Movies & TV / Columns

15 Must-See Sean Connery Movies

November 2, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

Certain actors come along and make an impact on you thanks to their body of work. Even though you’ve never met them, you relate to them on some level by connecting to the characters they play. Sir Sean Connery is an icon and I could very easily list off his filmography and leave it at that but I wanted to share 15 that sit highly on my list of favorites.

Sorry, no Zardoz and the movies below aren’t listed in any particular order. 

15. Darby O’Gill and the Little People
Watching Darby O’Gill and the Little People on St. Patrick’s Day has been a family tradition of mine since I was a child. I can quote the whole movie and while it’s no masterpiece, it’s highly underrated and we get a very young Sean Connery singing! 

All the trademark Connery talents are on display from his charm to that future James Bond smirk. It’s a fun jaunt to a different time and era. 

14. Entrapment
Included so I had a reason to include this…

“Catherine Zeta Jones, she dips beneath lasers, woah oh oh/She has entrapped me, and Sean Connery, woah oh oh”

13. The Name of the Rose
While it took me a couple of views to appreciate this one but Connery was his solid self in a movie that stretched the bounds of reason at times. While the movie didn’t connect with audiences, that’s more to do with the story and editing. Connery had campaigned hard for the part of William of Baskerville, having his agent contact director Jean-Jacques Annaud constantly. There was reluctance from the director and Columbia Pictures because Connery’s career was at a low ebb. He eventually won them over and turned in a worthy performance.

12. Time Bandits
Connery and Terry Gilliam.  Time Bandits is one of those gems in the rough that you get reminded of time to time. When it comes to Connery, funny enough, in the original script, the character of King Agamemnon was introduced as: “The warrior took off his helmet, revealing someone that looks exactly like Sean Connery, or an actor of equal but cheaper stature.” Of course to everyone’s surprise, the script ended up in Connery’s hands. He expressed interest in the part, and his agent approached them for the role. Sometimes it’s that simple. 

11. Marnie
Marnie gets a bad rap and is considered a misfire from Alfred Hitchcock when it first came out. It has grown favorably with audiences over the years and while I’ll admit the movie has its problems but there’s something to be said for the chemistry between Sir Sean and Tippi Hedren. After rehearsing several scenes with Connery, Hedren asked Hitchcock, “Marnie is supposed to be frigid, have you seen him?” referring to the dashing Connery. Hitchcock’s reply was rumored to be, “Yes, my dear, it’s called acting.”

10. Finding Forrester
I won’t go into details about the horrible The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which earns every bad review it receives but the experience was so bad that Connery announced his retirement from acting. Luckily he left us one more performance to remember in the Gus Van Sant directed Finding Forrester. Connery’s William Forrester doesn’t break any new ground but there’s lots of warmth and integrity in his performance. He and Rob Brown play well off each other and create a team that you root for and this movie still brings back all the feels. 

9. The Hill
I’ve only seen this movie once, which I need to rectify, but it made a big impression on me. Bold and raw, director Sidney Lumet puts us inside a British army prison in North Africa during WWII. Connery’s performance as Joe Roberts, a former Squad Sergeant Major that was convicted of assaulting a commanding officer, is one of his best in terms of pure acting. 

Connery agreed to the lead role because it represented such a large change of pace from his James Bond character. “It is only because of my reputation as Bond that the backers put up the money for The Hill“, he said. Lumet said in an interview that he had told Connery before filming that, “‘I’m going to make brutal demands of you, physically and emotionally’, and he knew I’m not a director who has too much respect for ‘stars’ as such. The result is beyond my hopes. He is real and tough and not at all smooth or nice. In a way he’s a ‘heavy’ but the real heavy is the Army.”

8. Murder on the Orient Express
Let’s not talk about the hollow remake of this classic but instead talk about how incredibly well this still holds up. Star-studded from top to bottom, Connery manages to stand out as the philandering Colonel Arbuthnot. While this isn’t a Connery vehicle, you can tell he’s having fun with the role. 

7. The Rock
It’s strange to say Sir Sean Connery and Michael Bay in the same sentence but here we are. The Rock is better than it has any right to be and I put it on a number of factors coming together at the right time. You had Bay before we really started going all in on over-the-top effects, Nicolas Cage before he fell off the edge of Hollywood, a story that exemplified the best of 90s actions, and Connery as the glue holding it together. Connery’s Mason is an ex-con whose claim to fame is being the only prisoner to ever escape from Alcatraz. It has a lot of moving pieces and “big” performances but it all ends with a really great movie. Word is that Connery asked the producers to build a cabin for him on Alcatraz because he didn’t want to travel from the mainland to the island every day. He got his cabin. 

6. The Wind and the Lion
The Wind and the Lion is another top acting performance by Connery. Yes, the Scottish actor plays an Arab chief but he gives a layered and complex performance as Raisuli. Connery and director John Milius create magic with the kind of movie they don’t make anymore. Based on real events, Connery’s Sharif kidnaps an American woman, played by Candice Bergen, and her kids which sets off an international incident. Gripping, it gives you a taste at the depth of Connery’s skill. 

5. The Man Who Would Be KingWhat a great combination Connery and Michael Caine made in this movie adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s novel. It’s been said that this was Connery’s favorite movie role and the making of it supplied plenty of stories that would be shared for years to come. One had Christopher Plummer being set to be fired early in the production but Connery insisted he stay, even threatening to walk if he was let go. Of course the producers gave in. 

In between filming scenes, Connery ate sheep’s eyes to appease a local sheikh, not realizing it was his heavily disguised friend Eric Sykes playing a prank on the actor. 

4. The Hunt of Red October
Connery as Marko Ramius, a Russian submarine captain headed for the U.S., is a perfectly balanced performance from the actor that keeps us on our toes till the very end. In preparing for the role, Connery spent time aboard the U.S.S. Puffer and was given Commander status. Yes, he was allowed to give commands while underway…with the Captain beside him, of course. 

He almost passed on the opportunity as when he was first faxed the script, he turned it down based on the plot being an unrealistic plot for the post-Cold War era. Turns out that when the fax was sent, it didn’t include the foreword, explaining the movie as historical. Once that was fixed, Connery accepted the role.

3. The Untouchables
How awesome was Connery in this? He was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, his only win of his career. Connery plays Jimmy Malone, an Irish-American police officer who lays it out to Ness that the only way to take down Capone is to fight fire with fire. Connery owns every scene he’s in and pushes the movie along with every delivered line. 

An interesting story on filming, Connery turned up one day to the set in his golf clothes. They did a close open, and the actor was dismissed for the day. He came back after a full day of golf, acted for five minutes then went to go home. Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith grabbed him after the scene and said that was “very clever of you, you just got back from golf, turn up for five minutes and do your scene, and that’s it.” Connery turned to them and said, “this is not my first barbecue.”

2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Ah. How I love this movie. The chemistry between Connery and Harrison Ford as father and son rings true and carries steadily through the movie surrounded by action, laughs, and heart. Interestingly, Ford and Connery passed up three other opportunities to work together. Connery accepted a role in The Hunt for Red October while Ford declined the role of Jack Ryan, later taking it over for Patriot Games. Then Ford and Connery declined the roles of Alan Grant and John Hammond, respectively, in Jurassic Park. Finally, Connery declined to return to the role of Henry Jones, Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Connery was always Steven Spielberg’s first choice to play Indiana Jones’ father, as an inside joke to say that James Bond is the father of Indiana Jones.  

1. Goldfinger
I originally had a number of James Bond movies listed but took them out to make room for others. Instead I went with my favorite and perhaps the Bond movie of them all. What can you say about Connery and Bond? Forever linked and sets the bar that all Bond’s are measured by. Not too bad if you ask me.