The Internet’s Official Felix Watch Ranking

Hey there and welcome to the great Felix Watch Ranking of 2022. In the great 60 year history of James Bond we have been blessed with countless great characters, memorable sidekicks, and a motley crew of MI6 teammates conspiring and joining forces with 007.

Throughout it all though, from the very beginning with Dr. No to Daniel Craig’s swansong in No Time to Die, has been one American: Felix Leiter, James Bond’s CIA buddy. He has also, for no real reason, been mostly played by a totally different person in each of his appearances. Throughout the run of my That Bond Show reviews, I had a recurring segment called Felix Watch where I would talk about the Felix of the film. It’s only fitting now that we are at the end of the show and are doing a celebration of all things Bond that I go ahead and rank them all. So without any further ado, here are the best and worst Felix Leiters. 

7. John Terry 

The Film – The Living Daylights (1987)

So, I actually don’t think John Terry is the worst Felix Leiter. Almost worse for him he is never even given the chance to be good, bad, or sideways. The fact that he is even in the movie is totally unnecessary and almost jarring when over halfway through this thing and after a 16 year gap between appearances by the character along comes Felix for a quick chat on a boat and then an even more brief appearance at the end. 

John Terry’s Felix is far and away the most forgettable and blink and you miss it of any of the character’s appearances. Why this wasn’t just a random character giving Bond the exposition dump I don’t know, but it is a surprise to me every time he appears. Which is a shame because I actually think Terry and Dalton’s Bond could have gotten along with any real time invested in them. 

But because of his utterly forgettable, “there and gone again” bit part, he falls to the bottom of the list. 

6. Rik Van Nutter

The Film – Thunderball (1965)

Unlike John Terry, Rik Van Nutter is in plenty of this movie and he is not very good, not very good at all in fact. Thunderball is probably among the more divisive Bond movies of the entire canon at this point. The movie either clicks for you and you enjoy it for the ride or you really can’t get past its issues. I largely like it, but Rik Van Nutter just doesn’t fit the vibe. 

I think a big issue with Van Nutter’s version of the character is that he’s basically just a big freaking dork. The Felix character within the series has largely tended towards either suave and cool portrayals like Jack Lord or Jeffery Wright or older, more seasoned and goofy Felix’s like Cec Linder, Norman Burton, and to a degree David Hedison. 

But Rik Van Nutter is neither of these. His Felix is as far away from Jack Lord as one can get. He’s just a buffoon. But he also doesn’t have this big brother or uncle dynamic that Linder and Burton do with Connery’s Bond. He’s just a dumb, buffoon of a joke that never lands and always distracts. He is a sidekick that takes away from the larger proceedings around him. 

All of which is a shame because this is among the Bond movies where Felix is given the most to do but Van Nutter just cannot handle it. 

5. Norman Burton 

The Film – Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Myself and Trevor had a really great time watching this movie together. It’s a cheesy B-movie goofball comedy. In that vein, Norman Burton is largely fine as this older, more experienced and slapstick Felix Leiter. He’s in it for good chunks and while he is more antagonistic than most Bond and Felix relationships it largely works in this movie. 

I don’t really love him but he is very serviceable in this movie and fits in well with the Rat Race vibe of Diamonds. 

4. Cec Linder 

The Film – Goldfinger (1964) 

The best of the older and chummier Felix Leiter’s we’ve seen, Cec Linder is a perfect fit for the kind of Bond movie Goldfinger is. A source of much humor and a constant smirking presence whenever he pops up, Linder actually has the best chemistry of any Felix with Connery’s Bond. There is this knowing dynamic between the two. 

His biggest drawback is there by design. He isn’t cool. He’s an older guy who knows Bond’s panache for sex and drinks and has moved past exasperation to mild humor over it. A great comedic Felix, really the only good one, and a fun addition to a stellar film. 

3. Jack Lord

The Film – Dr. No (1962) 

This is actually really tough. Honestly the top 3 are all above everyone else by so much and really stand out as the 3 best Leiters. Jack Lord is easily the best solo Felix, indeed the one who introduced the character to film audiences with this searingly cool, suave, and put together Felix Leiter. 

Honestly, Lord is the only man who ever came close to matching Sean Connery in terms of presence or how striking he was. Connery is a raw force of nature in Dr. No and Jack Lord is a more settled and established persona allowing for the only real Bond movie, maybe until Jeffery Wright in the Craig era, where anyone gets close to matching Bond.

The image of a cool Felix Leiter to this day. Effortless and dynamic, Lord could have been the face of Felix Leiter for countless movies and kept this list far far shorter if not for the hubris to ask for the same salary and co-billing with Connery in order to return. The producers obviously balked at those demands and the rest is history. 

2. David Hedison 

The Films – Live and Let Die (1973) and Licence to Kill (1989)

The first ever actor to reprise the role of Felix Leiter and the actor who is tasked with an entire movie surrounding him and the tragic aftermath of his wedding, David Hedison is still the only actor to ever play Felix with two different Bond actors. 

In Live and Let Die he does a fun, if unspectacular, job as a more wonky Felix but gets some action moments. Hedison’s legacy ultimately hinges on Licence to Kill. 

Here, he is great as the first time Felix is given actual emotions to go through and a narrative arc to experience. He and Dalton have a good dynamic, he and Dalia have a wonderful connection and relationship that makes the devastating end of it that much stronger and he takes part in a great pre-title sequence.

Hedison was the standard barrier for the best Felix for years in the aftermath of Licence to Kill, and no Felix has had a single movie as focused around them as he has, yet, he is no longer the best Felix Leiter. 

1. Jeffery Wright 

The Films – Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), and No Time to Die (2021)

It could be no one else other than Jeffery Wright as Felix. The fact that they allowed him to build a natural relationship and connection with Craig’s Bond- to see their origins, early days, and final fateful end – is a wonderful and heretofore unseen event within the Bond series. 

Wright is of course the usual fantastic talent he is and gives his Leiter a simmering cool and veiled violence unseen by any other Felix. He is the first Felix who feels like he’s seen and done things and it gives him this pathos that no other Felix, with maybe the exception of Hedison in Licence to Kill comes close to. 

From his relationship with Craig, to his gallows humor, to the heartbreaking and lovely final moments between the two, Jeffery Wright elevated the character of Felix Leiter to new heights and, among the many things that the Craig series improved about James Bond, his version of Felix is one of the most effective and hopefully long lasting.

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