Sean Connery - Greatest Roles and Films Remembered

Sean Connery, actor, proud Scot, the first (and for many the best) James Bond, and Oscar winner for his role as Jim Malone in The Untouchables, passed away on 31 October 2020 at the age of 90.

From humble beginnings working backstage at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh in 1951, Connery rose to become a cinematic icon – a movie star whose distinctive Scottish burr graced some of the biggest movies of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Join us as we celebrate an incredible legacy with ten of Connery’s finest performances.

James Bond in Goldfinger (1964)

Sean Connery’s breakout role is the stuff of legend. He starred as Ian Fleming’s super spy in seven James Bond films between the series’ first, Dr. No, in 1962 and his belated return in rogue Bond production Never Say Never Again in 1983. But, while Connery made 007 his own from the get go, for us – and for many 007 fans – Goldfinger stands as the definitive Bond film for the definitive James Bond.

Suave and sophisticated but with the written 007’s detached brutality always just beneath the impeccable tuxedo and rakish smile, Connery encapsulated Bond’s contradictions better than any other actor with the possible exception of Daniel Craig. And he did it first.

Top Connery Quote

Mei Lei: “Can I do anything for you, Mr Bond?”

Bond: “Uh, just a drink. A martini, shaken, not stirred.”

Jim Malone in The Untouchables (1987)

From Dr. No onwards Sean Connery was a movie star, but in Brian De Palma’s Prohibition-era crime epic he gave what is arguably his best dramatic performance as veteran Irish American cop, Jim Malone – the man who teaches Kevin Costner’s naive lawman Elliot Ness how to bend the rules just enough to nail Al Capone.

True, Malone became a grizzled Irish cop with a suspiciously Scottish accent (surprising no-one), and Connery wasn’t the only talented actor in an impressive ensemble cast, but that didn’t stop him from nabbing the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor the following year.

Top Connery quote

Jim Malone: “They pull a knife, you pull a gun.
He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.
That’s the Chicago way.”

Professor Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

It’s hard to imagine any other actor possessing the necessary presence and authority to bring Indiana Jones to heel with a barked ‘Junior!’ Besides which, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had originally conceived Indy’s adventures as a series that might one day surpass Connery’s run of Bond films.

Connery absolutely owned the role of Indy’s distracted academic dad, injecting a rich seam of humour and father/son angst into the franchise that handily banished memories of the Last Crusade’s grim predecessor, Temple of Doom.

Top Connery quote

Professor Henry Jones: “The quest for the Grail is not archaeology; it's a race against evil!”

Marko Ramius in The Hunt for Red October (1990)

The Hunt for Red October not only introduced cinemagoers to Tom Clancy’s analyst-turned-CIA-action-hero Jack Ryan (played by a fresh-faced Alec Baldwin), but also gave Connery the opportunity to steal the show as rogue Soviet sub captain, Marko Ramius. 

With Ramius commandeering his sub and making for the US, it’s up to Ryan to figure out if the decorated Soviet submariner is defecting or about to trigger WW3. And thanks to Connery’s unflappable, inscrutable Ramius, the viewer remains on the edge of their seat until the end.

Top Connery quote

Captain Ramius: “Once more, we play our dangerous game, a game of chess against our old adversary – the American Navy.”

John Mason in The Rock (1996)

One of Connery’s greatest gifts as an actor was his ability to remain dignified no matter what lunacy was occurring around him. Connery’s authenticity and knowing humour shone through and gave viewers permission to buy into the big-screen fantasy.  

The Rock’s plot and casting might have been bonkers, but we 100% buy Connery as the former SAS specialist and former Alcatraz inmate, John Mason. He not only rescues this early Michael Bay blockbuster from going off the deep end but, in doing so, single-handedly turns The Rock into one of the most bombastically entertaining action flicks in the canon.

Top Connery quote

John Mason: “Welcome to The Rock.”

Forrester in Finding Forrester (2000)

Connery’s penultimate starring role is as a reclusive writer and mentor in the moving, Gus Van Sant-directed story of a gifted black teenager who’s accepted into a prestigious private high school only to find the privileged status quo reluctant to accept him or his writing talent.  

Finding Forrester failed to win deserved acclaim - a shame as the chemistry between Connery’s melancholy Forrester and Rob Brown’s isolated writing prodigy, Jamal Wallace is excellent. In his latter-day career, the film stands as a worthy swansong for a unique talent.

Top Connery quote

Forrester: “You’re the man now, dog!”

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