Tag Archives: Sean Connery

Sean Connery’s James Bond Movies Ranked

James Bond Sean Connery

This list will include Sean Connery’s 6 official James Bond movies from Dr. No to Diamonds Are Forever, as well as the unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again which he starred in.

It was an interesting experience getting to rewatch the James Bond movies and ending them with the Sean Connery films instead of beginning with them. Like with Roger Moore’s James Bond, I liked Connery’s era as the iconic spy more than I thought I would, even if they aren’t some of my favourites in the franchise. I’m mixed on some of Connery’s films, I dislike one of them, and there’s only a couple that I would consider among the best in the franchise. With that said, they mostly worked for what they are.

7. Diamonds Are Forever

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Diamonds Are Forever is not only my least favourite Sean Connery James Bond movie, but my absolute least favourite James Bond movie (unless the 1960s Casino Royale ends up being worse). Right from the beginning it disappoints, as it doesn’t take advantage of the ending from its predecessor On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It quickly establishes itself as going back to formula, and the events of the last movie aren’t mentioned at all. Even though Bond movies aren’t known for their continuity film to film, it was wasted potential. Even discounting that however, the plot itself just isn’t good. The story is convoluted, boring, drawn out and nonsensical and just jumps from one goofy set piece to another. Diamonds Are Forever also dials up the camp more than the previous movies, it gets so unbelievably silly and stupid to the point that I can’t even praise it for how over the top it gets. That being said, those absurd moments nor the sprinkle of genuinely funny moments like Bond driving around in a moon buggy can prevent the movie from being painfully dull. Even though he previously directed Goldfinger, Guy Hamilton’s work on DAF is disappointing. While the action scenes aren’t usually outright bad, they were boring and on autopilot. There’s also little to no energy throughout the movie, making for a sluggish viewing experience.

There are some bad supporting performances from cast, from the Bond girls to the villains, including the worst version of Ernst Stravo Blofeld. What sinks Diamonds Are Forever for me more than some of Bond’s other worst movies however is the fact that Sean Connery just wasn’t invested at all. Every other Bond actor at least looked like they were trying in their movies. Connery does have some charm to him, but otherwise his performance in DAF clearly indicated that this was a paycheck role for him. Not to say that there aren’t aspects of the movie that I don’t like. The setting of Vegas is different for Bond, if not as interesting, and the production design and technical elements are solid. John Barry’s score is decent, and there is a very good Bond song with the title track Diamonds Are Forever as sung by Shirley Bassey. There’s also a genuinely good scene in which Bond fights someone in an elevator, which is actually tense and effective. On the whole though, Diamonds Are Forever a terrible movie. It’s just as well that Sean Connery was in the movie because otherwise, the James Bond franchise really could’ve just ended here.

My review of Diamonds Are Forever

6. Thunderball

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Thunderball is a movie that I’m very mixed on, it felt particularly like a let-down after the rather solid first three films of Connery’s run. They certainly increased the scope and stakes of the movie after the immense success of Goldfinger, but you don’t really feel them. In fact, there’s a real sense of blandness to the story and characters, on the whole I wasn’t very engaged or excited with what was happening. The movie slowly moves with a sluggish pace, and it was a really underwhelming experience. It doesn’t help that hanging over the rest of the movie is that extended segment in the first act in a massage parlour, featuring a notably rapey James Bond who harasses and coerces a nurse, only serving to make the rest of the movie uncomfortable to sit through. Much of the cast are a mixed bag too. Sean Connery is confident and charming as usual, and Luciana Paluzzi made for a great henchwoman in Fiona Volpe. On the other hand, Claudine Auger as Bond girl Domino and the villain Largo played by Alfodo Celi were incredibly underwhelming and forgettable.

Thunderball is impressive on a technical level and makes use of the higher budget. It’s well shot, has a great production design and has technically great underwater sequences. With that said, the action is large but not thrilling, and the underwater scenes are rather boring to watch and hard to make out what is going on. All that aside, I don’t dislike Thunderball. There are some entertaining moments and some really good scenes. I liked the moments of camp, and it certainly has some memorable moments and aspects. Perhaps it’s not a popular opinion, but I just couldn’t get much out of Thunderball. Enjoyable moments and a couple of good performances in an otherwise disappointingly dull film. Lower tier James Bond for sure.

My review of A View to a Kill

5. Never Say Never Again

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I don’t know what is more controversial, having Never Say Never Again this high on the list, or placing it higher than Thunderball, the film it is based on. This is the infamous movie that was not only an unofficial Bond film, not only a remake of Thunderball, but also starring Sean Connery (the same year Roger Moore was James Bond in Octopussy mind you). As it is, the movie isn’t all that good, but I like it more than most people. The plot isn’t the movie’s strongest suit; it is similar to the original Thunderball, and knowing the general plot definitely takes away from the viewing experience as it goes through similar beats. The story is forgettable, not engaging, uneven and tonally off kilter, contributing to the story losing focus. It is more clunky and messy but it wasn’t that much worse than Thunderball’s story, I had more fun with NSNA at the very least. The movie was very over the top and silly, and was entertaining as such. It is fully self-aware and only benefits from that. It leans into camp, from Bond duelling Largo in a game of Space Invaders, to Bond ending a fight with a henchman by throwing a glass of his own urine in his face.

Sean Connery returns to play James Bond after a 12-year absence, and while there’s a lot here that would’ve been better had it been performed by Roger Moore instead, he is surprisingly sharp, and his charisma is back on display. He slips back into his role with ease, and ironically Never Say Never Again gives him a better sendoff compared to Diamonds are Forever. It also benefits from acknowledging Connery’s age and instead of trying to hide it, makes it a plot point in the movie. There’s a mix of decent or at least interesting performances, from Max von Sydow’s one scene appearance as Ernst Stravo Blofeld, to Barbara Carrera in a distinctly different and over the top maniacal version of Fiona Volpe from the original Thunderball. However, Klaus Maria Brandauer’s Largo was the standout, much better than the Largo in Thunderball. A menacing and unpredictable villain, who is also a delight to watch. Irvin Kershner’s work as director is fine, definitely lacking a lot of Bond trademarks including the Gunbarrel sequence in the opening. The technical level isn’t as strong as the other Bond movies and the visuals aren’t special. The action was entertaining enough though, and while the underwater sequences weren’t good, they were at least more fun to watch compared to the ones from Thunderball. Never Say Never Again is definitely in the bottom third of James Bond movies, and I’m not sure I can call it good. However I think I went into it with the right mindset and I enjoyed it for what it was.

My review of Never Say Never Again

4. You Only Live Twice

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This is the point where the series started leaning more into camp, in fact at this moment it was the goofiest point in the franchise. It was a less a political spy thriller and more a silly spy adventure with a light tone. I do think that it is quite entertaining in the absurdity, even if it borders on self-parody at many times. It does at least help that the movie is self-aware. I was generally enjoying it throughout, helped by the tight pacing and some creative and ambitious moments. Lewis Gilbert’s direction is quite good, there are some great locations, environments and set designs that are visually impressive, and the action set pieces are elaborate and fun to watch. You Only Live Twice also has the first on screen appearance of Ernst Stravo Blofeld, played here by Donald Pleasence. Over the top and cartoonish yet creepy, he’s one of the most memorable and iconic Bond villains.

YOLT has plenty of issues, however. The story is really lacking, especially when compared to most of the previous Bond films. There are plenty of memorable sequences and moments, but I don’t think the film is memorable overall. Sean Connery is once again enjoyable as Bond, but he does seem a little bored and worn down here, not one of his best performances in the franchise. You Only Live Twice is definitely one of the most problematic James Bond movies too, and that’s really saying something. There are weird undercurrents with its racial and gender politics. Even by Bond standards there is a notable air of sexism throughout. As for the racial politics, all I need to say is that it is the movie that has Bond donning yellowface to pretend to be Japanese, definitely one of the most embarrassing moments in the franchise. YOLT is not one of the best movies in the series by any means, but it is still enjoyable to watch.

My review of You Only Live Twice

3. Dr No

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Dr No is where the James Bond franchise all started. Released 60 years ago, it is definitely dated when going back to it, yet it managed to be better than I expected. At the very least it was interesting to see how everything started. It hadn’t quite gotten into the Bond formula we know today, it doesn’t have many of its trademarks like Q, the gadgets, etc. It is a proper espionage spy thriller, with more emphasis on intrigue than spectacle. It is not overly campy, in fact its surprisingly low key and simple while having a 60s old school charm to it. Terence Young’s direction is pretty good, and while the movie is definitely lower budget, they pull of quite a lot with what they have considering it’s a movie from 1962, and there are also some quite impressive set pieces. However, it is of course Sean Connery who is the standout, hitting it out of the park as he debuts as James Bond and making a very strong impression. He’s suave and witty, yet very believable as a dark and cold-blooded killer. Connery is front and centre throughout much of the movie, and it only benefits from that.

Not to say it doesn’t have its issues. The plot itself isn’t that interesting, it meanders a lot and its pacing is all over the place, the middle section of the movie is particularly boring. Even the climax is disappointing. The villains are also pretty underwhelming. Problematic casting and yellowface aside, Dr No as the main villain is disappointing, he appears only in the third act and doesn’t leave much of an impression. I wouldn’t call Dr No one of the best Bond movies overall but it is definitely important, and it was interesting to watch at the very least.

My review of Dr No

2. Goldfinger

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Goldfinger is one of the most iconic and impactful James Bond movies, in fact many have called it the all-time best. While I wouldn’t go that far, I do think it is good and amongst the best in the franchise. Sean Connery’s third Bond movie is where the franchise finally came into its own, fully establishing the formula that most of the films would follow, from 007 being given elaborate and clever gadgets from Q, to even having the introduction of the Aston Martin. It has a good cast with memorable characters with some of the most iconic Bond villains in Auric Goldfinger and his henchman Oddjob. It also has a comparatively lighter tone and is very aware of its own absurdity, while not venturing into campy Roger Moore territory. Guy Hamilton’s direction takes Bond on a larger scale, the technical elements from the sets to the action sequences are strong.

Not that it doesn’t have its issues. Goldfinger is outdated in many ways even beyond on a technical level, and some scenes haven’t aged well to say the least. The script is a bit expository, and the pacing can drag, especially in the second half. Also, while Sean Connery is once again good and capable as Bond, he’s not as interesting to watch here, especially as Bond doesn’t have much to do from the halfway point. There are better films in the franchise than Goldfinger and I don’t quite love it, but I do think it is really good.

My review of Goldfinger

1. From Russia with Love

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Goldfinger might’ve been where the franchise really took off and started the ball rolling. However for me, From Russia with Love is the better James Bond movie. From Russia with Love like Dr No is an espionage spy thriller but is better in so many ways. Whereas parts of Dr No’s story could be shaky, From Russia with Love feels confident from beginning to end. They upped the scope and scale here and they expand on it in many ways, from having no gadgets to having a suitcase full of tricks, the movie takes Bond to many different locations, and it has larger set pieces. The slow burn plot is more interesting, mysterious and intriguing, it could be even Hitchcockian in parts with tense sequences. Sean Connery was great as James Bond in Dr No and is even better here, feeling a lot more confident. There’s also a better cast of characters, Daniela Bianchi was good as Bond girl Tatiana Romonova who works well with Connery. It even featured the introduction of Desmond Llewelyn’s Q. Even though the villains aren’t always present throughout the film, they’re quite memorable.

Terence Young’s direction is stronger here than in Dr No, the action scenes are grander and more fleshed out, particularly the fight on a train which is one of the best fights in the series. Plotwise, From Russia with Love can be a little convoluted, even then it is still well constructed. It also has its outdated moments as to be expected with it being a 60s Bond movie. Otherwise, From Russia with Love is an improvement over Dr No in pretty much every way, from the writing, to the directing performances and characters. It’s Sean Connery’s best Bond movie and also one of the best James Bond movies.

My review of From Russia With Love

What do you think of Sean Connery’s run as James Bond? How would you rank his movies?

Never Say Never Again (1983) Review

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Never Say Never Again

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] 
Cast:
Sean Connery as James Bond
Klaus Maria Brandauer as Maximillian Largo
Max von Sydow as Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush
Kim Basinger as Domino Petachi
Bernie Casey as Felix Leiter
Alec McCowen as “Q” Algy (Algernon)
Edward Fox as “M”
Director: Irvin Kershner

When two Tomahawk cruise missiles get stolen by SPECTRE agent Ernst Blofeld and his fellow terrorists, special agent James Bond is called to retrieve them before it detonates.

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After rewatching through all the official James Bond movies, there was another movie I wanted to get around to… that being Never Say Never Again. It was intriguing for many reasons, not only was it a Bond movie I hadn’t seen, not only was an unofficial James Bond movie, but it was also essentially a remake of Thunderball. Making it strange was that it also starred Sean Connery, who not only retired as Bond 12 years prior, but had already starred in Thunderball. This meant that in 1983, both Sean Connery and Roger Moore (for Octopussy) would both be playing James Bond. So I was curious about the movie despite its mixed reception. I wouldn’t call it a good movie but I still found a lot of enjoyment in it.

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The plot is very similar to the original Thunderball story, nuclear warheads are stolen from US Navy by SPECTRE and use them to threaten the world with detonation. The story really isn’t the film’s strongest suit, it definitely overstays its welcome. Knowing the general plot of Thunderball beforehand does take away from NSNA’s viewing experience as it mostly goes through similar beats. The story is pretty forgettable, not that engaging and is rather uneven. I am one of the few people who didn’t like Thunderball all that much really, so the fact that Never Say Never Again is just a worse version of that film wasn’t a deal breaker for me. It is definitely more clunky and messy, but it’s not that much worse, and I had more fun with it at the very least. There are also some decent moments and aspects to the movie. The first thing that comes to mind in the movie is how old Sean Connery is and instead of trying to hide it, the movie works with it and makes Bond’s age to be a plot point. It actually acknowledges that 007 is old, which is interesting considering that Moore was three years older, yet Connery was the only actor to play an older Bond. Tonally, Never Say Never Again is a bit weird. It seems to be a merging between camp era Connery (You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever) with early Moore era (Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun). The tone is very off kilter at times, and this can contribute to the story losing focus as well as negating some of the more serious moments. However I was largely viewing the movie as a comedy, so this wasn’t too much of a problem for me. A lot of my increased enjoyment is due to the over-the-top silliness and humour (intentional or otherwise). Speaking of the humour, the movie can be quite fun. This really is the closest thing to a full on Bond comedy, and I thought it worked as that. It’s the self-awareness that made it work for me; as I mentioned earlier, it acknowledges Bond’s age. But there’s even some moments which go beyond camp and are fully self aware. Instead of a tense card game between Bond and main villain Largo, they’re competing in a dangerous Spacer Invaders computer game. Then there’s even a fight scene in the first act where Bond throws a glass of his own urine in someone’s face, you won’t see that in another Bond movie. For what it’s worth, I found Never Say Never Again to be more consistently entertaining.

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Sean Connery returns to play James Bond, after a 12-year absence. I will say that a lot of the humorous tone of this version probably would’ve been better handled had it been someone like Roger Moore playing him. Nonetheless, he is surprisingly sharp and his charisma is back on display, he slips back into his role with ease. He looks more invested into this compared to his last appearance in Diamonds are Forever (which read like a paycheck performance), and Never Say Never Again is ultimately a better sendoff for him. There is a self-awareness to the whole movie and Connery has that same energy too; he embraces this much older Bond with ease. Overall, I enjoyed seeing him as Bond again one more time. Being already familiar with the characters in the first Thunderball, it was interesting to see the similarities and differences with the versions. I quite liked Bernie Casey as Felix, and Rowan Atkinson is in this too as a surprise comic relief character. Max von Sydow also appears in one scene as the best Ernst Stravo Blofeld we never got to see. The Bond girls aren’t really much to ride home about. Kim Basinger is a very good actress, but her character Domino is bland like she was in the original movie. Barbara Carrera plays Fatima Blush, a very different version of Fiona Volpe from Thunderball, who is in a similar position as the henchwoman for main villain Largo. Fatima is an incredibly over the top character with a very hammy performance. Very sadistic and maniacal, she seems more like Xenia Onatopp from Goldeneye than Fiona Volpe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Fatima was an inspiration for that character. However, the standout performance of the movie is that of the main villain. Klaus Maria Brandauer plays Maximilian Largo (who was called Emilio Largo in the Thunderball movie). Brandauer is distinctly different from Adolfo Celi from the original Thunderball. He’s not nearly as recognisable with his appearance, but he’s better in just about every way. Instead of a coldly menacing man with an eye patch, this Largo is a young, smiling and unhinged megalomaniac. He goes from being calm and charming in one scene to flying into rage in another. By the end of the movie, he goes into wacky 80s villain territory and is a delight to watch. At the same time, there is this human element to him, with him being insecure and jealous. He’s genuinely interesting to watch, and almost feels more like a Craig era Bond villain more than a Connery era one. One of the highlights of the movie for sure.

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Interestingly, Never Say Never Again is directed by Irvin Kershner, his work here isn’t great but is decent enough. It definitely misses certain classic James Bond trademarks like the Gunbarrel sequence in the opening due to copyright, which is understandable. However even beyond that, on a technical level it isn’t on the same level as the previous Bond movies. The visuals really aren’t anything special, it certainly looks subpar compared to pretty much every movie in the official series. It sounds nothing like a Bond movie, from the soundtrack to the sound effects. The title theme song and the score from Michel Legrand just feel really out of place here. However, the action was quite entertaining and solid. It is a balance between the action of the 60s Bond movies and the action from the 80s. The underwater sequences aren’t that good but there are mercifully less of them compared to Thunderball. Not to mention, those scenes have actual speed and dynamism and so are fun to watch instead of feeling sluggish and dull.

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I would not call this one of the best James Bond movies by any means, in fact it would probably place in the bottom third. I can understand why a lot of people don’t like it; its very messy from the writing to the direction. I do think a lot of my enjoyment was with the mindset and headspace I had going into it. I treated this as a Bond comedy, and it was enjoyable as that. I certainly wouldn’t recommend watching this before Thunderball, but NSNA was interesting to watch, especially when it came to seeing the differences between the versions. However, even outside of that, there are a lot of aspects I enjoyed. Some of the supporting cast are good, including a superior version of Largo. The action is entertaining, the offbeat tone made it entertaining, and Sean Connery was fun to watch as James Bond, with the film giving him a better sendoff compared to the official one 12 years earlier. Again, Never Say Never Again is not a good movie, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Review

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Diamonds Are Forever

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Sean Connery as James Bond
Jill St. John as Tiffany Case
Charles Gray as Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Lana Wood as Plenty O’Toole
Jimmy Dean as Willard Whyte
Bruce Cabot as Albert R. ‘Bert’ Saxby
Director: Guy Hamilton

James Bond masquerades as Peter Franks to uncover a diamond smuggling conspiracy. He must also deal with his old rival, who wants to use the diamonds to build a giant laser.

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Diamonds Are Forever follows on from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which quickly became one of my favourite Bond movies. Going into my rewatch of Diamonds of Forever I did hear some things about it, first of all that Sean Connery returned to play Bond, and second of all that it was one of the worst films in the series. Before my rewatches of Bond, I didn’t remember much of the movies, so I was curious to see what made this film particularly terrible. So I watched it again and I quickly found out.

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Notably, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ended with James Bond’s wife Tracy being killed by SPECTRE on their wedding day, so you’d think that the movie would immediately follow on from that. Diamonds Are Forever opens with an over-the-top scene where Bond roughly interrogating people, demanding to know where Blofeld is. This silly cold open seems to serve the purpose of just getting that whole business dealt with immediately, concluding with Bond supposedly killing Blofeld (even though it is so obvious that he’s not dead). However, Tracy is not mentioned once throughout DAF, nor the events of OHMSS, so you really could’ve jumped into the movie after watching You Only Live Twice and not realise there was a movie in between. I get that this is par for the course for Bond in terms of feeling loosely connected. However, it feels like wasted potential that they didn’t capitalise on the events on the last movie. The plot itself was boring, drawn out and nonsensical. This incredibly convoluted story has Bond trying to uncover a diamond smuggling ring. After the opening, scene the first thirty minutes seemed promising, but any hope for it being good gradually fades away. At times it is pretty clear that the plot is not the main focus, as it jumps from one goofy setpiece to another silly setpiece in which hijinks ensue. James Bond is no stranger to camp elements but Diamonds Are Forever dials it all the way up, it particularly stands out when you compare it to OHMSS. Diamonds Are Forever is definitely one of the most over the top and silly Bond movies, continuing in the direction that You Only Live Twice was moving. However here, its at the point where it feels like it is parodying itself. It feels like they tried to put some form gag into almost every scene, even the puns and one liners were bad. In some of the worst Bond movies, I wished that they leant more into its silliness so it could at least be fun to watch. DAF definitely did this but to the point where it made the movie worse, even occasionally painful to watch. Despite all that, those moments aren’t enough to prevent the plot from being dreadfully dull. There are some fun moments, including when Connery is driving around a moon buggy. I also think that the setting of Vegas is at least different for James Bond, if not as interesting. However on the whole, the writing is just really bad, surprising considering that it’s the same people who worked on the previous movies.

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Following George Lazenby’s departure from the role of James Bond, Sean Connery played his iconic character once more. Reportedly he was paid a large sum of money ($1.25 million) to return, and you can definitely see that, in the sense that this was really clearly a paycheck role. In all the other Bond movies, you can at least see the Bond actors putting a lot of effort into their performances, even Roger Moore in the later movies was at least trying. But Connery does not feel like his Bond from years ago. He really phones it in despite having some charm to him. It really is a shame because this is his last official outing as James Bond. I will say this though, had they not cast Connery, it really could’ve been the end of James Bond as a franchise considering the overall film. Diamonds of Forever has some of the worst Bond girls in the franchise, the main one being Jill St. John as Tiffany Case who feels really out of place here. Really though, the female characters are all terrible here, and in fact just about all the characters are bad. The role of Ernst Stravo Blofeld as previously played by Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice and Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was recast yet again. The next person to play the head of SPECTRE is Charles Gray, who interestingly already played a Bond ally in You Only Live Twice. This is very much a campy version of Blofeld and quite possibly the worst version of the character, really not adding anything at all. However he is occasionally funny in a over the top way. I guess he does briefly disguise himself in drag at once point, you can’t say that the other Blofelds ever did that. There’s a duo of random hitmen that the film keeps cutting to named Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint as played by Putter Smith and Bruce Glover, who are heavily implied to be gay. I feel like they might’ve worked better in a Roger Moore movie. While they are at least unique and memorable, they aren’t good here. All their scenes feel like an unwanted detour and distraction, just another unfunny gag.

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Diamonds Are Forever is directed by Guy Hamilton, who made Goldfinger. This should inspire confidence, it’s just a shame that his work here is disappointing. Much of the production design and similar technical elements are solid. However, there’s just a lack of energy throughout. The action scenes aren’t necessarily bad but are boring, lazy and on autopilot, as if it was just going through the similar motions of the previous movies. Even the car chase scene in Vegas and another chase scene involving a moon buggy somehow manage to feel devoid of energy. I will give props to one legitimately good scene in which Bond fights someone in an elevator, that was actually well done. As far as other technical praises go, the John Barry score is decent and the title track Diamonds Are Forever as sung by Shirley Bassey is really good, among the best songs in the franchise.

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Diamonds Are Forever is easily the worst film of the Bond series. There are moments of enjoyment, some of the over-the-top scenes can be fun to watch, and there are some genuinely good aspects like the elevator fight or the title song. However, its just all around bad on the whole. The writing is terrible with a dumb yet dull plot, incredibly goofy moments that rank amongst the franchise’s lowest points, and disappointing direction. While there have been other bad movies in the series’ Sean Connery’s phoned in performance as Bond is ultimately what cemented it for me as the absolute worst. It is honestly a miracle that the series just didn’t end here.

You Only Live Twice (1967) Review

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You Only Live Twice

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] 
Cast:
Sean Connery as James Bond
Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki
Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki
Tetsurō Tamba as Tiger Tanaka
Teru Shimada as Mr. Osato
Karin Dor as Helga Brandt/No. 11
Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Bernard Lee as M
Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny
Desmond Llewelyn as Q
Director: Lewis Gilbert

An American space capsule supposedly gets abducted by a Russian spaceship. However, as James Bond discovers that SPECTRE is responsible for it, he embarks on a mission to unearth the motive behind it.

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I didn’t know how they would hold up today, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with the Sean Connery era. However with the fourth movie Thunderball, I was rather disappointed and found it okay at best. I wasn’t sure about how the next movie You Only Live Twice would fare. Having seen it, I would not call it a good movie; it is really silly and I would not place it as the better half of James Bond, but I got a lot of enjoyment out of it.

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This script (co-written by Roald Dahl of all people) is undeniably silly. Goldfinger and Thunderball leaned into the silliness and camp, but YOLT takes it steps further. It is one of the goofier James Bond movies for sure, and was by far the goofiest at that point in the series. You can definitely tell the early signs of the series moving towards the Roger Moore era. YOLT is less of a political spy thriller and more of a silly action adventure; While this won’t work for everyone and might get too crazy for some in the second half, I found it entertaining in the wackiness and absurdity, even if it borders on self-parody. It helped that You Only Live Twice is self aware, it doesn’t play it straight faced by any means. The tone feels lighter, rather than having a serious spy plot with out of place humour. It also benefits from tight pacing and a lot of creative and ambitious moments within. Out of the Bond movies, the Austin Powers movies definitely took the most from You Only Live Twice, and it kind of makes sense when watching it.

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Although I thoroughly enjoyed You Only Live Twice, it is far from being problem free. Despite its enjoyable silliness, the story really is lacking, especially when compared to some of the previous Bond movies. There are certainly sequences and parts that are memorable, but I can’t say that the movie is memorable on the whole. Finally getting to it, You Only Live Twice is very problematic, in fact it’s probably one of the most problematic of the Bond movies and that’s saying something. There are some very weird undercurrents with its racial and gender policies. Despite being considerably less rapey here compared to Bond’s appearance in Thunderball, there really is an air of misogyny and sexism throughout that is prevalent. Then there’s the very weird racial politics. It’s pretty clear that the producers were fascinated with Japanese culture in this instalment, and wanted to make the most out of the setting, and with that came with all the stereotypes including ninjas, sumo wrestling, and Japanese-face. There’s no nice way of putting it, Bond does yellowface, which strangely makes him look more like a Vulcan than actually Asian. It is by far one of the most embarrassing moments of James Bond, and again that’s saying something.

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While Sean Connery is enjoyable to watch as James Bond as usual, compared to many of the previous films his work isn’t all that special here. He seemed a little bored and worn down, and it makes total sense that another actor played Bond after this movie. Still, he has his moments. Some of the returning Bond actors are good, like Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny, Desmond Llewelyn as Q, and Bernard Lee as M, and some of the other main supporting actors in the film are decent too. However the highlight for me is Ernst Stravo Blofeld, the main villain and the recurring antagonist for Bond as the head of SPECTRE. From his first appearance in From Russia with Love, the leader of the criminal organisation has had his face obscured, now we finally get to see the man, and the payoff was strong. Now I wouldn’t call Blofeld one of the all-time best villains by any means, I wouldn’t even say he’s the best Bond villain, however I do really like him. Part of it has to do with Donald Pleasence’s wonderful performance, who is riding a fine line. He is perfectly over the top and cartoonish (fitting for a character who has an evil lair in a volcano with a piranha pool death trap), yet still menacing. He is a memorable character, and you can definitely see why tat Dr Evil from Austin Powers was based specifically off this version of Blofeld. In some ways he is underutilised in the movie, you only see him in the final act. But I don’t think he would’ve been as effective otherwise.

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Lewis Gilbert directs You Only Live Twice, it is the first of three Bond movies he would make. It definitely loses the grounded aspects from the past movies to focus more on the action, and considering the absurd plot, it was worth it. The action set pieces are pretty good, there are some large scale sequences, including a mini helicopter chase and an elaborate set piece at Blofeld’s rocket base. The setting of Japan was a good change for a James Bond movie, on a visual level at least. There are some great locations and environments, and the film definitely takes advantage of them. It’s quite visually impressive, helped by the amazing set design. The look of the volcano lair in particular is immaculate and impressive, ranking among the best production designs for the Bond movies. The visual effects can be very uneven, but then again, it’s a 60s Bond movie, so that’s to be expected. Finally, John Barry’s musical score is typically great.

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You Only Live Twice is not exactly one of the most beloved of the James Bond movies. The plot isn’t the best, it’s a bit too silly for its own good at points, and it is undeniably problematic with its racial and gender politics. However, I still found it to be very entertaining. I enjoyed it more than Thunderball at least, especially with how over the top and absurd it is, and there are some enjoyable set pieces. I would probably place it as being mid-tier Bond, but nonetheless fun to watch.

Thunderball (1965) Review

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Thunderball

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Low level violence
Cast:
Sean Connery as James Bond
Claudine Auger as Domino
Adolfo Celi as Emilio Largo
Luciana Paluzzi as Fiona Volpe
Rik Van Nutter as Felix Leiter
Director: Terence Young

A SPECTRE agent steals two atomic bombs from a NATO plane. James Bond is assigned a mission to recover the warheads and put a stop to the evil plans of the criminal organisation.

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I have some memory of watching Thunderball for the first time many years ago. I knew it as the Bond movie with a lot of water and sharks, but I couldn’t remember much beyond that. I was pleasantly surprised by the first three films, so I went into my rewatch of Thunderball with an open mind and came out of it feeling a bit let down.

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After Goldfinger, James Bond was a lot more famous and well known. Naturally, everything including the scope and stakes are increased for the newest installment. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t quite work for me on the whole. Although there’s some enjoyment to be had, I just felt like it didn’t have the charm and fun of the first three movies. There is a sense of blandness to the storyline and most of the characters. I didn’t find myself very engaged or excited, and it was an underwhelming experience. The stakes may be grander, but you don’t really feel them. It doesn’t help that the movie slowly moves, so much of it meanders with a sluggish pacing. Also, as the first Bond movie to be over 2 hours, it manages to feel overlong. The first 40 minutes don’t have much to do with the main plot and wastes time with James Bond at a massage parlour, which in itself was a painful sequence to watch. In terms of treatment of women in Bond movies, I thought the worst instances would be in Goldfinger for a few bad moments, but Thunderball is by far the worst case, just for the opening act alone. There’s a scene where Bond sexually harasses a nurse and later blackmails her into having sex with him. This whole segment hangs over the rest of the movie and it’s hard to look past. It doesn’t help that the whole massage parlour sequence doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the plot. With all that said, Thunderball does have some entertaining moments, and occasionally there are some interesting scenes. It definitely leans more into campiness at points (including a jet pack in the opening scene) and is enjoyable for that. Some aspects are hard to take seriously like the tank full of killer sharks and the mysterious SPECTRE meetings since they’ve been parodied to death. However, it makes the movie more fun to watch at least.

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Sean Connery’s James Bond is confident and charming as usual, and thankfully gets more focus in this compared to Goldfinger. I especially loved his interactions with Desmond Llewelyn’s Q. The main Bond girl Domino as played by Claudine Auger works well enough, but was a little forgettable. Alfodo Celi plays Emil Largo, one of the most recognisable Bond villains with an eye patch and a pool full of sharks. Unfortunately, that’s all that’s going for him. He’s very forgettable and dull, and he doesn’t really feel that threatening or dangerous. Luciana Paluzzi as Largo’s henchwoman Fiona Volpe fares much better, definitely one of the highlights from the movie.

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Dr No and From Russia with Love director Terence Young returns to the franchise after Goldfinger was directed by Guy Hamilton. It is impressive on a technical level; you really feel the increased budget compared to the past 3 movies. It is very well shot, and the production design is great. The action is certainly larger, but for the most part they aren’t that thrilling. You can tell that much of the budget went into filming the underwater scenes, and to be fair it is commendable that they pulled them off. However, something I noticed when watching all the Bond movies is that even if it’s good on a technical level, it struggles with underwater sequences. Tomorrow Never Dies had one, For Your Eyes Only had one, and Thunderball is based around a lot of water so unfortunately there’s more than just one. These underwater scenes are too long, boring and slow, even during action scenes. The underwater action scenes may be impressive for the time but could get messy and can be hard to make out what is going on, with some bad camerawork and editing.

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After the solid first three James Bond movies, Thunderball feels like a notable step down. I liked some of the performances and there is fun that can be had with it. However I just couldn’t get invested in the story, not helped by the dragging pacing. It’s not bad, but outside of some key moments, I think it is rather forgettable and on the lower end of the Bond movies.

Goldfinger (1964) Review

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Goldfinger

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]Medium level violence
Cast:
Sean Connery as James Bond
Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore
Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger
Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson
Director: Guy Hamilton

MI6 agent James Bond investigates a gold-smuggling ring run by businessman Auric Goldfinger. As he delves deeper into his activities, he uncovers a sinister plan to attack Fort Knox’s gold reserve

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Goldfinger is one of the most iconic James Bond movies, some people have even declared it as the best Bond movie of all time. While I wouldn’t quite say that it’s one of my all-time favourites in the franchise, I do think that it’s a good movie, along with being an incredibly important Bond movie.

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The James Bond series started with Dr No, which was an espionage spy thriller. From Russia with Love was similar to that, but succeeded more and had a slight step towards becoming like the James Bond movies we all know today. Goldfinger however was the first movie that was fully in the James Bond formula, and in fact established it. It has a sequence in which James Bond gets gadgets from Q (Desmond Llewelyn) while plenty of other spy gadgets are in the background, along with the familiar Bond and Q banter. Q in From Russia with Love makes an appearance just to give Bond a suitcase, but here they have the classic back and forth. This even has the introduction of the Aston Martin. In terms of tone, it definitely is lighter and more humorous than the first two movies, leaning more towards camp, killer laser beams and all. It is definitely self-aware of its absurdity, the introduction scene of Pussy Galore being an example of this. At the same time, it takes itself seriously when it needs to and doesn’t come anywhere close to reaching the absurdity of the Roger Moore movies. Bond gets thrown into plenty of thrilling situations, and it starts off with a bang in the energetic opening scene. While I generally like the movie, it has its fair number of issues. It is definitely outdated, especially with the treatment of women (a particular scene with Bond in a barn with Pussy Galore sticks out). However, it still has its issues that are unrelated to when it was made. The script can be a bit expository at times, and the pacing can drag a bit, especially in the second half.

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Sean Connery is once again enjoyable to watch as James Bond, especially with the charisma, the physicality, and the one liners. With all that said, I think his performances in the previous two movies were better. Bond is just not that interesting to watch here, the vulnerability he had in From Russia with Love just isn’t here. It doesn’t help that around the middle point Bond just doesn’t do much within the plot. Nonetheless, he is good in his part. Name aside, Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore was certainly a step forward in terms of what a Bond Girl was for the series. There’s definitely some writing issues, her motivations are a little all over the place especially in the third act, but she plays the role well. Gert Fröbe makes for a memorable villain as Auric Goldfinger, despite some noticeable ADR and dubbing. Unlike Dr No., where the titular villain appears in the third act and From Russia with Love where its major villains are mostly in the background, Goldfinger is the villain from beginning to end. In a way, he is very over the top especially with his plans but both the writing and performance gives him enough qualities and moments to make him feel relatively human, preventing him from becoming a full on cartoon character. Even his henchman Oddjob, who doesn’t speak and kills people with his hat, is entertaining.

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Instead of Terence Young who directed the first two James Bond movies, Goldfinger has Guy Hamilton directing, and he did a good job. Goldfinger gets even larger in terms of spectacle compared to the last couple of movies. The action scenes are very effective and well filmed, and the set design is particularly strong. There is an increase in Bond gadgets over the last two films, and the film utilises them well. The musical score from John Barry is strong as to be expected. There’s also the Goldfinger song as sung by Shirley Bassey, which remains one of the most iconic opening Bond songs.

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Goldfinger does have some issues and I don’t quite love it as much as everyone else. Despite its problems though, it has a charm to it. The cast are pretty good, it’s quite entertaining, and it established the Bond formula, for better and for worse. There are better movies in the series, and in terms of the Connery era, I still think From Russia with Love is better, but it is still a good film.

From Russia with Love (1963) Review

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From Russia with Love

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Sean Connery as James Bond
Pedro Armendáriz as Ali Kerim Bey
Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb
Robert Shaw as Donald “Red” Grant
Bernard Lee as M
Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova
Director: Terence Young

James Bond searches for a Lektor cryptographic device that has the potential to wreak havoc in the world and stops SPECTRE, a secret crime organisation, from acquiring it.

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In my rewatches of the James Bond movies, I was looking forward to From Russia with Love, that’s because of the official Bond movies, that’s the only one I never watched. I did hear some people declare it as one of the Best Bond movies, especially of the Connery era. I finally watched it and liked it, at the very least it is definitely a level above the previous movie Dr No.

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Dr No was a very lowkey Bond movie compared to many of the later movies in the series, with heavy emphasis on the spy aspect. From Russia with Love is similar in that regard, but is better in every way. The plot is a Cold War mission, focussing more on espionage and spycraft than world ending schemes. There aren’t many Bond-esque gadgets, but James Bond does have a suitcase with many tricks, which proves to be useful. From Russia with Love isn’t quite like the Bond movies that you would expect yet, but it is definitely steps closer to the formula in the series. Plotwise, it can be a bit convoluted, but it made for a good movie and was well constructed. Also, whereas parts of Dr No’s story can be shaky, FRWL feels a lot more confident, they upped the scope and scale here. I found the plot to be interesting, mysterious and intriguing. It is a slow burn, it’s quite Hitchcockian in parts with some tense sequences, especially with a particular section on a train. The tone is serious and the film is fairly grounded, but also has some good moments of humour. It definitely has outdated aspects in the writing, but it mostly works.

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Sean Connery returns of the role of James Bond and once again is great, he’s even better here than in the last movie. It’s a more confident performance, he’s charismatic, convincingly deadly, and has plenty of witty one liners. His interpretation of the character definitely has limitations given the writing, but for what it is, he’s good. There is a better cast of characters compared to the last movie, it even has the first appearance of Q as played by Desmond Llewelyn. Daniela Bianchi is the Bond girl this time, playing Tatiana Romonova. While her story arc doesn’t have much to it (especially considering that this is an early 60s Bond movie), she’s integral to the plot, endearing and felt like a real person, along with sharing good chemistry with Connery. There’s not much depth to the villains but they are better than in the last movie. In the last movie, the antagonist Dr No mentions he’s a part of SPECTRE and that criminal organisation gets more presence here. The secretive leader Blofeld is barely seen but still has a strong presence in his scenes. The main two villains are memorable in their parts; Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb as a higher up of SPECTRE, and Robert Shaw as the first Bond henchman Red Grant, who hunts him down over the course of the movie. The latter particularly shines when he finally meets with Bond.

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Dr No director Terence Young returns to direct, and his work is definitely a step up from the last movie. You can tell that he has a much higher budget here. The action set pieces are grander and feel more fleshed out. There’s particularly a fight on a train that feels very real and is likely one of the best fights in the series. The editing and cinematography are also improved here. Some technical aspects are flawed like the ADR and some continuity errors, but that’s mostly to do with it being a movie from the 60s, you can expect little things like those.

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From Russia with Love is an improvement over the first movie in every respect, with the writing, characters, performances and the directing. It’s an effective espionage spy thriller with some great sequences. It’s a really good movie and definitely on the better side of the Bond movies.

Dr. No (1962) Review

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Dr. No

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains low level violence
Cast:
Sean Connery as James Bond
Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder
Joseph Wiseman as Dr. Julius No
Jack Lord as Felix Leiter
Bernard Lee as M
John Kitzmiller as Quarrel
Anthony Dawson as Professor R.J. Dent
Zena Marshall as Miss Taro
Eunice Gayson as Sylvia Trench
Director: Terence Young

Agent 007 decides to battle against an eccentric scientist, Dr No, who is determined to ruin the US space programme. For this purpose, he journeys to Jamaica to nip in the bud this megalomaniac peril.

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After No Time to Die I decided to rewatch the pre-Craig James Bond movies in the most illogical order, going backwards from Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan all the way back to Sean Connery and George Lazenby. Going to the Sean Connery movies was interesting, especially with seeing how the franchise started. The first film, Dr. No, is definitely very dated and I wouldn’t call it among the best Bond movies by any means. However it is pretty good and held up better than I expected.

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Having watched the post Connery Bond movies, it was interesting seeing how the Bond trademarks began on film. The James Bond movies are known for being over the top but Dr. No is not that overly campy. In fact, it is surprising how low key and simple its beginning is, Bond’s first movie is more of a proper espionage spy thriller more intrigue than large explosions. Many of the Bond trademarks aren’t here, no Q, no gadgets (outside of a gun), and no globetrotting (it takes place largely in Jamaica). As such, it was very interesting to watch. It also has a 60s old school charm to it which made it endearing to watch, even if it is outdated in many ways. I will admit that I wasn’t fully invested in the story. The pacing is all over the place, the plot can meander quite often, and the middle part of the movie is generally boring. Also, I found the conclusion to the movie to be rather disappointing.

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Sean Connery makes his debut as James Bond, he was the first actor to play him. He makes a strong impression; he is suave and delivers the witty lines excellently. At the same time, he is very believable as a dark character and cold blooded killer, being particularly realistic in the action scenes with his physicality. Connery also benefits from being front and centre in this movie. Generally, the rest of the cast are pretty good if underutilised. Ironically the weakest link is Dr. No himself, as played by Joseph Wiseman. Problematic casting and yellowface aside, the main villain shows up with 30 minutes left of the runtime. While those types of villains can work, Dr. No doesn’t leave much of an impression outside of having metal hands and apparently being really smart. Even some of the side villains like the assassins pretending to be blind are fairly weak as antagonists go.

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Terence Young directs Dr. No, and his work is pretty good. They definitely had a lower budget here compared to the later Bond movies, but they still pulled off a fair amount. Some of the technical elements still hold up well surprisingly. The green screen is definitely dated but otherwise it has good production designs and makes use of the locations in Jamacia. There are also some impressive set pieces with good action scenes. This movie also introduces the iconic James Bond theme by John Barry. The one problem is that the theme is used a bit too much throughout the movie, almost to the point of parody.

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I wouldn’t call Dr. No by any means one of the best Bond movies. It is definitely dated from a technical and writing perspective, and it can be pretty slow and boring at times, especially in the second act. However, it is definitely one of the most unique entries of James Bond considering its before it became a large and successful franchise. It’s interesting seeing it as a relatively gritty spy thriller with a focus on espionage. Additionally, it was directed well, and Sean Connery is great as James Bond.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) Review

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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence127
Cast:
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Denholm Elliott as Marcus Brody
Alison Doody as Elsa Schneider
John Rhys-Davies as Sallah
Julian Glover as Walter Donovan
Sean Connery as Henry Jones, Sr.
Director: Steven Spielberg

In 1938, after his father Professor Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery), goes missing while pursuing the Holy Grail, Professor Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr. (Harrison Ford) finds himself up against Adolf Hitler’s Nazis again to stop them from obtaining its powers.

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The main Indiana Jones trilogy is one of the most iconic cinematic trilogies of all time. After Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones goes back to familiar territory with the third instalment with The Last Crusade, but this leads to possibly the best movie in the entire series (at least close to it). Everything from the writing, direction and the performances are great, it is really entertaining and among my favourite movies.

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The movie starts off on a high note with its introduction featuring a young Indiana Jones played by River Phoenix, and it only gets better from there. It keeps you constantly entertained from beginning to end with a great adventure that never has a dull moment. With that said it, it really picks up in such a massive way from the moment that Indiana Jones meets with his father, then it’s pretty much perfect all the way right to the very end. It is also the funniest of the movies by far, with some effective comedy that hits every time, and never gets annoying like how it got to at many points in Temple of Doom. Even the slapstick really ends up being quite funny. The biggest source of comedy in this movie as I’ll get into later is the interactions between Jones and his father. One thing with Raiders of the Lost Ark is that the third act while not bad wasn’t quite as strong as the rest of the movie. The climax of The Last Crusade on the other hand is creative and exciting, and by far the best of the series.

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Harrison Ford is effortlessly great in his role of Indiana Jones, as to be expected. He sells every part of the character well, including the action and the comedy. Sean Connery was great as Jones’s father in one of his best performances (possible his best). It’s an unexpected casting considering Connery’s past roles with the likes of James Bond, but he works perfectly in here and was a perfect contrast to Ford. The dynamic and chemistry between these two just works excellently, which is good because they are a big focus of the movie from the first act onwards. The rest of the cast are good, including returning actors from the first movie with Denholm Elliott and John Rhys-Davies, and the main villain played by Julian Glover. It’s also worth noting that River Phoenix plays younger Indiana Jones for less than 10 minutes, but yet he played that part pretty much perfectly in his screentime.

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Steven Spielberg’s direction was great, it’s got a very good look throughout at the various locations. There are some great set pieces from start to finish, in great locations. From a boat chase through Venice, to a tank battle with Nazis, all of these set pieces are fantastic, and are even just slightly a step above the action from Raiders of the Lost Ark (and that’s saying a lot). The score by John Williams was great as to be expected, it’s more upbeat and triumphant compared to the other scores in the series, and it’s very memorable.

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My favourite Indiana Jones movie jumps between this and Raiders of the Lost Ark, for now I’ll put them on the same level. The direction is great, it is witty and entertaining from beginning to end, Harrison Ford and Sean Connery are excellent, and overall it very well balanced. This and Raiders of the Lost Ark are firmly among my favourite movies, and are definitely worth watching (as is the whole series).