Every Sean Connery James Bond movie ranked, from worst to best

Sean Connery's James Bond looks at someone off camera in Goldfinger
Do you agree with our Sean Connery James Bond movie rankings? (Image credit: MGM)

No actor – not even Roger Moore – is more synonymous with James Bond than Sean Connery. In fact, from the moment he uttered those immortal words – "Bond. James Bond" – his place in cinematic history was assured.

Remarkably, 007's creator, Ian Fleming wasn't initially convinced by the casting of this "overgrown stuntman" from Edinburgh. But after Dr. No director Terence Young took his then-32-year-old star to be fitted for a bespoke suit, the author had to eat his words. Connery had no trouble capturing the British spy's debonair demeanor, and went on to play the role six times between 1962 and 1971. He would ultimately make such a mark on the role that he still regularly tops polls to find the best James Bond.

Connery was even tempted back to his most famous role for 1983's Never Say Never Again. You won't find that film in this list of Sean Connery James Bond movies ranked, however – as an unofficial quasi-remake of Thunderball (made after a dispute between various rights holders) it doesn't qualify.

We should also mention that, because of the time they were made, Connery's Bond movies often feature attitudes towards women and race (among other things) that are offensive and unacceptable nowadays. We've flagged up some particularly troublesome examples but bear in mind that you'll encounter moments that aren't acceptable in the 21st century. 

6. Diamonds are Forever

James Bond wears a white tuxedo in Diamonds are Forever

Connery's run as 007 ended with a whimper rather than a bang thanks to Diamonds are Forever. (Image credit: MGM)

By his fifth Bond movie, You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the franchise. So much so, in fact, that he subsequently walked away from the role that had made him a star. 

George Lazenby, a comparatively unknown Australian model, played 007 in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but 007’s paymasters made Connery an offer he couldn’t refuse to headline 1971's Diamonds Are Forever, which saw him take on the role for the second-to-last time. 

Oh how he must have wished he’d said yes to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (now regarded as a Bond classic) and passed on this uninspiring entry in the canon. For most of the movie – a dingy trip through deserts, oil rigs, and Vegas casinos – Connery looks like he’d rather be somewhere else. There’s not a single mention of Tracy, the wife Bond loved and lost in Lazenby's solo outing, while Charles Gray is a bizarre choice as the third Ernst Stavro Blofeld in as many films – it’s almost like he’s an entirely different person.

Ultimately, Diamonds are Forever put a permanent full-stop on Connery’s stint in the famous tuxedo – until he made an unexpected return 12 years later in unofficial Thunderball remake, Never Say Never Again. Interestingly, that one-off return was released the same year as Octopussy, Roger Moore's penultimate outing in the famous tuxedo. Read our Roger Moore James Bond movies ranked article for more details.

5. Thunderball

Sean Connery's James Bond looks down to his left in Thunderball

Thunderball takes fifth position in our rankings. (Image credit: MGM)

The Daniel Craig James Bond movie era wasn’t the first time Bond had experimented with serialized storytelling. While they don’t hang together quite so neatly – was canon even a thing in the ’60s? – the Sean Connery movies have a definite throughline based around international extortion specialists SPECTRE. And although we wouldn’t get facetime with big boss Blofeld until You Only Live Twice (he’s essentially hands stroking a cat here), we do get a proper introduction to his Number Two, Emile Largo.

After the franchise-defining brilliance of Goldfinger, Thunderball is a backwards step. With SPECTRE stealing nuclear weapons and massive underwater battles (an incredible technical achievement, admittedly), Connery's fourth 007 adventure does its best to give the audience what it thinks they want. However, it loses sight of what makes great Bond movies, well, great. There’s also a particularly unpleasant scene in which Bond forces himself on a nurse who quite clearly says no, which obviously tarnishes it in the eyes of 21st century viewers.

4. Dr. No

James Bond lights a cigarette in Dr. No

"The name's Bond..." catchphrase was born in Dr. No. (Image credit: MGM)

The United Kingdom may still have been in the throes of post-war austerity, but the world was about to change in a big way. In 1962, the USA and USSR had begun sending people into orbit, the Beatles had released their first single, and a certain secret agent told the world his name.

While Dr. No’s not up there with 007’s best movies, it remains a spectacular statement of intent. A far cry from the stunt-filled blockbusters that would become Bond’s stock-in-trade, it’s a more grounded and smaller scale affair; as much a detective story as a globetrotting spy adventure. 

Nonetheless, there are a few key indicators of things to come: eponymous bad guy Dr. No has a top-secret island base, his sights set on world domination, and connections to SPECTRE. The film also features a pair of iconic moments in the form of 007’s tuxedoed introduction – "Bond. James Bond" – and Honey Rider’s famous seaside entrance. Better films followed, but Dr. No was clearly history in the making.

3. You Only Live Twice

James Bond smiles at someone off screen in You Only Live Twice

You Only Live Twice takes bronze position in our Connery ranking. (Image credit: MGM)

When Dr. Evil set his heart on a secret volcano lair in the Austin Powers films, this is almost definitely the movie that provided the inspiration. 

Based on a script by bestselling children’s author Roald Dahl, You Only Live Twice ups the spectacle on its predecessors, with an utterly bonkers plot about SPECTRE capturing American and Soviet spacecraft in orbit to trigger World War III – a more outlandish and sinister take on the space race that was happening in real life. 

This is the movie that launched 007 into outlandishly fantastical territory, a summer blockbuster before the concept had even been invented. You Only Live Twice is notable for giving Bond’s arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld – a faceless puppet master in previous movies – his first proper screen appearance, and this cat-stroking Donald Pleasence incarnation became the quintessential Bond bad guy. It also features a cameo from Little Nellie, the most famous autogyro in history – in case you’re wondering, it’s a small, one-person flying machine.

On the down side, while Japan makes for an ideal 007 location, Bond pretending to be Japanese has not aged well. At all.

2. From Russia with Love

Sean Connery's James Bond looks shcoked as he looks at a note in From Russia With Love

From Russia With Love is our second favorite Connery 007 flick. (Image credit: MGM)

With a bigger budget than Dr. No and also more down-to-earth, this Cold War spy thriller brings a Hitchcockian edge to international espionage. Bond is the target as SPECTRE agents deploy ambitious young Soviet intelligence officer Tatiana Romanova to seduce Her Majesty’s finest, and get her hands on a top-secret code machine.

From Russia With Love is a throwback to a time before Bond became a brand, when the filmmakers could concentrate on telling a great story without worrying about tradition. While the film feels sedate by modern standards, there’s a bone-crunching brutality to some of the fist fights, particularly when Bond and Robert Shaw’s unrefined SPECTRE agent Red Grant go at it on a train.

It’s not without its 007-isms – the trademark arty opening credits make their debut, Q shows up with a briefcase full of tricks, Rosa Klebb kicks out with a poison-spiked shoe – but, Bond or no Bond, From Russia With Love stands up as a classic of the spy genre.

1. Goldfinger

A seated James Bond smiles at a person off camera in Goldfinger

Was there ever going to be another Connery Bond film at number one? (Image credit: MGM)

The film where many elements of 007’s iconography coalesced for the first time remains one of the best in the series. From Shirley Bassey’s never-bettered theme song to Bond’s souped-up Aston Martin DB5 – a car so classic Daniel Craig took it out of storage in Skyfall – this is the movie against which all subsequent Bonds will forever be judged.

Gert Frobe’s Auric Goldfinger is one of the franchise’s most memorable villains – charismatic and odd, but not too arch – and his scheme to irradiate all the gold in Fort Knox hits just the right level of megalomania. Bowler hat-throwing Odd Job is arguably yet to be bettered as a henchman, while Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore isn’t just there to tell 007 how wonderful he is – a rarity for the time.

The dialogue is also extremely quotable and features – with the possible exception of "The name’s Bond…" – the most famous line in the series: "Do you expect me to talk?" asks Bond, a laser beam ominously approaching his groin. "No, Mr Bond," comes Goldfinger’s jovial reply. "I expect you to die!"

Look too hard and you could argue that Bond is almost completely passive in the movie, that his presence makes very little difference to the final outcome. But that feels like a harsh assessment of arguably the greatest Bond movie of them all.

For more Bond-based content, find out how to watch the James Bond movies in order. Alternatively, read our ranking of every actor to play James Bond, check out our thoughts on the best James Bond gadgets ever, or see how we rated every Pierce Brosnan James Bond movie.

Richard Edwards

Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.