Few actors, if any, have so singularly put their stamp on a role. Connery's sense of sophistication, matched with a compelling brutishness, set the standard for 007 that casts a shadow over every subsequent Bond portrayal.
However, there was much more to Connery than Vodka Martinis, fast cars and the like. He diversified into a range of roles in a host of different genres. We're celebrating his legacy with our Cineworld blog list of his finest non-Bond roles. Scroll down to find out more.
1. Marnie (1964)
Connery's first and only collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock came in this dark story of kleptomania and obsession. The actor takes that latent sense of ruthlessness in his Bond portrayal and amplifies it, playing an abusive, widowed millionaire who entraps Tippi Hedren's titular Marnie. Such was the nature of Connery's schedule with Bond company Eon, he had to undergo complex negotiations in order to step outside the franchise and work with other directors. Hitchcock was Connery's favoured choice, but the famously brusque Scot broke protocol when he demanded to see a script in advance of signing on. When told that not even Cary Grant asked to do that, Connery replied: "I'm not Cary Grant."
2. The Hill (1965)
By the mid-sixties, Connery was tiring of the James Bond role. He resented the press intrusion into his life, not to mention the hysterical fan reception at the various premieres. He sought to diversify his palate, and The Hill, his first collaboration with director Sidney Lumet, offered just such an opportunity. The actor demonstrates that there's more to him than just 007, delivering an effectively anguished and physical performance in this adaptation of R.S. Allen's play. The Hill is set in a British prisoner of war camp in Libya, and Connery's squadron leader Joe emerges as the most intriguing character in the ensemble. Connery said of the part: "It is only because of my reputation as Bond that the backers put up the money for The Hill."
3. The Wind and the Lion (1975)
Connery's implausibly-accented tribal chief Raisuli is at the heart of this stirring adventure from writer-director John Milius (Conan the Barbarian). Inspired by a real-life incident, The Wind and the Lion explores the political fallout when an American woman (Candice Bergen) is kidnapped by Connery's character. Amidst the febrile climate of 1904, it sparks an international incident between the Moroccan, German, French and British authorities, with US President Theodore Roosevelt also being dragged in. To the sound of Jerry Goldsmith's thunderous score, the movie mixes complex intrigue with sweeping desert action sequences to memorable effect.
4. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
One of Connery's finest films, this sweeping period adventure pairs him with close friend Michael Caine. Both actors are on top form in this story of colonial power that spills over into murderous tragedy, director John Huston bringing handsome attention to detail in the Technicolor landscape sequences. Based on a story by Rudyard Kipling (who appears in the film as played by Christopher Plummer), it recounts the odyssey of two 19th century British officers serving in India, one of whom is taken for a god. Connery and Caine do a superb job in showing how friendship eventually curdles into resentment, their innate chemistry making the end game all the more difficult to watch.
5. Highlander (1986)
Scotsman Connery played Russians, Irishmen and even Spaniards. The last of those informs his popular role in fantasy-adventure Highlander, in which Christopher Lambert's invincible swordsman Conor McLeod traverses oceans of time. Connery plays his mentor, the gruffly likeable Ramirez, whose sage advice plays out to the stirring sound of Queen on the soundtrack. It's a reminder of Connery's inherent charisma and authority, no matter how implausible the role. His presence helped secure the movie as a cult hit, long after its initial box office failure back in the mid-eighties.
6. The Name of the Rose (1986)
Here's another memorable mentor role for Connery, this time playing wise medieval detective and friar William of Baskerville. The character initially sprang from the pages of Umberto Eco's complex period mystery story, which was adapted in 1986 by director Jean-Jacques Annaud. When William arrives at a remote Benedictine abbey in Italy, he's baffled by a series of seemingly impossible murders. By this stage of his career, Connery was very much in the post-Bond, salt-and-pepper-beard stage of his career, which would inform later roles such as The Untouchables. Connery's on-screen mentoring of young Christian Slater is a sign of how he was now established as a screen veteran.
7. The Untouchables (1987)
Connery won his first and only Oscar for his peerless role in this classic Brian De Palma thriller. Once again proving that an incongrous accent is no barrier to a memorable character, Connery dispenses blunt advice and bullets in equal measure in his role as Jim Malone. He's the Irish (yes, really) officer who schools young Kevin Costner in the Chicago battle against fiendish gangster Al Capone (a scene-chewing Robert De Niro). Spitting out screenwriter David Mamet's lines with relish, Connery crafts a portrayal that is both hardened and sympathetic, with his eventual death scene proving hard to take. That's a clear sign of how invested we are in his character.
8. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
What is the best Indiana Jones movie? For many, it's the third one, The Last Crusade, for the simple reason that the chemistry between Connery and Harrison Ford is truly magical. The former was only 12 years older than the latter by the time Spielberg's third Indy movie rolled around. But you'd never know it, the two actors harnessing classic bickering chemistry as Indiana and his doddering father Henry search for the Holy Grail. Series co-creator George Lucas initially wanted a Yoda-type sage, but Spielberg held out for Bond, and it was a spectacularly good decision, Connery getting a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.
9. The Hunt for Red October (1990)
In this gripping underwater thriller, Connery plays rogue Russian submarine commander Marko Ramius. Director John McTiernan effectively utilises Connery's bearing and authority in this Tom Clancy adaptation, one that features a dynamite cast including Alec Baldwin (playing the first big screen Jack Ryan), Sam Neill and Tim Curry. But Connery is the first among equals, continually making us guess as to Ramius' motives, and what it all means as the fate of the world hangs in the balance. In a movie so dominated by hardware, it's Connery's innate watchability that remains the greatest special effect.
10. The Russia House (1990)
Spy master John Le Carre has inspired countless fine adaptations, from 2011's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to 2016's The Night Manager. One of the most underrated is The Russia House, in which Connery is far more melancholic and introverted than usual. It's an intriguing twist on his usually rumbustious screen persona, allowing him to form genuine chemistry with co-star Michelle Pfeiffer. The story of the relationship between an ageing British publisher turned spy, and the Russian woman he's tasked with investigating, it was only the second movie to be filmed in the Soviet Union in the wake of the Berlin Wall's collapse. Jerry Goldsmith's achingly romantic jazz score speaks volumes about the emotional connection between Connery and Pfeiffer's characters.
11. Just Cause (1995)
There are no bells and whistles to Connery's performance in this convoluted Death Row thriller. Just a sense of decency and nobility under pressure. Connery plays a Harvard professor whose investigation into a young black man accused of rape and murder takes some unexpected turns. Connery's understatement becomes all the more potent when he's matched with the explosive Ed Harris, playing a psychotic and genuinely scary Death Row inmate who knows more than he's letting on.
12. First Knight (1995)
What was it about the union between Sean Connery and Jerry Goldsmith? Whenever these two men were thrown together, the soundtrack usually proved spectacular, even when the movie itself was lacking. Case in point: Arthurian fantasy adventure First Knight, a contradictory movie that aligns Connery's watchably jaded Arthur against Richard Gere's all-American Lancelot. Nevertheless, the film looks handsome and sounds spectacular, thanks to Goldsmith's choral fireworks, and Connery's performance is one of the best of his late period. The Goldsmith-scored climactic funeral pyre now takes on even more poignant significance in the wake of Connery's passing.
13. The Rock (1996)
Connery and Ed Harris are at each other's throats again in Michael Bay's frenetically entertaining, high-concept action movie. When Harris' rogue soldier takes over Alcatraz and threatens nearby San Francisco with chemical weapons, only two men can save the day. These are Nicolas Cage's offbeat scientist and Connery's ex-SAS officer, two unlikely co-stars who nevertheless enjoy fabulously funny chemistry. It's thanks to Cage and Connery that The Rock remains the most bearable of Bay's movies, their chalk and cheese banter proving as explosive as the many dunder-headed action sequences. Still, for consistency's sake, let's remind ourselves of what happens when Connery and Harris share the screen once again.
14. Dragonheart (1996)
We conclude our list with a voice-only role from Connery. It's surprising to note that, despite one of the most distinctive deliveries in cinema history, Connery made relatively few ventures into the realm of animation. Dragonheart is an exception, allowing Connery to breathe life into the role of majestic last dragon Draco. Whereas in previous movies Connery's accent has occasionally been jarring, here it strikes the perfect note, by turns wise, amusing and inspiring. Even when we couldn't see him, Connery was able to leave his mark on a film. Now that's the sign of a true movie icon. And now, like Draco, he's gone to the stars.
What is your favourite Sean Connery role outside of James Bond? Let us know @Cineworld and prepare for the return of Daniel Craig's 007 in No Time To Die. It's scheduled for release (at the time of writing) on 2nd April 2021, so check out the trailer below.