James Bond Title Ideas For Essays
Few cinematic institutions are as resilient as the Bond franchise. Initially emblematic of the styles and trends of the 1960s, the personification of excess and cool, it declined in the ’70s, barely survived the ’80s, and then reinvented itself twice, first in the ’90s and then the mid ’00s.
When it all began, Bond was a fun-filled caper, fronted by a charismatic super spy who shoots people and sleeps around. Now it’s a serious, gritty drama with a more muscular version the same Secret Service agent. One of the defining and most enduring features of the franchise – evading the dips of quality the films themselves – is the opening credits sequence. More than that, they have so far accurately reflected each era’s distinctive feel, capturing the essence of the kind of Bond movie we were about to watch. Here are 10 of our favourites from the estimable Bond back catalogue.
1. Dr No (1962)
Behold the original Bond title sequence, which is sometimes referenced in later Bond sequences. The bullet hole that swerves around was a genuine innovation of its the time, as it created a kinetic energy that held the audience’s attention. Created by career title designer Maurice Binder, who made the majority of the early title sequences, it’s fun, colourful and predates the mobile phone video game Snake by some 30 years. It also descends into a dance where everyone holds their hands up. Remember those hands, because they are a key constituent of the Bond title sequence.
2. Goldfinger (1964)
The credit sequences for the next two films, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, were designed by Robert Brownjohn, who as as Art of the Title point out, loved typography. More than that, his style was to overlay the credits onto human figures – in the case of both films, scantily clad women. Goldfinger was the first Bond title sequence to feature characters from the movie, superimposed onto a gold-painted model. If Bond was an art installation, this is basically what it would look like. It’s a simple, sensual opening sequence. The next instalment, From Russia with Love, established another early Bond motif: women wearing very little.
3. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Binder returned to make the title sequence for Thunderball in 1965, which would be the first that used the ‘dark silhouettes on a coloured backdrop’ theme. Binder struck gold with the idea, and one of the best opening sequences from the ’60s and ’70s is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which opens with the line, ‘This never happened to the other fella,’ uttered by the Commonwealth Bond, George Lazenby. The film was made in 1969, and is representative of Bond as many still see him: Martinis and the British Empire. By this point the women are no longer wearing clothes. The new dominant theme of Bond title sequences is nipples.
4. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
A peak into Bond’s subconscious now: the title sequence for Diamonds Are Forever sees Bond about to shoot a vagina just before it turns into a diamond.
5. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Hands were also important in this period. The nourishing hands of a woman catch Roger Moore as he descends on a parachute in the 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun, and the sequences of the 1970s are fairly silly, featuring naked women jumping in the air in 1979’s Moonraker (a naked Superwoman even makes an appearance). For Your Eyes Only again features hands, this time as a woman desperately tries to crawl out of Roger Moore. It also features Sheena Easton, the only time the performer of the Bond song was featured in the title sequence. Thankfully, this was a one-off.
6. The Living Daylights (1987)
The 1980s were all about lasers. And good Bond songs. The Dalton years saw some of Binder’s best work, as old motifs like naked women were fused with lasers, and a generally darker, neon feel. According to Art of the Title, lasers first became a thing in Bond title sequences in Octopussy, which used them with plenty of smoke to suggest an air of mystery. This sequence also memorably sees Bond throw a woman across the credits before proceeding to have tantric sex with her. A View To Kill opens with a woman revealing her cleavage, only to have a lasered 007 on her chest, which even for Bond is pretty unsubtle. For our money, the best Bond title sequence of the 1980s is The Living Daylights, which features a song by A-ha. In it, Bond impregnates a woman by shooting 007 inside of her with a laser gun. When Bond does LSD…
7. GoldenEye (1995)
Binder’s last sequence was License to Kill in 1989, arriving before Bond took a hiatus, returning in the form of dashing Irishman Pierce Brosnan in 1995. Designed by Daniel Kleinman, it’s a much more colourful sequence than Binder’s usual stuff, and is literally crawling with naked women, who are destroying phallic symbols of communism. This sequence is what Bond sees when his therapist makes him take a Rorschach test. Kleinman cut his teeth in music videos, and directed one of the best music videos of the 1980s, Big Love by Fleetwood Mac.
The music video is an early indicator of where Kleinman would take the Bond title sequences (the colour palette is very similar), but it also shows the same imaginative streak when it came to structure. GoldenEye was a transition sequence though, as Kleinman would unleash his creative vision with Tomorrow Never Dies, his best sequence. Similar to Binder, it updates the formula with CG women made of circuitry, which is as creepy as it sounds. Figures are locked in bullets. We see guns through an X-ray. It’s all rather stunning. Interestingly, this was the first Bond title sequence not feature 007 since Dr No. It’s Bond’s nightmare, in which the technological future assumes the form of his mortal enemy: women.
8. Die Another Day (2002)
Throughout the 1990s, Bond title sequences displayed a curious fascination with covering women in something dangerous, be it circuitry, oil (1999’s The World Is Not Enough) or fire and ice. The last one is the theme of Die Another Day, where Bond is surrounded by women who are made out of fire and ice, and who both dance on the fire that is used to torture him and provide consolation. The naked silhouettes, a staple theme since the 1960s, is now more alluring and much more dangerous. This is reflected in each of Brosnan’s Bond films, as the stakes and danger to the world are considerably higher. Also, at one point, Madonna sings, ‘Sigmund Freud/Analyse this’. Indeed.
9. Casino Royale (2006)
Instead of women we get cards, which makes sense in that Casino Royale was supposed to reboot the franchise and bring it more in line with the popular Bourne series, which ditched the romance for set pieces. Kleinman explained the absence of women by saying that Casino Royale takes place before Bond has his heart broken, which is a weird thing to say, but suggests that the sequence was motivated by Bond’s fears and vices.
It’s a neat title sequence, apart from the fights that Bond is having with the men in red, which feels like overkill. As Art of the Title points out, however, it is much more in line with the more modern, violent Daniel Craig-era Bond. The amount of colour is refreshing, as is the visual symmetry. The bit where Bond is sitting and screwing the silencer on to his gun is a cool visual. The only woman is when Bond’s sight comes across Eva Green. But he doesn’t shoot. He’s not a monster. Yet.
10. Skyfall (2013)
Quantum of Solace was the first Bond title sequence to be executed by the studio MK12 and the film’s director, Marc Forster. It’s a fairly average sequence, with Bond in the desert. At one point he awakens gigantic slumbering women made out of sand, and falls down, Mad Men-style. Scratch that, this is definitely the fever dream Bond has before he wakes up in cold sweat.
Skyfall, on the other hand, is one of the most referential Bond sequences, reflecting the sense of finality present throughout the film. Adele opens the sequence by warbling, “This is the end.” The hand, which caught Robert Moore’s parachutist in The Man with The Golden Gun, is back, this time to drag 007 underwater. At one point, Bond shoots his own shadow, and inside him is a blood skull, neither of which is particularly subtle, but well composed nonetheless.
It’s an impressive sequence, shot by the returning Kleinman, until the weird dragons and the point at which it all starts resembling Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy video. The sequence is a far cry away from the ’60s or ’70s Bond openings, and reflects the change in tone that the franchise has undergone as social mores have changed. Even though Bond remains one of the most conservative franchises in existence, we now live in the age of the gritty anti-hero and easily accessible pornography, which has made sequences like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service feel out-dated and tame. As the Bond franchise has progressed, meta commentary within the sequences has also become a theme that is increasingly obvious: Skyfall, after all, leaves us closing in on Bond’s eye, which as we all know, is the mirror to the soul.
The title sequence of the new Bond film, Spectre, will once again be designed by Kleinman, his seventh one. Hopefully, the franchise will return to the innovative spirit of the Brosnan Bonds, rather continue with the slick but ultimately dull fare of the Craig years. If the rumours are true, and Radiohead really is recording the theme song, the possibilities are endless.
Published 19 Aug 2015
Tags: James Bond
The title sequence is a trademark of the Bond franchise. It sets the tone for the film while using artistry to bring important themes and ideas to audience’s periphery. It’s more than just guns and girls, it’s a calling card that gives the Bond films a sophistication and uniqueness that its competitors and impostors lack. Through the years, these sequences have become more complicated and sophisticated, but the goal is the same: wow the audience.
Below we've listed the title sequences of all of the Eon Productions/MGM Studios films from worst to best based on the following criteria:
Song Rating = How good/memorable is the song?
Creativity = Have we seen it before?
Wow-Factor = The impact on the viewer.
Execution = How well made is it when taking into account the technologies available at time of release?
Spoilers = Points are taken away when sequences give away pieces of the film.
24. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
Song: The Man With the Golden Gun by Lulu
Song Rating: 2/10
Distinguishing Features: First sequence where a gun is a big focus.
Final Score: 16/43
Lulu’s theme song is one of the worst in the series. It’s overblown and really quite hokey. Guitars clash with horns when the song seems like it should have been low key. Alice Cooper was originally approached to perform the theme song, and they almost used that version, but they switched it out at the last minute for some reason (you can find that far superior song on YouTube). As for the sequence itself, it is a step backwards from the previous films. Basically the titles wash onscreen with the same water animated as we’ve seen now at least three times in these intro sequences while models are obscured by the surface of a water. There’s not much movement until the sequence changes to a dancing silhouette against a fiery background. There are no special effects and it's all very unimpressive. At least it gives nothing away about the film itself.
23. From Russia With Love (1963)
Song: James Bond Is Back/From Russia With Love/James Bond Theme
Song Rating: 3/10
Distinguishing Features: Belly dancer.
Final Score: 18/43
The song for the second James Bond film intro is not the title song, but a medley of music crammed together. It’s a little weird, but again the series was still trying to figure out what they were doing. It’s a shame that the entire From Russia With Love song did not play during the intro instead of later during the film, as that would have made it better. Still, it was the start of having a theme song made specifically for the film. This title sequence also started the idea of being more provocative. The titles are projected in color against a dark background with dancers in front doing their thing. As they move, the words dance with them, but at times they can be difficult to read. It is fitting to the film as later belly dancers would be featured. Unlike Dr. No, this theme came after an intro scene. This sequence of gun barrel sequence, intro scene, and then titles would be followed until Casino Royale.
22. License to Kill (1989)
Song: License to Kill by Gladys Knight
Song Rating: 4/10
Distinguishing Features: The camera transition.
Final Score: 19/43
This opening sequence in one of the more plain, and therefore boring title sequences. It hints at a theme of photography, which alludes to the plot, but it doesn’t really follow through with that idea. Instead, it feels like a step backwards, to the shimmering water reflections of the 70’s title sequences. It also gets by without a lot of special effects and has almost zero wow-factor. There’s a cool moments where the motions of the models are echoed, but it doesn’t last long. This sequence is the first one to show a casino, which would be a common idea in later sequences. Many people consider the theme song one of the worst, as it starts out dramatic and then becomes repetitive the rest of the way. It’s definitely a reversal from the rock-oriented themes of the first two films, but that doesn’t mean it fits well or adds any sort of emotion to the film, which itself is a departure from the plots that have come before.
21. The Living Daylights (1987)
Song: The Living Daylights by a-ha
Song Rating: 3/10
Distinguishing Features: 80’s sunglasses.
Final Score: 20/43
Trying to duplicate the success of the opening title sequence from A View to a Kill, the filmmakers reached out to another popular pop rock band of the time to perform the title song. For some reason they picked a band that would become a one-hit wonder, and this song was not that hit. It’s forgettable, unfocused, almost nonsensical, and really cheesy. The actual sequence isn’t any better. It feels more like one of the openings from the 70’s films with the reflections off of the water and the blue colors. In fact, there’s one silhouette of Bond and a model together that feels awful similar to what we’ve seen before. It’s just a boring sequence. There’s not much movement or anything really to catch your eye. It fades in the headlight of Bond’s car, giving away an exciting part of the film, and then has its models wearing fancy jewelry, hinting at the Vienna music performance. The final image is a model in a glass of water, hinting at the desert locale of the finale.
20. Octopussy (1983)
Song: All Time High by Rita Coolidge
Song Rating: 3/10
Distinguishing Features: Laser-reflected words and logos.
Final Score: 22/43
This opening sequence showed a departure from the films before it, but didn’t really add that much. Unlike For Your Eyes Only, it didn’t feel like a music video. It’s a much more stationary sequence, with the camera panning slowly to create the motion rather than having a lot of dancers moving. It harkens back to the first few films of the series with a projection on a model’s body, this time a laser that shows shapes and words. In the background we have James Bond ice skating with a woman, which is not all that different than what we had seen before, but seems somewhat ill-fitting for the film. The colors have a lot more contrast than in previous sequences, which would preview the direction the franchise was going to take. Instead of blues, we have blacks and reds and oranges. It’s more eye-catching, but it’s too bad the song is rather forgettable and the slow camera movements make the sequence feel slower and longer than it is.
19. Die Another Day (2002)
Song: Die Another Day by Madonna
Song Rating: 1/10
Distinguishing Feature: The film continues in the background.
Final Score: 23/43
Whomever chose Madonna to perform the theme song was about a decade too late. It’s an disjointed mess, adding nothing to the film at all. The title sequence again plays out almost like a music video, but they change it up a bit by actually showing footage in the background as a continuation of the opening scene in the film. It’s a good idea to continue the story through the credits, but it doesn’t really add much to the film overall. A good title sequence will create a tone or examine a theme that is important. With this one, we basically get to watch Bond be tortured while we are tortured by Madonna’s autotuned voice. The fire and ice theme is something we’ve seen before, not to mention a big spoiler, so it’s not all that innovative, but at least the visuals are well executed.
18. Moonraker (1979)
Song: Moonraker by Shirley Bassey
Song Rating: 4/10
Distinguishing Features: Flying supergirl filled out with colorful light pixels.
Final Score: 23/43
You would think that since this is a Bond film in space where there are all sorts of interesting possibilities, they could have been very creative with the sequence. Nope. The sequence itself is almost a rehash of The Spy Who Loved Me. It doesn’t really add much to what we’ve seen before. Models flying through the air against a backdrop, this case the moon. At least it’s well executed and more dynamic than some sequences in the past, but it just doesn’t have the emotional impact that it needed. Supposedly there were many problems with artists backing out of the themesong for Moonraker, and Shirley Bassey’s take was a last-resort rush job weeks before the premiere. As such, she’s not to blame for the final product (enough with the triangle!).
17. You Only Live Twice (1967)
Song: You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra
Song Rating: 7/10
Distinguishing Features: Lava background and the first (crude) shape overlays.
Final Score: 25/43
The theme song for You Only Live Twice is more average than those that had come before, but is still fondly remembered. Unfortunately, the film itself was the first hiccup in the series, and the opening credits, while pretty, are not as exciting or interesting as what had come before. For the first time, there are no models dancing. Instead we have silhouettes and faces faded into the background. The filmmakers used a lot of zoom transitions to bring pieces of the sequence on screen and off, which ends up being pretty annoying. The look is a very layered one, which misses out on the simplicity of the previous films. Finally, as the sequence shows a lot of lava and volcanoes, it gives away one of the major plot points that occurs later in the film.
16. Dr. No (1962)
Song: James Bond Theme Song
Song Rating: 10/10
Distinguishing Features: The Bond theme song and dots.
Final Score: 25/43
Flashing colorful geometric shapes! Ok, so the title sequence in the first James Bond film isn’t all that sophisticated, but it’s not overblown like some of the later ones would be either. It features the first ever gun barrel sequence (with awesome head-scratching 60’s sound effects rather than the typical jingle), right before the title sequence begins, rather than before the opening scene (which would happen again in Casino Royale). The song is the James Bond theme, which would become one of the most iconic movie songs ever made, so there’s that. About halfway through the main theme song abruptly stops and gives way to some sort of a latin dance number. The shapes disappear and we get silhouettes of people dancing, including a guy. Psychedelic baby! The style fits in perfectly with the 60’s, less so with what we now recognize as James Bond. This was the birth of the franchise, and they hadn’t really figured out what tone it should have. Although simplistic, it is still interesting, well made for the time, and an achievement to pull off. You could also say that it doesn’t give away any of the film, which is a good thing. Ultimately though, it is somewhat awkward and crude compared to everything else.
15. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Song: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Song Rating: 8/10
Distinguishing Features: First use of significant amounts of special effects.
Final Score: 26/43
The first James Bond film without Sean Connery also had a lot of firsts regarding the music and the opening sequence. For starters, the music of the film was composed for the first time with the help of electronic instruments. The result is different and more aggressive than the previous films, which gave this film an urgency and a consistency of theme. John Barry thought that it would be too difficult to have a song song with the film’s long title during the title sequence, so instead they chose an instrumental, not unlike From Russia With Love. Unlike that film, the music used for this sequence was not a medley of songs, but something uniquely written. It is an impressive and attention-grabbing music number that overshadows the somewhat bland effects used. Instead of showing clips of the film or themes, this title sequence shows a cascade of clips from the previous film passing through a hourglass. The ideas are cool, including color-effect overlays (almost like a green screen effect) to create shapes with which to run film through, but the late-60’s production leaves a little to be desired. There are some cool shadow overlays of models and a clock at the beginning and end which would influence later title sequences. This one was ahead of its time.
14. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Song: Diamonds Are Forever by Shirley Bassey
Song Rating: 7/10
Distinguishing Features: Sparkly diamonds.
Final Score: 27/43
A return for Sean Connery also meant a return for Shirley Bassey. Her theme song for Diamonds Are Forever isn’t as impressive as “Goldfinger” but it still well done, interesting, and is fitting for the film and the series as a whole. The actual sequence takes some of the more technical composing and layers from the last two title sequences and adds more. Like You Only Live Twice, there’s a recurring shape, this time a diamond that zooms in and out. The focus on diamonds and the cat doesn’t really give much away and it is fitting and somewhat interesting to look at, but not as provocative and engaging as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It has some cool lighting techniques, and the interaction between the dancers/models and the background is interesting, but overall it’s pretty boring and plain.
13. Goldfinger (1964)
Song: Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey
Song Rating: 10/10
Distinguishing Features: So gold.
Final Score: 27/43
Building on what was done for the title sequence in From Russia With Love, the title sequence for Goldfinger is a classic. It is the first sequence to have the film’s theme song play, and that song is one of the best of the franchise, still emotional and classy to this day. Like From Russia With Love, this sequence features models with projections on their bodies. This time, the models are wearing and painted in gold, just like gold-painted Shirley Easton later in the film. Instead of the titles being projected, Goldfinger has images from the film. It’s a more creative approach, and interesting to look at, but not all that dynamic and it gives a lot away. The film clips are somewhat tastefully edited so that they fit well onto the model’s bodies.
12. Quantum of Solace (2008)
Song: Another Way to Die by Jack White and Alicia Keys
Song Rating: 3/10
Distinguishing Feature: Desert setting.
Final Score: 28/43
The second misstep in theme song in three consecutive Bond films is surely disappointing. The duet approach (first in the series) did not work out, but at least the music behind the song is interesting and different than anything else. The visuals of the theme are also different than what we have seen before. The desert setting is new to the title sequences, and also fitting for the film. The color palette uses orange and purple in contrast, which creates a very cool look and is also different than any of the previous title sequences. The camera whips around with reckless abandon, and if we had a more upbeat theme song, such rapid motion would have been fitting. The special effects don’t necessarily look realistic, but they aren’t supposed to. They show Bond himself, echoing sequences later on in the film.
11. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Song: For Your Eyes Only by Sheena Easton
Song Rating: 4/10
Distinguishing Features: Only film to have a vocalist singing.
Final Score: 28/43
The influence of MTV was apparent in the title sequence of For Your Eyes Only, which plays out more as a music video than a traditional title sequence. Sheena Easton herself is front and center throughout belting out her song, which, although pretty mellow, is one of the better ones. The song is overly emotional, which goes along with the soft visuals and dancing. The word that comes to mind after watching this sequence is drama, which for a Bond film, may not be a good thing. Visually, it feels similar to The Spy Who Loved Me with a silhouette of Bond and his female companion interacting, but besides Sheena’s singing head, there’s nothing else to really set it apart. Again we have water as the background, this time with big bubbles. There are no film clips shown, so it doesn’t really give anything away, but it sets up the tone of the film as a more down-to-earth approach compared to the overblown failure that was Moonraker.
10. Spectre (2015)
Song: The Writing’s on the Wall by Sam Smith
Song Rating: 6/10
Distinguishing Feature: Tentacles.
Final Score: 30/43
Sam Smith’s theme song may not be among the worst, but it’s not among the best either. At least it creates a tone, again more sombre like the last film. Super processed special effects are on full display here. We have a brilliant orange fiery background against which Bond and his female companions exist in shadows. The film plays off its logo by using octopus imagery to moderate success. If the film was going for a creepy vibe, it certainly succeeded as the slimy tentacles wrap their way around the people and props on screen. Sometimes it is head-scratching, but you can’t fault the filmmakers for trying something new. Similarly, this shocking display is certainly eye-catching. Using themes from the opening sequence was also a good touch, because it allows the sequence to be related to its film without giving anything away.
9. Thunderball (1965)
Song: Thunderball by Tom Jones
Song Rating: 9/10