Teasers: The Best and Worst of Bond Openings

In celebration of the recent announcement that Daniel Craig will be returning for the next Bond movie in 2019, I thought it would be fun to rank the “teasers” of each official Bond entry, otherwise known as pre-titles sequences. The franchise has become famous for rousing openings before its trademark title song, but while the movies, the actors, and the villians are often discussed, the teasers are rarely compared (or at least I’ve never thought much about it before now). Here we go:

24. Dr. No (1962)

The first Bond movie is on the bottom mainly because it has no teaser; the now-famous gunbarrel walk goes right into the titles. If you count the proceeding “Three Blind Mice” scene, even with its twist at the end, bereft of Bond or any action to speak of, it’s not notable in any way.

23. Live and Let Die (1973)

You’ll quickly notice a pattern: the less Bond, the worse the sequence. LALD doesn’t feature Bond at all, instead opting for increasingly bizarre and seemingly unconnected assassinations (one using a painfully obvious rubber snake). The New Orleans funeral is good for a chuckle, but that’s about it.

22. You Only Live Twice (1967)

The majority of this opening is made up of rather unconvincing space models, which is admittedly forgivable considering the time. When Bond makes his brief appearance, Sean Connery looks as bored as he will for the rest of the movie, and his “assassination” is the third time we’ve seen Bond “killed” in the opening in just the first five movies, so it lacks any real punch.

21. A View to a Kill (1985)

The brief snowboarding opening features Bond prominently, but it would be better if it didn’t. Between a Roger Moore that is far too old for the part (“about 400 years,” he would later say), use of a Beach Boys song during the only decent stunts, and a cringeworthy seduction of a woman seemingly a third of Moore’s age, this is one of the series’ most embarrassing moments.

20. Licence to Kill (1989)

Despite featuring an impressive aerial manuever that would later inspire the rousing opening to The Dark Knight Rises, this sequence falls short not primarily for being undercooked, but for being rather upsetting. Franz Sanchez is an unusually realistic villain, and his extreme violence against his girlfriend and her lover at the very start of the movie saps the usual sense of fun we’re used to having before the titles begin.

19. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

How you feel about this opening largely depends on how you feel about cheeky one-liners and the random inclusion of Blofeld (a “Take That!” to an upcoming rival Bond franchise). Personally, I find it fun in its own way, especially considering the finely photographed aerial stunts aboard and outside of an aggressively-flown helicopter. As for the silly concept and dialogue, I can only say that taking any of Moore’s films too seriously is a doomed endeavor.

18. The Living Daylights (1987)

While a little underwhelming, Dalton’s debut is handled better than his sophomore effort. Bond’s face is deliberately hidden until the story gets moving, at which point he chases down an assassin before falling off a cliff (two separate parachute jumps in this sequence) and nearly landing on top of a girl looking for a “real man”. It’s almost too Bondian to handle, making for a proper, if lukewarm, intro.

17. Moonraker (1979)

Yet another opening featuring skydiving, and probably the one that makes the best use of it. The camera literally falls with the subjects as they fight for a parachute in midair, making for a very cinematic and energetic opening. This would be ranked higher for sheer audacity if not for its logic-free setup (why not just throw him out of the plane?) and the cartoonish, left-field return of Jaws from the previous film.

16. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

While lacking an appearance by Bond (not including a rather impressive mannequin), the fun house sequence isn’t a total loss. Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga is apparently double-crossed and has to retrieve his titular gun from a funhouse before a mafia hitman catches him. This bookends nicely with the finale and is a solid introduction to a villain that unfortunately will be wasted throughout the rest of the movie.

15. Octopussy (1983)

This opening seems unremarkable until you realize that the minijet is not a prop, but an actual working aircraft. While it includes some trademark Moore moments, like the jet hidden in a horse trailer (complete with a horse’s rear end sticking out of the back), this one loses points for its somewhat racist suggestion that anyone could mistake Roger Moore for a Latin American general.

14. The World is Not Enough (1999)

At the time, it was the longest teaser in franchise history at 11 minutes (now eclipsed), but the extended time just allows for bigger and better stunts, starting with a brief fight and a leap out of a window and culminating in a speedboat chase that literally goes through London. It’s not quite as exciting as it could be, but it’s great fun and top-notch stunt work, and ending on a rare down note was a bold choice.

13. Spectre (2015)

If you were wondering where more the recent movies were, that would be because they’re better quality than many earlier efforts. Spectre uses editing tricks a bit too liberally at first, faking a long tracking shot and a collapsing building, but it culminates in a struggle for control of a stunt helicopter against a backdrop of thousands in Mexico City, so the scale and style are appropriate and a welcome return to form for the franchise.

12. Die Another Day (2002)

The movie gets a bad rap, and rightfully so, but its unique opening offers a setup for a much better movie. It uses some obvious bluescreen, unfortunate foreshadowing of the movie about to play out, but Bond’s infiltration and quick destruction of a North Korean base, followed by a hovercraft battle on a mine field, pulls no punches and delivers the mix of fun and violence we’ve come to expect from the series.

11. Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Connery’s return to the role is light on stunts and heavy on attitude, but watching him beat up lackeys until he finds Blofeld is more fun than it should be, especially when he finally catches his prey. It’s not the most memorable opening, but when it was released and moviegoers saw Connery doing what he does best again on screen, it probably was one of the most exciting.

10. Quantum of Solace (2008)

Casino Royale is a near-perfect Bond movie, but considering that it includes and then wantonly destroys a gorgeous Aston Martin, it lacks a good car chase. QoS provides the remedy right from the start, featuring a brief, frenetic, incredibly choreographed chase that begins with Bond doing a flat spin so that he can rip the door off of his car. The messy editing hides some of the excellent cinematography, but it’s a heart-pumping sequence that exemplifies Craig’s run on the series.

9. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Touting a large budget after the success of its predecessor, TND makes use of it as Bond blows up everything in sight at an arms bazaar and thwarts a potential nuclear disaster. The aerial fight at the end is more models and CGI than anything, but it looked convincing at the time and is just silly and over-the-top enough (why did the plane explode, exactly?) for a rousing start to a film similarly action-packed.

8. Thunderball (1965)

Opening on a coffin marked “JB” (not to worry; it doesn’t mean what you think), this sequence sees Bond confront a personal adversary with a well-paced brawl and a jetpack escape. Like the minijet in Octopussy, it’s easy to write off that stunt until you learn that the jetpack is absolutely real. Even today, it’s an impressive moment and a great way to remind the audience that Bond movies are a one-of-a-kind experience.

7. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

For the first time, the series has to introduce audiences to a new Bond, and it nails it. George Lazenby saves a damsel in distress from suicide, then shows his face and delivers the trademark “Bond, James Bond.” The ensuing fight shows a level of physicality not seen before in the series along with a quick-cutting style that’s far ahead of its time. The comical breaking of the fourth wall at the end to acknowledge the change either makes or breaks the whole sequence depending on how you feel, but like the rest of the film, it’s both bold and memorable.

6. GoldenEye (1995)

One of the most unique openings, as it begins with a nine-year flashback to a Cold War operation that casts a shadow over the characters for the rest of the story. Despite flying bullets and a climactic explosion, the intensity of the sequences lies in the drama of Bond losing a friend and the cleverness with which Bond saves himself. It’s capped by some dodgy projection shots during the freefall, but the preceding motorcycle jump off of a cliff is as visually arresting as anything we’ve seen to that point.

5. From Russia With Love (1963)

The first teaser in franchise history is relatively low-key and uncharacteristically moody, featuring the apparent death of Bond at the hands of a master assassin. The startling visual perfectly sets up the danger Bond faces, and while it’s less thrilling than teasers to come, it suits its movie perfectly and remains one of the boldest Bond moments to date.

4. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Just when it seems as though Bond might have overstayed his welcome with audiences, a pitch-perfect opening sequence puts the series right back on track. From the horror of the submarine captain’s face to the Triple X reveal to the mountaintop ski chase, it’s a reminder of all the great things the series can be right when it seems to have forgotten itself. When the crowning moment arrives and the Union Jack parachute opens, it’s difficult not to say aloud, “God save the queen.”

3. Casino Royale (2006)

The first opening of the rebooted Bond is the most idiosyncratic by far: no gun barrel (at first), black and white, two scenes cut together, claustrophobic settings, and no major stunts outside a brief bathroom brawl. Mood and tight editing carry this one forward, showcasing the many sides of Daniel Craig’s new Bond in just a few short snippets. It’s not only the shot in the arm that the series needs, but an example of masterful filmmaking never equated with the series before this moment.

2. Skyfall (2012)

Clocking in at 12 minutes, this opening nevertheless features a single, focused chase sequence through the streets, across rooftops and onto a train where a backhoe somehow becomes both a shield and a weapon. The intensity of the sequence ramps up gradually, culminating in the best use of Bond “dying” since From Russia with Love. It’s the most story-driven of them all without sacrificing thrills or feeling bloated, a balancing act almost unmatched in the franchise. Almost…

1. Goldfinger (1964)

What isn’t perfect about this teaser? It’s a mini-Bond movie with almost no dialogue, and Connery floats through it as cool as can be.  It has no connection to the main plot and doesn’t need to. Iconic Bond moments occur effortlessly, such as the fake duck in the scuba gear, Bond’s use of the femme fatale as a shield, and the “shocking” conclusion.Just like the rest of the film, this became the template for Bond movies for decades, and for good reason. This is early Bond in a nutshell.

What do you think makes a great Bond teaser?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s