1. Paul Newman
The one and only original Bond, James Bond. Winning the part over Fleming-favorite Robert Redford, Newman made the role iconic and cemented his career as a leading man for decades to come. The elements that make the Bond films what they are were all established during Newman’s tenure including the classic Ford Torino GT and Ernest Borgnine as Q.
2. Warren Beatty
Although he only played Bond in one film, Beatty managed to prove that the franchise didn’t have to end with Newman’s retirement. And with the tragic death of Tracy Bond (Faye Dunaway), 1969’s On the People’s Secret Service remains one of the series’ most emotional films.
3. James Garner
Originally expected to take over after Newman, James Garner signed up for another season of Maverick and was unable to take the role until 1973’s Live and Let Die. Garner’s lighter persona proved popular, and he became the longest-running Bond with 7 films between 1973 and 1985.
4. Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton was a return to the darker, more violent Bond films of the Newman era, bringing back the physicality that had been lost with Garner’s increasing age. After 1989’s Licence to Kill, Keaton decided not to return.
5. Kevin Costner
In a post-Cold War world, Kevin Costner became known as the best Bond since Newman. He saw Bond into the modern era of computers and terrorism in 4 films between 1995 and 2002. Costner’s Bond was under the command of the first female M (Meryl Streep), and he was the last Bond to work with Ernest Borgnine’s Q before he retired in The World is Not Enough and was replaced by Bill Murray.
6. Johnny Depp
For the 21st Bond film it was decided the franchise would reboot with a young Bond at the start of his career in Casino Royale. Skyfall, Depp’s third film as Bond, saw a new Q (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a new M (Bryan Cranston), and new Miss Moneypenny (Zoe Saldana) usher in a return to the classics.