Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published February 8th 2021
Seven times the Bond
Following the death of Sean Connery last year, I wanted to rank the James Bond films he starred in, because, to me, he is still the best James Bond. No, don't @ me – he is. He had that charm and sophistication, he took no crap, and his one-liners were pretty damn awesome. When I think James Bond, I think Sean Connery. I even read the books hearing Bond talk with his accent. Daniel Craig's Bond might be grittier, but Connery was the epitome.
However, this led to a problem. The six "official" James Bond films were easy enough to track down and watch in order, but then there was the anomaly of the 1980s film he did through some convoluted machinations that I still don't understand. The thing was, while not "official", it was still a film starring Sean Connery as James Bond and, as such, I wanted to include it. But I could not find a copy of it to rewatch. And then, lo and behold, at the end of January I was at a friend's house and noticed they had it on VHS. I asked if I could borrow it; instead, we watched it together.
And now I can complete this list. With Daniel Craig's next (and final… allegedly) James Bond film due out at some point this year, I think it is only fitting we look back at the original and still the best James Bond.
(Caveat: I know Bond was portrayed on radio, TV and even in some low budget films before 1962, but, to me, Connery is the original…)
Never Say Never Again (1983)
This is the one I struggled to find. It is essentially a remake of Thunderball, and so it has the flaws of that film… plus the fact Connery is maybe a little old to be playing Bond as he once had. If it was played more that Bond was older and things were harder for him, it could well have worked, but the script was a rehash. And the supporting cast over-act! Barbara Carrera is especially noteworthy there. Having said all that – it is a fun film, and it does not take itself overly seriously. It is harmless entertainment and is certainly better than some later Roger Moore and some Pierce Brosnan Bond films. Not great, but good and fun.
And we come to the original of the previous film! It looks magnificent, as by this stage the Bond films really did have their sets and locations down to a fine art. The plot is solid and actually makes some sense. So, what's wrong with it? The biggest issue is that it is rather boring in parts. There are stretches when not a real lot happens, either story-wise or action-wise. And the underwater fight scenes with minimal sound effects blended into one another rather quickly; it was clearly difficult to make them different. Still, decent film all up.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Following the vastly under-rated and actually awesome On Her Majesty's Secret Service starring George Lazenby, Sean Connery came back for one more go at the Bond franchise (which he would then stay away from for more than ten years, as we have seen). This is a non-stop film with some amazing set pieces, Connery in great wise-cracking form, and a villain we all love to hate. But… oh wow! This has to have the most convoluted plot of any Bond film (at least, pre-Daniel Craig). So many things do not make sense, and I have watched this film at least half a dozen times now. And deus ex machina rears its head all the time! Still, I do like this one.
Dr. No (1962)
The film where it all started, the franchise opener, and now, almost 60 years later, it is still going strong. The story is a little slight, the villain is a stereotype, but the technology is believable, it uses its location well, and it has my favourite Bond girl in Ursula Andress (later to play Aphrodite in Clash Of The Titans). While it does lack some of the over-the-top set pieces of later Bond films, it is a tense spy thriller and a fine way to kick the franchise off.
From Russia With Love (1963)
I would argue that of all the Bond films this is probably the best example of a proper spy story. It plays on Cold War paranoia so well, with coding machines, defections, groups trying to stop everything from happening, cross-country travel to avoid the bad guys, the secret machinations of spy agencies – it is all there and the film is a taut work. It's not perfect, of course – there are points where it slows down too much and the bad guys felt rather second rate. But this is Bond being what he is supposed to be – a spy – and being it wonderfully.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
My favourite James Bond film. I can't tell you why, it just strikes something in me. The story of a rocket able to be re-used and capturing space ships is science fiction (still!), but the threat of a world-wide war which Bond has to prevent is the main focus. The race depictions and Bond's impersonation are cringe-worthy in a recent light, but that does not even take away from the film for me. Great action set pieces, Little Nellie is something that could actually exist, and the whole hidden base in a volcano thing is amazing. Probably the most cartoon-like of the Connery Bond films, I still really, really like this film.
Not my favourite, but this is probably still one of the very best of the Bond films across all Bonds, even now, close to 60 years later. They really hit their straps with this one. The villain is great, the villain's henchman Oddjob is the best ever, and it even makes golf exciting! Yes, Goldfinger's plan makes no sense, and the gender relations between Bond and Pussy Galore are downright insulting (especially if you've read the book), but it is filled with iconic images and does not stop. Great movie.
And there we are, all seven of Sean Connery's James Bond movies. They are all worth your time, even if they are very definitely "of their time". The treatment and depictions of women, in particular, are problematic; even at the time, there was some backlash, so this is not just looking at things through a modern lens. But I would recommend them all, and in many cases, you do not have to be a fan of the franchise to enjoy these movies.