7 James Bond Movies With Sean Connery

The World’s Greatest Gentleman Agent With a License to Kill

Sean Connery as James Bond

 Johan Oomen/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

With roguish charm and cool sophistication, Sean Connery inaugurated the long-running James Bond franchise with 1962’s Dr. No and remained the prototypical 007 among fans for decades despite five (and counting) other actors tackling the role.

Author Ian Fleming initially disagreed and denounced Connery as an unrefined and overgrown stuntman. But he changed his tune after seeing Dr. No and even inserted Scottish heritage into ​Bond’s background in subsequent novels.​​

Connery’s Bond movies laid the foundation for what became a standard formula throughout the franchise: elaborate stunts, high-tech gadgets, exotic locales, catchy one-liners and, of course, sexy and often outrageously named Bond Girls. But it was Connery himself, the first of the ​​James Bond actors, who defined the role and set in stone the archetype for all others to follow.

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'Dr. No' - 1962

Dr. No
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In 1962, the movie-going world was introduced to James Bond, a British secret agent with a devil-may-care attitude and license to kill, and with it, the success of the spy movie in the 1960s was born. In this first film, Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the death of a fellow British agent, only to encounter deadly assassins, a sexy femme fatale, and even a poisonous tarantula. With the help of CIA agent Felix Leiter and the bikini-clad Honey Rider — who makes an unforgettable entrance — Bond searches for the headquarters of the fanatical Dr. No, a Chinese scientist bent on world domination. Made on a low budget, Dr. No was a big box office hit and laid the cornerstone for what would become the most successful film franchise in history.

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'From Russia With Love' - 1963

From Russia with Love
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Connery returned for this second installment to the series and toned down 007’s ruthlessness from Dr. No in favor of a suave and sophisticated demeanor. This time, Bond is tasked with reclaiming a decoder device stolen by the evil SPECTRE organization, which contains Russian state secrets and threatens to unbalance the world order. He travels to Istanbul, where he confronts the cunning assassin Red Grant (Robert Shaw) whose preferred method of killing is a garotte wire hidden inside his wristwatch, and the dour Rosa Klebb, who wears deadly poisoned-tipped shoes. From Russia with Love received a bigger budget, thanks to the success of Dr. No, and helped solidify Connery’s standing as the definitive Bond. The film ranks high in comparison to the other installments, with some considering it to be the best of the franchise.

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'Goldfinger' - 1964

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Undeniably the gold standard of Bond films, Goldfinger set forth the template for all other 007 pictures: theme song sung by a popular artist, a focus on high-tech gadgets – in this case an Aston Martin complete with ejector seat – and a maniacal arch-villain who spouts campy one-liners while devising Rube Goldberg-like methods of trying to kill Bond. That’s not to say any of this is bad; Goldfinger is a wildly entertaining movie that introduced a lethal hat-throwing henchman called Oddjob and the sultry villainess Pussy Galore. It was a clear departure from the first two films and set the stage for increasingly flashier productions, setting the precedent that each subsequent film had to surpass its predecessor.​​

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'Thunderball' - 1965

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Originally intended to be the first Bond film, Thunderball was embroiled in a legal battle involving Fleming’s former screenwriting collaborators Kevin McClory and Jack Wittingham, who settled out of court and received executive producer credits. Bond again takes on SPECTRE, which steals nuclear warheads, buries them deep in the ocean and demands a £100,000,000 ransom while threatening nuclear disaster. Jaunting to the Bahamas, Bond battles evil mastermind Emilio Largo while vying for the attention of three beauties: British agent Paula Caplan, Largo’s mistress Domino Derval and SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe. A step down from Goldfinger, Thunderball nonetheless has been held in high regard by fans since its successful release.

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'You Only Live Twice' - 1967

You Only Live Twice
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While on location in Japan, Connery publicly announced that he would be retiring from the role after five movies. In the film, Bond takes on the head of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance), in an effort to prevent a world war after a mysterious rocketship seizes manned space missions from Earth’s orbit. For the first time, Blofeld’s face was revealed on screen – only his hands and back of his head were seen in From Russia with Love and Thunderball – while the movie continued the trend of shifting away from the real-world espionage of the earlier movies toward the campy world-domination plots that defined the Roger Moore era.

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'Diamonds Are Forever' - 1971

Diamonds Are Forever
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After George Lazenby made his only appearance as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Connery stepped back into the role for what would be his last appearance as 007 for over a decade. Lazenby declined a return to the series, which left producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to search for another actor. In the end, they paid Connery an unprecedented $1.2 million to reclaim his role; this time, Bond disguises himself as a diamond smuggler to uncover a plot by old foe, Blofeld, to build a giant laser. Globetrotting through Las Vegas, Amsterdam, and Germany, and featuring the aptly named Plenty O’Toole, Diamonds Are Forever was a box office hit, but ranked as one of the campier Connery efforts, thanks to a rather silly chase involving a moon buggy through the Nevada desert.

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'Never Say Never Again' - 1983

Never Say Never Again
Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images

In 1971, Connery famously said that he would never play Bond again. Fast-forward 12 years and he agreed to return for one final performance. Never Say Never Again was the only Bond film not produced by Broccoli and Saltzman’s Eon Productions. Instead, it was written and produced by Kevin McClory, who managed to retain rights to Fleming’s novel, Thunderball, after a lengthy legal battle. Essentially a remake of Thunderball, the movie saw an aging Bond brought out of retirement to do battle with megalomaniacal millionaire Maximillian Largo, who steals several nuclear warheads in order to bring the world to its knees. The film opened mere months after Roger Moore’s Octopussy and set a record for the best opening for a Bond film. It also was a return to form for Connery after the silliness of Diamonds Are Forever, and allowed him to depart the character on a high note.