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License to Thrill: Ranking the Best Bond Films. Part One: Sir Sean Connery

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While the coronapocalypse has put the latest James Bond film on hold, there are plenty of 007 flicks to entertain you. If you haven’t watched the 007 franchise, you owe it to yourself as the films have become entrenched in popular culture and most of them are a lot of fun.

Like any long-running franchise, it’s difficult to say this version is better than another. Several actors have played 007 across nearly 60 years (yes, the film franchise is that old) which means there are generations of viewers. To say this actor is the quintessential Bond is problematic so I’ve decided to categorize the best by the actors. Thus, I’ll start by ranking the best Sean Connery films, then go to Roger Moore (I won’t skip George Lazenby but it’s easy to rank “The Best of George Lazenby” since he only did one Bond film) and so on.

Like many people, I grew up watching 007 before I ever read the books the films were based on, and as anyone who has read the Ian Fleming originals will tell you, the films are rarely anything even close to the novels. Keep in mind that Fleming croaked in 1964, just two years after the first Bond film (Dr. No) debuted. The last Bond novel by Fleming was posthumously released in 1966 so the films were just getting underway when most of the books had already been published (Fleming’s first Bond novel Casino Royale debuted in 1953)

The novel that launched a franchise

Just as every moviegoer has their favorite Bond, they have their favorite films by their favorite Bond. Let’s start with Sir Sean Connery, still considered the best Bond actor in the franchise and someone whose performances have stood the test of time (although Sir Sean’s comments about women, not so much). Here are the best Sean Connery Bond films, beginning with the best and proceeding from there. When it comes to the Sean Connery films, nearly every one is a classic and only one is a complete dud.

1. Goldfinger: This is still my favorite Bond film as it combines the action-adventure (and gadgetry) that differentiated the films from the novels, but maintained Bond’s icy nature as depicted in the novels. The plot is fantastic but plausible (unlike the novel which is excellent but has an implausible plot) and of course, it has Shirley Bassey’s iconic theme song “Goldfinger.” If you can only watch one 007 film (by any Bond actor) this is a good one. As far as Sir Sean, this is his best and if you don’t agree, GFY.

2. From Russia With Love: The second 007 film sees the franchise start to showcase the things Bond films are known for (and what the audience would come to expect): beautiful locations, beautiful people, and action sequences to keep your interest.

3. Thunderball: This is one of the best Bond films in terms of plot, but also in terms of location and action sequences. The underwater battle scene never gets old and the idea of a terrorist SPECTRE) hijacking two nuclear warheads was perfect for the Cold War.

4. You Only Live Twice: A weird but plausible premise sees 007 seemingly killed off so he can go undercover to foil the latest plot by the sinister syndicate known as SPECTRE (here, a plot to ignite a war between the United States and the Soviet Union). Some snowflakes may lose their minds over the part where Bond assumes the identity of a Japanese fishermant, but it’s a good, if not great entry in the series including an exciting battle scene where Bond pilots a mini-helicopter.

5. Dr. No: The first film in the series, it’s clear the series is finding its way, but it also shows it’s already established the elements that will launch a successful franchise. Jack Lord nearly steals the show as Bond’s CIA contact Felix Leiter, but Lord’s reported exorbitant salary requirements for the sequel saw him replaced. Lord did alright for himself, playing Steve McGarrett for 12 seasons on the original Hawaii Five-O

6. Diamonds Are Forever: This is a complete shitshow as it features a somewhat portly Sir Sean blundering his way through a truly awful film that almost seems like a leftover script from a Batman ’66. Avoid at all costs if given a choice on which Connery Bond film to watch.

Never Say Never Again: This film was not made by the production company that would make 007 films for decades, but it does feature James Bond and it does feature Sean Connery in his iconic role. This Bond film is an acquired taste with some fans enjoying it and others dismissing it. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

James Bond films are fun, action-packed, and escapism at its best. Sir Sean Connery’s Bond films are some of the best and as I’ve mentioned, there’s hardly a bad one in his filmography. Join me in the next edition as I look at the Bond film featuring George Lazenby and when I say the, I mean one.

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Mike Rickard II

Retired bank robber and author of "Wrestling's Greatest Moments", "Laughing All the Way to the Bank Robbery, "Flunky: Pawns and Kings," and "Don't Call Me Bush Beans: The Legend of a Three-Legged Cat." Pro wrestling and hockey fan. Hired gun for several pro wrestling sites and a top 10 YouTube wrestling channel. Available in regular and extra-strength.

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