Daniel Craig's era as James Bond 007 is officially over – and while we wait for news on who his replacement might be, we can reflect on his tenure as Ian Fleming's spy, which radically changed the face of one of cinema's most enduring film series.

Advertisement

During his stint, Craig helped reinvent Bond for modern audiences, delivering a more fallible, more human take on the character who operated in a shadier world, one distinct from the more fantastic 007-verse of old. But he also continued to deliver what the franchise has always done best – action-packed crowd-pleasing spectacle. This was blockbuster-meets-character-study.

Like any Bond actor's run, there were of course highs and lows – so with the complete set now available to enjoy, how do Craig's films stack up? Which is his finest hour? And which of his outings most seriously missed the mark? Read on for RadioTimes.com's verdict.

How many Daniel Craig James Bond movies are there?

Craig starred in five Bond films between 2006 and 2021, with his on-screen tenure being unexpectedly prolonged by a series of delays to his final outing caused by production issues and later the COVID-19 pandemic.

In release order, the five films are:

His five-film stint makes Craig the third most prolific 007 in terms of releases – only Sean Connery (six films) and Roger Moore (seven films) did more – but his 15 years in the role actually makes him the longest-serving Bond, edging out Moore (who held the mantle for 12 years between 1973 and 1985).

Now, on to the business of deciding which is best.

Every Daniel Craig James Bond movie – ranked

5. Quantum of Solace

Arterton in Quantum of Solace in James Bond

Available on Amazon Prime Video, Sky Store, YouTube, Google Play and Microsoft

Daniel Craig’s debut as Bond had stunned audiences with its more grounded, complex portrayal of 007 and his previously fantastic world – but its sequel got off to a rocky start. No, we’re not talking about that head-scratcher of a title – taken from one of Ian Fleming’s short stories – but the fact that, due to a writers’ strike, Quantum of Solace started filming without a finished script and it showed in the deeply uneven final product, which lacks a compelling arc for Bond and a truly great villain for him to go up against. "The movie kind of works," Craig himself said in 2021 docu-film Being James Bond. "It's not Casino Royale, and that was always going to be... It was like [...] second album syndrome."

More like this

4. Spectre

James Bond (Daniel Craig) in Spectre
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq, LLC and Columbia Pictures Industries

Available on Amazon Prime Video, Sky Store, YouTube, Google Play and Microsoft

Star Trek fans used to swear by a rule that all odd-numbered films in that franchise disappointed and something similar applies to the Daniel Craig Bond movies, with the Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace double being followed first by the sublime Skyfall and then the bloated Spectre, which stumbles in its efforts to implausibly link the events of the four prior movies via Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld (now reinvented, for some reason, as Bond’s long-lost foster brother) and sees a subdued Craig – who sustained a serious injury during filming – appear to struggle with the film’s more fantastical tone and limp climax. Originally envisioned as his exit from the franchise, Craig deserved better for his final appearance as Bond – and though it took longer than planned, he eventually got it.

3. No Time to Die

No Time to Die
MGM / Eon

Available on Amazon Prime Video, Sky Store, YouTube, Google Play and Microsoft

Perhaps the most controversial entry in the franchise's history, with fan reactions to its explosive ending ranging from outrage to those who felt killing off Craig's 007 provided a fitting send-off to his tragic take on the hero, No Time to Die didn't quite reach the heights of the actor's very best outings as Bond but was a marked improvement on its baggy predecessor.

Though, like Spectre, some of its more outlandish elements don't integrate wholly successfully into the more grounded world of Craig's Bond, where this climax to his era really soars is in digging deeper than ever before into the secret agent's humanity and his vulnerability, even giving him a family – something at last to fight for, and to live for, and to die for, beyond just Queen and country. Once you've seen it, it's sort of difficult to imagine how else the Craig era could've ended – just having the tortured spy ride off into the sunset with Léa Seydoux's Madeleine (again), this time with little Mathilde (Lisa-Dorah Sonnet) in tow, wouldn't have been anywhere near as satisfying.

That being said, let whoever comes next reinvent Bond in their own way – and maybe even reintroduce a little more tongue-in-cheek humour. This is a franchise that's always thrived on reinvention, after all.

2. Skyfall

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall
Skyfall ©2012 Danjaq, LLC, United Artists Corporation, Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved. © MGM

Available on Amazon Prime Video, Sky Store, YouTube, Google Play and Microsoft

The Craig era didn't always successfully manage to fuse 007 tropes of old with the franchise's new, more modern outlook, but arguably the most successful attempt was 2012's Skyfall, which saw this Bond back behind the wheel of his Aston Martin DB5, once again appearing alongside the likes of Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw), and going up against a wonderfully grotesque villain – in the form of Javier Bardem's Raoul Silva – but in a story that still felt like it wouldn't have fit any other Bond era, exploring our hero's roots as well as themes of moral ambiguity and great personal loss (RIP, Judi Dench's M).

All that and it's got a shotgun-toting Albert Finney barking "Welcome to Scotland!" after eliminating two thugs encroaching on his turf. What's not to love?

1. Casino Royale

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale (2006)
2006 Danjaq, LLC and United Artists

Available on Amazon Prime Video, Sky Store, YouTube, Google Play and Microsoft

It's a tight contest between this and Skyfall – you'll find advocates in Bond fandom for either to have taken the top spot here – but the impact that Casino Royale had on release in 2006 marks it out as the more important movie, the one which absolutely defined Daniel Craig's era as 007.

Following a lukewarm reception to both the previous film in the series – 2002's Die Another Day – and (initially at least) Craig's casting as Bond, this was a pivot point for the franchise, a juncture at which it needed once again to reinvent itself dramatically or face being consigned to the dustbin of history.

We all know what happened next – Bond rebuked the critics once again and re-established itself as a major player in the world of modern blockbuster cinema by stripping away all that might've once seemed sacrosanct (the quips! The gadgets! The '007 family' of Moneypenny, Q et al) and unleashing a revitalised version of the character played by a steely but sympathetic Craig – ably supported in his 007 debut by a sensational turn from Eva Green as Vesper Lynd and the absolutely magnetic Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre.

Taking the skeleton of Ian Fleming's first Bond novel and building around it an action thriller that felt genuinely dangerous and unpredictable at points, this was the most exciting and challenging the franchise had felt for years. Never mind the Craig era, Casino Royale is one of the best Bond movies ever, period.

Visit our Movies hub for more news, interviews and features, or check out our TV Guide to find something to watch now.

Advertisement

The latest issue of Radio Times is on sale now – subscribe now to get each issue delivered to your door. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement