The final films of Bond actors

James Luxford 5 October 2021

As Daniel Craig takes a bow, we take a look at five other Bond actors' final films

Last month saw the long-awaited arrival of No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s fifth outing as James Bond that pits him against new villain in Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), as well as returning nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) and a new agent named Nomi (Lashana Lynch).

It’s reportedly Craig’s final turn in the tuxedo, 15 years on from first film Casino Royale. Here, we look at Craig’s predecessors to see just how actors have departed the role in the past—is it a case of going out on top, or outstaying your welcome?

Sean Connery: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)/ Never Say Never Again (1983)

The first 007 defined the character on-screen with effortless cool combined with a hard-edged masculinity. His connection to the role meant that there was more than one goodbye for The Scot. Having first departed after You Only Live Twice (1967), he returned to star in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, after George Lazenby left the franchise. A fun but quirky mixtape of Bond highlights including old foe Blofeld, Las Vegas, and moon buggies; it was a solid encore, even if Connery looks less than invested. It did also offer one of the great Bond themes in Shirley Bassey’s unforgettable title track.

Twelve years later, however, he would reprise the role in Never Say Never Again, an unofficial Bond movie that arose from a dispute over the rights to Thunderball. As it wasn’t part of the official series, elements were missing such as the gun barrel shot, a pre-credits sequence, and James Bond’s theme. However, these are small issues when compared with the hackneyed plot and a weary turn from Connery, who was 52 at the time. A muted end, although Connery was the voice of 007 one more time, in 2005 video game From Russia With Love.

George Lazenby: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

While his predecessor was always linked with the part of Bond, George Lazenby bowed out after one movie. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service remains a divisive film—some herald it as one of the best of the series, taking chances others wouldn’t and being faithful to the original novels. For others, it strayed too far from the tone set by the previous films, with the inexperienced actor Lazenby paling in comparison to Connery.

Whatever the truth, his departure was taken on his own terms. Convinced by his agent that the suited secret agent would go out of style in the free-wheeling 1970s, Lazenby announced during production that he would only star in one of the originally planned seven films. Lazenby’s final moments left a lasting impression, as Bond cradled the body of his wife Tracy (Dianna Rigg) after her climatic murder.

Roger Moore: A View To A Kill (1985)

Moore was 57 at the time of his seventh and final adventure A View To A Kill. The high concept caper required Moore (or his stunt double) to leap from The Eiffel Tower, and battle the nefarious Max Zorin, played by Christopher Walken. Moore is one of the most loved Bond actors, offering a more tongue-in-cheek style compared to Connery.

Moore joked in 2008 that he was “about 400 years too old” for the film, and the critical consensus is that A View To A Kill may have been one instalment too many for him. Still, co-star Grace Jones became a franchise favourite, and the movie’s achingly 1980s tone has won it a lot of fans. Post-Bond, Moore’s repeated support of subsequent Bond actors is indicative of the much-missed icon’s class. 

Timothy Dalton: License To Kill (1989)

Dalton was a case of the right spy at the wrong time. His portrayal of the character as a troubled, reluctant killer was a shock to the system for audiences who had just had 12 years of Moore seeing the lighter side, although it was in keeping with the books (which he studied on set). License To Kill saw Bond go rogue in order to exact revenge on a drug kingpin, and featured a young Benicio Del Toro as a henchman.

The film was hard hitting, but did not win over a summer box office that included Batman and Indiana Jones (every Bond since has released in the winter). He was ahead of his time, as Daniel Craig would take elements of his philosophy to his tenure, but Dalton departed reasonably quietly as a potential third film became delayed by court cases.

Pierce Brosnan: Die Another Day (2002)

Taking Bond into the 21st Century was Pierce Brosnan, who seemed to find a mid-point between Moore’s joviality and Connery’s edge. His debut, 1995’s GoldenEye, was an instant classic, but by his fourth film things had gotten out of hand. Die Another Day saw him surfing on tsunamis, defying death, and sharing an awkward scene with Madonna in a fencing club.

Like Diamonds Are Forever, it’s something of a greatest hits of Bond cliches and far from the star’s finest moment, although the film remains the most financially successful non-Craig Bond. Then in his late forties, Brosnan was “kicked to the kerb” (his words), as producers stopped negotiations with him for a fifth film in favour of a younger actor. The Golden Globe nominee clearly felt he had at least one more film left, and it would have been interesting to see what a different direction may have brought out of him. 

Read more: A guide to the London Film Festival

Read more: A brief guide to 'video nasties'

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter