I’ve mentioned it a million times before, but my partner is a massive James Bond fan, and is probably the most fanatical Bond fan I have ever known in my entire life. He does a marathon of the films approximately twice per year (sometimes more), and since we live together, I generally get to marathon the films as well. As of today, he’s up to the most recent Skyfall (2012) (currently paused somewhere in the middle), so I’ve had the opportunity to see pretty much all of them all over again.
Call me crazy, but I almost love the Bond opening title sequences as much as I love the films themselves. I love the sequences as a visual representation of a summary of the themes and motifs of the films, and I also love that the sequences are quite unique to the Bond series. After watching a particularly excellent opening title sequence, I decided to rank my favourites amongst the twenty-three canon Bond films.
In no particular order, here are my top seven opening title sequences from the Bond films. (Note: these aren’t my top seven Bond theme songs… that’s a different list entirely!)
Live and Let Die (1973)
One of my favourite Bond films also has one of my favourite opening title sequences! The flames, the voodoo motif, the magical-looking sparks… this is probably one of the more artistic-feeling sequences, possibly due to the simplicity of its imagery and the resulting distillation of the film’s themes. I love the faces that suddenly burst into skulls, it’s so badass yet is also nicely representative of the aforementioned voodoo themes, and the magical sparks give the whole opening title sequence that mystical feel that the film also has. The sequence has the silhouettes of those sexy dancing females like most/all of the other sequences, but these ones seem different as they are dancing in an abstract fashion and one of them even looks like she’s running for help. I particularly love the image of the burning skull with the naked woman over it, then with the praying hands over the top of that. So weird, love it.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
This is actually the opening title sequence that inspired me to write this post. I am really not a fan of Quantum of Solace as a film, but I love this sequence. Since the action of the film takes place in the Bolivian desert, we see a lot of sand, such as a giant naked woman emerging from the sand whilst Bond walks around her. But I really love the use of what looks like an astronomy/star map revolving around the sand world below. I love the font for the titles and the vector animation for Daniel Craig’s Bond. The visuals in this sequence are constantly revolving and moving about at a dizzying pace, as if either the world is spinning at a faster rate or we are dizzied from dehydration after being stuck in the desert. There’s also a great part where we see the classic silhouettes of naked dancing ladies through what feels like a Zoetrope, with Bond in the middle. The use of light is so cool in this one, with some interesting rainbow effects throughout.
Dr No (1962)
The very first opening title sequence and one of the best, some might say this one is boring but I disagree. It’s certainly simplistic, with the graphic dots and fonts, but it feels so retro and cool; like something out of a French New Wave film. We do get to see the silhouettes of the dancing ladies but this time they’re in colour and it feels like a super fun dance-off rather than a seductive performance. The music over the top is the classic Bond theme, and I think these visuals are perfect for it – simple imagery to complement the music as no visuals could ever outshadow that classic theme.
This is another opening title sequence that immediately popped into my head as soon as I started compiling favourites. I really like Goldeneye, and this sequence is such a cool representation of that film with the Communist imagery such as the hammer and sickle, stars, Communist flags, and statues of Stalin and Lenin floating about. Not to mention, the statues of Stalin and Lenin have naked ladies dancing and stretching seductively on top of them, which is just great. What I like the best is the two-faced lady who is representative of the Janus crime syndicate in the film. A gun emerges from one of the ladies’ mouth, and the whole thing just looks so creepy and weird, but it also feels appropriate within the context of the sequence. Not to mention, there is an actual golden eye featured, which is nicely literal.
From Russia With Love (1963)
This one is pretty simple, with the credits being projected on top of what looks to be belly-dancing ladies. Nothing else here really, just names in light projected in different colours onto several arms, legs, torsos and behinds. I really like the simplicity of this one. It’s not overtly sexual like some of the other sequences, but it captures the general sexiness of the Bond films well.
This is probably one of the longest sequences in the series, which means that it’s packed to the gills with themes and symbols. When I first re-watched Skyfall I was particularly impressed by a certain clue as to the ending of the film (hint: when Judi Dench’s name appears). This sequence is animated beautifully, particularly during the parts where Bond is shooting at mysterious enemies whilst in some sandy ruins. I think at times this one can feel too cluttered with too much stuff (which is why I also enjoy simple sequences like Dr No and From Russia With Love), but I really enjoy this one because it is constantly entertaining – there’s always something beautiful to look at. This one is also particularly macabre as from the viewer’s point of view we enter Bond’s bullet hole and see blood raining down on his childhood home. We also get to see some awesome fire to contrast against the water theme, and some gorgeous Chinese dragons since Bond spends some time in Shanghai and Macau in the film. As aforementioned, this is all beautifully animated, which tends to be a theme with the opening title sequences of the Craig era.
Casino Royale (2006)
So this top seven list has been fairly Daniel Craig heavy, however I believe this speaks to the creativity and innovation with which his opening title sequences tend to be made. I think Casino Royale‘s may be my very top favourite because I love the card and casino motif, which is probably the perfect motif to use given the high-stakes poker game that takes place in the titular casino in Monaco. The sequence uses the imagery of a deck of cards in such an amazing way, such as the different suits being used as weapons, imagery of a vein being cut open and red hearts pouring out, spades and diamonds being shot out as bullets. There’s a clever moment where a man bleeds out and the initials ‘CR’ roll out in a classy casino-style monogram. There are so many little moments in this sequence which give you those little “aha!” moments. It’s just generally so clever, which causes me to rank it as number one (even though I said this list was in no particular order, this one’s definitely at the top!).
As a clarification, I decided to do a top seven of the opening title sequences because I couldn’t keep my list to five and thought seven would tie in nicely to Bond’s 007 status. What are your favourite opening title sequences from the Bond films? I’m really interested to know since it seems like everyone has one that stands out as a favourite!