The Top Ten James Bond Pre-Title Sequences

Today I thought that I would go through all twenty one Bond films that feature a pre-title sequence, and then choose my top ten. There were some tough decisions to make but after a long while thinking them over, here is my list of the absolute best James Bond opening sequences:

10. Die Another Day – A pretty good opener here, whilst there’s nothing that blows me away it has a solid action scene with the hovercraft chase, and then has the surprise ending where Bond doesn’t actually get away, but is led towards imprisonment and torture. That was completely unexpected, and I for one think it’s a great way to start a Bond film.

 

9. The Spy Who Loved Me – Bond’s involved in a ski chase which leads him over the edge of a cliff, but it turns out that he had a parachute strapped to his back, one that proudly displays the Union Jack right across it. This iconic moment raises what’s otherwise a good but fairly unremarkable entry, and places it into my top ten.

 

8. The World is Not Enough – The speedboat chase across the Thames is awesome, but overall this pre-title sequence does suffer from being just a bit too long. By the time this one is over, I have forgotten that we still have the credit sequence to come and that’s really not the point of these short, concise stories. Still, this one has an awful lot going for it and remains among my favourites.

 

7. Moonraker – James Bond is thrown out of an aeroplane by Jaws and isn’t given a parachute, this leads to a really great freefall struggle with another jumper over his chute, but is undercut by a really disappointing ending. Jaws’ parachute doesn’t work and so he starts flapping like a bird, and then manages to survive his fall anyway by landing on a circus tent – that’s not something I ever wanted to see. Despite the ending neutralising all of the tension in the scene before it, the stunt work is so good here that it manages to keep this one within the top ten list anyway.

6. Living Daylights – A fantastic introduction for Dalton’s Bond is proved when a paintball training exercise is interrupted by someone who decided to bring real bullets. Naturally 007 gives chase to this assassin, and chooses to leap on top of his jeep, cut his way through the tarpaulin roof, and then have a fist fight whilst the jeep veers dangerously close to a cliff’s edge. It’s quite possibly my favourite of all the Dalton action scenes across his two films, and is considerably better than his other opening in Licence to Kill.

 

5. Casino Royale – This one gave me a slight panic the first time that I saw it, demanding questions such as: ‘why is it in black and white?’ and ‘where’s the gun barrel sequence?’, but the noir tones really work well here, and when combined with the brutal bathroom murder, they really set the rest of the film up well. Of course it also goes on to deliver the gun barrel sequence in an exciting new way, and therefore takes its place high up on this list as a refreshingly inventive opener.

 

4. Tomorrow Never Dies – It takes a while to actually get to Bond, but as a couple of other openers don’t even feature him at all, I can let it off that. With an imminent missile strike on a terrorist camp, 007 has to charge in and steal a plane carrying a very deadly cargo, shoot up a load of bad guys and get the plane out of there before the missile hits. It’s all very exciting stuff, and sets up the rest of the film by simply feature an enormous amount of action, but it hasn’t quite got the charm needed to place it in the top three.

 

3. From Russia With Love – The first ever pre-title sequence in a Bond film, it starts with James Bond and a mystery man stalking each other in the dark, between them they’re armed with a gun and garrotting wire, and it makes for a unusually tense and memorable opener. It does lose a little of its power upon multiple watches, but it still remains one of the absolute best in the franchise.

 

2. GoldenEye – It’s probably the one which most strongly links into the rest of its feature film, but it also works excellently as a mini Bond adventure. Brosnan commands the screen within seconds of his first outing as Bond, and he really couldn’t have asked for a better introduction than this one, it’s even better than Dalton’s. The bungee jump alone would place this in my top ten, but everything else that follows moves this right up to second place.

 

1. Goldfinger – The best of them all; it’s as if someone perfectly condensed an entire Bond film into just a few minutes – which after all is exactly what these sequences ought to be. This one has everything; fight scenes, love scenes, Connery being a superbly cool James Bond scenes…  Also, despite condensing the core of any James Bond film into a handful of minutes, it never feels overstuffed or sloppy – it’s just a really impressive piece of work. And just too really seal this one’s case for being the winner it features two iconic Bond moments; the first being Connery’s cigarette lighting, and the other, him having a perfectly dry tuxedo hidden underneath his wetsuit. There’s no doubt at all in my mind that this one’s the winner.

Don’t forget to vote in the right hand sidebar for the all time best James Bond film!

16 comments

  1. Goldfinger and Casino Royale are my two favorites. Nice list.

    1. Thanks ckckred, yep both of them are excellent openers. Ranking the top 6 was particularly difficult here!

  2. Great post, I always love the pre title sequences, they really set up the mood of the film. Nice list of classic openings.

    1. Thanks, I find it quite interesting that both Die Another Day and Moonraker make the list, even though overall they are two of the Bond films that I dislike the most.

  3. Excellent excellent list. I agree with all of them, and dont think that there are any I would say you missed, or any that should have been excluded! I would quibble with some of the ordering here and there, but with a list this sharp, it feels like nitpicking.

    Great job with this!

    1. Thanks a lot! This one was a lot of fun to do and I’m glad that you think it was so accurate.
      One question, despite the order being a little off for you, would you agree that Goldfinger takes the top spot?

  4. 70srichard · · Reply

    You are right that the Moonraker sequence is undermined by the jokey use of Jaws at the end. The Spy Who Loved Me Parachute jump had both chutzpah and visual splendor. They really do the jump and don’t cheat on it and the Union Jack was unexpected and a nice humorous touch that does not go over the top.

    1. Yep, The Spy Who Loved Me jump is a stand out moment for the reasons that you say, I just personally am not all that affected by the rest of the pre-credit sequence, meaning that it isn’t placed higher on my list. It’s certainly an impressive moment though.

  5. Mr. Bond · · Reply

    I am sorry, I respect your opinion, but for me it is a bad list.
    All Brosnan pre-title-sequences are so overloaded with action and explosions, so they simply don’t touch me. BORING!
    The best pre-title-sequences were during the Moore-era, simply because they had very good action stunts and ideas! Also the two Dalton and a few Connery films are among the best.

    1. Moonraker
    Ok, Jaws survices, but as you wrote…the rest is fantastic.

    2. The Spy Who Loved Me
    Classic. Super ski chase with the Bond ´77 theme.

    3. For Your Eyes Only
    Bond at Tracys Grave, perfect helicopter stunt.

    4. The Living Daylights
    Perfect introducing of Dalton and very good action scene.

    5. Octopussy
    The Acrostar!

    6. Thunderball
    Good and suspenseful fight between Bond and Col. Bouvar.

    7. A View To A Kill
    Ski chase, snowboard, California Girls…what else?

    8. Goldfinger
    Shocking :-)

    9. GoldenEye
    Best Brosnan pre-title.

    10. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
    Another super introducing to a new bond actor. I like the mysterious way to introduce him. Driving in his car, lightning his cigarette and “this never happened to the other fella.”

    1. No problem, it’s always fun to talk Bond!

      The Brosnan ones are full on but… I don’t know… they work for me. I see your point though.

      I like your list but disagree with a couple, particularly Thunderball and For Your Eyes Only. FYEO has a good stunt but the weak Blofeld exit and his bizarre final line ruins it for me.

      On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – I agree with you about the introduction, it’s a really nice idea and is executed well. I however fall into that camp of Bond fans who hates that line and so it couldn’t make my list!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Gotta say, this is an excellent list – I pretty much agree with all of it and the order too. Nice to see The Living Daylight’s opener get some love as people tend to forget about it. Brosnon’s Bonds aren’t great otherall (with the exception of Goldeneye) but they tended to have the boldest and biggest openers – you get the sense that they’re all trying to out do one another. And I had pretty much the same reaction to Casino Royale in the cinema :) great list!

    Also, I don’t know if this post pre-dates Skyfall but that’s a fantastic start too and well worth a mention.

    1. Thank you very much! I’ve been on a Living Daylights craze for a little while now, I sort of rediscovered my love for that one. It’s too often overlooked or forgotten about, and that includes, as you say, the opener.
      Brosnan’s are odd, he was the Bond I grew up with so I have a certain amount of fondness for his films, but only GoldenEye really ranks amongst the best Bond films. Maybe The World is Not Enough as well…

      Yeah this does predate Skyfall, in fact it’s part of a series of posts leading up to Skyfall’s release! When I get around to doing an updated version of this list it will surely make it onto this list, it was an excellent opener!

  7. Victor De Leon · · Reply

    Great list! I love TWINE pre title sequence. Glad to see it get some love and the rest of your picks are solid. Good choices. But then again, I’m biased. I love all things 007 anyway.

    1. Thank you! We are on the same page then – anything Bond related and I’m there. I was surprised to see both Moonraker and Die Another Day making it into my list, but despite what comes after both of those films have solid openers!

  8. Rick in Chicago · · Reply

    I enjoyed reading your comments and agree that the Goldfinger opener is the gold standard.
    I hope you will enjoy a few thoughts from the perspective of someone (me) who saw almost every Bond movie in a theater on opening day!

    DR. NO: The killings of Strangways and his assistant would’ve been a fine opener teaser, perhaps with a coda where M is informed and mutters something about having to find James Bond. I can imagine a “redux” version of the film in which it plays this way.

    FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE: Absolutely shocking, because the expectation when you see this not knowing what’s really going on is that you think “007” is going to deal with the stalker, so what gives? This had enormous impact.

    GOLDFINGER: Perfectly executed. You don’t want to look away for a second. A detail that we thought was tres cool in 1964 was Bond seeing the attacker in the girl’s eyeball, then using her as a shield.

    THUNDERBALL: Almost 50 years later, I still remember how hard my heart pounded during the fight. Study it shot by shot and see how many different things transpire in a very short time. Fast-cut editing like that was still not common at that time. Then, when he got away using the jetpack, that was absolutely jaw-dropping.

    YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE: Looks cheesy now in the wake of effects work like Gravity, but at the time you couldn’t help but shudder when that astronaut’s lifeline was cut. And then, once again creating the illusion that Bond was dead, the film had your absolute attention.

    ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE: In the wake of the introduction of Lazenby, it was savvy to show us the familiar faces of M, Q, and Moneypenny, then reveal the car and the music. The scene on the beach is atmospheric and exciting. It was moreso in 1969. It was downright transporting. Then, when that “This never happened to the other fellow” line that you don’t like occurred, the opening night audience roared, sat back and relaxed, and had a great time. The line was so unexpected that it just seemed as audacious as hell and tapped into what was on everybody’s mind…he’s not Sean Connery.

    DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER: On a cold December morning, we got in line at the Woods theater in downtown Chicago between 7 and 8 a.m. to make sure we could get a seat for the 9 a.m. opening day first showing at the sole theater that you could see the film in until it would move to neighborhood theaters months later. The pre-credits sequence may seem cheap and campy and lame now. In the Zeitgeist of then, and anticipating Sean’s return, every shot had us in the palm of its hand, and when the film was over, we remained in our seats to see it again immediately.

    LIVE AND LET DIE: We can probably agree that this was a dud. The absence of Bond may have been okay if the scenes themselves were more compelling. One “moment” that played well at the time was the shtick with the coffin.

    THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN: Even in 1974 this felt cheesy, and I remember a friend shaking his head and commenting about “Guy Hamilton gangsters” which we’d seen already in Goldfinger and Diamonds.

    THE SPY WHO LOVED ME: The opening night crowd just went crazy, and we all know that it was because of the punctuation of the Rick Sylvester stunt.

    MOONRAKER: The mid-air grappling over the parachute was flabbergasting because of the realization that we were watching people in free fall actually executing this. With different closure, this might have been number one.

    FOR YOUR EYES ONLY: The action with the helicopter is wonderful. And the way Conti’s music kicks in only elevates it for me. But then, the closure shifts from heart-stopping to cheesy and it felt that way even at the time of release.

    OCTOPUSSY: This played well, with a pretty good balance of the exciting and the amusing.

    A VIEW TO A KILL: Many nice bits here. For me, the use of California Girls would have been lovely shown as a clip at the cast party, but utterly destroys any suspension of disbelief you had going on in the opening minutes.

    THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS: Wonderful. Just wonderful. Wonderful then. Wonderful now.

    LICENCE TO KILL: I remember the sadism of Sanchez being unsettling and taking away from the usual light-hearted, fun feeling that you expected from the pre-credits sequence. Relished the picking up of the parachutes as though they were wedding dress trains…a cute visual pun that always makes me smile.

    GOLDENEYE: The bungee jump is certainly one of the greatest stunts ever and served as immediate gratification in the wake of our having gone six years without a Bond film. But I still can hear in my head the wave of groans from the opening night crowd when Bond enters the plane from his free fall. Within minutes we went from “Wow, somebody really did this” to a collective reaction of “Give me a break.”

    TOMORROW NEVER DIES: I’ve always been fond of this opener, which I feel could have come off as cheesier, but didn’t. The gravitas of Dench throughout the sequence gives a good assist in my opinion.

    THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH: I love the boat chase, which has so many genuinely exciting thrills that it avoids falls into the pigeons-doing-doubletakes mode of a certain era! It certainly pumps one with expectation.

    DIE ANOTHER DAY: Rousing on a first viewing, perhaps losing magic on repeated viewings.

    CASINO ROYALE: Ultimately refreshing and now classic, on that first viewing, not seeing the gunbarrel and seeing black-and-white, I had a brief concern that we’d sat ourselves down in the wrong theater. It did create a nice expectation that Craig’s Bond would be a badass!

    QUANTUM OF SOLACE: Disappointing in that it seemed a bit too fast-cut (though I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just getting old)…I was thinking, “let me savor all this dangerous car shenanigans more, please.” Found the punchline of White being in the trunk to be a nice payoff, but the overall scene felt (pun intended) truncated.

    SKYFALL: Yeah, baby!

    1. Firstly thanks for taking the time to write such a great comment – I really appreciate it!
      It’s very interesting to hear that from someone who was there at so many opening nights, it’s the sort of insight which you can’t normally get and so thanks for sharing. You’ve made me pretty envious of your experiences!

      I agree that the killing of Strangways would be a perfectly fine teaser. I don’t know if people would be happy with them editing it like that, but it’s an interesting thought. I can imagine somebody doing that on YouTube.

      I wish I could have seen the impact that some of these had, like From Russia With Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I remember Skyfall was such a joy on opening night (the only Bond film I have currently seen on its opening night), the audience cheered at sights like the DB5 and we all had a really excellent time. Such a special cinema experience, especially as it was the anniversary year.

      It seems that we see eye to eye on a lot of these! Quantum is too fast cut, and I say that as someone in their twenties! It’s just an incoherent mess, and is very disappointing. I love that you like The Living Daylights one so much. That film is rapidly threatening to become my favourite Bond film. I just keep re-watching it and showing it to people, and I find myself liking it more and more every time.

      Thanks again for commenting, hope to see you around some more!

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