Ranking The Sean Connery James Bond Films - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Ranking The Sean Connery James Bond Films

When one speaks of James Bond, for many, the face that immediately springs to mind is the debonair charm of Sean Connery. He wasn’t just Bond; for a generation, he defined the role. But within the scope of his tenure as 007, which films truly left an indelible mark, and which perhaps didn’t shine as brightly?

First, let's explore them all in order of release...

Dr. No (1962)

Directed by Terence Young, "Dr. No" was our inaugural ticket to the world of James Bond. With a US release on May 8, 1963, it made a significant $16.1 million in the US and an impressive $59.5 million globally. Connery's introduction, coupled with the unforgettable Ursula Andress emerging from the sea, set the gold standard. Maurice Binder's title sequence and Monty Norman's legendary Bond theme introduced the audiences to a new era of cinema. The Daily Mirror once commented, "Bond has arrived," highlighting the film's instant cultural impact.

From Russia With Love (1963)

Terence Young's second foray, released on May 27, 1964, delved deeper into the Cold War narrative. Earning $24.8 million in the US and a commendable $78.9 million worldwide, it was a worthy successor. The iconic fight scene between Bond and Red Grant aboard the Orient Express became the stuff of cinematic legend. Composer John Barry stepped in, and Matt Monro's titular song added a dash of class. Variety noted, "Connery confirms his supremacy in the role."

Goldfinger (1964)

Directed by Guy Hamilton and released on December 22, 1964, this remains one of the pinnacle Bond films. With a US gross of $51.1 million and a staggering global take of $124.9 million, it was a colossal success. Shirley Bassey's title track is nothing short of iconic. Who can forget the gold-painted Jill Masterson? The Guardian hailed it as "A tour de force of sex and violence."

Thunderball (1965)

Yet another Terence Young directorial, it surfaced on December 29, 1965. It's known for its grand underwater sequences, netting $63.6 million in the US and a remarkable $141.2 million worldwide. Tom Jones’s theme became an instant classic. While the spectacle was unprecedented, some critics, like The New Yorker, felt it was "A bit much."

You Only Live Twice (1967)

Helmed by Lewis Gilbert and released on June 13, 1967, the film saw Bond in Japan, fighting against SPECTRE and Blofeld. With a respectable US collection of $43 million and $111.6 million worldwide, it was a financial success. Nancy Sinatra’s theme added a soft touch to an otherwise action-packed narrative. The Times commented, "Connery seems slightly weary, but the narrative pulls it through."

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Guy Hamilton returned for this venture, which was released on December 17, 1971. Bond's pursuit of diamond smugglers raked in $43.8 million in the US and $116 million globally. While Shirley Bassey returned for the theme, the film, with its campy villains and quirky plot, received mixed reviews. As Rolling Stone put it, "A bizarre departure from the formula, but Connery remains a constant joy."

Never Say Never Again (1983)

This uncanonical return, directed by Irvin Kershner and released on October 7, 1983, was Connery's swansong. Earning $55.4 million in the US and $160 million worldwide, it was a fitting farewell. While Michel Legrand’s score was memorable, the film itself was divisive. Empire noted, "It's good but lacks the EON Productions' magic."

Now, here's a personal preference ranking of Sean Connery's James Bond films...

Goldfinger (1964): Goldfinger tops the list, not just for its commercial success but its sheer impact on the Bond legacy. Shirley Bassey’s iconic title track, the audacious plot revolving around Fort Knox, and the gold-painted Jill Masterson solidify its place. The film strikes the perfect balance of drama, action, and Bond’s signature charm.

From Russia With Love (1963): This film is a close second, primarily for its authentic espionage feel. The raw, intense train fight with Red Grant is one of the series' standout moments, capturing a grittier side of Bond seldom seen in other films.

Dr. No (1962): The introduction to Bond, his world, and his adversaries makes this film special. It establishes the tone for the entire series, and Connery's portrayal is fresh and captivating.

Thunderball (1965): While some argue it's excessive in its grandeur, its underwater sequences and Tom Jones’s theme make it memorable. It's Bond at his most stylish and extravagant.

You Only Live Twice (1967): Taking Bond to Japan, this film offers a unique aesthetic and narrative. The showdown with Blofeld adds depth to Bond's perennial battle against SPECTRE.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971): Though it veers towards the campy side of the Bond spectrum, Connery’s charisma shines throughout. Its diamond-smuggling plotline, while quirky, is enjoyable.

Never Say Never Again (1983): While it's fascinating to see Connery return to the role after a decade, the film feels slightly detached from the core Bond ethos, perhaps because of its non-canonical status. Nonetheless, Connery ensures it’s a worthy watch.

Each film brings its flavor, and the ranking is by no means definitive, purely personal preference.

Connery's embodiment of Bond remains the golden thread that ties all these films together, making each one a cinematic treat. Because, on reflection, Connery’s Bond was not just about martinis and Aston Martins. It was about an era, a style, and a suaveness that remains unmatched. While some films surpassed others, Connery's embodiment of the character made each one a cinematic milestone.

He was, and for many, will always be, the definitive James Bond.

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