Sixty years is a long time in a person’s life span. And in the life cycle of a fictional character’s popularity, it’s usually unthinkable: a vast ocean of time rarely crossed by the products of something as fleeting and fickle as pop culture. However, six decades since Sean Connery first donned a tuxedo and uttered the iconic line “Bond, James Bond”, the character of 007 has endured in popularity.
In fact, during the character’s golden jubilee in 2012, Bond arguably became bigger than ever, as the 50th anniversary also coincided with the highest-grossing Bond film at the box office, courtesy of Skyfall… of course that record stands, only if you don’t count. inflation, or certainly the amount of tickets sold by Connery’s fourth outing as MI6’s top man, Thunderball (1965). Either way, even the dour and brooding Craig films still feel like a reflection, and perhaps a deviation, of the image Connery built by playing James Bond in five films in the 1960s and then walking away from 007 twice in the following decades into retirement.
Connery, the original actor to play the film version of Ian Fleming’s creature, is still widely hailed as the best Bond among fans of many generations. Still, not all Sean Connery Bond films were created equal. And for that reason, we ducked down and decided to rank Connery’s Bond movies from worst to best. Enjoy.
- Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
We can admit that Diamonds Are Forever is a victim of juxtaposition. In a direct sequel to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), which was the first Bond film not to star Sean Connery as 007, DAF was tasked with continuing another version of the character’s story. When we left George Lazenby’s Bond, he was crying over the body of his bride Teresa di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) on their wedding day. Rigg’s Tracy was one of the best leading ladies the series has ever known, and her death was a blow to Bond and especially to fans who discovered OHMSS as a forgotten classic on home video.
However, it was a box office disappointment in 1969. Audiences weren’t ready to see anyone but Connery play Bond, and while it’s an interesting idea to imagine Connery playing the more vulnerable 007 portrayed by Lazenby, his return to DAF was a haphazard attempt to correct the franchise’s course. Connery was back; Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton returned while cranking the camp element up to 11; and even Shirley Bassey sang the opening theme song again. Yet it all falls flat, especially for modern audiences who can’t help but be disappointed by Bond only vaguely alluding to the fact that Blofeld murdered his wife. It doesn’t help that the villain is also overcast for the umpteenth time, here in his worst incarnation thanks to Charles Gray’s misjudged performance. Likewise, it’s hard to take Bond’s rage seriously when he sulks during his three-minute opening “revenge” sequence.
Don’t worry, Blofeld isn’t killed during the pre-credits sequence… at least this time. However, the devil is left hanging from the crane in a limp visual gag at the end of the film. That DAF has no idea how to resolve his villain’s fate feels like a metaphor for this shambolic mess as a whole. Connery is slightly less bored than in You Only Live Twice, but at this point he treats Bond like a cartoon character. And with all the self-parody around him, complete with homophobic henchmen Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint (Putter Smith and Bruce Glover as the epitome of gay panic), Connery can’t really be blamed for seeing it as a B-effort. It’s a curveball compared to the rest of the movie.
- Never Say Never Again (1983)
Normally at Den of Geek, we’re more on the Eon Productions purist side when it comes to evaluating the Bond canon—which means we routinely exclude the 007 copycat films made in the shadow of the Eon Productions franchise by a quirk of copyright fate. : your Casino Royales from ’67 and your Never Say Never Again. However, if we are going to measure the entire legacy of Connery’s contributions to the character of James Bond, then it would be almost remiss to ignore this redheaded stepchild of the Bond franchise.
The remake of Thunderball in all but name, Never Say Never Again, exists because of the questionable aggressiveness of producer Kevin McClory—and also, arguably, because of the undying love many viewers have for Connery as Bond. In fact, the main reason McClory got so far in making a successful remake of Thunderball (a feat he never achieved again, despite several attempts) is because Connery agreed to take the big payday more than a decade after the second hung up his tuxedo. And despite its cynical origins, we have to admit that this isn’t Connery’s worst Bond film, although Diamonds Are Forever has more to say than Never Say Never.
This ’83 picture is a disheveled and somewhat apathetic retelling of a story that was never Fleming’s greatest work the first time around. Story additions like the middle-aged filmmakers’ misguided attempt to jump on the 1980s video game bandwagon — Bond and Maximillian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) play a high-stakes game of VR Battleship in a casino instead of Baccarat — speak ill of director Irvin Kershner’s post-Empire Strikes Back instincts. However, Connery is once again an absolute joy to watch. For the first time since the original Thunderball, the then 53-year-old actor is visibly happy to still be playing the role, portraying a middle-aged and overgrown Bond with more charm and verve than he was. late 1960s. Also, while the signature kept-woman dynamic between Largo and Domino (Kim Basinger this time) remains, the more fanatically possessive nature of Largo’s toxicity is better explored here – making him a slightly better villain than the one-eyed empty suit of ’65.
Although it’s still a mess, down to the film with the worst “Bond song,” whether you count Lani Hall’s “Never Say Never Again” in the canon or not. But Connery is in top form and wears the “dirty old man” Bond hat better than Roger Moore in the mid-80s.
- You Only Live Twice (1967)
When people who haven’t actually gone back and watched the old Bond movies think about what the Connery era was like, you probably think of You Only Live Twice: a bald, scarred supervillain with a Persian cat on his lap; a hollowed-out volcano that hatches evil plans to take over the world; climax where the hero leads a team of ninjas in an attack against the villains with World War III on the line.
You Only Live Twice is 60s Bondmania at its rawest. It’s also where director Lewis Gilbert set the table for 007 at his most epic, with future megalomaniac adventures in ridiculous secret lairs (with ridiculously awesome production designs, courtesy of Ken Adam) all springing from this well. With that, we wished YOLT would age better than it plays now. But with his story of Bond “dying” his skin and getting a haircut to look Japanese (he’s not) and his exotic portrayal of the “Far East”, especially Japanese women who are stereotyped as subservient and eager to please the European. man, that movie is pretty annoying to the modern eye.
Even worse as a Bond film, it’s also pretty boring until the ninja-climax, in no small part because that’s where Connery starts to look like he’s been vetted. It’s no secret that his relationship with Bond producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman was tumultuous, and after years of excessive exposure to screaming fans, Connery was looking for a way out. He would (briefly) leave the role after this film, but he already looks done on screen. At least he feeds one of Blofeld’s henchmen in a pond to predatory piranhas. “Enjoy your meal.”
- Thunderball (1965)
After helping Connery create the suave yet rugged persona of the film’s James Bond—not to be confused with Fleming’s own literary work—director Terrence Young returned to the Bond franchise with Thunderball. However, between the first two Young/Connery Bonds and this one, the game changed thanks to Guy Hamilton’s goofy Goldfinger (1964). As a result, Thunderball feels a little awkward trying to tap into the larger-than-life, cartoonish aspects of Goldfinger while maintaining Young’s general sensibility for cool (and bordering on cool) espionage.
Even so, Thunderball was the pinnacle of Bondmania. The character has probably never been bigger than this, with the film defining the pop culture mood rather than responding to it. Connery is also in top form as 007 at his most cynical. The pleasure in his face as he steals the villainous girl from under him, and in his eyes, is almost ominous. And after using evil Luciana Paluzzi as a human shield for a silencer bullet in a Bahamian nightclub, Connery’s line, “Remember, when my friend is sitting, this one is just dead,” is so merciless that you don’t know whether to laugh or shudder.
The chauvinistic gender politics of Thunderball are incredibly problematic and have pretty much become the focus of most discourse about the neolithic aspects of the character, but the film is one of the few in Connery’s era to feature a leading “Bond Girl” (Claudine Auger). with her eyes wide open as to what kind of relationship Bond is looking for (read: none) and to this day she is the only leading lady to save Bond in the climax by killing the villain, her abusive lover Largo (Adolfo Celi). To this day, even the more progressive Craig era always seemed to turn it around.
Couple that with Paluzzi’s truly wicked performance as Volpe and some great Bond sequences, including the opening scene where Connery uses a jetpack (because OF COURSE!), it’s hard not to find something of quality in Thunderball. It’s just a shame that the underwater fight scenes at the end are so terrible.
- Dr. Well (1962)
Here’s the James Bond movie that started it all. While the book it’s based on wasn’t Fleming’s first or third Bond novel, the film’s refusal to even consider how James killed Agent 00 probably paid off in 1962. Connery materializes like smoke, fully formed and unmistakably the coolest man in the room… and possibly the entire cinema. A cigarette drips from his lip as he utters: “Bond, James Bond” at the baccarat table. The audience had no chance.
Revisiting Dr. Well, it’s also an interesting exercise in watching an actor, a director and a whole team of filmmakers trying to build a myth. The pieces are mostly there, but not in the right order yet. There’s no real opening song, a complete absence of frills, and Connery’s Bond is Savile Row personified, but when you cut through those tailored suits, it still bleeds. He’s not a superhero yet; he is a man at work.
This works to the film’s advantage in other ways, such as how cruel Connery is when 007 shoots an unarmed man essentially for execution. The way Connery plays it, you get the sense that James is more concerned with balancing a cigarette than the life he’s taking. Conversely, Connery turned on maximum wolf charm as he hummed Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, the first “Bond Girl,” whose emergence from the Jamaican sea mimics Botticelli’s Venus, a small calypso. (It may also be noted that Honey has as many dimensions in the script as a mural).
It’s mythic, but strangely more intimate than the Bond iconography we came to know later.
- From Russia with Love (1963)
We’re aware that a case can be made for From Russia With Love to be the best Bond movie ever made. No less than Connery has made this argument, with the actor citing his second outing as his favorite on numerous occasions. And for those looking for a gripping spy movie, From Russia With Love is hard to beat. Aside from a few sequences alluding to the nefarious secret society SPECTER (the book pitted the Soviet spy agency SMERSH against Bond) and a scenic fantasy sequence involving two dark-haired Roma women vying for James’s approval, FRWL could have been seen as a straightforward Cold War thriller.
The film revolves around Bond and MI6 being so desperate to retrieve the Soviet Lektor coding machine that 007 is sent into an apparent trap in which a Soviet official (Daniela Bianchi) claims to have fallen in love with a photograph of a British intelligence officer. and now he wants to defect. Neither Bond nor Bianchi’s Tatiana realize that this trap has been set by SPECTER and some of the best villains in film history: Lotte Lenya’s delightfully repulsive Rosa Klebb and Robert Shaw’s brutal Red Grant.
The cat-and-mouse game between West and East, Bond and Grant, is central to the slow-simmering film, which reaches a simmer when the two fight to the death on the Orient Express in what’s left of the most. visceral punches in a series. There is no music, no special effects, just ruthless killing. That unmistakable quality makes it the best for some, but personally we’re leaning towards James being a little more aware of his surroundings… and having a little more fun than when he found himself on his knees trading for smoke and his life . .
- Goldfinger (1964)
If Connery’s performance came close to fully formed in Dr. Well, Goldfinger is where the rest of the pieces fell into place and the Bond franchise as we know it today was born. Director Guy Hamilton steps into the helm for the first time and brings an even more sinister sense to proceedings. Maybe “camp” would even be accurate. But when the camp is as good as Connery barely disguises his astonishment at the words “ejector seat” in Branch Q, who cares? Watching Bond turn an Aston Martin into a lean tank is half the fun.
The rest is Connery’s irrepressibly boyish charm as he has the absolute time of his life in almost every situation: swindling notorious con man Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) on the golf course; treating his imprisonment at Goldfinger’s Kentucky estate as an extended vacation; and even facing down, the laser beam was aimed directly at his crotch. The latter leaves him without embarrassment for a while, but after he got out of the sticky situation, he quickly came up with a joke.
Goldfinger also features one of the most interesting diabolical schemes in the series, with Auric planning to irradiate America’s gold reserves at Fort Knox, as well as one of the best female leads the franchise has featured in the 1960s. Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore is so well drawn by the actress (making her the first “Bond Girl” who appears to have a real personality and inner life) that she even gets past Fleming’s unfortunate name.
The pieces of Goldfinger come together as easily as James’s finely tailored gray suit – this guy has the perfect fit. Fifty-eight years later, he’s still the best.