The latest era in the hopefully endless chronicles of James Bond has seen a concerted effort to make the British spy hero specifically, and the world around him generally, more realistic and serious. One of the ways the three Daniel Craig-led films—Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall—have tried and ultimately succeeded in doing so had been by bringing on board (or retaining) genuinely talented actors in addition to Craig himself.
Academy Award winner Judi Dench is M, and Jeffrey Wright, a Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner (yet vastly underrated), made a pair of appearances as C.I.A Agent Felix Leiter. The newest film as well is bringing on board alongside Bond Ralph Fiennes, fantastic in his own right, and incredible in Coriolanus earlier this year.
We also have three very talented actors in the three villain, with Mads Mikkelsen, Mathieu Amalric, and now Javier Bardem (who won an Academy Award playing a bad guy) playing Bond’s antagonists.
All of this is to say that the new films are generally quite good and very well acted. That is not to say, however, that some fine actors haven’t made appearances in previous films. Some of them played silly characters, yes, and some of them played good characters in silly movies, but regardless, it’s all part of history now.
With that, here are 10 of the best actors to ever make an appearance in the lengthy James Bond franchise.
1. Sir Christopher Lee
Known for: bad guy in Lord of the Rings¸ bad guy in the new Star Wars, being British.
Character: Francisco Scaramanga, the world’s most deadly assassin who sports an auric weapon of choice.
Film: The Man With The Golden Gun
Great Line: Scaramanga – “A duel between titans. My golden gun against your Walther PPK.” Bond – “Six bullets to your one?” Scaramanga – “I only need one.”
Not So Great Line: “I like a girl in a bikini. No concealed weapons.”
2. Sean Bean
Known For: Lord of the Rings, Silent Hill, being British.
Character: Alec Trevelyan, former MI6 agent 006-turned-traitor.
Great Line: “Good luck with the floor James. I’ve set the timers for six minutes, the same six minutes you gave me. It was the least I could do for a friend.”
Not So Great Line: “Kill him. The man just won’t take a hint.”
3. Christopher Walken
Known for: Clem the janitor from Joe Dirt, being awesome
Character: Max Zorin, demented genius, psychotic steroid kid.
Film: A View to a Kill
Great Line: May Day: “What a view…” Zorin: “To a kill.”
Not So Great Line: Same one.
4. Alan Cumming
Known for:Playing Nightcrawler, starring on Broadway in Cabaret
Character: Boris Grishenko, Russian computer hacker, working with Alec Trevelyan
Great Line: “I am invincible!”
Great Riddle: “They’re right in front of you, and can open very large doors.”
5. Jane Seymour
Known for: Michaela Quinn, both a doctor and a woman (yes, she has a first name)
Character: Solitaire, high priestess, card trickster
Film: Live and Let Die
Great Line: “When he finds out I’ve lost my powers, he’ll kill me.”
Made Up Line: “I’m a tarot reader, not a doctor!”
6. John Rhys-Davies
Known for: Being a dwarf in Lord of the Rings, not being able to count in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Character: General Leonid Pushkin, framed for plotting mass murder.
Film: The Living Daylights
Great Line: Leonid Pushkin – “Put him on the next plane to Moscow…”
General Georgi Koskov: “Oh, thank you General, thank you so much…”
Leonid Pushkin: “…in the diplomatic bag.”
Not So Great Line: They’re all great lines.
7. Teri Hatcher
Known for: Playing Penny Parker on MacGyver. And some show about suburban women.
Character: Paris Carver, wife of newspaper villain Elliot Carver
Film: Tomorrow Never Dies
Great Line: Tell me, James: do you still sleep with a gun under your pillow?
Made up line: Paris: “Oh James.” James: “I love being in Paris.”
8. Benicio del Toro
Known for: Playing Che, the Wolfman, being scary
Character: Dario, loyal, menacing, knife-wielding bad guy, working with drug lord Franz Sanchez
Film: License to Kill
Great Line: Felix Leiter – “Where’s my wife?” Dario – “Don’t worry, we gave her a nice honeymoon.”
What that means: He stabbed her to death, and will soon kill Leiter by feeding him to a shark.
9. Grace Jones
Known for: Being a singer and model, outrageous, and being able to beat you up
Character: May Day, partner of Max Zorin, lover of Bond, and wearer of unitards
Film: A View to a Kill
Great Line: Bond – “I see you’re a woman of very few words.” May Day – “What’s there to say?”
Next Great Line: Didn’t you hear her the first time?
10. Telly Savalas
Known for: Being bald, playing Kojak
Character: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, founder of terrorist organization SPECTRE, really, really bad and hard to kill. And he seems to shapeshift.
Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Best Line: “Merry Christmas, 007.”
Best Explanation of a plan: “Oh, I doubt that. In any case, no one is coming to your rescue, Mr. Bond. In a few short hours, the United Nations will receive a Yultide greeting. The information that I now possess the scientific means to control, or to destroy, the economy of the whole world. People will have more important things to deal with than you.”