Sean Connery Movies: His 10 Best Non-James Bond Films!

Updated on September 7, 2018
Timothy Anderson profile image

Tim Anderson is a freelance writer/researcher with articles published in The Saturday Evening Post, Playboy magazine, TV Guide, and others.

James Bond fans got excited when rumors circulated that the world's most famous spy would have a cameo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  It turned out to be true, but it was Daniel Craig, and not Sean Connery masquerading as a stormtrooper.
James Bond fans got excited when rumors circulated that the world's most famous spy would have a cameo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It turned out to be true, but it was Daniel Craig, and not Sean Connery masquerading as a stormtrooper.

1. The Untouchables

As much as he's a superstar screen legend with his James Bond movies, 1987's film The Untouchables is the only one of Connery's movies that brought him an Academy Award. His outstanding performance as the street-wise Chicago cop named Jim Malone won the the 1988 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He is the only Scottish actor to ever receive an Academy Award for acting.

In this film, set in the 1920s city of Chicago when Robert De Niro as Al Capone, was fighting other gangs to consolidate his power, a young Treasury Agent, Elliot Ness played by Kevin Costner, comes to town and determines to take down the crime lord. Ness befriends a veteran Chicago street cop named Malone (Connery) and the duo recruits two green law enforcement rookies, Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith to help them take on the mob.

To add authenticity to his role as crime kingpin Al Capone, actor Robert De Niro was able to locate the mobster's original tailors, and had them recreate the suits and clothing done for Capone decades earlier. He even wore the silk underwear favored by the gangster, although they were never seen in the film.

Connery teaches his three pupils about life on Chicago's streets, and how they can beat Capone: learn to shoot fast and get off the first shot. And his methods aren't always conventional.

During the filming of his death scene, the small explosives hidden under Connery's clothing were so powerful, the actor had to be rushed to the hospital to remove dust and fake blood from his eyes.

The Untouchables would gross nearly $80 million at the box office, making it Connery's fifth most financially successful film.

Sean Connery won his only Oscar for playing Officer Jim Malone in "The Untouchables."
Sean Connery won his only Oscar for playing Officer Jim Malone in "The Untouchables."

"You know, the Oscar I was awarded for The Untouchables is a wonderful thing, but I can honestly say that I'd rather have won the U.S. Open Golf Tournament."

— Sean Connery

2. The Hunt For Red October

This 1990 movie is based on a Tom Clancey novel, and takes place during the Cold War in 1984 where Sean Connery plays Soviet submarine Captain Marko Ramius. Ramius commandeers the Soviet Union's newest nuclear submarine and plans to turn it over to the United States to prevent what he believes is a future attack on the United States. It's a wonderful undersea game of "cat-and-mouse," and Connery received great critical reviews for his part.

There's also an excellent supporting cast with Alec Baldwin playing CIA analyst Jack Ryan, Scott Glenn as an American sub commander, Sam Neill as a Russian KGB agent, and James Earl Jones as a U.S. Navy Admiral. The part of Jack Ryan was offered to Harrison Ford who'd just finished filming Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with Connery, but Ford turned it down.

Both Connery and Glenn were trained aboard actual U.S. Navy submarines, and ironically, both actors had served in their respective nations' naval services before their acting careers. The Hunt For Red October film will be Connery's third-highest grossing movie, with box office sales of nearly $125,000,000.

In the movie, there are only three female actresses with speaking roles, and one of them is Gates McFadden, familiar to Star Trek: The Next Generation fans as Dr. Beverly Crusher.

Connery and His Co-Stars

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Sean Connery played Harrison Ford's father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Sean Connery played Harrison Ford's father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was George Lucas' third installment in his initial Indiana Jones trilogy, and brought screen legends Harrison Ford and Sean Connery together for the first time.

Connery was signed to play Dr. Henry Jones Sr., the father of Harrison Ford's title character, Indiana Jones, although in real life he was just 12 years older than Ford. Had Connery decided against the role, Spielberg was going to use actor Gregory Peck.

The film shows some of Indiana's childhood and how he became interested in archaeology and history. However, the real story begins as the father and son duo head to the Middle East after finding a map that gives clues to the whereabouts of the mysterious Holy Grail. As in the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie, the Nazis are also in the hunt and plan to use it to control the world for their coming super-race.

As the story unwinds, we learn for the first time that Indiana's given name was Henry, and that "Indiana" is simply a nickname. River Phoenix was personally selected by Ford to play his younger self. The pair had worked together three years earlier in The Mosquito Coast when Phoenix had played Ford's son. This movie would be one of Phoenix's last films before dying from a drug overdose four years later.

Connery was excellent as the studious, occasionally bumbling father who occasionally got in the way, and the film gave him an excellent chance to show off some of his comedic talents and a nice break from playing the suave spy in his 007 films. And this will be the only Harrison Ford movie where Connery is a co-star.

As far as Sean Connery movies go, this film will also be the highest-grossing movie of his career, earning nearly $200 million at the box office, and director Spielberg would later reveal this was his favorite of the first three Indiana Jones movies.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Trailer

4. The Medicine Man

In this 1992 movie, Sean Connery plays a research scientist working on a cancer cure while living in the Amazon jungle. A loner and financed by a major drug company, his eccentric ways soon bring another company researcher played by actress Lorraine Bracco. She not only brings needed equipment, but is there to evaluate him as well, and might just pull the plug on funding his research.

Whereas there's friction between the two at first, they begin to fall in love as they unravel the jungle secret that may lead to a cure for cancer. But they must hurry since the area they're working in is about to be bulldozed by local ranching overlords, possibly destroying the cancer cure they believe is hidden in the jungle.

Memorable for it's breath-taking jungle cinematography, Connery banked a cool $10 million for the role, and Bracco turned down an offer to play Catwoman in the 1992 Batman Returns film in order to do this film with Connery. However, this movie was not one of Connery's bigger hits, earning only $40 million at the box office after costing $45 million to make.

The Wind and the Lion
The Wind and the Lion

5. The Wind and The Lion

Although Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn were both considered for the lead role, it eventually went to Sean Connery. The Wind and The Lion is a story based loosely on a true 1904 incident where an American is kidnapped and held in Morocco. Although in real life the kidnapped person is a man by the name of Ion Perdicaris, the movie takes liberties and makes the victim a woman, Eden Pedecaris who was played by Candice Bergen.

The 1975 movie also starred Brian Keith as U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, and John Huston as John Hay. Watch closely and you'll see Steven Kanaly -- Ray Krebbs from the TV show Dallas -- as "Capt. Jerome." Richard Dreyfuss was offered a role in the movie -- American vice-consul Dreighton -- but turned it down.

The movie was shot on location in Spain, and 20 U.S. Marines and a handful of Spanish Special Forces were used during some of the battle scenes.

There was good chemistry between Connery and Bergen, and she wasn't the director's first choice. The film's writer/director John Milius said he wrote the story with actress Julie Christie in mind for the female lead, Eden Pedecaris. However, Faye Dunaway was initially signed to play the role, but she became ill and the part went to Bergen.

Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren in "Marnie."
Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren in "Marnie."

6. Marnie

Anxious to stretch his acting talents, Connery was happy when acclaimed director Alfred Hitchcock offered him the part of Mark Rutland, a wealthy business owner who has fallen in love and marries a female con artist and thief played by the up-and-coming actress Tippi Hedren. It was only her third movie, and second with director Alfred Hitchcock after The Birds. And it was during shooting that Hedren and Hitchcock had a famous falling out. She will later claim Hitchcock made unwanted sexual advances and tried to ruin her career after she resisted.

Hitchcock had actually considered Peter O'Toole, Paul Newman and Marlon Brando for the Rutland role, and actresses Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Remick and Marilyn Monroe as Marnie, but eventually settled on Connery and Hedren. For Connery, this would be his second film after completing his second James Bond movie, From Russian With Love, and he was looking forward to acting in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

The film got off to an ominous start: filming was scheduled to begin on November 22, 1963, but due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, there was a four-day delay.

While the film wasn't a huge box office success, it returned a respectable $7 million in U.S. ticket sales on a budget of $3 million. And as for Sean Connery, the film helped open doors to more roles where he could shake his 007 typecasting spectre.

Better known as Albus Dumbledore to Harry Potter fans, actor Richard Harris starred with Sean Connery in "The Molly McGuires."
Better known as Albus Dumbledore to Harry Potter fans, actor Richard Harris starred with Sean Connery in "The Molly McGuires."

7. The Molly McQuires

The Molly McQuires starred Connery and Richard Harris in a tale about a secret group of Irish Pennsylvania coal miners in the 1870s, and loosely based on a true story. The name for the secretive group was "Molly McQuires."

The angry miners engaged in terrorist activities against exploitative mine owners. Connery played Jack Kehoe, leader of the Irish rebels, and Richard Harris played a Pinkerton detective named James McParlan who infiltrated the group with a new name -- McKenna -- and finds over time his loyalties may be changing.

To further complicate his feelings, Harris finds himself falling in love with a retired miner's daughter, played by Samantha Eggar who helps him see the sorry plight of the overworked and underpaid Irish miners.

The movie has an unusual opening sequence that runs 15 minutes before any dialogue is spoken. Furthermore, we don't hear any words from Connery's character until nearly 40 minutes have passed. Filmed at a cost of $11 million, the flop earned a measly $2.2 million at the box office and Hollywood began to question whether Connery had a future in film outside of his James Bond movies.

On the positive side, Harris and Connery became life long friends after production wrapped, and as a favor to his friend, Harris later appeared in a cameo role as King Richard the Lionheart in Connery's film, Robin and Marian.

Which Sean Connery Movie Did We Miss?

After reviewing all of our top ten Connery films, which of the following four Sean Connery movies would you have put on the list?

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Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn
Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn

8. Robin and Marian

Robin and Marian reunited actors Sean Connery and Robert Shaw who first worked together in the 1963 From Russia With Love James Bond movie.

In this 1976 film, Connery plays Robin Hood who has returned from fighting in the Crusades. Audrey Hepburn plays Maid Marian who in his absence has moved into a priory near Nottingham and who now lives as an nun. Of course, the Sheriff of Nottingham played by Shaw, tries to prevent their rekindling of their old romance, but to no avail. The movie also brings Richard Harris onscreen again with Connery, the pair having previously worked six years earlier in The Molly McQuires.

Connery actually wasn't the producer's first choice for Robin Hood: Albert Finney was their first preference, and Connery was supposed to play Little John. Charlton Heston was approached and offered a cameo in the movie, but declined saying he'd rather have been offered the lead.

The role of Marian was offered to Hepburn who'd been absent from the big screen for almost 10 years; the last Audrey Hepburn movie had been the 1967 thriller, Wait Until Dark. She initially hesitated in accepting the role, but when her young sons heard that "James Bond 007" would be in the movie with her, they convinced her to take the part.

This film was a disappointment at the box office, but Connery would later say he was quite pleased with it overall, particularly since with Robin's death at the end, there would be no chance for a sequel.

Michael Caine and Sean Connery
Michael Caine and Sean Connery

9. The Man Who Would Be King

Back in the 1950s, The Man Who Would Be King was kicked around by director John Huston as a "buddy movie" for Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable, but the project never got off the ground.

Huston considered making the movie in the 1960s with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, but still couldn't bring it off. By the 1970s, still not giving up, Huston discussed the project with Paul Newman, hoping to team him and Robert Redford as two ex-British soldiers who'd become friends while stationed in India. Huston saw it as a comedy/adventure, similar in vein to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby's "Road to…." movie series.

Newman declined, but suggested Sean Connery and Michael Caine for the two leads, and the project eventually got under way. In the Rudyard Kipling story, the two ex-soldiers set off from India in the late 1800s to search for a mysterious land called Kafiristan, which today is a province in Afghanistan. After a challenging journey, the two locate and settle in this far off land where they set themselves up as deities ruling the land and its peoples.

This was the first time Caine and Connery acted together and two years later they will again appear in A Bridge Too Far. And despite all of his James Bond movies, Connery will later say this was his favorite film role.

The Highlander - Trailer

The Highlander
The Highlander

10. Highlander

This movie is about a special breed of beings living on this planet who are all blessed with immortality until they are challenged and beheaded by another "immortal".

Young French actor Christopher Lambert played the title role as a Scottsman who is killed in a battle in Sixteenth Century Scotland, but then comes back to life. He doesn't understand what's happened, and his superstitious clansmen banish him from the tribe. He soon meets another immortal named Ramirez, played by Sean Connery, and it is the 2,500-year-old Ramirez who takes the young Scottsman under his wing. He teaches him the so-called tricks of the trade and the rules of the deadly game being waged among the surviving immortals scattered across the world.

And let's face it: for being 2,500 years old, Sean Connery ages well!

A number of actors were considered for the Ramirez role, including Gene Hackman, Malcolm McDowell and even Clint Eastwood. Connery got the role when Goldie Hawn talked her boyfriend Kurt Russell out of taking the part. However, the former 007's schedule was so tight, he had to film all of his Highlander movie scenes in just seven days.

As for the role of Conner, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Sting and Patrick Swayze were also considered before producers settled on Lambert, who'd just completed his first English film, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan.

This movie was a box office disappointment, but spawned a number of sequels, including Highlander 2: The Quickening five years later where Connery reprised his original role.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Tim Anderson


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      • Jason mackenzie profile image

        Jason Mackenzie 

        19 months ago from Perth WA 6000

        I loved Sean Connery's role as Indiana Jones' father - somehow the two complemented each other so well that even today they are one of the reasons for me to watch the movie.

      • lions44 profile image

        CJ Kelly 

        2 years ago from Auburn, WA

        Great list. Could not agree more. Shared.


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