Sean Connery Bond Films Ranked
What are the best Sean Connery Bond films? The original and, for many, the definitive James Bond, Connery’s portrayal of the iconic British spy has left a lasting impact on the franchise and its fans.
For those who grew up watching the Bond films of the 1960s, there’s no question that Connery’s suave and charismatic performance set the standard for all 007s to follow.
Sean Connery was the first actor to step into the shoes of the secret agent in 1962. He went on to play James Bond in a total of six official films, with his final appearance in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.
From the groundbreaking Dr. No (1962) to the thunderous Goldfinger (1964), Connery’s time as Bond has given us some of the most memorable moments in the franchise. Though not all of his outings are universally adored, there’s no denying his significant contribution to the world of 007.
In this post, we’ll take a look at all six of the official Sean Connery Bond movies and rank them from worst to best, based on combined reviews from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Join us as we dive into the cinematic legacy of the original Bond, James Bond – Sean Connery.
Sixth Place: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Bond 7, Diamonds Are Forever marks Sean Connery’s return to the Bond franchise after a four-year hiatus and a single outing by George Lazenby. Although the 1971 film was intended to be a triumphant comeback, it ultimately didn’t live up to the high expectations set by Connery’s previous portrayals of 007.
Despite the film’s historical significance and Connery’s sizable $1.25 million payday, which he generously donated to the Scottish International Education Trust, the actor’s performance was deemed lackluster by many critics. Some speculate that Connery was reluctant to reprise the role, only accepting the lucrative offer for the sake of his charitable endeavors.
The plot of Diamonds Are Forever follows Bond as he investigates suspicious activities in the diamond market, ultimately uncovering a diabolical plan by his arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld. With the help of the stunning diamond smuggler Tiffany Case (played by Jill St. John), Bond sets out to foil Blofeld’s plot and prevent the construction of a deadly satellite weapon.
One of the film’s standout moments is an exhilarating car chase through the streets of Las Vegas, featuring Bond and Tiffany’s daring escape in a Mustang Mach 1. The heart-stopping sequence culminates with Bond driving the car on two wheels to slip through a narrow alleyway, showcasing the character’s trademark resourcefulness.
Despite its thrilling set pieces, Diamonds Are Forever struggles to find the right balance between humor and drama. The film’s campy tone and disinterested performance from Connery clash with its more serious themes, resulting in a disjointed viewing experience. Charles Grey‘s uninspired portrayal of Blofeld and a few other caricatures, such as Jimmy Dean’s Willard Whyte, kind of made the plot into a bit of joke.
That said, Diamonds Are Forever isn’t as bad as they make out, and it does boast a few memorable charcaters, such as Bruce Glover and Putter Smith‘s delightfully eccentric performances as the film’s quirky assassins Mr Wint and Mr Kidd.
Ultimately, the film serves as a lackluster swan song for Connery’s official tenure as the iconic British spy, leaving fans to wonder what might have been if Lazenby had returned to avenge his murdered wife in this instalment.
Fifth Place: You Only Live Twice (1967)
You Only Live Twice is fifth on our Best Sean Connery Bond movies, but it’s not all bad even if its the film that saw him leave for the first time. The film kicks off with Bond appearing to meet his end in a lethal trap, only to reveal that he faked his own death. Resurrected, 007 embarks on a mission to unravel a global conspiracy involving missing spacecrafts and the threat of nuclear war.
Bond 5 offers a mix of iconic Connery moments and some shortcomings. One memorable scene features a high-octane car chase with Bond and Aki, a female Japanese secret service agent, making a daring escape in a Toyota 2000GT convertible. Their pursuit culminates in a helicopter swooping in with a giant magnet to lift their pursuers’ vehicle off the ground.
However, behind the scenes, You Only Live Twice was plagued with issues. Connery grew increasingly frustrated with the Bond role, feeling it lacked character development and resenting the constant attention he received as a global celebrity. These frustrations led to disagreements with Bond producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman over salary demands, and ultimately, Connery’s departure from the role.
Nonetheless, the film remains influential in the 007 series. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, You Only Live Twice establishes the template for “fantasy Bond movies,” with its imaginative plot, extraordinary production design, and caricatured villainy. Donald Pleasance‘s iconic portrayal of Blofeld, the first onscreen appearance of the character, has gone down in history and inspired countless imitations and parodies.
Some aspects of the movie, such as the subplot involving Bond’s transformation into a Japanese man, are rightly criticized for being both offensive and a waste of valuable screen time. This subplot detracts from Akiko Wakabayashi‘s Aki, who could have been a more empowering Bond Girl.
Despite these shortcomings and its lowly fifth place, You Only Live Twice remains a significant film in the Bond franchise, inspiring many other movies both within and beyond the series.
In this regard, You Only Live Twice serves as a testament to the enduring appeal and impact of the James Bond series, even if it doesn’t represent the best of Sean Connery Bond films.
Fourth Place: Thunderball (1965)
Terence Young’s Thunderball, the fourth film in the James Bond series, firmly established the Bond franchise as a blockbuster heavyweight. This action-packed movie, features Sean Connery’s Bond confronting SPECTRE in a daring plot to take over the world.
Thunderball is marked by its groundbreaking underwater action sequences, which hold up remarkably well today, and the thrilling jetpack escape scene. As Bond finds himself entangled in a plot to hijack two atomic bombs, he stumbles upon the scheme through sharp observation and keen detective work, foreshadowing the later success of GoldenEye.
Thunderball sees the return of the iconic Aston Martin DB5, equipped with a rear-firing water cannon, and we get to see the famous and groundbreaking jetpack scene. Bond faces off against SPECTRE criminal Emilio Largo, played by Adolfo Celi. Largo is a hands-on villain, actively participating in the plot alongside his henchmen.
The film’s portrayal of female characters is noteworthy, with Luciana Paluzzi‘s Fiona Volpe playing a mesmerising role as a seductress, femme fatale. Meanwhile, Bond girl Domino Derval (Claudine Auger) is an iconic character who plays her part. Paluzzi auditioned for the part of Domino, but after it had gone to Auger, she agreed to take on the role of Volpe, which she said was more exciting. And we have to agree.
There should be a special mention for Martine Beswick who’s back as a second Bond girl in different films. Never a main Bond girl, this time Martine plays Paula Caplan, whom Bond basically uses in classic sixties style cinema.
Thunderball may not be the best Sean Connery bond film, but it’s a perfect blend of thrilling plot, iconic action sequences, and Connery’s charisma. It remains a cherished entry in the Bond franchise thanks to its innovative scenes and colorful characters, and certainly worth rewatching.
Third Place: Dr. No (1962)
Dr. No, the film that launched the iconic James Bond series, holds a special place in cinema history. Directed by Terence Young, this first installment laid the groundwork for the franchise but lacked some of the elements that would become staples in later films, such as gadgets and a worldwide jaunt.
In this lean, violent, and occasionally ruthless action movie, Sean Connery embodies the role of James Bond with casual cruelty and professional detachment. The film’s plot revolves around Bond investigating the murder of MI6’s Station Chief in Jamaica, John Strangways, and his secretary. This leads him to the sinister Dr. Julius No, a scientific genius with a plan to disrupt world peace.
Although Dr. No doesn’t boast the big-budget spectacle that would come to define future Bond films, it introduces audiences to a tenacious, suave, and sophisticated hero. The film’s iconic scene featuring Bond’s introduction – “Bond, James Bond” – at a Baccarat table in London’s Les Ambassadeurs Club sets the stage for his irresistible magnetism and charm, which Connery portrays with ease.
Dr. No is further distinguished by the legendary scene in which Honey Ryder, played by Ursula Andress, emerges from the Caribbean Sea. This captivating moment, along with Bond’s introduction, has gone down in not just Bond, but cinematic history.
The film’s action sequences may be dated by today’s standards, but they’re still entertaining and underscore the classic status of Dr. No. As the foundation for all Bond movies to come, Dr. No is a testament to the enduring appeal of the James Bond character and is certainly up there with the best Sean Connery Bond films, if not quite there.
Second Place: From Russia with Love (1963)
In the second installment of the James Bond series, director Terence Young masterfully balances real-world espionage and larger-than-life action. From Russia with Love remains one of the best Bond films and showcases Sean Connery’s exceptional performance as 007.
The film serves as a sequel to Dr. No, with SPECTRE seeking vengeance on Bond for his previous interference. Using the unsuspecting Tatiana Romanova, played by Daniela Bianchi, as a honey trap, SPECTRE lures Bond into a deadly game of cat and mouse. Although MI6 suspects a trap, they play along, hoping to uncover the depth of SPECTRE’s plan.
From Russia with Love stands out for its engaging espionage plot and thrilling action sequences, which take place on trains, boats, and in hotel rooms. The film undoubtedly influenced the likes of Spielberg and Lucas, living up to its reputation as “Hitchcock on steroids.”
Sean Connery’s portrayal of Bond in this film is considered one of the best in the franchise. He expertly delivers witty one-liners and exudes charm and sophistication, and a bit of misogyny to today’s standards. But then again, what isn’t?
The film also showcases both Bond’s sensitive and ruthless sides, like when he slaps Tatiana and when he requests an end to a fight between two gypsy women. These moments are 1960s cinema to a core, but also help add more depth to Sean Connery’s Bond.
One of the most iconic scenes in the film is the confrontation between Bond and his rival, Donald ‘Red’ Grant, played by Robert Shaw. Bond outwits Grant using Q’s gadgets and his quick thinking, and it empahsizes the importance of Q’s gadgets after Bond had long been overwhelmed by the imposing Red Grant.
The film’s climax features a showdown between Bond and the terrifying Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), a former Soviet agent armed with a venom-coated dagger hidden in her shoe. Bond’s triumph over Klebb, with assistance from Tatiana, is a great way to see out the action before they go for a cruise down the Grande Canal to finish the movie off.
From Russia with Love is not only one of the best Sean Connery Bond movies but stands out as one of the best overall. Sure, it’s a bit dated, but this only adds to the appeal.
First Place: Goldfinger (1964)
Directed by Guy Hamilton, Goldfinger transformed the James Bond series from a popular movie series into a monumental action franchise. This film stands out for its more leisurely pace, with less focus on spy craft and more on fantasy elements. It ranks first on both Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer and IMBD rankings for the best Sean Connery Bond film, and we absolutely agree.
Memorable moments abound in Goldfinger, from Bond electrocuting a henchman in a bathtub to the iconic image of Jill Masterson’s gold-painted corpse sprawled across a bed. The film also gave us Connery’s famous quote “shaken, not stirred” while ordering a martini.
A standout scene take place when Bond, waking from a tranquilized slumber, meets the alluring Pussy Galore, played by Honor Blackman. Her name is controversial by today’s standards (what isn’t?), but Pussy Galore remains one of the most memorable characters in the Bond universe, and she plays a large part in the success of the movie.
Goldfinger is known for its unique blend of fun and seriousness, with Connery delivering a more grounded performance as Bond. He faces off against iconic villains Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) and his henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata), whose famous bowler hat has gone down in Bond folklore.
Goldfinger is a quintessential Bond film that has left a lasting impression on the action genre. With its unforgettable characters, like Pussy Galore, Auric Goldfinger, and Oddjob, and of course Sean Connery at his best, all delivering iconic moments, the film has secured its place in cinematic history, and for us is the best Sean Connery Bond film.
Sean Connery Bond Films
Sean Connery’s Bond films have left an indelible mark on the cinematic landscape, forever shaping the franchise and spy genre in general. From the most iconic moments in Dr. No and Thunderball, to the iconic characters in Goldfinger and From Russia with Love they really have left their mark.
And of course there’s Sean Connery’s alluring appeal. He laid the foundations of what Bond, James Bond should be, and for many he can’t be beaten. Of course, it’s a subjective matter with no right or wrong answers, but one thing for sure, Sean Connery bond films are among the very best.
Take a look at our James Bond Movies in Order…