Every James Bond movie more or less follows the same tried-and-true formula: a cold-open action set piece to reintroduce 007 to moviegoers, a beautifully animated title sequence set to a theme song by a contemporary pop sensation, a megalomaniacal villain begins a ludicrous plan, Bond is sent to put a stop to it, and he falls in love with an interchangeable Bond girl along the way.
The opening action scene is always one of the most fun elements of a Bond movie and offers an early sign to viewers as to which kind of Bond movie it is: a good one, a not-so-good one, a dark one, a silly one, etc. The best Bond movie openings have stood the test of time.
Updated on October 24th, 2021 by Colin McCormick: No Time to Die carries on the tradition of starting the latest Bond adventure off with a bang. Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007 features one of the longest opening sequences in the franchise filled with some great action moments. But in a series that has gone on this long, there are plenty more amazing openers to consider that deliver the kind of thrills and excitement Bond fans expect to kick off the movie.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Though Bond has encountered a lot of memorable villains over the course of his movies, Blofeld is 007’s most iconic villain. The two faced off many times, but For Your Eyes Only seemed ready to move on from the character and took him out in the opening scene.
The sequence addresses the death of Tracy Bond at the hands of Blofeld before the mastermind attempts to kill 007 with a remote-controlled helicopter. Bond is able to take control of it and use it to pick Blofeld up before dropping him down a chimney. It is a bit silly but filling off the main adversary in the first scene is memorable.
The opening sequences of the Bond movies generally either set up the villain’s plan or feature Bond in the middle of a mission. Moonraker manages to accomplish both in its terrific pre-credit sequence.
It begins with a space shuttle being transported via airplane only for the shuttle to be hijacked, blowing the plan in the process. The movie then cuts to Bond help hostage by villains on a plane leading to a thrilling skydiving action scene. To make it even better, the opening also sees the return of Jaws, one of the best Bond henchmen.
No Time To Die (2021)
As No Time to Die stands as the longest Bond movie to date, it makes sense that it also features one of the longest openings in the Bond series. The sequence covers a lot of material, beginning with the unsettling flashback to Madeline’s childhood encounter with a masked man.
The scene then catches up with Bond and Madeline enjoying their life together only for the past to come back to haunt them. There are some great stunt sequences, bringing back the gadget-filled car, while also starting the movie off on an emotional note.
The Living Daylights (1987)
After Roger Moore stepped down as Bond after his long tenure, it was Timothy Dalton’s turn to take up the role. Though Dalton’s Bond is unfairly overlooked by some, he received a memorable opening that played on having a new face as Bond.
The scene features a training exercise as agents attempt to infiltrate a base only for villains with real guns to begin picking off the agents. Each of the agents looks like they could be the next Bond only to be killed. This eventually builds to Dalton appearing and showing off his more brooding take on the character as he takes out the villains.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies always seemed to embrace the wild style of 90s action movies and Tomorrow Never Dies fits that bill. It is a thrilling opening scene in which Bond monitors a massive arms deal and just can’t help but get involved.
While the explosions and gun fighting are fun, the best aspect of the sequence is when Bond steals a fighter jet and engages in a dogfight while battling a villain seated behind him in the cockpit. It ends spectacularly as Bond ejects the man directly into the enemy jet.
From Russia With Love (1963)
The longstanding tradition of pre-title action scenes in the Bond franchise began with the series’ second entry, From Russia with Love, which opens with a lean three-minute sequence in which a mysterious assassin stalks Bond.
After all these years, Robert Shaw’s portrayal of Bond’s would-be killer Red Grant still stands among the most memorable henchmen in the 007 saga.
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
After British oil tycoon Sir Robert King is killed by an explosion in MI6’s headquarters in the opening sequence of The World is Not Enough, Bond chases the assassin across the River Thames on a speedboat that’s been loaded with gadgets by Q.
The chase ends at the Millennium Dome, where Bond offers the assassin protection in exchange for her cooperation, but she refuses and kills herself by blowing up a hot air balloon.
Following a funeral for the late Bond villain, Colonel Jacques Bouvar, in the opening scene of Thunderball, Bond arrives at a country home where he reveals that Bouvar’s widow is actually the baddie himself in disguise.
These kinds of surprises capture the spirit of the Bond franchise, and to top it all off, 007 flees the scene on a delightfully absurd jetpack.
On the whole, Spectre was woefully disappointing. It was a bloated, disjointed movie that butchered the fabric of the Bond franchise in its attempts to latch onto the hot new cinematic universe trend.
But it did have a spectacular opening sequence, which saw Bond carrying out an unauthorized mission in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebrations. The scene involves a crumbling building and a helicopter spinning out of control above crowds of people.
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
There aren’t many great opening sequences from Bond movies that don’t feature Bond himself, but The Man with the Golden Gun is sort of the exception to the rule. Instead of opening with 007 on a mission, The Man with the Golden Gun opens with elusive assassin Scaramanga training to kill 007.
The scene culminates in a duel between Scaramanga and his trainer that beautifully foreshadows the climactic duel between Scaramanga and Bond.
It checks out that Goldfinger would have one of the greatest opening action sequences in the Bond franchise, because it’s arguably the best Bond movie of all, or at least the most perfect example of the familiar formula of the Bond series. The pre-title action scene encapsulates what makes Bond movies so fun.
Sean Connery’s 007 emerges from the ocean with a duck on his head and plants explosives in a drug laboratory, then removes his wetsuit to reveal a never-more-suave white tuxedo.
Casino Royale (2006)
The opening sequence is an origin story for Bond, detailing how he came to be licensed to kill and given Double O status by MI6, with black-and-white cinematography and intense fight choreography to establish the refreshingly gritty tone of the movie.
Bond nearly dies in the opening scene of Skyfall. In fact, going by real-life physics, he should actually die in the scene. A motorcycle chase takes 007 onto the roof of a moving train, where he fights a bad guy while Moneypenny tries to get a clear shot from afar with a sniper rifle.
When she pulls the trigger, the round she fires hits Bond, sending him hurtling toward the water below and allowing the baddie to get away in a cruel twist of fate.
The opening action scene of GoldenEye introduced Pierce Brosnan’s Bond to the world with a flashback set in the mid-‘80s. 007 infiltrates a Soviet chemical weapons facility with his partner 006, who seemingly gets killed during the mission but actually turns out to be the bad guy.
The crowning achievement in this sequence is the bungee jump off the Contra Dam, which is considered in some circles to be the greatest movie stunt ever performed.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Easily the most awesome opening set-piece in Bond history is that of The Spy Who Loved Me, in which Roger Moore’s 007 is engaged in a chase on skis by Soviet spies at the top of an Austrian mountain.
In one of the most breathtaking stunts ever put on film, Bond skis off the top of a gigantic, icy cliff and freefalls for a few hundred feet before deploying his iconic Union Jack parachute.
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