James Bond: Ranking Every Pre-Title Sequence From The Pierce Brosnan Movies

Pierce Brosnan's James Bond films weren't all well-received by critics, but they opened with some thrilling action sequences.

By the time Pierce Brosnan inherited the role of James Bond from Timothy Dalton, the franchise’s tropes and traditions were well-defined. 007 fans knew what to expect when they bought a ticket to see a new entry in the franchise, so the producers had to keep stepping up their game to deliver. One of the most beloved Bond movie traditions is the pre-title sequence. Before the opening credits, each Bond film draws the audience to the edge of their seat with an explosive action sequence that has little or no connection to the main plot and whose main purpose is to thrill. Goldfinger defined this trope when Bond planted explosives in a Latin American drug lab, then coolly lit a cigarette as the bombs went off.

While Brosnan’s films weren’t all well-received by critics, they did set the stage beautifully with a series of thrilling cold opens. Starting with GoldenEye, the Brosnan era brought a modern blockbuster sensibility to 007’s adventures, with some of the biggest and boldest Bond openings to date.

4. Tomorrow Never Dies

The greatest Bond movie openings are the most inspired ones, like a fight on the roof of a moving train in Skyfall or a SPECTRE assassin ambushing 007 while disguised as his own wife in ThunderballTomorrow Never Dies has one of the most uninspired, by-the-numbers Bond openings. It does what it says on the tin: it provides all the action that fans expect, but doesn’t strive to go above and beyond.

This pre-title sequence sees 007 breaking into a jet to fly it out of range after realizing it’s too late for the military to call off a missile strike on an illegal arms market where he just discovered nuclear weapons. Preventing a nuclear fallout is a fun setup, but this sequence just offers loud, explosive carnage for the sake of loud, explosive carnage. It has the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink thrills of No Time to Die’s opening sequence, but lacks its razor-sharp focus on characterization and clarity.

3. Die Another Day

On the whole, Die Another Day is considered to be one of the weakest Bond films of all. The plot is nonsensical (even by Bondian standards) and action scenes like 007 surfing on a tidal wave are too goofy and unrealistic to be truly engaging. Still, Halle Berry gives a terrific performance as the “Bond girl,” Jinx, and the movie starts off in spectacular style as Bond is captured by North Korea and has to shoot his way out of a prison camp.

Like the Star Wars prequels and many other Hollywood blockbusters that were released around the same time, Brosnan’s Bond films are often criticized for their overuse of primitive computer-generated effects in the earliest days of CGI technology. Mercifully, the action-packed opening scene of Die Another Day uses good old-fashioned Bayhem to create thrills, not CGI.

2. The World Is Not Enough

One of the more celebrated Bond films from the Brosnan era, The World is Not Enough was praised for its villain twist, its emotional tone, and its riveting pre-title sequence. In one of the longest opening scenes in the franchise’s history, Bond narrowly avoids death by explosives used by an assassin to kill British oil tycoon Sir Robert King in MI6’s London headquarters. He spots the assassin and pursues her across the River Thames in a gadget-laden watercraft designed by Q.

Bond stories are known for their globetrotting nature, taking audiences around the world to exotic locales, so it was refreshing to see 007 on his home ground, chasing bad guys to London landmarks like the Millennium Dome. The sequence reaches an explosive ending (literally) when the assassin tries to escape on a hot air balloon, which she then blows up – along with herself – to avoid capture.

1. GoldenEye

Traditionally, the opening scenes of Bond films are a showcase for the impressive work of the stunt team, like the Union Jack parachute jump in The Spy Who Loved Me, and have nothing to do with the plot, but GoldenEye’s cold open manages to show off the stunt team’s work and set up the plot at the same time. Brosnan’s first (and most critically acclaimed) Bond film opens with 007 on a mission with a fellow 00 agent, Alec Trevelyan (006), played by Sean Bean.

The two 00 operatives are tasked with breaking into a Soviet chemical weapons facility in Arkhangelsk. The first action beat is a breathtaking bungee jump shot at the Contra Dam, often included on lists of the greatest stunts ever captured on film. The bungee jump gets the movie off to an exciting start, but as the 00 agents infiltrate the facility, the sequence takes a surprisingly emotional turn with Trevelyan’s supposed death.

Bond’s grief over the loss of 006 forms the backbone of his arc throughout the movie, leading up to the shocking reveal that not only is Trevelyan still alive; he’s the bad guy. Bean does a great job of playing Trevelyan as a fun, likable sidekick in the opening scene to really sell the rug-pull when his true motivation is revealed later in the film.

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