One of the most iconic parts of the James Bond series in the pre-credit sequence, also known as the teaser. Stumbled upon almost by accident, the teaser is now a locked in ritual, a (hopefully) fine and taut mini-movie that puts the audience into the Bond frame of mind before the credits and theme song kick in.
Sometimes it ties in directly to the movie's plot...sometimes it's completely unrelated. Hell, sometimes Bond is not even in it!!
So ingrained is the form in our Bond souls that we panic when we think they've tinkered with the format (TWINE) or don't start out with the gun barrel (CR 2006). The idea of Bond without a teaser is well nigh unthinkable by now.
(Hey, Sony/MGM, here's a brilliant idea. You've managed to takes heaps of our money by getting to re buy constantly upgraded VHS & DVD & Blu-Ray versions of the Bond movies...money which we've willingly and joyfully parted with. Well, here's another way to empty our pockets: how about a DVD compiling all the teasers? C'mon, you know we'd all buy it...)
So when sitting down to rank the teasers, I was a little bit surprised to see how few GREAT ones there were. In my mind, there is a huge gap between the top 4 or 5 and the rest. The problem in making a mini-movie, I guess, is that you have just as many things that can go wrong as you do in a regular movie, but in a much smaller space. And as a result, finding the right balance of action and gadgets and humor and romance and panache is more difficult than one might think. (And of course, they're being judged against other Bond teasers, so it's stiff competition)
So, with no further ado, my rankings of the Bond teasers. As always, it's a personal list, and your mileage may vary. Dr. No and Never Say Never Again had no teasers, so aren't included. Casino Royale (1967)...well, the less said of the, the better.
20) Live And Let Die. No Bond in Roger Moore's first teaser? Even worse, no story--just a much of seemingly unconnected white people being murdered by nefarious black people. Just terrible.
19) The Man With The Golden Gun. Again, no Bond (get a feeling that the Roger Moore era is going to hell for teasers?). I suppose it's a good intro for Scaramanga, but it's over-impressed with it's own cheap fun house gags and "action," going on far too long for something with no stunts and no 007.
18) You Only Live Twice. After some amazingly loooooooooong shenanigans in space, we catch up to Bond, only to see him "die" almost immediately.
17) Diamonds Are Forever. A mostly unseen Bond punching out people in close-ups, Bond strangling a woman with her own bikini top, and Bond drowning a fake Blofeld in mud. Uninspired at best.
16) A View To A Kill. Aside from the Beach Boys' song, not performed by the Beach Boys, a lot of snow stunts that had been done better in previous movies. Almost completely unmemorable.
15) For Your Eyes Only. Nice to see the shout-out for Tracy. Otherwise? The helicopter stuff wasn't particularly exciting, and by now you all know what I thought of Wheelchair Man.
14) Die Another Day. The surfing was, shall we say, unconvincing. The hovercraft chase was poorly filmed and edited, hard to follow. And the whole thing just looked soooo dreary...
13) Licence To Kill. Meh.
12) Octopussy. Not a lot to say here. Not much to recommend it, not a lot to condemn it. Demerit for being so silly at the end (what, you take this plane on a mission without a full tank of gas?).
11) The World Is Not Enough. I'd give it some points for innovation, but it wasn't really trying to be innovative. Some good stunts, but the plot they weave through it is baffling at best, and it's way overlong, turning what should be an appetizer into a main course.
10) Moonraker. Wonderful, wonderful skydiving stuntwork. Knocked way, way down in the rankings by having Jaws flap like a bird and survive by falling on a circus tent, which completely subverts any sense of danger the stunts might have had.
9) On Her Majesty's Secret Service. A good intro for Lazenby, but fairly unambitious.
8) Thunderball. Sean is suave and wonderful, good fight with S.P.E.C.T.R.E. #6. Sets up the theme of the movie nicely (Bond rocks, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. sucks). Not great, but understands the panache a teaser should have.
7) Tomorrow Never Dies. Exciting, fun, lots of great action, some great lines, good stuff for M. But is it too "Rambo" for Bond?
6) From Russia With Love. The first teaser, and even if it's not the real Bond, we don't know that. Good suspense, and sets up the main action of the film nicely. A teeny bit of extra credit for being the first.
The top 5 are all brilliant, and on a different day this order could be completely rearranged.
5) The Living Daylights. Fun with M, a logical set-up with an MI-6 training mission, climbing and driving and fighting and explosions. A brilliant introduction for Dalton.
4) Casino Royale (2006). Perhaps still early to judge it...but the noir take on Bond earning his Double-O, the brutal bathroom fight...and unlike TWINE, a deliberate attempt to shake up the teaser, in service of the movie's "Bond's early adventures" idea.
3) Goldeneye. A well-nigh perfect mini-movie, that more perfectly than any other teaser sets up what is to come from the rest of the movie--his relationship with Alec, and what a Double-O means. (But, like all the other Brosnan teasers, where's the romance??)
2) The Spy Who Loved Me. The Asgard Jump. The Union Jack parachute. Oh, James...not perfect, but its flaws are easily forgivable.
1) Goldfinger. The one that set the mold. The perfect blend, the silliness, the action, the fight, the woman, the death quip...if you were to have to put one sequence in a time capsule to explain what Bond was to our simian masters in the future, this would be it.