Teaser is a film term for a sequence that takes place before a movie’s opening titles—a hallmark of the Eon Productions James Bond series. Pre-credits sequences can get a film off to a rousing start, and that’s exactly how they’re used in the 007 movies—though they weren’t the first films to do so. One of the first action teasers was in the film The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951), depicting a commando raid on Rommel’s headquarters in North Africa. The first Bond film, Dr. No, technically has no teaser sequence, but the assassination of John Strangways (Tim Moxon) after the opening credits works in much the same way. True Bond teasers began with the next film, and what follows is a brief summary of each one:
- From Russia with Love: James Bond (Sean Connery) is stalked by assassin Donald Grant (Robert Shaw), who ultimately kills his prey—only for it to turn out to be a phony Bond in a SPECTRE training session.
- Goldfinger: In the quintessential Bond teaser, 007 arrives on a beach in South America wearing a fake seagull atop his diving mask. After placing demolition charges in a heroin smuggler’s lair, he visits the dressing room of the lovely Bonita (Nadja Regin), only to be attacked by the capungo (Alf Joint). The resulting fight is particularly vicious, culminating with the villain being thrown into the bathtub along with an electric heater that electrocutes him. Agent 007’s classic comment, “Shocking, positively shocking,” serves as the perfect segue into Shirley Bassey’s title song.
- Thunderball: The film begins solemnly at a funeral, during which Bond discovers that the guest of honor, a supposedly deceased SPECTRE agent (Bob Simmons), is instead very much alive and disguised as his grieving widow. After a gruesome fight in which Bond eventually breaks the “widow’s” neck, 007 steals away in a one-man Bell Rocket Belt, ushering in the era of the super-gadgets. Bond then arrives back at his Aston Martin, which sprays three villains with water—the perfect prelude to Tom Jones’s Thunderball theme song.
- You Only Live Twice: As the United States deals with the loss of one of its Jupiter space capsules, Bond seems to be enjoying some downtime in Hong Kong with his Chinese girlfriend Ling (Tsai Chin)—only to fall victim to an “assassination.”
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: The teaser serves to introduce a new Bond, model turned actor George Lazenby, who defeats a gang of hoods on the beach in southern France only to see his damsel in distress (Diana Rigg) drive away without saying a word—something that definitely didn’t happen to the other guy.
- Diamonds Are Forever: After the murder of his wife in the previous film, a revenge-minded Bond (Sean Connery again) tracks Blofeld (Charles Gray) from Tokyo to Cairo and eventually attempts to bury him in boiling mud.
- Live and Let Die: Though the film introduces another new Bond (Roger Moore), he doesn’t appear in the teaser, which instead focuses on the systematic assassination of three British agents in New York City, New Orleans, and the fictional Caribbean island of San Monique.
- The Man with the Golden Gun: In the very stylized teaser, assassin Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) kills a tough Mafia hit man (Marc Lawrence) in his fabulous “fun house” training ground.
- The Spy Who Loved Me: A ski-borne 007 shakes his enemy pursuers by jumping off an Austrian mountain peak and parachuting to safety. Ingeniously shot on the precarious slopes of Canada’s Asgard Peak, it’s the best of all Bond teasers and perhaps the daredevil sequence of all time.
- Moonraker: Another hijacked spaceship leads into another inventive skydiving stunt, as Bond must think fast when he’s thrown from a plane without a parachute.
- For Your Eyes Only: In the first teaser sequence to actually get the film off on the wrong foot, Bond plays footsie with a Blofeld lookalike while trying to get out of a disabled helicopter. The bit in which he unceremoniously dumps Blofeld into a smokestack while Blofeld tries to bribe Bond with the offer of a “delicatessen in stainless steel” was a particular low point.
- Octopussy: The teaser introduces 007’s Acrostar mini jet in a rousing battle between Bond and a Latin American dictator’s private army.
- A View to a Kill: The teaser sequence returns to familiar ground with a ski chase—set to, of all things, the Beach Boys song “California Girls.”
- The Living Daylights: The pre-credits sequence dazzles viewers with a war game battle on the Rock of Gibraltar while simultaneously introducing the next 007 (Timothy Dalton).
- Licence to Kill: Bond and Felix Leiter (David Hedison) are on their way to Leiter’s wedding when they’re suddenly ordered to capture a major drug kingpin (Robert Davi). Hopping aboard a US Coast Guard helicopter, Bond eventually chases and literally lassos the crook’s private plane, towing it back to the base in very Bondian fashion.
- GoldenEye: The first 007 film of the 1990s introduces Pierce Brosnan as the latest Bond and flashes back to the Cold War, with 007 joining 006 (Sean Bean) for an attack on a Soviet chemical weapons depot. It’s a thrilling sequence that involves both a bungee jump off the edge of a huge hydroelectric dam and a desperate free fall into a crashing plane that harks back to the Asgard Jump in The Spy Who Loved Me.
- Tomorrow Never Dies: In a flat teaser with no real heart-stopping moments, Bond prevents catastrophe by stealing a nuclear-armed Russian fighter jet from a terrorist arms bazaar.
- The World Is Not Enough: Bond takes on Julietta the Cigar Girl (Maria Grazia Cucinotta) in a splendid teaser involving a beautiful knife-throwing assassin, booby-trapped bank notes, and a jet boat chase on the Thames.
- Die Another Day: In another effective, audacious opening sequence, Bond surfs his way into North Korea, ends up in a high-speed hovercraft chase, and for once fails to pull off his escape, getting captured by the North Koreans and then tortured as the teaser segues into the title sequence and Madonna’s opening song.
- Casino Royale: The series changed tone dramatically with the arrival of Daniel Craig as 007, and his debut teaser is a noirish black-and-white sequence in which Bond surprises Dryden (Malcolm Sinclair), a British double agent who has been selling his country’s secrets. Since the series is essentially rebooting here, we learn from Dryden that to achieve double-0 status, an agent must make two kills. Bond has already offed one of Dryden’s associates, so Dryden’s death will give him the final kill he needs.
- Quantum of Solace: The film begins five minutes after Casino Royale ended, with Bond pursued by agents of the criminal organization Quantum in a gripping car chase.
- Skyfall: This teaser involves another chase—this one mostly on foot in Istanbul, between Bond and the mercenary Patrice (Ola Rapace). It eventually leads to a battle atop a moving train, in which MI6 field agent Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) takes a shot, misses Patrice, and hits Bond instead.
- Spectre: A message from the late M (Dame Judi Dench) leads Bond on an unauthorized mission to Mexico City to stop a terrorist bomb plot. The scale of the sequence is truly impressive, as 007’s mission plays out in the streets of Mexico City during a massive Day of the Dead celebration.
The non-Eon Bond film Never Say Never Again doesn’t have a pre-titles sequence. The film introduces Bond on a training exercise in the South American jungle (shot in the Bahamas), which serves as a teaser of sorts—but it takes place after the credits roll. Originally, however, the filmmakers planned to open the movie with one of the most interesting pre-credits teasers of all.
The film was meant to open at a spectacular medieval pageant and tournament. Horses ridden by fifteenth-century knights are charging at one another in a thrilling competition. The lances they use are wooden and nonlethal, but one of the knights suddenly picks up a lance that has a hidden metal-bladed tip. During the next competition, the metal lance kills one of the contestants.
Up until this point, the movie appears to be taking place six hundred years in the past. After the knight is killed, however, one of the other knights doffs his helmet, and we see that it’s James Bond (Sean Connery). Bond jumps on his horse and chases after the murderous knight. As Bond’s horse clears a fence, we’re suddenly in the middle of a huge parking lot. He spies the killer—a woman—climbing into a sports car, and takes off after her. After a heart-pounding steeplechase across the parking lot, with Bond jumping car after car on his horse, the escaping assassin is caught and killed. This teaser could have been one of the best in the series; unfortunately, it was deemed too expensive and was dropped from the final shooting script.
The Bond teasers are the perfect embodiments of “Harry Houdini syndrome”—that is, the ongoing battle for the series to come up with ever more dangerous and death-defying stunts. The fact that, with few exceptions, the teasers have never ceased to be rip-roaring fun is a great credit to the skill and inventiveness of decades of Bond filmmakers.