Ranked: Every James Bond Title Sequence

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.  

James Bond Movielinx

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

Creativity: 4/10

Wow-Factor: 3/10

Execution: 4/10

Spoilers: 3/3

 

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

Creativity: 4/10

Wow-Factor: 3/10

Execution: 6/10

Spoilers: 2/3

 

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

Creativity: 4/10

Wow-Factor: 3/10

Execution: 6/10

Spoilers: 2/3

 

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

Creativity: 5/10

Wow-Factor: 5/10

Execution: 5/10

Spoilers: 2/3

 

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

Creativity: 6/10

Wow-Factor: 5/10

Execution: 6/10

Spoilers: 2/3

 

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

Creativity: 6/10

Wow-Factor: 7/10

Execution: 7/10

Spoilers: 2/3

 

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

Creativity: 6/10

Wow-Factor: 5/10

Execution: 5/10

Spoilers: 3/3

 

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

Creativity: 6/10

Wow-Factor: 6/10

Execution: 6/10

Spoilers: 0/3

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

Creativity: 3/10

Wow-Factor: 1/10

Execution: 8/10

Spoilers: 3/3

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

Creativity: 6/10

Wow-Factor: 5/10

Execution: 4/10

Spoilers: 3/3

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

Creativity: 6/10

Wow-Factor: 5/10

Execution: 7/10

Spoilers: 2/3

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

Creativity: 6/10

Wow-Factor: 4/10

Execution: 7/10

Spoilers: 0/3

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

Creativity: 7/10

Wow-Factor: 7/10

Execution: 9/10

Spoilers: 2/3

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

Creativity: 7/10

Wow-Factor: 6/10

Execution: 8/10

Spoilers: 3/3

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)

spectre

Song: The Writing’s on the Wall by Sam Smith

Song Rating: 6/10

Creativity: 8/10

Wow-Factor: 6/10

Execution: 7/10

Spoilers: 3/3

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

Creativity: 7/10

Wow-Factor: 5/10

Execution: 7/10

Spoilers: 2/3

Distinguishing Features: First title sequence with water effects.

Final Score: 30/43

The best title sequences are the ones that are fitting with their films. The Thunderball title sequence plays homage to the film’s amazing underwater climax. That battle sequence was a special effects marvel for its time, and indeed the title sequence is a similar achievement. The background water changes colors, so it never seems monotonous. Furthermore, they use bubbles to create a texture so that the background is not just a solid color and actually looks like water. They even unleash a giant pulse of air with a different color than the background, which not only looks pretty cool (and almost like fire), but it timed well with the music for an even bigger effect. The titles themselves are also very creative, with the film’s title being animated and Sean Connery’s name appearing and then disappearing according to what the divers are doing. Add in one of the more memorable Bond theme songs and you have all the makings of a great title sequence.


8. The World is Not Enough (1999)

Song: The World is Not Enough by Garbage

Song Rating: 6/10

Creativity: 7/10

Wow-Factor: 8/10

Execution: 8/10

Spoilers: 2/3

Distinguishing Features: The oil dancers.

Final Score: 31/43

The World is Not Enough has another unexpected choice for the song artist, but, like Tomorrow Never Dies, it turns out alright. It’s not the best Bond song, but it’s also not the worst. The sequence is more computer-generated special effects, but the execution feels better than in the previous two films. Again, the title sequence is themed based on an idea from the film. This time, that theme is oil. We see lots of floating droplets and the dancers appear to be made of liquid, which is cool and unique. The background plays off of the idea of the classic water reflection, this time depicting the iridescent sheen of oil layered on top of that water. There are some CGI-fuelled music-video like moments. It features fewer guns (but some stray bullets), and again Bond is almost absent save for a quick opening animation.


7. Live and Let Die (1971)

Song: Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney and Wings

Song Rating: 10/10

Creativity: 7/10

Wow-Factor: 6/10

Execution: 7/10

Spoilers: 2/3

Distinguishing Features: First appearance of fire.

Final Score: 32/43

The theme song for Live and Let Die was more aggressive and rock n’ roll than in any previous film, showcasing a change to go along with the change of the leading man. For a more aggressive song, you need a more aggressive title sequence. Thankfully, this one delivers. The fire at the beginning is a cool transition from the opening sequence, and it looks great against the dark background. There are cool shadows created by the models to frame background images and contrast against the flames. This sequence shows more special effects in use than the previous ones, although it still uses the layered look and zoom transitions. Somehow, those techniques feel more at home here with the more up-beat music. The sequence isn’t a total knock-out though, towards the end it becomes simpler as the background is a fiber optic lamp and then a watery blue background, which is not all that exciting or dynamic. The watery title animations, taken from Thunderball work well here though.  


6. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Song: Tomorrow Never Dies by Sheryl Crow

Song Rating: 7/10

Creativity: 9/10

Wow-Factor: 8/10

Execution: 7/10

Spoilers: 2/3

Distinguishing Features: Technology overdrive.

Final Score: 33/43

This sequence is one that feels more like a music video than a title sequence. There are lots of mesmerizing visuals, and less dancing models. It also doesn’t feature Mr. Bond himself for the first time in a while. It builds on Goldeneye by using a lot of computer-generated effects and by also picking a theme. This time, the theme is technology, which is unlike anything we’ve seen before and is fitting to the subject of the film. It plays off the theme of models/dancers and guns but delivers them in new ways. The x-ray vision is a cool effect, but it gives away one of the gadgets of the film. The dancing CGI model is also an interesting new addition, even if it hasn’t aged all that well. The song is surprisingly good, given that Sheryl Crow seems like an odd choice.


5. A View to a Kill (1985)

Song: A View to a Kill by Duran Duran

Song Rating: 8/10

Creativity: 8/10

Wow-Factor: 8/10

Execution: 8/10

Spoilers: 2/3

Distinguishing Features: Glow in the dark paint and clothing.

Final Score: 34/43

For Roger Moore’s final turn as Bond, the intro title sequence was a big departure from what had come before. Finally, after a decade and a half of similar-looking intros, we got something different. At the center of it all is the theme song, which was also a major departure. Instead of another love ballad, we’re back to rock n’ roll. More importantly, it feels very modern (for 1985) and the up-tempo beat gives the film an energy that we hadn’t seen since Live and Let Die. The song is memorable, and so is the title sequence. The dark background contrasting with the bright glow in the dark colors painted on and worn by the models not only highlights their movement, but looks great. The fire vs. ice theme is interesting and easy to identify without giving away too much of the film. Everything moves to the music too, which makes it cohesive. Later, there’s a sequence of shadows skiing by, which also looks cool and is different than what we’ve seen before.


4. Goldeneye (1995)

Song: Goldeneye by Tina Turner

Song Rating: 6/10

Creativity: 9/10

Wow-Factor: 10/10

Execution: 8/10

Spoilers: 2/3

Distinguishing Features: First use of computer generated effects in a title sequence.  

Final Score: 35/43

Bond was rebooted for the 90’s, and so was the intro title sequence. The difference between this title sequence and the previous bond film 6 years earlier is vast. It really stands out. For one, they use a lot of special effects; mainly those generated computers. Gone is the crude layered approach with lackluster execution. This is also one of the few sequences that doesn’t rely on water effects and reflections. Instead, the background is brightly colored, inspired by the fire of the initial gunfire opening animation. This sequence still has all of the elements that we’ve seen before; dancing models, firing guns, Bond in action. Yet it is assembled far superior than any of the other sequences. The song, written by Bono and The Edge, and performed by Tina Turner is only adequate. It’s somewhat boring and melodramatic. The sequence isn’t exactly spoiler-free. It features some of the actors and actresses from the film, and foreshadows an important scene with all of the crumbling statues.  


3. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Song: Nobody Does it Better by Carly Simon

Song Rating: 10/10

Creativity: 8/10

Wow-Factor: 8/10

Execution: 8/10

Spoilers: 2/3

Distinguishing Features: Bond is featured in the title for the first time.

Final Score: 36/43

Roger Moore’s best film as James Bond also has a lot going for it in the opening title sequence. First of all, you have one of the best theme songs. Not only was it memorable, but it changed things up in the series and was successful in doing so. First, it was a love ballad, which contrasted sharply with the overblown and more rock n’ roll songs of the past few films. Second, it was the first theme song that wasn’t just the title of the film. Simon wrote a song from the perspective of the Russian spy about James Bond, and indeed this change is reflected in the sequence itself. For the first time we see James Bond himself (at least a stunt double) along with the models. Those models aren’t just sitting around or dancing, they are interacting with Bond, doing gymnastics on guns, and flying around. It’s a more dynamic and interesting sequence, not to mention more complicated. Best of all, it is executed well. Despite everything that is happening, it remains beautiful and emotional to watch. It also has to do with the film itself. While the title pretty much gives away the plot, the opening sequence doesn’t really hide much either.


2. Skyfall (2012)

Song: Skyfall by Adele

Song Rating: 8/10

Creativity: 10/10

Wow-Factor: 9/10

Execution: 9/10

Spoilers: 1/3

Distinguishing Feature: James Bond’s mortality on display.  

Final Score: 37/43

Finally we have a great Bond song paired with a great intro. Adele’s song harkens back to the more traditional themes of the series, and that’s a good thing after the experimentations over the past 6 Bond films. Not only is the song good, but it fits perfectly with the tone of the title sequence. The visuals too help to set up the most somber and sad opening of any Bond film. We see our hero fall, and the visuals are all clever illusions to illustrate this point. Instead of models dancing with water reflections, Bond is being pulled down into the depths. His security is unknown and the audience is concerned. The focus is rightly on Bond himself, with no women as distractions. Many title sequences use guns, but Skyfall is perhaps the most creative in its approach. The overall production seems similar to the title sequence of the previous film, and that’s a good thing. Ultimately the sequence does spoil some of the film’s more surprising locales, but at least it doesn’t give away much of the plot.


1. Casino Royale (2006)

Song: You Know My Name by Chris Cornell

Song Rating: 6/10

Creativity: 10/10

Wow-Factor: 9/10

Execution: 10/10

Spoilers: 2/3

Distinguishing Feature: Casino themed, entirely animated.

Final Score: 37/43

 

A new Bond and a new approach to the opening sequence. This is the only sequence that does not feature models dancing. It focuses entirely on Bond and his exploits, like we’re watching him earn his stripes on various missions. This is an idea that builds upon what was done in Die Another Day where the title sequence is used to further advance the story. Indeed, the opening scene in Casino Royale depicts Bond’s first mission, so it’s like we’re being introduced to our hero. This makes this sequence not only cool to watch, but important and very creative. The visuals are different than everything else too. The paper cut-out animations are unique, look great, and fit in well with the casino theme. The song is a return to rock and roll, and even if it doesn’t exactly fit as a “classic” Bond song, it is able to create an appropriate mood for the sequence and sets the film up in an energetic fashion.

 


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