro can't save this film, and neither can Law & Order's most forgettable assistant DA.
- A View To a Kill—remember what I said about Connery being old in Diamonds? In this one, Roger Moore looks like he's on life support. And why would you have (an also very old) John Steed play Bond's sidekick if you're just going to kill him off?
- The World Is Not Enough—really, sometimes it is. What a waste. All around.
Thus, by my system, each actor's Bond ratings are as follows:
If you ask me, that seems just about right.