Was Sean Connery the best 007? We ran the numbers

Every Bond, ranked.
Every Bond, ranked.
Image: Reuters
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Sean Connery, the Scottish actor best known for playing James Bond, died Oct. 31. He was 90-years-old.

Connery appeared in seven Bond films from 1962 to 1983, tying Roger Moore (who died in 2017) for the most appearances as the renowned secret agent. After his days as Bond, Connery continued to act for decades, appearing in movies like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Hunt for Red October, and The Untouchables, for which he won an Academy Award.

Conventional wisdom holds Connery was certainly one of the best—if not the best—to ever play Bond. His run of 1960s films, like Dr. No and Goldfinger, helped popularize the character, turning it into the world-famous name we know today. Six actors have now played Bond across 24 movies (a 25th, called No Time to Die, was supposed to be released in theaters this year, but was postponed due to the pandemic) and all actors to play Bond since have been measured against Connery’s iconic portrayal.

But what do the numbers say? Is Connery still the best Bond based on the data?

In a word: yes. Connery’s Bond films average a 71.6 on Metacritic—by far the best of the Bond actors. He played Bond in the top two highest rated films (Goldfinger and From Russia with Love), and four of the top six. His worst rated film, Diamonds Are Forever, is still considered a decent Bond film.

Meanwhile, Connery ranks second behind Craig in average global box office, after adjusting to 2020 dollars. Craig’s movies average $924.9 million, while Connery’s average $776.1 million. Roger Moore comes in third at $601.8 million.

Craig’s movies have Connery in part to thank for the popularity of the character. When Connery debuted as Bond in Dr. No in 1962, Bond wasn’t close to the household name he’d become after Connery left the franchise:

Connery appeared in three of the five Bond films that grossed more than $800 million, adjusting for inflation. (Craig acted in the other two—Skyfall in 2012, and Spectre in 2015. No Time to Die would have been a near certainty to gross at least that much at the global box office, had the pandemic not upended its release.)

Craig might have the narrow box-office edge, but given the advantages his movies had over Connery’s, the latter’s performance might actually be the most impressive. Given that he was also the clear winner in terms of critical acclaim, we’re inclined to anoint Sean Connery as the greatest James Bond of all time. In this case, the conventional wisdom is indeed wise.