Sean Connery was a relative unknown before he took the role of James Bond in 1962. Despite his reluctance to commit to a film series, the Bond films in which he appeared catapulted him to stardom.
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Sean Connery: From Russia With Love (1963)
After Dr. No introduced the world to Bond, this film introduced what would become essential components of its cinematic mythology: a pre-title sequence, the Blofeld character (referred in the film only as "Number 1"), a secret weapon gadget for Bond, a helicopter sequence (repeated in every subsequent Bond film except The Man with the Golden Gun), a postscript action scene after the main climax, a theme song with lyrics, and the line "James Bond will return/be back" in the credits.
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Sean Connery: Goldfinger (1964)
By the third film, Connery was comfortably established in the role of Bond, even as the franchise continued to work out its formulas. Goldfinger ranks among the most successful and beloved of all of the Bond films, not the least of which because it provided a narrative template for many of the films that followed it.
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Sean Connery: Thunderball (1965)
In the film's famous sequence in which Bond infiltrates Largo's lair via a pool-cum-shark tank, Connery's life was endangered when a shark passed through the Plexiglas partition that was meant to separate them him from them.
Woody Allen: Casino Royale (1967)
This weird little movie was produced by MGM as a spoof of the Bond films, in which none other than Woody Allen plays Jimmy Bond, James' nephew and the head of a terrorist organization called SMERSH. While the film is certainly not considered canon for the remaining films' Bond mythology, it's a unique and funn little adventure that also features high profile roles for David Niven and Peter Sellers, both of whom also play characters named James Bond.
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Sean Connery: You Only Live Twice (1967)
By the fifth Bond film, Connery has tired of playing the spy, and worried about being typecast. But the producers uppsed his salary and convinced him to stay on, even as they began a search for a replacement.
George Lazenby: On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
An adaptation of the first novel Ian Fleming published after the film series began, Albert Broccoli recast the main character after Sean Connery expressed an interest in leaving the franchise. George Lazenby slyly acknowledges the switch in the film's opening scene ("this never happened to the other fellow!"), and then gives a terrific performance in one of the most complex and underrated Bond films in the series. Although he only appeared in one film -- leaving the series on the questionable advice of his agent -- his film has surprisingly endured the test of time and laid much of the groundwork for what Daniel Craig (or at least his character) did in Casino Royale.
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Sean Connery: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
After George Lazenby left the franchise with just one film under his belt, the producers begged Connery to return, eventually paying him a then-record amount of $1.5 million pounds (about $20 million in adjusted numbers) to reprise the role again.
Roger Moore: Live and Let Die (1973)
After Connery returned for one last hurrah with the franchise (notwithstanding his turn in 1984's Never Say Never Again, which wasn't a part of the series), Roger Moore took over the role of James Bond. In his first outing, he fights drug dealers in Harlem before getting caught up in a plot involving a Caribbean dictator who uses voodoo.
Roger Moore: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
A follow-up to Moore's Live and Let Die, the film received mixed reviews -- complimentary of its Bond-like villain Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) but critical of the comedic tone much of the material takes. The film grossed more than $97 million at the worldwide box office.
Roger Moore: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
With a worldwide gross of more than $184 million, Moore's third film as Bond is primarily noteworthy in the series' canon as the film that introduced the world to Jaws (Richard Kiel), the spy's hulking, metal-toothed adversary.
Roger Moore: Moonraker (1979)
Moore's fourth film as Bond found him fighting in space, a convenient development given the enormous success of Star Wars two years prior to its release. Receiving decidedly mixed reviews from critics and audiences, the film was nevertheless the most successful in the series' history to that point.
Roger Moore: For Your Eyes Only (1981)
By his fifth film as Bond, Roger Moore was extremely comfortable in the role, even if the films reflected a decidedly campier tone than many of Sean Connery's. This film in particular was a response to that, as the producers chose to go for something deeper and darker than its immediate predecessor, the sci-fi-influenced Moonraker.
James Bond: Octopussy (1983)
Despite its provocative title, Octopussy was a relatively tame entry in the Bond series, as the longtime hero is on the hunt for a Faberge egg and subsequently races to stop the detonation of a nuclear warhead which is set to go off during a circus show as a U.S. Air Force base. the film went on to earn more than $187 million worldwide during its theatrical run.
Sean Connery: Never Say Never Again (1983)
An anomaly within the cinematic universe of James Bond, this film was produced in conjunction with Kevin McClory, who retained the rights to the original Thunderball story and someohow convinced Sean Connery to reprise the role almost 15 years after he last played the character. Grossing $160 million at the box office, the film was a success, but it took in less than Roger Moore's Octopussy, also released that year, which grossed $187.5 million.
Roger Moore: A View to a Kill (1985)
In his seventh and final Bond movie Roger Moore really began to show his age -- as did co-stars like Lois Maxwell, who was 58 at the time of filming. Featuring two oddly fascinating casting choices -- Christopher Walken as Zorin and Grace Jones as May Day -- the film still receives mixed reviews from fans. But its theme song remains pretty terrific, thanks to a collaboration between rock group Duran Duran and longtime Bond composer John Barry.
Timothy Dalton: The Living Daylights (1987)
Following the release of A View to a Kill, Roger Moore was set to return to the role again in the next film, but after 7 films and 12 years in the tuxedo, he decided to move on. (He also would have been 59 by the time they started making the next film, which was perhaps understandably deemed too old for the character.) Enter Timothy Dalton, whose performance in the role was engineered to be more faithful to the character as written by creator Ian Fleming.
Timothy Dalton: Licence to Kill (1989)
After making his debut as Bond in The Living Daylights, Dalton returned for a follow-up with the intent of continuing to portray the character in a more realistic and faithful way than previous interpretations. Borrowing elements from two Ian Fleming short stories, the film has a markedly different feel than other Bond films, but Dalton's performance is still terrific, as the character deals with an attack on longtime friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison) that leaves Leiter's new wife dead.
Pierce Brosnan: Goldeneye (1995)
After he was briefly considered for the role of James Bond in the mid-1980s, Brosnan got his shot more than a decade later, and he turned the series around after Timothy Dalton's decidedly more understated interpretation failed to catch on with audiences in the same way as predecessors Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Goldeneye grossed more than $350 million worldwide.
Pierce Brosnan: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
After Goldeneye was a huge box office hit, Brosnan returned as Bond in this story of a Rupert Murdoch-style entertainment magnate (played by Jonathan Pryce) who attempts to start a war between the U.S. and China in order to secure himself exclusive worldwide broadcasting rights. The film is also noteworthy for its inclusion of Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin, a "bond girl" who's even more capable than Bond himself at taking out opponents.
Pierce Brosnan: The World is Not Enough (1999)
In his third outing as Bond, Brosnan faced off against Soviet terrorist Renard, played by Robert Carlyle. The film went on to gross more than $361 million worldwide, which made it the highest grossing Bond film of all time until Die Another Day.
Pierce Brosnan: Die Another Day (2002)
Although Madonna's theme song (and cameo) invited plenty of derision for Brosnan's last outing as Bond, the film paid homage to its legacy with a litany of references to famous lines or details from preceding films. At the time of its release, Die Another Day was the series' highest-grossing film, with more than $431 in box office receipts, but it also demanded an almost total reboot of the franchise by the time the Broccolis attempted another installment in 2006.
Daniel Craig: Casino Royale (2006)
After Brosnan's final entry as Bond received some of the worst reviews in the series' history (despite being its highest-grossing installment to date), the Broccoli family went back to the drawing board for a reimagining of the character -- an origin story of sorts which provides the foundation for much of the series' mythology. Daniel Craig was more than up to the task of breathing new life into the character, creating a visceral intereptation of the usually impeccably-dressed character and updating the franchise for a new generation of fans.
Daniel Craig: A Quantum of Solace (2008)
After Casino Royale not only resuscitated the franchise but turned it into a simultaneous critical and commercial powerhouse, Sony Pictures was understandably eager to get another film going. Unfortunately, the 2008 Writers Strike narrowed the available window for screenwriters Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to deliver a fully-rendered script, resulting in a film that felt like an add-on to its predecessor rather than a standalone installment. Nevertheless, Craig's vengeful rage is palpable in the film as he plays an embittered Bond dealing with the loss of the woman he loves.