Aug 14, 2010

Top Ten Bond Pre-Title Sequences: Part I

A triumphant mix of action, adventure and some sexiness, the James Bond pre-title sequences are like little films in themselves. Kicking off with the classic gunbarrel shot, they set mood for excitement, often lay some groundwork for the film or at the very least give us a taste of how awesome 007 is going to be this time around, and lead in to some kick-ass naked ladies during the title song.

I present the Top Ten Bond Pre-Title Sequences (Part I):

#10 Licence To Kill, 1989

A Daniel Craig before his time, Timothy Dalton turned the "gritty" knob up to 11 and let fly in this, his second and final Bond film. The pre-title here certainly gives hints as to what's to come - a vendetta flick set against the backdrop of the brutal drugs trade - but it also turns on the fluff, delivering the sweetest sequence in Bond history. On their way to his Florida wedding, CIA agent Felix Leiter and his best man Bond get redirected to take down Mexican drug baron Sanchez. Felix's fiance Della circles the church several times while he and Bond shoot themselves some baddies, and pull off a daring mid-air light plane capture. It ends with them parachuting into the ceremony from a helicopter, before the swelling strings of Michael Kamen's theme music come in. Awwww, how romantic. Pity it all goes to hell once Gladys Knight stops singing.

Uncomfortable moment: Sanchez whipping his runaway girlfriend Lupe as her lover has his heart cut out in the background.

#9 Goldfinger, 1964

This sequence begins with Bond sneakily swimming into a Mexican drug lord's lair using a snorkel disguised as a seagull, and just keeps getting better. Slick and quick, Bond makes his way into a cushy-looking silo, lays down a few metres of explosives and a detonator, then runs away to establish an alibi. How does he make it to the local cafe in time? Why, by unzipping his dry suit to reveal a dapper white tuxedo, of course. Suitably droll, he has a brief exchange with a contact at the bar, before exchanging briefs with the saucy table dancer. But their tryst is short-lived when he's attacked by an assassin. A struggle, a fall into a bathtub, a flick of an electric fan, and we finish with one of the best Connery bond puns: "Shocking. Positively shocking". It doesn't have anything to do with the subsequent film, but you just can't get more classic, positively classic.

Genius moment: Bond realises the assassin is coming for him when he NOTICES THE REFLECTION IN HER EYES. Now that's a super-spy in action.

#8 Goldeneye, 1995

Goldeneye was the first Bond film I saw at the cinema, and at the time the thrill of finally seeing 007 on the big screen got me more excited than when I received Madonna's Erotica album for Christmas when I was 12. Beginning with the epic sight of the Verzasca Dam in Switzerland (doubling for a fictional USSR chemical weapons facility), it features a brilliant bungee jump off the dam wall, a second Double-O agent, and a fantastic cat-and-mouse shoot 'em up against the Russkys. We see our new Bond, Pierce Brosnan, and get an insight into his character - forever scarred by being unable to save his friend and colleague Alex Trevelyn. Finally, as we approach the 10 minute mark, Bond makes his escape by jumping a motorbike off a cliff and freefalling after a small plane. He climbs in, regains control, then soars over the facility as it explodes into glorious fire. Cue Tina Turner. It wasn't my memory misleading me - it really is THAT DAMN GOOD.

Genius moment: Bond getting past the massed armed forces of Mother Russia by wheeling a trolley full of explosive gas tanks in front of him.

#7 Live and Let Die, 1971

Mysterious deaths everywhere! This pre-title sequence shows some of the spooky, freaky and downright cool methods of secret agent execution that gangsters got up to in the early 1970s. From the earpiece electrocution of a UN official, to the terrifying voodoo ritual sacrifice of a scientist, the Live and Let Die opener remains a spine-tingling indulgence. The most outstanding part however is the stabbing death of an agent on the streets of New Orleans; the funeral procession he had been observing becomes a carnivale-type celebration once pallbearers drop their coffin over his body and magically vanish it. The whole thing is so unnerving, when it begins to happen again later in the movie - and this time involving Bond - you really do gasp with delicious fear. And that's a mark of a great pre-title sequence.

Scary yet hilarious moment: the bright green snake the voodoo priest forces to bite the agent looks completely fake. Also, you cannot even see a bite mark on his neck; and according to the handy site Snakes on Film ('cause there was a niche there that needed filling) it would be unlikely for that kind of snake to even have venom.

#6 Thunderball, 1965

It seems like a slow start. A funeral for a SPECTRE operative? A French chateau and some dowdy mourners? Yawn. But wait, what's that? Colonel Jacques Bouvar is not in fact dead, rather, he's disguised as his own widow? And Sean Connery's punching him in the face? All of a sudden, I know I'm going to like this film. The mano-a-mano-in-womano-outfit fight is glorious, a lot of two-fisted action and crockery destruction. And then, bad guy dead, Bond takes off across the roof of the chateau and straps himself into a GODDAMNED JET PACK. How did it get there? How did he know he was going to be able to get to where it was? How is it several henchman fire shots at him as he flies off but fail to aim at the easy target of 007's dangling legs? These are all pesky nuisance questions and you should shut up and watch the GODDAMNED JET PACK. After Bond meets his glamorous assistant (and stows the jetpack in the boot of the DB5), he spoils the party for three attackers by turning the Aston Martin's water jets on them, leading beautifully into the watery blue opening credits and the brassy sounds of Tom Jones. Drag queens and jet packs. What more do you want, people?

Genius moment: After dispatching Bouvar with a poker, Bond pauses to grab flowers from a vase, and toss them over his corpse. If you can picture that "kiss your fingers then throwaway your hand and say mwah" gesture, that's what I'm doing right now.

Stay tuned for the Top Five!


  1. Great stuff. Have a soft spot for the intro of Goldeneye because it was a pretty awesome stage on the Nintendo 64 game version. Licence to Kill was the first Bond I watched - probably when it came out on TV in the early 90s - and I actually liked it. But Dalton was a wet fish as a Bond.

  2. Don't judge me - but I've never seen a whole Bond movie. Just not my thing... that said, the opener above for Live and Let Die was pretty damned sexy.

  3. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe For Your Eyes Only was the silliest.

  4. Okay, well I guess Bond piloted the jetpack up there to get in in the first place. My question is why does James Bond need to wear a safety helmet? He's JAMES BOND!!

  5. Spy Hard had the best Bond pisstake opening sequence.

  6. Dan - the only reason James Bond wore a safety helmet was that the stunt guy flat out refused to do it without, despite the producers' pleading.