The 7 best James Bond pre-title sequences ever

A week or so ago I was thinking about which James Bond pre-titles would make it onto my list and decided to ask what other people thought using social media channels. The idea wasn’t to poll followers for a definitive list of their favourite PTS, rather to remind me of any that I might overlook otherwise.

Obviously, with 22 films to date the number of possible permutations means that the chances are slim that the top 7 listed here match yours exactly. And while they may be considered to be in order of merit, that can change over time and so it only qualifies as the definitive list for today.

So here it is; The James Bond Dossier’stop (00)7 pre-title sequences from the first 22 James Bond films.

001 Goldfinger

The reason the GoldfingerPTS works so well for me is that it has everything a James Bond adventure needs but compressed into a short time frame.

The PTS was inspired by the novel, when James Bond is pondering an assignment he has just completed in Mexico while waiting to board his plane bound for London. The film doesn’t follow the few details we learn of that mission precisely, but both are to do with Bond closing down a heroin smuggling operation.

“Shocking… Positively shocking”

It has moments of Bond-cool, action, a girl, some gadgetry and humour and it contains an entire story from beginning to end; and it is followed by the most emblematic Bond theme of all, so it had to be good!

002 Casino Royale

Casino Royalerebooted the character of James Bond and took us back to a time before the character had been awarded his double-oh status, which he was required to kill twice for.

The film is the first of the EON series not to feature the gun barrel sequence right at the start of the film, but instead included a version of the gun barrel within the PTS itself, which worked well.

This PTS is successful as it fills us in on some details about how 007 became 007, and combines a discussion over the Prague station chief’s betrayal of MI6 inter cut with a sequence of Bond’s violent first kill, while the Prague section chief’s attitude slides from arrogance to the realisation he is about to become Bond’s second kill, thereby qualifying him for the double-oh section.

003 Thunderball

For some reason I almost overlooked the Thunderball PTS, which is curious since overall it is my favourite Bond film. However, it delivers on a number of fronts, and while not quite containing a complete Bond story in the same way as Goldfinger, it contains plenty of excitement, action and humour.

The first surprise is probably seeing the initials JB on a coffin, although it is quickly established that James Bond is very much alive; and then Bond appears to punch the widow of the deceased, the start of a vicious fight that ends in violent “her” death.

All this topped off by Bond’s escape by jetpack, and the reappearance of the DB5 after its success in Goldfinger.

004 The Spy Who Loved Me

On one hand The Spy Who Loved Me can be fun to watch, but it is also sometimes irritating because of the improbable plot, the absurd gadgets (i.e. the Lotus Esprit) and an over-the-top henchman; however, that doesn’t stop the PTS of The Spy Who Loved Meof delivering the goods.

Although it isn’t quite an entire mini-chapter beginning to end, it does have some of the classic elements, including a love interest, some great action and ends with a terrific stunt. When Bond skis over the edge of a cliff to escape his pursuers nothing happens for what seems like an eternity while in free fall.

Suddenly his parachute billows out above him and the tension is relieved. And when we see the Union Jack design on the canopy we know what to expect from the rest of the film; it almost blows the entire sequence, but the film makers get away with it and it is one of the best loved PTS among fans.

005 The Living Daylights

When Roger Moore left the series there was some attempt at redressing the balance a bit and returning 007 to his roots. The result was The Living Daylights, with Timothy Dalton’s more serious take on Bond, although this was somewhat undermined by unrealistic gadgets and comedy elements.

However, as an introduction to the new Bond, the PTS of The Living Daylightsgets it just about spot on and once again it has the right balance of Bond elements that make it a complete in its own right while linking it to the main story.

Once again it features a great parachute stunt and ends with a Bond girl and “Bond… James Bond” and provides an excellent introduction for Dalton as 007.

006 The Man With The Golden Gun

This is going to be a controversial choice as many people rate the film as one of the weakest in the series. However, I have a soft spot for the film overall, simply because it was my first; and I do like the PTS, despite it lacking James Bond.

The sequence is the most surreal of any Bond movie, and in fact the PTS of The Man With The Golden Gun is how a James Bond movie would look if David Lynch were ever to direct, something that is underlined by the appearance of Hervé Villechaize as the diminutive Nick Nack.

However, John Barry’s score ensures it sounds right and maintains the suspense; and you can feel the gangster’s confusion as he faces the hall of mirrors, while being light-hearted enough to ease the tension at least momentarily.

007 From Russia With Love

Number 7 proved to be a difficult choice. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service blows it by breaking the fourth wall; Quantum of Solace has what could have been a terrific car chase that was ruined by the way it was shot and edited; none of the Pierce Brosnan films provided a PTS that really worked well for me, although many people do like Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies in particular.

In the end I’m going with From Russia With Love, as it was the very first pre-title sequence and set the pattern for all other 007 films to follow. It is atmospheric, with John Barry scoring the film; plays with our expectations too, apparently showing Bond being killed; and is shot and to the point, which exactly how a good PTS should be.

50 years of James Bond

Obviously there will be as many opinions as there are Bond fans and so there is a probable chance that you disagree with this list, at least in part. So, which pre-title sequences do you like best and why? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page and tell me where I’m wrong, and why; or if you like, you can tell me where I’m right too.

If you’d like to own all 22 pre-title sequences (and the bit after too) you can pre-order the 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray Box Set from Amazon.com or Amazon UK.

Like this article? Join our free 007 newsletter and get the latest news on James Bond by email.

3 Responses to “The 7 best James Bond pre-title sequences ever”

  • John Jewell

    While I agree w/”From Russia With Love” being the best (& most Bond-like) PTS, I have to give a shout out for the opening scene in “You Only Live Twice”. Something about the renegade spacecraft opening its nose & gobbling up the space capsule just seemed at the time so authentic & high-tech. Few things at the time short of Kubrick seemed so well done. I know that later attempts @ outer space physics (ala “Moonraker”) just didn’t ring quite as true, but that one still gives me goosebumps.

  • M

    Thanks for the comment, I didn’t expect everyone to agree with me!

    I do love John Barry’s music for the space scenes.

  • Bob

    I just love the PTS to Tomorrow Never Dies – just for the situation which he finds himself in – having to get the jet out before the missile from the Navy frigate hits the nuclear bomb – great. David Arnold’s music was great too.

Tags: , , , , ,