We sadly lost the great Sean Connery a few weeks ago. He is, of course, best known for creating the cinema icon of James Bond. But he was an actor that had a long and prestigious career outside of that franchise (Zardoz not included).
Below are the 5 best Non-Bond Sean Connery films. I limited to movies where he has a large role, so movies like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is not included.
This is also not necessarily a list of his best performances. He does an excellent job in movies like Robin and Marian and The Man Who Would Be King, but those are not very good films.
Movies that did not quite make the list but should also be mentioned are Time Bandits, where he played a wonderfully grounded King Agamemnon in a world of silliness and The Name of the Rose, which is an excellent film, but is a bit too graphic in nature for this list.
5. The Hunt for Red October
As I wrote earlier on this blog: "The Hunt For Red October is given a much heavier tension because of Connery's performance as the defecting Russian captain. The part could have been easily played as straightforward hero. But Connery adds a menace to him as he casually murders a KGB agent and eats his steak as he informs his conspirators that he leaked their plans to Moscow. He projected not only power, but a little bid of madness. There is always a question mark hanging over his head: is he really a defector or is he crazy? Connery adds that edge to his performance."
4. The Rock
I am not a cinema snob and I think big, bold action movies can be great. When I first went to the theater, I was not expecting to like The Rock as much as I did. It is a little overstuffed, but it is full of some incredibly fun action sequences. The entire movie is grounded in Sean Connery's antihero who acts like he could just as easily kill you as help you. He plays the part with incredible charm and wit, giving the film more gravitas than I expected it to have.
This should have been a simple B-Movie, sci-fi entry that was swept down the memory hole like Solar Babies or The Lawnmower Man. But there was something so imaginative yet simple about the story of waring immortals. And Connery brought a touch of class and legitimacy to this film. He came in with a voice of authority and mentored the film into an underground hit. He actually doesn't have a lot of screen time as Ramirez, but he is steals every scene he is in.
2. The Untouchables
This is a fantastic film and still holds up just as well over three decades later. This might be Brian DePalma's best directed film and the screenplay by David Mamet is fantastic. This is the movie that won Connery his only Oscar and it is well deserved. He moves seamlessly from tough-as-nails, to nervous fidgets in a completely believable way. He portrays his James Malone as someone who fancies himself a teacher and mentor, but you can see how knows he doesn't have the moral authority to be either. He wants to be the kind of hero that he is training Elliot Ness to be. His final scene is powerful and painful. Watch as he uses every last ounce of strength and what little breath he has left to grip Ness with all of his might and challenge him: "Now, what are you prepared to do?"
1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
As I wrote in an earlier post: "But I have to say that his most impressive performance was in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He traded his usual machismo for frailty in frame, but he had amazing strength of character. I always marvel when watching him and remember that this man is also James Bond. But his Henry Jones is tweed-wearing academic who can still level his son with a paternal tone. This also was the best showcase of Connery's underused comedic talents. Notice how he is able to elicit laughs with his the simplest expression when he stares at Indy across the table or sheepishly smiles after he says, 'She talks in her sleep.' And once again, he showed us that his characters have beating hearts under their armor. It always gets me as he embraces Indy and says 'I thought I lost you, boy.' And his soft, authoritative voice so believably cuts through the fog of obsession when he says, 'Indiana... Let it go.'