From Fisticuffs to Spectacle: The Evolution of the James Bond Cold Open

Never underestimate the importance of a well-timed parachute.
James Bond In The Opening Scene Of Thunderball

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the evolution of cold opens in the James Bond franchise.

If someone was compiling a tome of cinematic rituals, the James Bond cold open would surely be hallowed ground. In the franchise’s six-decade run, faces change and tones vary. But you can always count on the (mis)adventures of everyone’s favorite womanizing, alcoholic super spy kicking off with a bang.

Bond’s first cinematic outing, Dr. No, doesn’t have a cold open in the strictest sense. But the 1962 film is responsible for introducing audiences to an iconic image that, at its core, symbolizes what the James Bond cold opens and opening title sequences would come to represent: a shadowy figure, viewed down the barrel of a gun, whipping around and beating his would-be assassin to the punch.

Over the years, each cold open has suited the style of its respective Bond-du-jour. The pre-title sequences of the Sean Connery era are punch ’em ups with glimmers of gadgetry whereas those of Roger Moore are cheeky and action-packed. Pierce Brosnan‘s cold opens are pun-heavy and take full advantage of the new millennium’s digital penchant for showmanship. Meanwhile, Daniel Craig‘s Bond prefers to keep things grounded, brutal, and scrappy.

Despite their shifts over the decades, unerring trends prevail. The best Bond cold opens are defined by a satisfying understanding of progression, set-up, and pay-off (ominous helicopters and brightly colored ski gear hinting at the shenanigans to come). They’re partial to modes of transportation, be they planes, trains, automobiles, or … surfboards. And each cold open provides a high-octane tonal taste of what we’re in for in the feature-length caper.

The video essay below charts the progression and trends peppered throughout the franchise’s cold opens. There are a lot of last-minute parachutes, plenty of disposable dames, and more than a few winking inuendoes. Like the Bond films themselves, some are better than others. But at the end of the day, nobody hits the ground running like 007.

Watch “James Bond | How The Pre-Title Sequence Evolved”:

Who made this?

This video on the evolution of the James Bond cold open comes courtesy of The Discarded Image, a video essay channel created by Julian Palmer. It began with a deconstruction of how Steven Spielberg creates suspense with the beach scene in Jaws. It has steadily grown from there. You can check out The Discarded Image’s video essays here.

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