Before 1962, the imagery of staring down the loaded barrel of a gun evoked an unequivocally grim reaction throughout humanity. However, by the time the second Bond film—From Russia with Love—hit the screen, the opening title sequence became a recognizable and iconic part of the James Bond series.
Used in nearly every single film to date, the gun barrel sequence is an instant signifier that sh*t is about to go down, and a few martinis are about to be shaken. Ranked under a rigorous rubric of tact, style, structure, and musical integrity, here's every single Bond opening ranked from worst to best.
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24. The World Is Not Enough (1999)
You can really tell that this movie came out the same year as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Both movies feature a sickening amount of CGI that just ends up looking like something dug up from George Lucas' spank-bank.
23. Skyfall (2012)
Call me crazy, but the Skyfall opening reminds me of when you'd go to the food court in the mall and get every single flavor of soda in one cup. There's the classic underwater motif, but the overwhelming amount of every other kind of motif take away from the overall sequence.
22. Licence to Kill (1989)
The score is a little bit on the "lame adult contemporary" side and the visuals are reminiscent of the workout tapes you'd find in your parents' video collection. Still...it's not without the swanky James Bond vibe.
21. Moonraker (1979)
If this was a standalone opening, it would be as memorable as every other opening before it—but the fact that the style and imagery has essentially stayed the same for 17 years, Moonraker's beginning ends up boring and redundant.
20. Never Say Never Again (1983)
Never Say Never Again is kind of a complicated beast, because it was the first time Sean Connery's had played James Bond in twelve years. That, combined with the fact that it was released independently of Eon Productions—which produced all of the Bond film makes Never Say Never Again a sort of a smudge in Bond history. The opening is fine.
19. Die Another Day (2002)
One could argue that having Madonna sing the theme was the biggest chance this franchise took since Duran Duran in A View to Kill. While the imagery is nothing to get excited about, the sheer bizarre juxtaposition of the music and visuals makes the opening sequence from Die Another Day notable. Not great, but notable.
18. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
This one is disappointing, no? As if they wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible. The underwater imagery looks like a cheap knockoff of Thunderball while the main theme can't quite decide if its swing or a rock ballad playing in the back of a Chinese restaurant.
17. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
It shouldn't be a surprise that the audience feels cheated by a George Lazenby-led Bond film. It's almost lazy in its production value and has a shocking amount of silhouetted-women kneeling...why are they kneeling?
16. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
If a perfume ad had sex with The Matrix, it would procure a child along the likes of the Tomorrow Never Dies opening.
15. Quantum of Solace (2008)
The Jack White + Alicia Keys song is actually the first duet in Bond history, which correlates with the bizarre desert landscape. The equation works and we're left with a badass opening.
14. You Only Live Twice (1967)
Nancy Sinatra was the perfect choice to sing this smokey intro—but all the footage of the erupting lava felt like it was stolen from a documentary on volcanoes.
13. Octopussy (1983)
This classic opening features everything we love in a Bond opening: silhouetted mysterious women, guns, lasers, and also features the staunch surrealist style that every other opening duplicates—plus boobs at the 1:55 mark.
12. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
This song is widely regarded as one of the best James Bond scores in the franchise, but the video plays out a little too much like a Starship video and not so much a spy thriller. Starship is so damn good, though...
11. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
This plays like what I imagine what it's like to hang out in an opium den for an extended period of time.
10. The Living Daylights (1987)
This dark (and especially gun-heavy) opening features a song by Norwegian pop group, A-ha, who was responsible for creating a song that everyone in the world has sung along to. It's dark, brooding, but—most importantly—vastly different than most of the other Bond songs at this point.
9. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
One of the few early Bond films that integrates action footage into the opening—but how could they not with such an insane ski jump? Maybe it was a cheap trick, but the hyper-stylized imagery and Carly Simon ballad more than makes up for it.
8. Thunderball (1965)
You can really tell with these opening titles that Thunderball is when the Bond series started really hitting their stride. It's (literally) deep, mysterious, and that Tom Jones song? Killer!
7. A View to a Kill (1985)
F*ck imagery, this oddly-placed Duran Duran theme song is everything.
6. Dr. No (1962)
The minimalism presented in this opening is just killer. It looks like something from a Godard movie. Flickering colored circles with the occasional dancing silhouette sets the scene for the franchise to trump all franchises.
5. GoldenEye (1995)
Six years had elapsed between Licence to Kill and GoldenEye and their intent on coming back with a bang definitely comes across. This opening combines the classic 60s Bond vibe with a 90s twist that works together seamlessly. Plus, come on, best video game in the entire world.
4. Casino Royale (2006)
Casino Royale's card motif opening is distinctly different than almost every single Bond film before it. The act of rotoscoping animation over real fight sequences ties the newer style together with the a nod to Saul Bass. It makes for an awesome combination.
3. From Russia with Love (1963)
Even a line producer's name can be made sexy when it's projected onto the shaking rump of a go-go dancer.
2. Goldfinger (1964)
It's not crazy to say that the theme song makes these opening titles some of the best. That with the addition of writhing golden bodies? It's gold, Jerry, gold!
1. Live and Let Die (1973)
Maybe it's that love for Paul McCartney that makes me biased, but this is the greatest Bond opening ever. The song carries the simple imagery and makes for a hell of an opening to this movie. Note that this was the first film to feature a sans-hat Bond in front of the gun barrel. Hell yes.
Jeremy Glass is the Vice editor for Supercompressor and his favorite opening of any movie is the beginning of Spy Hard.