The quintessential gentleman spy. The beat cop fed up with corruption in his department. The irascible, Holy Grail-hunting father and foil to Indiana Jones. A rogue Soviet naval officer in command of a nuclear submarine. An immortal swordsman. A guy who could legitimately pull off this look. When Sean Connery died at the age of 90, he left behind a legacy shaped by these and so many other memorable performances. As we look back on the life and work of a man who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II a few short years after playing King Arthur, The A.V. Club asks ourselves and our readers: How will you remember Sean Connery?
Is Sean Connery cinema’s most quotable actor? His time as James Bond gave him more hall-of-fame one-liners than most performers get in their entire careers; there’s one particular stretch of Connery dialogue in The Untouchables that probably colors people’s perception of Chicago to this very day. But for my money, the ultimate Connery quip finds him getting more or less the final word in what should’ve been the final Indiana Jones movie. At the end of three films that have seen Indy conquer the Nazis (twice), a human-sacrificing cult, and death itself, he’s cut down to size by his own father, played by Connery. The nickname that helps convince us that a mild-mannered professor of archeology could also be a swashbuckling, world-saving adventurer? He stole it from the family pet. Connery wielded a lot of weaponry during his days onscreen, but neither a Walther PPK nor the katana of Juan Sánchez Villalobos Ramírez could compare to the deadly power of a few pointed words in that distinctive brogue. [Erik Adams]
With all due respect—i.e., very little—to The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, 1996’s The Rock is pretty easily the last great action flick of Sean Connery’s long and storied career. And no moment exemplifies the grizzled Sean Connery-ness he brings to Michael Bay’s Big Dumb Action Movie better than the anti-pep-talk he gives Nicolas Cage (just on the verge of starting his own descent into action superstardom) in that film. You know the line, simultaneously hilarious, incongruous, and badass: “Your best? Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen!” It accomplishes the Sean Connery thing of being vulgar, aggressive, and, yes, borderline misogynistic—but also charismatic, funny, and cool, a cocktail of semi-toxic masculinity that often made Connery compelling and repulsive in equal parts. You don’t necessarily like the guy who says shit like that. But there’s a part of you that wants him to like you. [William Hughes]
I’ve long pondered the queer appeal of the 007 franchise and why, as a pre-teen still years from realizing I even had a closet to come out of, I was so enraptured with James Bond. When looking back through decades of the series, it’s hard not to trace it all back to Sean Connery, who set the template, imbuing the spy with his personal sense of playful swagger that became a cornerstone of the 007 iconography. Simply put, he’s who I wanted to be. Somehow both rugged and refined, Connery’s Bond exemplified stoic professionalism, but always with a sly sense of humor. It felt like he carried out every mission with his tongue in his cheek, something that gave him a wildcard edge and made him, if I may, incredibly sexy. Sure, there was the broad chest and irresistible dimples, but most memorable is the way he wore a suit. Possibly the franchise’s single best fashion moment came in the opening sequence of Goldfinger, where Connery’s Bond arrives to his destination by water, emerging in a sleek black wetsuit, only to later unzip it and reveal a perfectly pressed white dinner jacket. And there it is, all in one costume change: The style, the arch campiness, the sheer confidence in how he moved through the world—it defined the masculine ideal for me. [Cameron Scheetz]
Born in August 1930, Sean Connery was just months shy of his 69th birthday when Entrapment hit movie theaters in 1999. Nowadays we’re used to seeing 68-year-old Liam Neeson, Action Hero, but at the time it was a bit revolutionary to see a legend like Connery taking on an action- and romantic- lead role as he does opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones in this thriller. Sure, Zeta-Jones is the one most remembered, thanks to her assets on display during the movie’s most iconic shot, but her chemistry with Connery is what kept audiences enthralled the remaining 94 minutes of the film. It was also good fun to see film’s first Bond using charisma and spy skills to commit a crime rather than stop one. Taken out of context, the scene where Zeta-Jones’ naked Gin is startled awake by Connery’s Mac sitting in the shadows near the end of her bed plays like it’s right out of a lost Bond film. (She even has a Bond Girl name!) That’s all a testament to the effortless charm and sex appeal Connery wafted into the audience no matter what the role. As Zeta-Jones puts it in Entrapment’s trailer, “He’s the best.” [Patrick Gomez]