The best of Bond, James Bond -- just in time for 'Skyfall'

Posted 8:43am on Tuesday, Nov. 06, 2012

Who is the better James Bond: Sean Connery, the original, or Daniel Craig, the current incarnation?

The debate about the top 007 has raged for years. It originated in the 1970s once Roger Moore entered the picture as Britain's best-known superspy.

And after 50 years of big-screen Bond-age, the argument has only expanded. We've seen six actors take on the iconic role in 23 "official" Bond films. The new one, Skyfall, opens in theaters Friday.

So many Bonds. So many great moments.

Bond galore for half a century.

So who's the best? Connery? Craig? Or maybe Moore?

Before you blurt out an answer, don't forget there also are fans who are partial to Pierce Brosnan. Even the lesser, place-holder Bonds -- Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby -- have some limited support.

Once you get Bond fans all worked up, trust us, there's no stopping them. They're also sure to share their opinions about their favorite Bond villain, their favorite Bond girl, their favorite Bond theme music.

We know, because we've done this kind of story in the past -- and every time we are flooded with fan feedback. Some of it, we incorporated into this story.

So here are our ever-evolving favorites in seven (which is to say 007) categories.

Best James Bond

Each of the actors who played 007 had his moments -- even the badly miscast Lazenby -- but nobody can outshine Connery.

Craig has got him on the run, mind you. He re-invented the character in Casino Royale, with a harder, Special Forces edge. Now, in Skyfall, he has added humor. After Craig does his next two Bond movies, he very likely might take the lead.

But Connery's performance is the one that made this enduringly successful film series just that: an enduringly successful film series. Connery's Bond is still the one against which all others are measured. He was suave yet tough. He was feared by men and irresistible to women. He could kill with a karate chop or a joke.

In the 1990s, a panel of top film critics rated Connery's trademark "Bond, James Bond" line as the top movie quote of all time. Who are we to disagree?

Best Bond villain

There are so many worthy candidates.

Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE and Bond's personal Moriarty in the early years (six films), shoulda woulda coulda made the biggest impact. But the various actors playing Blofeld -- including Telly Savalas and Donald Pleasance -- never really nailed it.

Besides, once Mike Myers played Dr. Evil in the "Austin Powers" comedies, being a bald, cat-lugging master villain lost its gravitas.

Javier Bardem as Silva, a creepy cyberterrorist with a grudge against Judi Dench's M in Skyfall, is formidable. Sean Bean as Alex Trevelyan, a former Double-0 agent, was charismatic in GoldenEye. Sophie Marceau as Elektra King in The World Is Not Enough was a beautiful baddie.

The most memorable bad guy during the Roger Moore years wasn't the mastermind, just an over-the-top henchman. Jaws, a metal-mouthed giant played by Richard Kiel in two films, was a fan favorite, if a bit cartoonish. Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp was unforgettably wicked in GoldenEye. So was Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love. And Oddjob (Harold Sakata) was a tough opponent in Goldfinger.

Did somebody say Goldfinger?

Our favorite villain of them all is Auric Goldfinger, as played by Gert Fröbe. This sweetly sadistic soul cheated at golf, killed Bond's lover and almost sawed Bond in half with a laser, all while plotting to rob the biggest bank of them all, Fort Knox.

Best Bond girl

We've already mentioned a couple of femme fatales -- Elektra King and Xenia Onatopp. Add the bombshell assassin Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) of Thunderball to the list of wicked women.

But if it's a good girl you prefer, Bond's conquests include Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) of Dr. No, Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) of From Russia With Love, Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) of Goldfinger, Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Solitaire (Jane Seymour) of Live and Let Die, Anya Amasova, aka Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) of The Spy Who Loved Me, Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) of GoldenEye, Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) of Tomorrow Never Dies and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green, Casino Royale).

But the final vote favors Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) of Goldfinger. She represented the best of both worlds. She could be good and evil in the same breath.

Best gadgets

There are so many great spy toys that Q can take pride in -- from the jet pack of Thunderball and "Little Nellie," the weaponized one-man helicopter of You Only Live Twice to Bond's ski-stick gun and submersible car in The Spy Who Loved Me.

That said, some of the best devices weren't Q's work. Remember Rosa Klebb's dagger shoe in From Russia With Love? And Scaramanga's flying car in The Man With the Golden Gun?

And some of the gadgets were just plain goofy, like Bond's invisible car in Die Another Day.

But best of all was the tricked-out Aston Martin in Goldfinger: forward machine guns, rear bulletproof shield, smoke and oil slick sprayers, hubcaps that doubled as tire slashers and a passenger ejector seat.

The moment Bond pressed the ejector seat button, sending a gunman flying, Bond movies changed forever.

Best Bond chase

Name the mode of transportation and Bond has done it. On foot, a parkour chase through Madagascar in Casino Royale. By car, through the streets of Las Vegas in Diamonds Are Forever. On skis in The Spy Who Loved Me, ending with a spectacular skydiving escape off a mountain ledge. In a speedboat in Live and Let Die (had you ever seen boats race across land like that?). By tank, through the streets of Moscow in GoldenEye.

But the chase to end all chases is the one you'll see in the opening sequence of Skyfall.

Best theme music

Carly Simon sang a lovely version of Nobody Does It Better in The Spy Who Loved Me. Sheena Easton was serene singing the For Your Eyes Only theme.

Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die rocker gave Roger Moore's Bond debut a solid kick start. Chris Cornell did the same for Daniel Craig with You Know My Name in Casino Royale.

Goldfinger, as sung by Shirley Bassey, is perfection, as is Adele's new Skyfall theme.

But the tune that says "Bond, James Bond," more than any other is Monty Norman's guitar-riff-driven James Bond Theme that first played in Dr. No and has been revived in almost every outing since.

Best Bond movie

Not every Bond film is a classic. But there are great ones in every decade. That's why the series has thrived all these years.

Goldfinger gets the most love from the Connery era, but From Russia With Love might just be the better film from top to bottom.

Moore found the perfect blend of action and humor in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Brosnan did it best the first time out in GoldenEye.

Lazenby's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, a flop when released, has gained recognition as an underappreciated gem.

And Casino Royale -- wow -- this film reinvented Bond films and reinvented Bond.

But you know what? Skyfall, with its dynamic cast, its outrageous stunts, its amazing imagery and its different-from-the-rest plot, might just be the best one yet.

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