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Sean Connery: 10 Essential Movies

From James Bond to Robin Hood, old-school cops to men who would be kings — here are some of the Scottish star’s best performances

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He would always be known as Bond — James Bond — and it’s near-impossible not to say those words without imitating Sean Connery’s deep Scottish baritone. But while the former lifeguard, bodybuilder and Mr. Universe competitor-turned-actor would help turn 007 into an iconic screen character, he was more than just the man who gave Bond his first license to kill. Before his passing at age 90, Connery had the distinction of working with directors ranging from Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma, of winning Oscars and BAFTAs, of playing everything from soldiers to train robbers to kings. He became a de facto ambassador for his home country of Scotland and embraced the thick, oft-imitated brogue no matter who he played. He was a versatile actor and also a movie star, the kind of performer who could infuse roles with a certain kind of radiating, rough-and-tumble persona that you could only describe as Conneryesque.

Here are 10 essential Sean Connery movies that pay tribute to his range, his screen presence and his ability to make virtually any part, big or small, seem larger than life. Yes, Bond is in here — how couldn’t he be? But so are nine others that showed how funny, dramatic, heroic, villainous, formidable and flawed his characters were once Sir Sean got ahold of them.

From Rolling Stone US

‘The Hunt for Red October’ (1990)

If Tom Clancy’s novels about the C.I.A. analyst Jack Ryan had been made 20 years earlier, Connery might have been a good choice to play the hero. Instead, Alec Baldwin stepped in to the role (he’d be the first of several stars to step into Ryan’s shoes — not unlike Connery’s inauguration of Bond), and the Scottish movie star took on the bad guy’s role: A Russian nuclear submarine commander named Marko Ramius who’s keen to heat up the Cold War. There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance in hearing a Soviet zealot speak in such a noticeably Scottish accent, but Connery digs into this role with such gusto that by the end of this tense thriller, you don’t even mind the geographical mix-and-match approach. There’s a reason it’s Connery’s face on the poster. “I remember seeing it for the first time and thinking, ‘This guy is going to hijack a nuclear submarine, where’s the fervor in this character?’” his costar Baldwin told us. “Then as it goes on, I realized: Oh, no, this is perfect. Most people would have this guy pacing in his cabin, or wringing his hands. He has him sipping tea! It’s genius.” Stream the film here.

‘The Rock’ (1996)

“Welcome … to the Rock!” Michael Bay’s slam-bang action-movie is, like most of his blockbusters, a lot of nonstop sound and fury with the dial turned up to 11. But it has two saving graces: Nick Cage’s wonderfully weird chemical-weapons expert, pitched at a maximum level of Cage-like quirkiness; and the mere presence of Sean Connery. His federal prisoner John Mason is the only inmate to have ever escaped Alcatraz; given that a righteous general has taken over the tourist attraction and is threatening to send missiles to San Francisco unless his demands are met, his knowledge of the island’s penitentiary’s ins and outs may be the only thing keeping that city from being destroyed. Connery knows when to go camp with this career criminal, and when to simply be the flinty straight man to Cage’s absurdist egghead. And once it comes down to a mano a mano fight with Ed Harris’ military villain, you’re reminded of the way that Connery could bring gravitas to even the goofiest, most over-the-top of multiplex movies. Stream the film here.

‘Finding Forrester’ (2000)

Coming off of an Oscar nomination for Good Will Hunting, indie director Gus Van Sant proceeded to take on the story of a reclusive, Salinger-esque novelist who helps a young, African-American writer (Rob Brown) find his potential — and to say that his follow-up was chasing the same feel-good tone would be putting it mildly. But that doesn’t detract from  how Connery’s adding a number of extra layers and some much needed gruffness and grit to the elderly author; if you remember this movie for anything, it’s almost certainly the star yelling “You’re the man now, dog!” in his well-aged brogue. The star would retire a few years after taking the role, and even though he played a few more parts after this, the cantankerous literary superstar-in-hiding is really his swan song. It’s a wonderful last hurrah. Stream the film here.