Sir Sean Connery, best known for his role as the original 007, worked in the film industry for over 50 years. His career, and legacy, have been the envy of many Hollywood actors and filmmakers. Between an Academy Award, multiple BAFTA awards, and three Golden Globes, Connery is not only a fan favorite but a favorite of critics as well.
Known as “the Greatest Living Scot,” Connery has worked with some of Hollywood’s most talented filmmakers, such as Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet, John Huston, Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma, and many more. So without further adieu, here is our list of the 15 greatest Sean Connery movies of all time!
1. Dr. No (1962)
The original James Bond motion picture, based on the Ian Flemming novel of the same name, Dr. No sparked the secret agent genre that prospered in the 1960s. Connery slipped into the role of 007 as easily as Bond slips out of his clothes.
The trademark 007 “gun barrel” sequence, as well as the classic Bond theme, all began here with Dr. No, a film that set up and launched the entire franchise. Connery would go on to play 007 for the next 20 years (with a 12-year break between his penultimate and final performances), and to this day is still regarded as the best Bond by movie nerds. Dr. No is the film that not only launched the 007 series but also propelled Connery into the spotlight as an action hero and leading man.
2. Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989)
While some consider Raiders of the Lost Ark to be the ultimate Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford, Star Wars) film, others say that Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade is better, largely due to Sean Connery’s role as Indy’s father, Henry Jones, Sr. Connery is so well cast it makes you wonder who else could’ve even attempted to pull it off.
The Last Crusade sends Indy into the path of the Nazis as he searches for the original Holy Grail, which his father devoted his entire life and career to finding. Watching Ford and Connery bicker back and forth is part of this film’s charm, making us wish they could have starred opposite each other at least one more time. Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade is not only arguably the best Indiana Jones film, but also one of the greatest adventure crusades of the past 50 years.
3. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
A technicolor adventure film adapted from a Rudyard Kipling novella, The Man Who Would Be King follows ex-British Army sergeant Daniel Dravot (Connery) as he and Peachy Carnehan (Sir Michael Caine, The Dark Knight) set off to explore 19th century British India, only to end up elsewhere when one of them is taken for a god and made king.
This film is completely wild as Connery and Caine (who play masterfully off one another) explore jungles, fight incredible battles, travel through the various elements, before finding themselves in an unknown land where their lives change forever. Oh, and Christopher Plummer (Knives Out) plays Rudyard Kipling himself!
The Man Who Would Be King is an unusual tale filled with danger, suspense, and lots of adventure, making it one of Connery’s trademark films.
4. The Untouchables (1987)
Based on the book of the same name, The Untouchables tells the fictionalized true story of 1930s Prohibition-era Chicago in which Bureau of Prohibition agent Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner, Yellowstone) works alongside Connery’s Jim Malone to take down mob boss Al Capone (an incredible Robert De Niro).
This masterpiece features some of the greatest performances you could ask for from Costner and De Niro, but it’s Connery who steals the movie as “Jimmy” Malone, a cop who adamantly opposes all the Prohibition-era corruption. One criticism is that Connery’s accent is too pronounced, but this writer would say that’s part of his charm. The Untouchables is an exciting thrill ride that will keep you wanting more, especially more Connery, even as the film closes out.
5. The Hunt for Red October (1990)
James Bond isn’t the only government agent-led spy franchise that Sean Connery sparked into existence. The Hunt for Red October is the first in the Jack Ryan series of films based on the spy novels by Tom Clancy. While Connery doesn’t play the famed agent himself, he does portray Captain Marko Ramius, the CO of the Red October.
Set during the late Cold War era, the film follows CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock) as he deduces the motive of a defective Soviet naval captain (Connery) in order to prevent an all-out war. Connery’s Captain Ramius is probably the most interesting character in the film, with a cloaked motivation that keeps the plot moving. The Hunt for Red October not only launched the Jack Ryan film series but also pushed Connery back into the spotlight as the 90s began.
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6. Time Bandits (1981)
The first in Terry Gilliam’s (Monty Python) “Trilogy of Imagination,” Time Bandits is a British fantasy film about a young boy, Kevin (Craig Warnock, To The Lighthouse), who accidentally joins a bunch of time-traveling dwarfs as they search for treasure to steal from different historical eras. It’s a trip.
Connery’s role as the Mycenaean-Grecian King Agamemnon is unlike any secret agent or spy we’re used to seeing the actor portray. The fierce warrior-king not only adopts the young Kevin after the 11-year-old saves his life, but he also fights a horse-headed man to the death, which is worth watching the film for. Time Bandits is a charming feature that captures the realities of childhood with plenty of laughs.
7. The Rock (1999)
From Transformers legend Michael Bay, The Rock stars Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage (The Wicker Man), Ed Harris (Apollo 13), William Forsythe (Raising Arizona), and Michael Biehn (The Terminator) in an action-thriller that follows an ex-con and a chemist as they lead a counter-strike against a renegade general on Alcatraz.
Known as not only one of Michael Bay’s best pictures, but one of Connery’s as well, The Rock has Connery and film legend Cage face-off against Ed Harris with some of the most extensive and impactful action sequences and explosions that are trademarks of Bay pictures.
The Rock is one of Connery’s best non-Bond action roles out there. Not to mention, when else have you seen Connery sing in a shower?
8. From Russia With Love (1963)
Speaking of Bond, the second film in the 007 series (released only one year after Dr. No), From Russia With Love follows Bond as he is sent to Turkey to protect a Soviet consulate clerk (Daniela Bianchi, O.K. Connery) who has defected, all the while SPECTRE has set their sights on Bond after the events of the first film.
This picture did even better financially and critically than the first film and helped seal the character of James Bond in the cultural consciousness. Plus, in this one, Bond actually boards the famed Orient Express (coincidently, Connery would later star in a Sidney Lumet adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express in the 70s). From Russia With Love is one of the most beloved James Bond pictures and features some of Sean Connery’s greatest work.
9. The Name of the Rose (1986)
Did you know Sean Connery starred in a historical mystery drama where he plays a fictional Franciscan friar named William of Baskerville? Well, he did just that in The Name of The Rose, a film based on the book of the same name. As the friar, he is summoned to solve a deadly mystery in the medieval abbey.
The deaths surrounding this mystery relate to the signs mentioned in the apocalyptic Book of Revelation and the plot of the film also deals with accusations of witchcraft, poisoning, false confessions, and so much more. Connery’s role as the friar may be a little unconventional, but it works and manages to be one of his best. The Name of The Rose asks and answers the question, “who, in the name of God, can get away with murder?”
10. Finding Forrester (2000)
One of Connery’s last leading roles before his retirement from acting, Finding Forrester follows a young, black teenager (Rob Brown, Coach Carter) who befriends a reclusive writer, William Forrester (Connery), who helps him refine his writing and makes him come to terms with his own identity.
Directed by Gus Van Sant, Finding Forrester feels a lot like the director’s greatest hit, Good Will Hunting, in that a young man is mentored by an elder who sees potential in him that his peers cannot. In one of Connery’s most profound roles, one cannot deny the power and impact that taking an interest in someone may have on their future. Finding Forrester is a heartfelt look into the life of a young man who needs direction, and an old man who needs a purpose.
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11. Goldfinger (1964)
The third Bond film, both in the series proper and in Connery’s filmography, Goldfinger is often considered the greatest (or at least one of the greatest) of the Bond films. The plot follows Bond as he investigates a gold smuggling ring led by the titular villain (played by Gert Fröbe, I Killed Rasputin).
This one also features Bond opposite Goldfinger’s personal pilot, the famed femme fatale Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman, The Avengers television series), who has become infamous among the 007 fandom. As always, Connery delivers as Bond, whose tongue-in-cheek humor eventually became a staple of the series. Goldfinger is a classic that, while dated, manages to withstand the test of time. Plus, it’s the first Bond picture to win an Oscar, so that’s pretty cool.
12. Highlander (1986)
An adventure fantasy film, Highlander is an 80s classic that follows the adventurous Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes) as he becomes “The Highlander,” one of the immortals who are part of a never-ending war throughout time.
Sean Connery co-stars as another immortal, Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, Connor’s mentor who teaches him the ways of the Quickening. It’s the only role outside of James Bond that Connery has played more than once, although the sequel is only for die-hard fans.
Highlander is a fantasy epic that has spanned generations, in no small part due to Connery’s own excellence.
13. Outland (1981)
A soft remake of the 1950s Western High Noon but with a science-fiction twist, Outland stars Connery as Marshal William T. O’Neil, a lawman who has discovered a drug-smuggling conspiracy, only to find himself marked for murder, with no help from anyone else.
Instead of taking place in the Wild West, Outland takes place on a mining colony on Jupiter’s moon of Lo. The suspenseful atmosphere (or lack thereof) of outer space makes for some gripping action, character work, and timeless lessons of loyalty, truth, and what it means to do the right thing. Outland reminds us that even in the deepest reaches of space, the ultimate enemy is still man.
14. Medicine Man (1992)
Connery teams up once more with director John McTiernan (The Hunt for Red October), this time following him to the Amazon rainforest. After a pharmaceutical company sends a biochemist, Dr. Rae Crane (Lorraine Bracco, The Sopranos), into the Amazon to find the reclusive researcher Robert Campbell (Connery), things get a little dicey.
While Medicine Man might sound like a straightforward picture, there are enough surprises, subplots, and dramatic conflicts to keep you engaged as Campbell and Crane make their way through the indigenous lands in search of a miracle cure for cancer. This journey is heightened by the fact that they are racing against the clock to find the cure as commercial loggers attempt to destroy the area it’s believed to originate from. Medicine Man reminds us that industry and progress can often ignore the small miracles that we can find in nature.
15. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
This is Connery’s final Eon Productions picture as James Bond, although not his last, with the Scot returning to the famed role in the non-Eon movie Never Say Never Again some 12 years later. This film features Bond as he faces off against his archenemy Dr. Ernst Blofeld (Charles Gray, You Only Live Twice), whose plans include using diamonds to build a space-based laser weapon to destroy Washington D.C. and hold the world at ransom.
Seeing Connery’s Bond face off against the head of SPECTRE one final time is a real treat. Diamonds Are Forever is still one of the most memorable 007 films, even if its campy tone has been heavily criticized.
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