After a lengthy consideration (while daydreaming on the tube this morning), here is my list of the 10 best opening sequences in James Bond films… Let me know if I’ve missed out your favourite.
10. Casino Royale. A black-and-white, film-noir-ish prologue is Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond. He dispassionately executes a rogue station chief, while in flashback we see his first kill: a brutal, scrappy brawl in a gents toilet.
9. The Living Daylights. A new 007 is introduced in a fun action sequence filmed in Gibraltar. There’s skydiving, a terrific chase down the mountain, and the main plot gets kicked into gear.
8. Live and Let Die. A moody, strange opening that doesn’t actually feature Bond (so we have to wait until after Paul McCartney’s song before we see Roger Moore for the first time). Several British agents are bumped off in macabre ways.
7. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Another 007 debut, as George Lazenby is introduced. He’s talked about before we see him, then shot only in extreme close-ups as he drives along a coastal road. After he saves a woman from drowning, we get a proper look at him. But after he’s had a brutal fight with some goons, the woman runs off. Bond jokes that, “This never happened to the other fella…”
6. Tomorrow Never Dies. A muscular action sequence featuring 007 out in the field and M and others monitoring the situation back in Whitehall. David Arnold’s sustained music cue is immense.
5. Spectre. A stunning, elaborate, four-minute take starts the film very stylishly indeed.
4. Goldfinger. The first prologue to feature Bond, this is a cool little self-contained mission. 007 climbs out of a lake in a wetsuit, sneaks into one of production designer Ken Adam’s flamboyant sets, rigs some explosives, takes off his wetsuit to reveal an immaculate white suit, walks into a busy bar where a sexy woman is doing a sexy dance… and doesn’t flinch as the nearby building explodes. You sense that the Bond movies have spent 50 years trying to replicate this level of audacity. And the sequence hasn’t finished: Bond has a chat, a seduction, a fight and a pithy pay-off before Shirley Bassey takes a lungful of air…
3. GoldenEye. Another debut, as Pierce Brosnan plays Bond for the first time. Like in The Living Daylights and On Her Majesty’s, the direction teases us by not revealing his face at first. 007 breaks into a 1980s Soviet power station, a feat that includes an enormous bungee jump down the face of a dam. The movie’s plot is set up and there are moments of humour too. Great stuff.
2. The Spy Who Loved Me. HE SKIIS OFF A FUCKING MOUNTAIN.
1. The World is Not Enough. The original plan was for the film’s first scene (Bond meets corrupt banker, has a punch-up, then jumps out of a window) to be the pre-titles sequence. However, the scene scripted to take place directly after the titles was so huge in scale and impact that it was moved to before the song. Bond has to chase a sexy female agent, who’s just assassinated a friend of M’s. He jumps in a gadget-heavy speedboat and pursues her down the Thames. The stunts are witty and impressive; the whole thing is really well edited; and the music is tremendous. It’s also fascinating as a historical document – some of the locations (the Isle of Dogs, Greenwich Peninsula) have changed hugely in the last 17 years.