PG Cooper: The James Bond Openings Ranked

Posted: October 18, 2012 by PG Cooper in Lists

So, our old friend Fogs is going crazy with Bond this month in preparation for Skyfall. A ton of other bloggers have already contributed to his Bond blogathon, and I look forward to seeing what comes next. His blogathon has also inspired me to finally make the James Bond lists that I’ve wanted to make for a while now. So I’ve compiled nine lists related to Bond, which I will post in seven parts. A general rule that will carry through these lists is that I’m only looking at the official Bond films. You won’t see an appearance from Never Say Never Again or Casino Royale (1967) at any point. Moving along, I’ll start by ranking the opening credits of the series.

The opening credits feel like the most appropriate way to begin. They scream James Bond and have become iconic in the series. It’s important to note that each opening will be based both on the visuals and the song, though I’d say I care more about the music.

22.  Octopussy

This song is really cheesy and sentimental, which doesn’t really fit Bond at all. The visuals are also pretty lazy and uninspired. Plus, the producers chickened out by not writing a song around the title of the film. I’m not sure how they could have incorporated the word “Octopussy” into the lyrics, but it would have been interesting to see them try.

21.  The Man with the Golden Gun

Boring visuals and a lame title track make for a forgettable opening. Of course, I might just be bitter because producers chose Lulu’s song over one by Alice Cooper, but I stand by it’s placement in the list.

20.  A View to a Kill

I absolutely despise this song. It’s pure 80’s crap that doesn’t belong anywhere near a Bond film. What I find even more perplexing is there are a lot of people out there who I actually really like this song. I don’t get it. This is by far my least favourite Bond song and the only reason the opening isn’t ranked last is the visuals are actually solid.

19. License to Kill

The visuals are pretty bland and while Gladys Knight’s song isn’t horrible, it’s a bit boring and doesn’t really suit Bond. None of this is terrible, but none of it is really good either.

18. You Only Live Twice

Nancy Sinatra’s song is nice and relaxing, but that’s part of the problem here. I don’t want my Bond songs to my soft and soothing. The song itself is fine for what it is, but it just isn’t a Bond song. As for the visuals; I admire that they look a bit different than the series’ norm, but most of the footage is just running lava. I know a lot of people really dig this opening, but I’m not a fan.

17. Quantum of Solace

I hated this song the first time I saw Quantum of Solace. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate it more. The song’s problem is that it’s uneven. Some parts sound pretty cool, while others parts are…not. I do like the visuals though, which are pretty exciting. It is interesting to note that the Quantum of Solace videogame had a different theme song that’s actually much better.

16.  Moonraker

I like the use of blue in the opening, and while the song itself may not be very noteworthy, Shirley Bassey’s vocals make it sound better than it is.

15. The World is Not Enough

Now we’re starting to hit some great openings. Garbage’s title track is pretty good, but what really makes this opening stand out are the visuals. Giving the dancing silhouettes of Bond openings a cool liquid-like design was a really nice touch.

14. Die Another Day

This opening features some of the best visuals ever in the series. The fire and ice motif is cool, but more importantly, the visuals actually relate to the plot as they depict Bond being tortured in a Korean prison camp. It’s a really unique and interesting way of telling the story and it’s the only Bond film where the opening credits help tell the story. So why is it relatively low on the list? Because of the title track. I don’t hate Madonna’s song as much as some fans, but it definitely does not belong in a Bond film. With a better song, this would be top ten and with a classic song, it’d be top five.

13. For Your Eyes Only

I’m a bit torn on this one. On one hand, I really love Sheena Easton’s song, to the point where I’m a bit embarrassed with how much I enjoy it. On the other hand, I feel like showing Easton sing in the opening credits was a huge mistake. It makes the segment feel more like a music video than the opening to a Bond film. Still, I can always close my eyes and enjoy the music.

12. Dr. No

Being the first Bond film, the series hadn’t developed the tradition of the opening credits. The song played is just the James Bond theme for the most part, before switching into some funky Jamaican jams, then a cool version of “Three Blind Mice”. The visuals, while simple, are really colourful and exciting and despite the frequent music changes, there’s something charming about it all.

11. Tomorrow Never Dies

Apparently fans don’t like Sheryl Crow’s title song. I honestly don’t know why. I think it’s pretty cool. It’s not what I’d normally expect from a Bond song, but that’s also why I like it. The tech visuals are also really unique and inspired. I don’t really have much else to say. It’s a cool intro that I think is a bit underrated.

10. From Russia With Love

Still in Bond’s infancy, this opening doesn’t feature a song with vocals. Instead, we have an instrumental based on various Bond themes, as well as Matt Monro’s title track (which is played over the end credits and is highly enjoyable). I also really like the visuals here. They’re pretty basic; just words projected on the bodies of women, but the women’s dancing makes the audience need to work to read the credits. It’s a nice touch. It’s also a very colourful and exciting opening, in spite of the simplicity.

9. The Living Daylights

Before I saw The Living Daylights, I found out A-Ha did the theme song and I was a bit worried. A-Ha is the group behind “Take on Me”, one of the lamest songs to come out of the 8o’s. The Living Daylights was also the first Bond film following  View to a Kill, and the last thing I wanted was another Bond song like that. To my shock though, A-Ha’s song is actually pretty good, being catchy but still having an edge. It’s actually one of my favourite Bond songs. The downside here is the visuals aren’t very strong, but the song helps push past that.

8. Goldeneye

A lot of people love Tina Turner’s title track. I don’t. Not that it’s bad, but it doesn’t do much for me. Forunately, the visuals here are excellent. This was the first Bond film to use CGI in the credits, and the filmmakers take full advantage of it. The image of the Soviet Union falling is a really smart way to show that Bond is moving beyond the Cold War. That’s pretty cool, cool enough for me to give Turner’s song some leniency.

7. Casino Royale

I like the animated visuals a lot. They’re pretty unique and the card motif is fun. More importantly, having Chris Cornell provide a rocking Bond theme is fucking awesome. “You Know My Name” is a far grittier track than most Bond songs, which is fitting given Casino Royale is grittier than most Bond films.

6. The Spy Who Loved Me

Everything about this opening is classic. The visuals are classic, and also get across the themes of the film well. More importantly, Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” is a classic Bond song. The lyrics portray the awesomeness of James Bond as a character well.

5. Diamonds are Forever

Getting the bad out of the way, the visuals here aren’t spectacular, though the image of cat walking out of a woman’s legs is certainly interesting. But really, who needs great visuals when you have Shirley Bassey belting one of the best Bond songs of all time? The lyrics in the song are great, and Bassey really gives it her all. It’s the best thing about Diamonds are Forever, and one of the best Bond songs of all.

4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the last Bond film with no lyrics in the opening. Within that sub-category, it’s also the best opening of its kind. John Barry’s music is beyond awesome, the British imagery is good, and I like that clips from the previous Bond films are shown, assuring audiences this is the same James Bond (this was the first Bond film to not feature Sean Connery). A lot of people don’t like this opening. I clearly disagree.

3. Goldfinger

The images projected onto to the bodies of golden women is cool and all, but honestly, the reason Goldfinger is at three is the music. Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” is the quintessential Bond song. The lyrics are great, the brass is awesome, and my God Bassey just nails it.

2. Live and Let Die

The visuals here are batshit crazy. You’ve got the classic Bond silhouettes, but you also have lots of fire and skulls. The visuals have a lot of energy. More importantly, Paul McCartney’s title track is one of the greatest Bond songs ever. Fast paced, exciting, and all kinds of awesome.

1. Thunderball

Thunderball has the perfect marriage of visuals of music. Let’s start with the visuals. The imagery is simple, but very striking and effective. Every Bond film credit scene takes inspiration from Thunderball. Tom Jones also delivers one of the finest Bond songs of all and his powerful voice really drives it foreword. Both these elements come together to form an opening which is sexy and exciting, but also has an element of class.

Comments
  1. First!!

    :D

    Ok, first thought is, WOW. All 22! That’s awesome. Nice share.

    Movers and shakers, if the list were mine!

    Up: Casino Royale, A View to a Kill, The World is Not Enough.

    Down: OHMSS, The belly dancing FRWL (LOL) and The Living Daylights (HATE that themesong)

    :D Thanks for joining in, man, I’ll link this puppy tomorrow! Meanwhile, it feels like we’re thinking (almost) the same thing, I’m working on ranking the themesongs right now! :D

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      Nice. Looking forward to seeing your list.

      P.S. So you’re into Duran Duran, huh?

      • Well, I dont know about “Into”…

        I grew up in that era, and I hated that band, and all the 80s synth pop they represented. But time will make you nostalgic for even the shitty songs of your youth. And honestly, I’ve come to respect their tunes… and the pop tunes of that time.

        That’s easily one of the best Bond themes, its pretty snappy. And that day glo title sequence absolutely cracks me up. It is SO 1983. It’s very much one of the most timely title sequences… you can just look at it and think “early 80s” LOL

      • pgcooper1939 says:

        So much Duran Duran comments are making me ill.

        I see your point, but that song is sooooooo……….ugh.

        I guess were agreeing to disagree on that one!

  2. le0pard13 says:

    I agree with Fogs that this was a wonderful, wide-reaching post, Daniel. All 22 of them. Impressive. Always great to see and hear what makes certain aspects of the world of Bond interesting to its fans. We’re not all going to agree on the order, but it sure is fun reading. Kudos for giving ‘Thunderball’ its due for its opening. Tom Jones’ rendition of the song was a very good male contrast to the great Shirley Bassey (who I think the world of, btw).

    Just so I’m clear, I absolutely hate Madonna’s song for ‘Die Another Day’. Your point about the title sequence, however, in its storytelling aspect, remains spot-on. I’d just rather have the actual sounds of the sequence (or someone’s nail grating a blackboard) than to hear Madonna butcher the OO7 song tradition. Then again, she was in the midst of wrecking then hubby Guy Ritchie’s career during this period, so I guess her appearance was timely ;-). Great post.

    p.s., Fogs and I disagree on OHMSS fundamentally. I like John Barry’s instrumental for its opening number. Not a fan of A-Ha’s stint with ‘Living Daylights’. It’s not a bad tune, but doesn’t ring of a Bond song, IMO. I also think Nancy Sinatra’s take with ‘You Only Live Twice’ is one of the most underrated songs in the stable, and I’m not alone in this thought. But, again, we’re not all going to agree on these ;-).

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      Well, given there’s 22 options to go with, there’s bound to be some disagreement :P

      Yeah, the Madonna song is pretty bad. I’m glad your with me on OHMSS, but I’m also sad that there’s now two of you against The Living Daylights. As for YOLT, decent song, I just don’t think it fits for Bond.

      P.S. Love your Shirley Bassey post.

    • Meanwhile, I’m with you on the Madonna thing, Le0p.

      I hate that tune. Sequence itself is cool though.

  3. Good post, i’ll share this around :D

  4. Max says:

    Ah the diversity of opinion. If you visit you can see I did a very similar thing, but A View to A Kill was my number one choice. I really love that song and enjoy a lot of Duran Duran songs in general (Ordinary World, Hungry Like A Wolf, Rio, etc.). I did my list purely on the music alone, but looking at your list I can see where I might’ve mixed things up had I included the visuals in my decision.

  5. 70srichard says:

    Came over from Fogs, loved your post and all the work you put into it. I can’t wait to see the other stuff you are going to be doing during the Blogathon. Thanks for giving some love to the Great and Under appreciated Matt Monroe. I really liked the top three. Casino Royale had terrific images but for me the weak link was the song. Exactly the same thing with Die Another Day, hate the song but the storytelling in the images was excellent. See you next time.

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