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50 Years of 007: Who is the best James Bond?

Friday - 10/5/2012, 5:22am  ET

Sean Connery with Aston Martin DB5 from movie Goldfinger (AP)
Sean Connery starred as James Bond in 'Goldfinger.' (AP)

50 Years of Bond

WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley marks the 50th anniversary of 007.

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Jason Fraley, WTOP film critic

WASHINGTON - Fifty years, 23 films and one legendary name.

"Bond. James Bond."

For five decades, we've been staring down the barrel of a gun. On this date in 1962, 007 arrived in "Dr. No."

To mark the franchise's 50th anniversary, we're counting down the Best of Bond in ten categories: Best Bond, Best Bond Girl, Best Bond Villain, Best Bond Theme, Best Bond Gadget, Best Bond Quote, Best Bond Sidekick, Best Bond Henchman, Best Bond Spoof and Best Bond Film.

So strap into your Aston Martin, shake that martini, spit a double entendre and let the debating begin.

GALLERY: When you're done checking out the ten categories below, check out this Complete Guide to Bond by WTOP Intern Carolyn Bick.

BEST BOND

5. George Lazenby

After five Bond films, Sean Connery left the series, leaving producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman scrambling to find a replacement. They chose Australian martial arts instructor George Lazenby, who had studied under Bruce Lee before moving to London the year "Goldfinger" was released and becoming the top male fashion model in the world from 1964-1968.

His only acting experience was a collection of TV commercials and a bit part in an Italian Bond spoof, but a chance meeting with Broccoli in a hair salon planted the seed.

Lazenby only did one Bond film, but "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969) is highly underrated. He quit the role just before the film premiered, forcing the studio to bring back Connery for "Diamonds Are Forever." Still, his meteoric time as Bond shone so bright that it tops Timothy Dalton in our Top 5.

4. Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan claims that "Goldfinger" was the very first movie he saw as a child. Who knew that the kid sitting in that theater, watching the gold twinkle in his eye, would later take the reigns in "GoldenEye" (1995).

Brosnan was actually first offered the role of Bond in "The Living Daylights" (1987), but had to pull out over conflicts with his NBC show "Remington Steele." So, the role instead went to Timothy Dalton, who carried the franchise for two films, before resigning in the early '90s.

During that time, American audiences had come to know Brosnan as Sally Field's boyfriend and Robin Williams' nemesis in "Mrs. Doubtfire" (1993). Two years later, Brosnan was handed the keys to 007 in "GoldenEye," a film that became engrained in the minds of entire generation thanks to the popular video game of the same name.

His three follow-up films allowed him to "bond" with Teri Hatcher, Sophie Marceau, Denise Richards and Halle Berry, but the films themselves were forgettable.

3. Roger Moore

With seven films, Roger Moore was the most prolific Bond and held the role of 007 from 1973-1985.

Prior to that, he had made a name for himself in TV, appearing in shows like "Ivanhoe" (1958), "Maverick" (1957) and "The Saint" (1962).

At age 45, he became the oldest actor to debut as Bond in "Live and Let Die" (1973), and his age really shows in the final film "A View to a Kill" (1985). Moore named that film his least favorite, while calling "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977) his favorite, thanks to a spectacular ski-chase, parachute jump and underwater car.

Under Moore's watch, the Bond films began moving more toward self- parody, but he could deliver innuendo with the best of them, and it was he who stared down some of the franchise's most famous villains, from Francisco Scaramanga ("The Man with the Golden Gun") to Jaws ("The Spy Who Loved Me," "Moonraker").

2. Daniel Craig

OK, so maybe it's too early to put Craig above Roger Moore, but I have a hunch he'll go down as arguably the toughest, most attractive, most complex Bond character to date. A product of British theater, Craig burst onto the film scene with supporting roles in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (2001), "Road to Perdition" (2002) and the cocaine crime thriller "Layer Cake" (2004).

When he was tapped to become Bond in 2006, he became the first blond-haired Bond and the first born after the start of the series and the death of author Ian Fleming. The result was "Casino Royale" (2006), a modern action masterpiece that reinvented Bond by exploring his broken-hearted origins.

You can call "Quantum of Solace" (2008) a sophomore slump, but expect big things from "Skyfall" next month, where he'll stare down a villainous Javier Bardem ("No Country for Old Men") and reunite with "Perdition" director Sam Mendes ("American Beauty"). Let's not forget that Connery's third ("Goldfinger") and Moore's third ("The Spy Who Loved Me") were their respective bests, and "Skyfall" will push him past Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby on the Bond count.

1. Sean Connery

No doubt, the Craig camp will be disappointed he's not in the top slot, but to me, it's a LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan argument. Perhaps Craig has the talent to one day overtake Connery, but Connery is the king with six rings. How can you go against the original? The man who coined the phrase "Bond, James Bond?"

At age 23, Connery chose to go into acting instead of professional football, appearing in movies like "The Longest Day" (1962) before being cast as Bond in "Dr. No" (1962).

Author Ian Fleming at first didn't like the casting of Connery, instead wanting Cary Grant, who played a similar role in Hitchcock's "North By Northwest" (1959). Like Grant, Connery became the man all the ladies wanted and every man wanted to be.

"From Russia with Love" (1963) was his personal favorite, "Goldfinger" (1964) was his most iconic, and "Thunderball" (1965) remains the highest grossing (adjusted for inflation).

He briefly retired from the role after "You Only Live Twice" (1967), but was convinced to return for "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971). His wild popularity later transferred into critical respect, earning an Oscar for "The Untouchables" (1987). And when it came time for Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to cast the third "Indiana Jones" film, they said, "who else could play the father of Indiana Jones but James Bond himself?"

BEST BOND GIRL

5. Claudine Auger as Domino Derval in "Thunderball"

As the Bond Girl in the highest grossing Bond film (adjusted for inflation), Domino Derval is a deliciously popular favorite.

4. Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in "Goldfinger"

"Who are you?"

"My name is Pussy Galore."

"I must be dreaming."

Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore epitomized the trend of Bond Girls with ridiculously sexual names and left us all wanting to go for a romp in the hay.

3. Eva Green as Vesper Lynd in "Casino Royale"

Bond was able to blow through women at will -- until he met Vesper Lynd in "Casino Royale" (2006). Or, seeing as the film is a quasi prequel, I guess you could say he gave up on love after he was burned by Lynd.

2. Barbara Bach as Anya Amasova in "The Spy Who Loved Me"

Few Bond Girls could give it right back to Bond like Barbara Bach's Anya Amasova, a.k.a. Triple X, who allows 007 to "enter a new era of Anglo-Soviet cooperation." Upset that Bond killed her Soviet lover, Bach has a complex relationship with 007, and steals his "shaken not stirred" line in a car-smashing assault on "Jaws."

1. Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder in "Dr. No"

Her appearance didn't come until late in the movie, but no Bond girl has had a better entrance than Ursula Andress coming up out of the water carrying those conch shells in that creamy bikini. The scene was so famous that Halle Berry re-enacted it in "Die Another Day."

BEST BOND VILLAIN

5. Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga in "The Man with the Golden Gun"

Not only does he possess the title weapon, Francisco Scaramanga pleasures his girlfriend with it.

4. Mads Mikkelsen as LeChiffre in "Casino Royale"

As long as I live, I will never forget LeChiffre's torture scene, strapping Bond to a bottomless chair and aiming straight for his cajones.

3. Robert Shaw as Red Grant in "From Russia with Love"

A decade before playing Doyle Lonnegan in "The Sting" and Quint in "Jaws," Robert Shaw played the blonde Russian brute Red Grant.

His train fight with Bond remains one of the best in the series, launched by his taunt at gunpoint, "The first one won't kill you. Not the second. Not even the third. Not until you crawl over here and kiss my foot!"

2. Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger in "Goldfinger"

Fat, balding and a cheater at golf, Auric Goldfinger doesn't appear all that menacing, but his mind is absolutely twisted. His fetish of painting his female victims gold is disturbing, and his scheme of nuking Fort Knox to wreck Western currency is unmatched.

He holds the distinction as the best Bond trap (the laser) and the best Bond threat: "Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!"

1. Various Actors as Ernst Stavro Blofeld

Number 1 on our list is No. 1 himself, the man who runs the evil espionage empire SPECTRE.

He first appeared in "From Russia with Love," with audiences never seeing his face as he stroked a lap kitty.

Later, when we saw his pale face with a scar down his eye, the seeds for Dr. Evil had been planted.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld appeared in six Bond films: "From Russia With Love," "Thunderball," "You Only Live Twice," "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," "Diamonds Are Forever," and "For Your Eyes Only" and was played by a number of actors, including Donald Pleasance, Telly Savalas and Max von Sydow.

BEST BOND THEME

5. "A View to a Kill"

Written by John Barry and performed by Duran Duran, "A View to a Kill" remains the only Bond theme to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

4. "Diamonds are Forever"

Shirley Bassey was the queen of Bond themes, and "Diamonds Are Forever" has a haunting quality to it. It was later sampled by Kanye West in "Diamonds of Sierra Leone."

3. "Live and Let Die"

The first Bond theme to be nominated for an Oscar, Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" reached No. 2 on U.S. Billboard charts. It was later covered by Guns N Roses.

2. "Nobody Does it Better"

Five years after he won Oscars for "The Sting" and "The Way We Were," the late composer Marvin Hamlisch teamed with Carole Bayer Sager to write the theme for "The Spy Who Loved Me." Belted out by Carly Simon, "Nobody Does it Better" earned an Oscar nomination and landed No. 67 on the AFI's Top 100 Movie Songs of All Time.

1. "Goldfinger"

The gold standard of Bond themes, Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" starts off with a bang of wailing horns and doesn't quit. The lyrics are a warning to beware of "the man with the Midas touch, a spider's touch." Voted No. 53 on the AFI's Top 100 Movie Songs, "Goldfinger" is a legend of movie music.

BEST BOND GADGET

5. Exploding Pen in "GoldenEye"

In "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade," Sean Connery was told "the pen is mightier than the sword." Pierce Brosnan proved it in "GoldenEye."

4. Ericsson Cell Phone in "Tomorrow Never Dies"

Imagine being able to drive a car with your cell phone. Bond did it in "Tomorrow Never Dies."

3. Lotus Esprit in "The Spy Who Loved Me"

Outrunning a helicopter, Bond launched his car off a pier into the water, only for his Lotus Espirit to transform into an underwater vehicle.

2. Jet Pack in "Thunderball"

Bond was evasive before he went airborne. Once he used his rocket belt clip to take off, jet pack style, the villains didn't stand a chance.

1. Aston Martin DB5 in "Goldfinger"

The crowned jewel of Bond gadgetry, his Aston Martin DB5 came with a bulletproof shield and passenger- side ejector seat. It first appeared in "Goldfinger," and has since become as synonymous with Bond as his shaken martinis.

BEST BOND QUOTE

5. "You Only Live Twice" - "Women come second"

Bond was filled with double entendres, but his best came in "You Only Live Twice." While visiting Japan, Tiger Tanaka shows Bond the ropes, saying, "Rule number two: in Japan, men always come first, women come second." Bond slyly responds, "I just might retire here."

4. "Goldfinger" - "Shocking"

After frying a baddie with a toaster in the bathtub, Bond says, "Shocking. Positively shocking."

3. "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" - "He had lots of guts"

After a Bond villain skis into a snow-blower and red snow sprays everywhere, Bond turns to his girl and says, "He had lots of guts."

2. "Goldfinger"- "Shaken, not stirred"

The line "shaken, not stirred" was mentioned by other characters in the first two Bond films, but it wasn't until the third installment, "Goldfinger," that Bond delivered the famous line himself. Voted No. 90 on the AFI's Top 100 Movie Quotes, the line has been repeated in countless films since.

1. "Dr. No" - "Bond, James Bond"

Who knew three words could sound so cool? Sean Connery introduced himself as "Bond, James Bond" in "Dr. No" and we've been saying it ever since. The line ranks No. 22 on the AFI's Top 100 Movie Quotes.

BEST BOND SIDEKICK

5. Bill Tanner

M's chief of staff was both reliable and brought occasional comic relief. Bill Tanner appears in six films with various actors: Michael Goodliffe in "The Man with the Golden Gun," James Villiers in "For Your Eyes Only," Michael Kitchen in "GoldenEye" and "The World is Not Enough," and Rory Kinnear in "Quantum of Solace" and "Skyfall."

4. Felix Leiter

Felix Leiter was such a popular character in the books, that when Hollywood produced "Dr. No" out of order, he was added into the script, even though he wasn't in the "Dr. No" novel. Felix appears in nine Bond films with multiple actors: Jack Lord in "Dr. No," Cec Linder in "Goldfinger," Rik Van Nutter in "Thunderball," Norman Burton in "Diamonds are Forever," David Hedison in "Live and Let Die" and "License to Kill," John Terry in "The Living Daylights" and Jeffrey Wright in "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace."

3. Miss Moneypenny

While James Bond was off running around with multiple women, one woman was constant through the years, MI6 secretary Miss Moneypenny. Played by Louis Maxwell in the first 14 films, Caroline Bliss in the Timothy Dalton era and Samantha Bond in the Pierce Brosnan years, Moneypenny's flirtatious exchanges with Bond are gold.

2. M

The head of MI6, M is the character who gives Bond his marching orders. Played by Bernard Lee in the first 11 films, Robert Brown from 1983-1989 and Judi Dench from "GoldenEye" (1995) to present. She figures to feature prominently in next month's "Skyfall."

1. Q

Of all of Bond's MI6 sidekicks, Q is easily the coolest. That's because he's the one unveiling all the cool gadgets, much like Morgan Freeman in the "Dark Knight" movies. The role of Q was played by Peter Burton in "Dr. No," Desmond Llewelyn for the next 18 (minus "Live and Let Die"), John Cleese in "Die Another Day" and Ben Whishaw" in the upcoming "Skyfall."

BEST BOND HENCHMAN

5. Nick Nack - "The Man with the Golden Gun"

Herve Villechaize shined as Scaramanga's mini henchman in "The Man with the Golden Gun." As a little person, he was able to fit into tight spaces, like above ceiling titles and inside suitcases in the film's final showdown.

4. May Day - "A View to a Kill"

Grace Jones turned May Day into one of the most memorable Bond henchmen (or henchwomen) by switching sides and sacrificing herself in the end.

3. Rosa Klebb - "From Russia With Love"

SPECTRE's Number 3 Rosa Klebb proved that women didn't have to be beautiful Bond Girls. They could also be nasty henchmen. When the Bond Girl says, "What a horrible woman," Bond responds, "Yes, she's had her kicks," referring to her poisonous spiked shoe.

2. Oddjob - "Goldfinger"

Throwing a killer hat with Korean wrestling skills, Oddjob was the perfect henchman for Goldfinger. He was deadly in hand-to-hand combat and could even dispose of the body at the local junkyard.

1. Jaws - "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker"

Easily the most memorable Bond henchman, the metal-mouthed Jaws destroyed his foes with a slow bite to the neck. The massive brute took a beating and kept on coming, even biting a shark.

BEST BOND SPOOF

5. 2012 London Olympics

The funniest moment of the entire London Olympics came when the Queen of England parachuted into the opening ceremony with James Bond in a British flag parachute.

4. Casino Royale (1967)

Long before the Daniel Craig movie, "Casino Royale" was a '60s parody with bigtime starpower. Starring David Niven as Bond, Ursula Andress as Vesper Lynd, Orson Welles as Le Chiffre and John Huston as "M," the film also featured Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Charles Boyer, Deborah Kerr and William Holden.

3. Inspector Gadget (1983)

The '90s animated cartoon was a clear homage to 007, with a number of high-tech gadgets and a faceless villain stroking a cat.

2. Get Smart (1965)

It was billed as "an insane combination of James Bond and Mel Brooks comedy." Indeed, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry mined plenty of laughs in the spoof TV series "Get Smart," starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon. It was remade as a movie starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway in 2008.

1. "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997)

For those who have seen few Bond films, "Austin Powers" is a hilarious guide to all the classic elements. Instead of Dr. No, we get Dr. Evil. Instead of Oddjob, we get Random Task. Instead of Pussy Galore, we get Ivana Humpalot. And instead of James Bond, we get Mr. Mojo Austin Powers. Laced with swingin' "Soul Bossa Nova" by Quincy Jones and multiple roles from Mike Myers, "Austin Powers" may be the most important comedy of the last 15 years and the ultimate tribute to 007.

BEST BOND FILM

5. Dr. No (1962)

As the one that started it all, it would be irresponsible not to include "Dr. No." The film introduced the gun barrel intro, the quote "Bond, James Bond," the very first (and best) Bond girl in Ursula Andress, and the villainous mastermind with an over-the-top plot to take over the world. Most importantly, it brought us the legendary theme song by John Barry and Monty Norman.

4. "From Russia with Love" (1963)

Bond's second film was Connery's favorite, perhaps because it most resembled Hitchcock's "North By Northwest" with its Soviet espionage plot, train car romance, a love interest that may be a double agent, and a helicopter chase resembling Hitchcock's cropduster. The film introduced the most prolific Bond villain (Ernst Stavro Blofeld), a cold-blooded killer (Red Grant) and a nasty female henchman (Klebb). While "Dr. No" introduced the gun barrel intro, "From Russia with Love" was the first to feature flashy opening credits. More importantly, it proved Bond sequels could work, upping the ante on innuendo until the final scene where Bond kisses his girl on a Venice gondola, dangling a film strip of their own sex tape over her head, then tossing it into the water.

3. "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977)

The best of the Roger Moore films, "The Spy Who Loved Me" inspired Dr. Evil's "shark with frickin' laser beams" line, thanks to an underwater lair with a trapdoor dropping victims into a shark tank. Fittingly, the film arrived two years after Spielberg's "Jaws," which is referenced in the film's metal-mouthed henchman Jaws and Bond's beach arrival of his underwater car. "The Spy Who Loved Me" kicks off with a spectacular ski-slope opening, where Bond flies off a cliff, only for a British flag parachute to open. The film features one of the best Bond Girls in Triple X and a great song from Carly Simon, "Nobody Does it Better," written by the late Marvin Hamlisch ("The Way We Were"), who pays homage to Maurice Jarre with a "Dr. Zhivago" music box tune and the "Lawrence of Arabia" score as Bond treks across the desert. Editor John Glen went on to direct four Bond films from "Octopussy" (1981) to "License to Kill" (1989), and here he uses parallel action of the hero and love interest in adjacent rooms, building sexual tension until the bad guy attacks (influencing Spielberg's "Temple of Doom"). Indeed, the Roger Moore pictures marked a transition from Hitchcock's seeds to Spielbergian action.

2. Casino Royale (2006)

At a time many thought Bond was dead, "Casino Royale" did the impossible, reinventing a 40-year-old franchise with the best character study of its hero to date. It did this by going back to the beginning, Ian Fleming's first book, and showing us what hardened Bond, the broken heart of lost love, thanks to Vesper Lynd. It was a new starting point, perhaps with an alternate timeline going forward. Daniel Craig wowed us with his complex performance, Eva Green was sultry and sensational, and Mads Mikkelsen was a horrifying villain as LeChiffre.

1. Goldfinger (1964)

"Goldfinger" is the best Bond movie because each individual element became one of the best: Bond (Sean Connery), Villain (Auric Goldfinger), Henchman (Oddjob), Bond Girl (Pussy Galore), Gadget (Aston Martin), Quote ("Shaken, not stirred"), Set Piece (Goldfinger's lair with Fort Knox scaled model), Trap (laser beam) and Theme Song (Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger"). Still, "Goldfinger" is greater than the sum of its parts, winning an Oscar for Best Sound Effects to boot. Connery was at the height of his talents, appearing in "Goldfinger" the same year that he played a darker role in Hitchcock's "Marnie." After "Dr. No" kicked off the franchise and "From Russia with Love" established many its trademarks, "Goldfinger" became its most iconic.

Read more from WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley by clicking "Fraley on Film" under the "Living" tab above, following @JasonFraleyWTOP on Twitter, and checking out his blog, The Film Spectrum.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)