With No time to die already a blockbuster at the global box office, James Bond continues to be incredibly popular after 60 years. Created by Ian Fleming, who wrote 15 novels and several short stories about secret agent 007, James Bond was already known when EON Productions released the first Bond film, Dr. No with Sean Connery in 1961. Since then, James Bond has become the longest-running film franchise in history, and the popularity of the British spy continues unabated.
James Bond was perceived as a product of his era; the character was born in the 1950s from Ian Fleming’s experience as a navigator during World War II. When Sean Connery first played 007 in the 1960s, he was an idealized man of his time: suave, irresistible to the opposite sex, but also ruthless and fearless in using his license to kill as he saw fit. Connery set the tone for all the James Bond actors who followed him, but each one added the myths and character. George Lazenby was more laid back than Connery, while Roger Moore played his comic charm for his seven films as James Bond from 1973-1985. Timothy Dalton brought Bond’s laughter back to the action hero era of the 1980s, while Pierce Brosnan combined his predecessors into a fusion of wit, sophistication and violence as a world-saving hero.
Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond elevated 007’s prestige to even greater heights. By playing Bond for 15 years, he is the longest-serving actor in the role and arguably the most popular since Sean Connery. Craig also redefined the role of James Bond by breaking out of Connery’s mold while still honoring the character’s tropics. No time to die is Craig’s 007 tail song, but the film gets rave reviews and knocks the box office, even though it’s delayed several times due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It is quite honest that James Bond continues to be so popular 60 years after he first debuted on movie screens. The James Bond fandom now spans generations, and every James Bond actor is someone’s favorite 007. But beyond the costumes, martinis, cars, girls, and action, there are deeper reasons why James Bond continues to be popular for the past 60 years, and probably in 60 more.
One of the most memorable moments of the 1995s GoldenEye was when the new M (Judi Dench) dressed James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) and called him “a sexist, misogynistic dinosaur … a remnant of the Cold War.” In the 1990s, this really was the public image of James Bond, which GoldenEye shouted at once. Criticism has been leveled at 007 since the character’s creation that the spy is an immoral woman killer, an alcoholic, a gun-toting government lackey who is not a hero, and just an empty suit.
However, James Bond has evolved over the decades and has been reinvented to suit every era and suit the actor who plays him. Sean Connery’s James Bond was the epitome of 1960s swagger and frankly sexism, though George Lazenby tried to give Bond a romantic sensitivity. Roger Moore made James Bond a hero in the strange 1970s, without taking things too seriously. Timothy Dalton initiated a huge change for Bond in the 1980s, when Bond stopped smoking cigarettes because it was now publicly known that tobacco causes cancer, and Dalton also drastically reduced Bond’s feminization. Pierce Brosnan then tried to bring back some of his predecessors’ transgressions, but he was largely a versatile action hero in the 1990s.
Daniel Craig’s James Bond found his incredible success by being different, and not just because Craig has blond hair. While Craig’s 007 still drank vodka martinis and romances beautiful Bond Girls, his James Bond was a secret agent for today, a hero who would do whatever it took to do the right thing regardless of personal cost. As each of his films proved, Craig’s 007 had the most well-rounded inner life, has suffered love and loss, and his films dived into his origins so that audiences had a greater understanding of what makes James Bond cross than ever before.
With Daniel Craig’s first Bond film, Casino Royale, 007’s producers made a huge effort by delivering a total restart of the Bond film franchise, but it paid off generously. Casino Royale was a brand new beginning that severed ties to the loose but scattered canon established by the Bond films, beginning with Sean Connery and ending with Pierce Brosnan’s 2002 Die another day. Instead, Casino Royalewith its black-and-white, ultra-violent opening sequence that showed Craigs 007 got his license to kill, ushered in a whole new era for James Bond, which was phenomenally successful.
The fact that Craig’s James Bond had his own continuity saved his version of 007 and his film. Audiences were free to discover James Bond again, and newer fans did not have to worry about catching up with 20 previous films to understand the secret agent and his adventures. Meanwhile, older Bond fans could rejoice in the changes Craig brought to the superspy while still retaining the key troops that make him James Bond. Craig’s five Bond films also included serialization, which is so popular in the Peak TV era that all of his films, from Casino Royale to No time to die, told a complete story about Craig’s James Bond, with a final ending. As a result, Daniel Craig’s James Bond cannon comfortably coexists with the original 007 continuity, so any Bond fan can enjoy every version of 007 without worrying about retonts or established cannon violations.
Daniel Craig’s James Bond film was also an ideal fusion of 007 nostalgia with modern filming. When fans think of James Bond, they visualize a perfectly tailored suit, a Walther PPK pistol, a vodka martini and an Aston Martin DB5. Ingeniously, instead of getting full, Craig’s Bond film 007 had gradually earned all of its classic tropes, thereby making the old new again. For example in Casino Royale, got the audience to see Bond invent his favorite martini, which he named after his love, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). By Skyfall, a new M (Ralph Fiennes), Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) were introduced, completing Bond’s classic supporting role. 2015s Ghost even restarted Bond’s classic enemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), and made their rivalry personal.
Every return or reinvention of James Bond’s classic tropes helped make Craig’s 007 film feel more and more like the ultimate Bond, and audiences responded, not only with ticket sales, but with a desire to emulate the Bond lifestyle. Craig’s James Bond film largely erased the negative stigma surrounding 007 that he was “misogynistic dinosaur”. Craig simply made 007 cool again, for men, women and children. All of this translated into Craigs Bond becoming a global sensation in the box office, while EON Productions’ careful management of the 007 brand prevented it from being diluted.
One of the biggest masterpieces in James Bond’s popularity is the incredibly careful and successful casting choices for every James Bond actor. Sean Connery was as perfect as Ian Fleming’s master spy brought to life that he remains the standard everyone else judges, but each Bond actor was ideal in his own way. George Lazenby had a hard time filling Connery’s shoes, but decades later, his lone 007 film, The 1969s At Her Majesty’s secret service, has been reconsidered and is now heralded as a top-level Bond film. Roger Moore’s reinvention of 007 in the 1970s was wildly successful, while Timothy Dalton brought Bond closer to Ian Fleming’s original character, and Pierce Brosnan’s brilliant and bold 007 was a big hit in the 1990s. Although they are all very different actors, they each made James Bond their own and contributed to 007’s iconic status.
To be sure, Daniel Craig’s success is helping to maintain James Bond’s popularity in the 21st century. Craig’s films brought 007 into modern times and deliver continuously awe-inspiring action and acting, while Craig’s version of Bond has a deeper, conflict-filled inner life that the audience connects with and causes James to rise to heroism over and over again. Craig’s British spy is hugely popular with both male and female audiences, and for this generation, Daniel Craig has become the ultimate James Bond. The next actor to succeed Daniel Craig in the role after No time to die will certainly have a tough action to follow, but as 007 history has shown, James Bond will continue to evolve over time, and his popularity is likely to continue for another 60 years.