Today marks the opening of Goldfinger: The Design of an Iconic Film Title, MoMA’s focus installation — in conjunction with the film exhibition 50 Years of Bond — featuring the first film title sequence to enter the museum’s permanent collection. Designed and directed by Robert Brownjohn, the Goldfinger titles are believed to be one of the best examples of title design used to produce a pertinent film component that’s not just a necessary afterthought. As the show’s catalog states, “Brownjohn deployed type in dynamic, abstract forms, in this case illustrating both his mastery of modern graphic design and his ability to apply sophisticated graphic treatment to popular media.”
In honor of Bond’s golden anniversary and a long-standing legacy of outstanding opening credits, we’ve taken a look at the art of the title through the ages. From Saul Bass’ pioneering early work all the way up to the exceedingly clever introduction to nerd dramedy at its best, click through to check out the most iconic film title sequences of all time. Let us know in the comments what designs you’d add to this list!
The Man With the Golden Arm by Saul Bass (1955)
The title sequence that introduced the man that would become one of the greatest graphic designers the world has known was an abstraction of a very taboo subject matter in the mid-50s: the life and times of Frankie Machine, a jazz musician (played by Frank Sinatra) battling a heroin addiction. As controversial as the film itself, Bass chose the arm as the central image of his design.
As one analysis of the sequence states, “the titles for the film feature spiny, cut-out projectiles, vaguely redolent of veins and syringes, that manage to be disconcerting despite the accompaniment of Elmer Bernstein’s rather brassy jazz score. Privileging the director’s credit, the titular ‘golden arm’ (which actually refers to Frankie’s prowess as a card dealer and not the location of his track-marks) appears as a bent and tortured appendage, reaching out for either redemption or a fix.”