Features and Columns · Movies

Every James Bond Opening Title Sequence, Ranked

Maurice Binder said it best: “Girls, guns, smoke, and steam.”
James Bond Opening Titles Collage
By  and  · Published on September 18th, 2020

10. Licence to Kill (1989)

Licence To Kill Opening Titles

Main Title designed by Maurice Binder

These titles have got a little bit of everything: twirling women, gun smoke, casino games, and a ballad from the one and only Gladys Knight. It’s colorful and elegant and has some nice aerobic touches that harken back to some of the franchise’s greatest hits. It also makes use of digital composition techniques that embrace the new as much as the old. Much like Dalton’s Bond, if these titles were to be summed up in one word, it would be “solid.” They are what you want from Bond credits. License to Kill was Binder’s final Bond film, and it’s fitting that he went out with credits that remind us of what makes him one of the greats.  (Anna Swanson)

9. GoldenEye (1995)

Goldeneye Opening Titles

Main Title designed by Daniel Kleinman

GoldenEye was something of a reset for the Bond franchise, and in case that wasn’t obvious, the opening title sequence makes this “new decade, new me” attitude abundantly clear. Among the many traditions changing hands was the role of title designer. Maurice Binder died between License to Kill and GoldenEye and the mantle passed onto music video director Daniel Kleinman. So, how to bring Bond into the digital age? A CGI title sequence of course. A shiny, rubbery, somewhat chaotic computer-generated Soviet hell of bullets, sickles, and babes. While by today’s standards, the visual effects feel a bit garish, you have to respect Kleinman’s ability to deliver something entirely new while doing right by Binder’s tropes. (Meg Shields)

8. Quantum of Solace (2008)

Quantum Of Solace James Bond Opening Titles

Main Title designed by MK12

These titles embody the idea of doing one thing and doing it really, really well. That one thing? Sand. Look away, Anakin Skywalker, because these titles capture the desert in all its glory. It’s got both the harsh, sweltering heat and the isolating coldness of the landscape at night. It’s locked into one theme in a way that few sequences are, and we have to respect the commitment. The Quantum of Solace titles don’t share the iconography of a lot of other openers, but this hypnotic sequence is clearly the result of confidently stepping out onto a ledge. It clearly paid off and made these opening titles instantly iconic. (Anna Swanson)

7. Live and Let Die (1973)

Live And Let Die James Bond Opening Titles

Main Title designed by Maurice Binder

Skull on fire.

Ok, fine, there’s more to it than that. But first and foremost there’s a skull on fire!!! This film knew it was working with voodoo themes and let Binder run wild with the possibilities. It’s fire and smoke and skulls and snakes and guns, with a psychedelic ’70s aesthetic to boot. This sequence is so good it’s giving off sparks. That’s not even accounting for the Paul McCartney theme — one of the best in the franchise. It’s a rather erratic song, alternating from a crooning tone to a frenetic rock/reggae beat. But as a result, this song might be the one that encapsulates the series best. What is a Bond movie if it doesn’t get kinda weird in the middle? Put it all together and you’ve got one hell of a title sequence. Plus, there’s a skull on fire. (Anna Swanson)

6. From Russia with Love (1963)

From Russia With Love James Bond Opening Titles

Main Title designed by Robert Brownjohn

Sometimes all you need for a good title sequence is a black wall, a projector, and a belly dancer. From Russia With Love’s opening credits are displayed against and distorted by the gyrating body of a dancer. Working in tandem with the hypnotic instrumental theme song, this sequence is rather mesmerizing and sophisticated. While there are more than a few bones to pick with the film’s penchant for exoticizing the East, it’s undeniable that these credits are beautiful in their minimalistic nature. The rich, deep tones of the color palette are at once ornate and simplistic; this is a sequence that took one idea and executed it perfectly. Kudos to Brownjohn, who pitched the idea to Saltzman and Brocolli by taking off his shirt in a meeting, standing in front of a projector, and explaining “It’ll be just like this, except we’ll use a pretty girl!” A hero if ever there was one. (Anna Swanson)

5. A View To A Kill (1985)

A View To A Kill James Bond Opening Titles

Main Title designed by Maurice Binder

Something tells me that if you did ever put the Bond franchise under a blacklight, you’d encounter a bit more than neon accents and snowy imagery. Still, this is one hell of a beautiful opening title sequence that plays to the strengths of these films. First and foremost, these credits are cool as can be. The neon touches have ’80s energy to spare, and this fact naturally complements the standout song from Duran Duran. But it also has the classic touches of smoke, lasers, and silhouetted women. It’s both retro and fresh, incorporating what we’ve come to expect from Bond with contemporary trends. It also works incredibly well in the context of one of the strangest (and frankly, underrated) Bond entries. If a woman unzipping her parka to reveal a neon 007 logo doesn’t tell you that you’re in for a wild ride, I don’t know what does. (Anna Swanson)

4. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Diamonds Are Forever James Bond Opening Titles

Main Title designed by Maurice Binder

In the interest of transparency, we must confess that Diamonds Are Forever’s title sequence is the recipient of a couple, uh, let’s call them “silly” points. First: it kind of implies that Blofeld’s cat is a Bond girl, which rules. Second: it’s prefaced by one of the most unhinged and jaw-droppingly chaotic cold opens in the franchise. Meaning: by the time Dame Shirley Bassey gets to belting, you’re already in the mood (hopefully) for some garish overindulgence. “Diamonds are Forever” is also, don’t come for us, the best Bassey Bond song, with a sultry build that highlights her range while avoiding a plateau. As for the title sequence itself: what a gaudy, ornate showstopper. We’re treated to an attention-commanding montage of trinkets and baubles, a showroom of earrings, necklaces, rings, headpieces, and yes, cat collars, flickering light and bathed in the occasional colored gel. The achieved aesthetic is simultaneously elegant and garish. Which, in truth, summarizes much of the appeal of the Connery era. There is a bedazzled gun in this sequence. Like. Come on. (Meg Shields)

3. Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall James Bond Opening Titles

Main Title designed by Daniel Kleinman

Not too long ago, we awarded Skyfall the number one spot on our list of best opening credits sequences of the decade. So suffice to say: we’re fans. The Skyfall sequence very much feels like the sequence that designer Daniel Kleinman was always building towards. Dovetailing from the film’s cold open to a surreal nightmare of deep-sea sinkholes, crumbling skulls, and blood clots. It’s a beautiful sequence that sets the stage perfectly. The pitch-perfect Adele performance certainly doesn’t hurt; striking a chord that, like the visuals, belies the heartache, melancholy, and danger at play. (Meg Shields)

2. Goldfinger (1964)

Goldfinger James Bond Opening Titles

Main Title designed by Robert Brownjohn

Projecting your opening credits onto a gold-painted corpse? It doesn’t get much more metal than that. In Goldfinger’s opening sequence, images of Bond’s past and future exploits play out over Margaret Nolan’s god-slathered body parts, her shimmering curves matching and accentuating the projected action. It’s a spectacle of the highest order that celebrates the female form while ultimately recontextualizing it for Bond’s purposes: lips become license plates, hips become hills, thighs become highways. An eternal shout out to Dame Shirley Bassey, who literally had to take her bra off to hit the final high note in the opening theme. We stan a legend. Speaking of legends, Goldfinger’s sequence ultimately won Robert Brownjohn a prestigious Design & Art Director’s Club Gold Award. Thoroughly well-deserved. With conceptual simplicity and an undeniably sensuous impact, Goldfinger’s sequence, only the third outing in the franchise, is the (gold) standard. (Meg Shields)

1. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The Spy Who Loved Me James Bond Opening Titles

Main Title designed by Maurice Binder

Let’s get the obvious point out of the way: nobody does it better than Carly Simon. Glad we’re all in agreement about that. Moving on: Binder once summarized his Bond titles as “girls, guns, smoke, and steam,” and the titles for The Spy Who Loved Me are exactly that. It’s a cartwheeling sequence, with figures trampolining amidst abstracted firearms and ultimately electing to embrace rather than execute. And that cold open. My god. Roger Moore skis off a cliff, free falls for twenty (twenty!) seconds, pulls his Union Jack parachute, and is seamlessly plucked out of the sky by gentle, cupped hands. The Spy Who Loved Me is prototypically Binder, but it also ushered in a marvelous innovation: the inclusion of Bond himself, silhouetted and vaulting amidst dark ladies, caught in the middle of Binder’s pop-art chaos. (Meg Shields)

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Anna Swanson is a Senior Contributor who hails from Toronto. She can usually be found at the nearest rep screening of a Brian De Palma film.