There’s something about an opening scene. They say first impressions make or break a relationship and while in film there is a bit more wiggle room, an opening scene is a great way to hook in your viewer from the get go. There have been plenty of great scenes of the years that open up great films. This list comprises my personal favorites. I also feel the need to keep opening credit sequences out of it so no Se7en, Catch Me if you Can, or Lord of War. I’ll be searching for each scene of youtube so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to be spoiled of anything, please don’t watch the video. Here we go…
This is definitely my favorite opening in any film, although not by much. The combination of Radiohead and the slow close up of that thousand yard stare are just powerful as hell. You don’t know who the kid is yet, you don’t know why they’re getting their heads shaved, but you know they don’t want it. You know that something is changing inside. It’s gorgeous.
I couldn’t find the full scene, but the above video is good enough. The humor, the intensity, the introduction to one of the greatest villains of all time…this scene has everything. It’s almost a perfect way to start a film that will end up being Tarantino’s best film. I actually think it works without the entire rest of the film. It stands alone. I saw this movie for the first time after midnight in my theater and it hooked me in. I was set. Still crack up at the pipe reveal.
I still get chills down my spine when I see this movie and it starts from the beginning. The tracking shot from the car while “Easy to be Hard” by Three Dog Night plays in the background and fireworks go off in the background COMPLETELY cement you into the summer of 1969. Michael and Darlene are on an awkward date and you can feel its awkwardness right up until our black mystery car pulls up behind them. “Hurdy Gurdy Man”. Unforgettable. Every time I hear this Donovan song I think of this scene. Goooooooood byyyyyye.
The Dark Knight
The silent opening. The zoom in aerial shot filmed in glorious IMAX. The speculative banter about The Joker. Even the guys doing the job for him don’t know who he is. The backstabbing and William Fichtner being a badass with a shotgun. The scene above cuts off before The Joker reveal but it’s still breathtaking to watch. Nolan may be in a bit of a slump recently but this film alone cements him as a world class filmmaker.
The Social Network
You gotta include a dialogue scene. Simple. Two people at a table talking that eventually leads to a breakup. I don’t know if it’s the dialogue in this scene that makes it amazing or the acting so I’ll just meet myself in the middle and say that they both combine to form just a fantastic look into the mind of Mark Zuckerberg. It’s alos one of the first glimpses at Rooney Mara who would later be an Oscar Nominee. The scene cuts off but I also love Mark walking home to his dorm in the snow while Trent Reznor’s score plays in the background. That makes two Fincher openings on my list.
28 Days Later
I couldn’t find the full scene or really any part of the scene besides what I found above but you get the point. Jim wakes up in a hospital, before Rick Grimes did, and nobody is around. What follows is a creepy as shit sequence as Jim walks around a vacant London. There is no green screen. London is empty. Godspeed You! Black Emperor blares in the background and still nobody around. One of the creepiest scenes in film.
A Clockwork Orange
Strange. Hypnotic. Creepy. Kubrick sets the tone with one long stare from Malcolm McDowell. The music combines with Alex and his Droogs for an iconic opening at the milk bar.
There Will Be Blood
It’s amazing that without a single word of dialogue, we know all we need to know about Daniel Plainview. Jonny Greenwood’s score blasts your ears from the get go and we get to see just how far Daniel is willing to go, or crawl, to get to the top. He’s smart. He’s ruthless. He’s business. Incredible direction from PT Anderson.
Awesome three story coincidence introduction that has nothing really to do with the film’s plot or story arcs. They’re just examples of how life can be funny and tragic sometimes. The scene is narrated by Ricky Jay and for some reason his voice is the only voice I can see making this film what it is. I believe all three stories are true too. Or at least somewhat true. The video above is all I could find. It’s the final story. The Sydney Barringer suicide.
Super tense opening getaway scene from Drive may be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I mean cool as in “that dude is one cool, fly, motherfucker”. He’s never out of control of the situation or his car. He’s all business. I’m a sucker for characters who are all business. The tick tick score is also awesome.
It stills knocks me on my ass. Every, damn, time. I actually teared up watching it again just now. I cried my damn eyes out in the theater and every single kid in the theater was silent. The parents were sobbing but the kids were silent. They just couldn’t grasp the emotional impact of what they just saw. This is tied with Finding Nemo as my favorite Pixar films.