James Bond was a role that turned Sean Connery into a guaranteed box office draw. Whether he was donning a tuxedo & downing martinis or not. But what were his biggest films away from 007?
Thomas Sean Connery was a silver screen, box office colossus. A giant of late 20th-century cinema. Of that, there can be no doubt. There can also be no doubt that he was best known as James Bond – a role that brought him eternal superstardom. Here we count down his top 10 away from the secret agent. Sadly that doesn’t include Juan Sanchez-Villalobos Ramirez of Highlander or Zardoz, despite Connery sporting an enormous french plait & an outfit that even Mr. Grey might have considered outlandish. You would’ve thought people would be queueing around the block to see that!
THE RULES: This list is based on worldwide box office gross adjusted for inflation.
10. Finding Forrester (2000)
Connery’s penultimate big-screen outing made $135m. By comparison, his lowest-grossing official Bond movie, Diamonds are Forever, made 5 times that.
In this film, the screen veteran is playing opposite an actor who was making his film debut. Rob Brown plays a teenager invited to attend a prestigious private school. Connery is a reclusive writer, based on JD Salinger, who nurtures & encourages Brown to fulfil his potential. The movie also features rapper Busta Rhymes & Matt Damon. They’re in a story Rotten Tomatoes suggests has similarities to his breakthrough film ‘Good Will Hunting’. If you’ve never seen the film, don’t worry, Deadline Hollywood has reported that NBC is developing a TV version.
9. Rising Sun (1993)
An excellent cast that included two of the Reservoir Dogs, Harvey Keitel & Steve Buscemi. Alas, delivered something of a dog’s dinner of a film, based on a Michael Crichton novel. A film that falls squarely in the average column, at least as far as Rotten Tomatoes & IMDb are concerned, where it holds ratings of 33% & 6.3/10 respectively. You would imagine that casting Sean Connery as a character called John Connor would be a sure-fire way towards box office success. But this was a rare missed opportunity in his career. Nonetheless, it still earned $235m at the box office.
8. DragonHeart (1996)
The first film Connery was only heard and not seen in, as he lent his voice to the dragon, Draco. This was released not long after the first Toy Story film. That was a point in cinematic history when major actors were beginning to lend their voices to animated characters. What a coup it must have been for the film-makers to have got a silver screen superstar to voice one of their key roles. Although, Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly did have reservations, saying “If only Sean Connery didn’t have such a wonderfully distinctive voice, Draco might live and breathe as his own creature.” Not so much a criticism, more a back-handed compliment of Connery’s iconic Scottish brogue.
Sir Sean wasn’t seen, but his facial expressions from other films were used to influence the dragon’s look when he was delivering a line with a particular emotion. This decision was borne out when it was nominated for the Oscar for Visual Effects. Critical reception was mixed – it has a score of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. But it has gone on to become something of a cult classic for children. It has spawned some direct-to-video sequels & prequels, and the obligatory computer games as well.
First Knight (1995)
A film that arguably suffered given it was released in the same year as a couple of other notable historical epics in Braveheart & Rob Roy. In fact, Braveheart star Mel Gibson was originally lined up to direct this, before donning the saltire war paint to portray William Wallace. Sir Sean ups the ante after his cameo as King Richard in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, playing King Arthur in this medieval drama.
Connery’s performance was praised by critics but Richard Gere’s performance as Lancelot was widely criticised. Jerry Zucker, renowned for directing iconic comedies like Airplane, Top Secret & The Naked Gun, hit a rare bum note with this one.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
Sir Sean’s final live-action film role before his retirement in 2006 earned him $17m. That amount is nowhere near what he could have earned if he’d accepted the role of Gandalf in the Lord of The Rings trilogy. According to the New Zealand Herald, that could have netted him an eye-watering $450m!
Based on a comic book series, this dieselpunk superhero film ended up being a clash of styles & ideas. Connery had many clashes with the director, Stephen Norrington. In fact, things went so wrong that Norrington hasn’t directed a film since, and didn’t attend the opening party. When he wasn’t there, Connery allegedly quipped about his whereabouts “Check the local asylum!”
Empire said it ‘flirts dangerously close with one-star ignominy’. But despite a critical mauling, this Sean Connery flick still made $270m at the box office, which is slightly more than First Knight.
5. Entrapment (1999)
After Catherine Zeta-Jones missed out on the role of Guinevere in First Knight, she teamed up with Sir Sean in his last role as a romantic lead. She played an insurance investigator attempting to track down his professional art thief.
The 39 year age gap between the two leads did cause some consternation with viewers. Their love scene was voted the second-worst of all time by the readers of Film magazine. The plot was criticised by some, but the film garnered lots of positive reviews. The action sequences were widely praised and described as Bond-Esque by legendary critic Roger Ebert. But neither the age gap nor the plot seemed to put off audiences, who ensured the film was a box office success, bringing in over $380m.
4. The Hunt for Red October (1990)
A superb spy film that made $430m, courtesy of the master of the genre, Tom Clancy. Die Hard’s John McTiernan directs the first screen appearance of Jack Ryan. Here, Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin before Harrison Ford took over the role after he turned it down for this film. Sean Connery plays the Red October’s, Captain Marko Ramius. He combined gravitas, ruthlessness & wisdom with a toupee worth an alleged $20000, as he defects with a Russian nuclear submarine. Connery wasn’t the first choice for the role and only took it (at the second time of asking) after Klaus Maria Brandauer dropped out two weeks into filming.
3. The Untouchables (1987)
Where do we start with the film that won Connery his only Oscar? The barely attempted Irish accent. The unmistakably leftfield Brian De Palma direction. The almost pantomime portrayal of Al Capone by Robert De Niro. While some of these aspects may grate a little at times, they’re essential ingredients in the charm of this multi-award-winning Chicago gangster classic, which took $434m at the box office.
Don Johnson & Mickey Rourke were considered for the role of Eliot Ness, and Bob Hoskins was in the frame to play Capone if De Niro turned it down. But no-one else could embody ‘The Chicago Way’ the way Sir Sean did tough cop Jimmy Malone.
2. The Rock (1996)
Sir Sean manages to steal every scene he is in, despite Nicolas Cage’s best efforts, in this Michael Bay action behemoth. It’s not surprising Connery nails his role as former Alcatraz resident John Mason, given he’s playing a former British secret agent. Talk about type-casting?! But as usual, he saves the day & foils the bad guy, even though Ed Harris’s cause is far nobler than those seeking world domination in his Bond films.
Given it’s a Michael Bay, reviews of The Rock were typically sniffy. But with a script polished by Aaron Sorkin, and a lot of Connery’s lines written by comedy writers Dick Clement & Ian Le Frenais, it’s no surprise it did so well with audiences. It was the 4th highest-grossing film of 1996 in the US & ended up making nearly $700m.
1. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)
Stephen Spielberg wrote the role of Indy’s father with Connery in mind. But, he initially turned it down as he was only 12 years older than Harrison Ford. Eventually, he relented and was given licence to alter the character and make some changes to the script. Although he was helped with the script by legendary playwright Tom Stoppard, who did such a good job he earned a $1m bonus.
His chemistry with Ford was widely praised, and he won a Golden Globe for his performance. In fact, they had such strong chemistry, neither of them wore trousers while the entire Zeppelin sequence was filmed.
The Last Crusade was the most lucrative of the original Indiana Jones trilogy, bringing in over $1 billion (at 2020 rates). Given its financial and critical success, as well as the aforementioned chemistry, it’s a shame we never got to see Sir Sean reprise the role. But maybe that’s a good thing. The Jones’s were searching for The Holy Grail in this film, and with only one glorious instalment of Henry and Indiana together, perhaps this is a cinematic equivalent.
Sean Connery’s battles with film studios to get what he felt was suitable recompense for his talent were legendary. Given the money his films earned, you could easily argue his stance was completely justified. No matter what the critical response to some of his movies, he was still a guaranteed box office draw. That rarefied status is befitting a true cinematic superstar.
It’s worth noting that all his ‘other’ Top 10 films were released after he last played James Bond in 1983’s Never Say Never Again.
So, if anyone says that he’ll only be remembered as 007 tell them, in the style of the man himself delivering his immortal line, that they’re wrong…plain wrong.
Thank you for reading our article about the most successful Sean Connery box office movies excluding James Bond 007. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out our who could be the next James Bond article HERE.
Read IMDB information on Sean Connery HERE.
No Time To Die – Review
No Time To Die is the 25th instalment in the official James Bond series. It’s the VERY long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Spectre. The 6-year gap between the two films is only matched by the same gap between Timothy Dalton’s last outing in 1989’s Licence To Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Here’s our review of No Time To Die.
SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the film, but if not there are spoilers ahead.
Of course, there are mitigating factors in that enormous gap. Namely COVID. Which made No Time To Die the first major film to delay its release due to the pandemic. Although, this film has had a difficult gestation irrespective of the global situation in the last 18 months. As soon as Spectre was released the speculation over Daniel Craig’s future in the role began. With him initially suggesting he would rather slash his own wrists than play the iconic spy again. He did a mea culpa on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in August 2017, where he confirmed he would appear as Bond for a fifth and final time. The original director and writer, Danny Boyle and John Hodge, left the project a year later over creative differences. Cory Joji Fukunaga took over as director. While Bond script veterans Robert Wade and Neil Purvis took charge of the screenplay – with a sprinkling of magic from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Originally slated for release in April 2020, at long last, we finally get to see Daniel Craig’s denouement as 007. His portrayal of Bond has been very much in keeping with the character of Ian Fleming’s original novels. His performances have certainly followed the dramatic lineage of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Rather than the lighter portrayals by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Yet his Bond has displayed a vulnerability only really demonstrated with any plausibility by George Lazenby in his solitary outing as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The deference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in stark relief throughout this 2h43min epic. Making this the longest Bond film in the series. As this was the first film I’ve seen at the cinema since before the pandemic, I was already excited before I even sat down. As a massive James Bond fan as well, I was close to apoplexy! I felt a tangible shiver go down my spine as the iconic gun barrel sequence appeared before we see James cruising around Italy in the classic DB5 with Madeleine Swann at his side. This anticipation was clearly felt by other cinema-goers. They have made No Time To Die break the UK box office record for the biggest opening weekend. It took almost £26m, breaking the record previously held by Skyfall.
I’m not going to spoil the plot for those who’ve not seen it. I had made a conscious decision to avoid spoilers before I went.
A step up?
This film is another shot in the arm for those who see Craig as the definitive Bond. This was aided by a refocusing of the Bond canon after the main tropes of the series were stretched to breaking point by the invisible cars and melting ice palaces of Die Another Day. And then stretched still further by Madonna’s cameo as a fencing instructor. Daniel Craig was given leeway to truly regenerate James Bond for the 21st Century. The stripped-back nature of Casino Royale, without most of the supporting characters that have been a staple of the series like Q and Moneypenny. Gave him licence (pardon the pun) to explore the deepest and darkest recesses of the Bond psyche. Some well-drawn female leads and villains really allowed Craig’s Bond to spar with them with depth and genuine emotion.
That exploration continues and grows in No Time To Die. We get to see an ageing, truly world-weary Bond, whose past he appears unable to escape. This leaves him in a state of almost constant angst. Paradoxically though, we also see him truly relaxed at times. In a way I can’t recall ever seeing James Bond in any of his previous cinematic outings.
The issue with that exploration is that a number of characters then have their screen time cut. Moneypenny is reduced to little more than a cameo. And Remi Malek’s Safin is almost secondary as he features in the opening moments as his story is told, but then disappears for what seemed like an eternity. He of course reappears but he almost seems a mild irritation within the plot and merely a conduit to allow us to see the climax of Daniel Craig’s Bond era. It’s a disappointing underuse of a terrific actor. One with a captivating screen presence, who could have been one of the most menacing Bond villains of all time. That said, the influence of his dastardly but highly sophisticated plan is felt by all of the main protagonists. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld continues to wreak his havoc with malevolent glee from his cell. He again revels in the chaos of his twisted sibling rivalry with Bond.
Lea Seydoux is wonderful again as Dr Madeleine Swann, picking up where she left off in Spectre and giving Bond as good as he gets in every way imaginable.
There are new characters who definitely cut through. Ana De Armas is utterly charming in her relatively brief time on-screen as Paloma, while Lashana Lynch takes no nonsense from Bond as Nomi. She also gives us a potential indicator as to the future direction of the franchise. Which has been the subject of much discussion in all quarters. That debate has even made its way into the political sphere with even Boris Johnson weighing in on what gender the next actor to play 007 should be.
Hans Zimmer’s score is classic Hans Zimmer, adding power and bombast to the usual mix of stunning scenery and brilliantly choreographed stunts. He brilliantly weaves nods to previous entries in the Bond musical tapestry throughout his score. While his cues are always thunderous, they never overpower the action on screen, but do add a sonic rumble that I don’t think has been heard in a Bond score for quite some time. I found Fukunaga’s direction a bit mixed, with some of the cinematography unnecessarily showy. Some of the tracking shots almost gave me motion sickness while some (admittedly beautifully composed) shots of the scenery seemed to have made the edit purely so as whoever the drone operator was could demonstrate their skills.
The film is much too long, although at no point did I check my watch. It’s not that any of the plot points are superfluous, more that the pacing is a little slow in places. Some of the dialogue feels cliched and clunky, making what is a great story feel a tad generic. Which doesn’t do anyone justice. However, there were some excellent jokes, and I laughed out loud several times. You don’t have to be a 007 super fan to get some of the self-referential humour that they seem to enjoy sprinkling throughout the film.
Billie Eilish’s theme song is a worthy addition to the collection and certainly sits comfortably within the top half of the ‘Bond Theme Chart’. It’s definitely more memorable and evocative than Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Spectre. Her voice trembles at times as you can almost feel she recognises the significance of singing the theme for Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the franchise.
It was also very pleasing to see that this film has moved with the times and reflects the world of 2021 with its portrayal of women. Every single female character had a genuine purpose and important role within the plot. While of course, the female actors playing those roles are all irrefutably glamorous and attractive. There was genuine respect and no objectification of women.
I came out of the screening with mixed emotions. Glad to be back in the cinema on one hand, sad that Daniel Craig’s stint ordering Martini’s was over on the other. I was pleased that such a good climax had been created to bring this era of Bond to a close, and all its story arcs had been brought to conclusions. I’m also excited and apprehensive in equal measure for the future of such an iconic film series. But I was disappointed with some of the characters not getting the necessary screen-time to truly develop their characters. Surprisingly, I was almost tearful at the final few moments, especially as the credits rolled.
Overall, this is a loving homage to the James Bond series, past and present. It’s a solid if unspectacular film in its own right, but the performances of Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux, as well as the Bond history it wraps itself in, elevate it beyond that.
It’s not Craig’s best Bond film, as Skyfall is almost untouchable in my opinion, but it does bring closure to his tenure in the tuxedo in a manner that should please Bond fans across the board. It also tantalises us as to what the 6th age of Bond will look like. Let the intense speculation begin!
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10
Thank you for reading our review of James Bond No Time To Die. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out who we think could be the next James Bond and why HERE.
Read IMDB information about No Time To Die HERE.
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