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.
Jungle Cruise – Review
Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt swing in with force in Disney’s new Jungle Cruise. And while the movie has fun callbacks to the Disney Park ride and a clever plot, if this movie is trying to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean, it falls short. Here’s our review of Jungle Cruise.
SPOILERS: Warning there are spoilers ahead.
To be honest, I was expecting a much less creative plot from this movie. Following suit with typical adventure movies, I was expecting this film to be a less-funny version of the Jumanji reboot. But the plot has an unexpected emotional centre and a clever twist. And while the film suffers from CGI villain goopiness, it gives the CGI villains actual heart and motivations.
The film centres on Lilly (Emily Blunt), a botanist in search of a healing petal. The petal is said to be able to cure any illness and resides deep in the Amazon Rainforest. She is accompanied by her little brother, McGregor (Jack Whitehall) and their hired skipper, Frank (Dwayne Johnson).
But a curse resides around the petal. Spanish conquistador Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his crew went in search of the petal four hundred years ago. The petal can only be found with an arrowhead sacred to the Umbala or Headhunter tribe of the region. When Aguirre and his crew are on the brink of death, the Umbala tribe saves them. But Aguirre betrays them to get his hands on the arrowhead, and the chief of the Umbala tribe curses Aguirre and his party. They can never stray from the river, or the rainforest will take them. For four hundred years, they’ve lain dormant, having strayed too far from the banks of the river. They cannot die.
Now the arrowhead rests with a sexist scientific community. Lilly steals the arrowhead, just before it was set to be sold to Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons). Joachim works for the German government during the height of World War One. He believes that the petal will not only bring victory to Germany, but will make him a world ruler. (How he thinks it will do that is unclear).
As Lilly, McGregor, and Frank make their way down the Amazon in search of the Petal, Joachim follows and occasionally attacks them in his submarine. Deciding he needs more help, he wakes up Aguirre, now a monster of the Amazon, and his crew. Aguirre, who is now made out of snakes, and his two colleagues, one of which is made out of honey and bees and the other mud and tee frogs, are sent on Lilly’s trail.
What happens next is the usual adventure. White water rapids, a run-in with the Umbala tribe (who become allies), submarine fights, swinging on jungle vines; you name it.
But after a run-in with Aguirre, Lilly learns the truth about Frank. In a plot twist I absolutely did not see coming, it turns out that Frank is actually Francisco, Aguirre’s cartographer. We learn that Aguirre was not looking for the petal for glory or gold, but to save his deeply ill daughter. Aguirre and Francisco grew up together, and they were willing to do anything to save his daughter. But when Aguirre betrays the Umbala tribe, Francisco tries to stop Aguirre. Francisco was also cursed to be unable to leave the riverbank, but Aguirre kept returning to fight and defeat (stab) Francisco.
Tired of constantly getting stabbed, Francisco traps Aguirre in a cave. Letting the Amazon have him and turn him into the monster he is today. Francisco then built a town on the river banks, built a boat in search of the petal, gave up, and now runs river cruises.
While the plot is very complicated, it’s easy enough to follow while watching the film. I will say that the motivations of Joachim are a little hard to follow. But the plot twist with Frank was very clever. It gives a CGI-heavy Aguirre a human heart. Now all he wants to do is break the curse and be allowed to die. To do so he needs a petal. The plot in and of itself was much more clever than I expected.
Characters and performances
One character that pleasantly surprised me was McGregor. At first, I thought he was merely queer-coded. He definitely fell into some gay stereotypes, but I thought that was all it was going to be. A guy who was subtly a little queer. But, when Frank asks him why follows Lilly, even through a jungle, he gives a surprisingly candid answer. He explains to Frank that he is gay and that Lilly is the only one who supports him.
When the world turned his back on him, she stood with him, and for that, he would “follow her into a volcano.” This is the first time I can remember that a Disney character was very, clearly openly gay. Disney has had about a dozen “first gay characters,” but all of them have been off to the side. None of them has stated their sexuality or been open about it. McGregor not only states it outright but is not ashamed of it and it is not his only character trait. He becomes brave and capable and is a good friend to both Frank and Lilly. It was really surprising to see good representation from Disney in this film.
Emily Blunt also gives a wonderful performance (as she always does). She’s headstrong and stubborn, but kind. The sexism was a little on the nose, with a tired bit about how she wears pants, but she was delightful.
And Dwayne Johnson was… okay. He plays the exact same character in every movie he’s in. And while his performance was good in this movie, I can’t help but think that another actor could have done better. He and Emily Blunt have a romance in this movie, but they have absolutely no chemistry. It was hard to believe their romance. I think another actor could have added a little more to Frank’s character. Frank is an interesting character, and another actor could have done more with him. This movie might have been better without Dwayne Johnson.
This movie also might have been better without Joachim. His motivations were really hard to follow. At the end of the day, he was just another stereotype of a German general who only complicated the plot.
It feels as though Jungle Cruise might be Disney’s attempt to re-make the magic of Pirates of the Caribbean. But I can’t see this film becoming a franchise. The first Pirates movie is masterful, with amazing rewatchability. But Jungle Cruise, while fun, is forgettable. It’s not a movie I see myself rewatching anytime soon. If this is an attempt to create a new franchise for Disney; it falls short. But, the film was fun to watch and was a good movie theatre experience.
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 5/10
Thank you for reading our review of Jungle Cruise. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Read our review of Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place Part Two HERE.
Read IMDB information about Jungle Cruise HERE.
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