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.
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