My Favorite Opening Scenes

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.

Inglorious Basterds

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.

Classic Review : Hard Eight aka Sydney (1996)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 82%
Netflix Instant Watch

Directed By – Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring – Phillip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson

John has lost all his money. He sits outside a diner in the desert when Sydney happens along, buys him coffee, then takes him to Reno and shows him how to get a free room without losing much money. Under Sydney’s fatherly tutelage, John becomes a successful small-time professional gambler, and all is well, until he falls for Clementine, a cocktail waitress and sometimes hooker.

This may be the first time on this website that I’ve mentioned my adoration for Paul Thomas Anderson. I’ll cut to the chase. I think he’s the best working director in the business and I honestly believe he is the second coming of Stanley Kubrick. I’ve seen Magnolia and There Will Be Blood over ten times each and The Master, while confusing and frustrating at first, is now one of my favorite films of the last five years. From the composition of his shots to the construction of his screenplays, I just don’t think there is another director that can keep up with him. That being said, I enjoyed the shit out of the only film of his I have yet to see until tonight.

Phillip Baker Hall plays Sydney and plays him well. PTA crafted a very intimate and deep character study of the man named Sydney. At first you really can’t get a grip on why he is helping out this young kid who is face down in his hands outside of a waffle house. He takes the kid, played well by John C. Reilly, and basically teaches him how to make money in the casino business. What follows is roller coaster of a film that really gets into fact that our past lives can always come back up given the right circumstances.

Phillip Baker Hall is one of my favorite actors. I thought he was the best part of Magnolia and is always showing up in great films as supporting characters who completely steal the scenes they are in. I still think his work as Jimmy Gator in Magnolia is his best work but he was fantastic in this. As the leading man, he carries the entire film from start to finish. We see his transformation coming from absolutely nowhere due to his complete lack of hard emotion and nearly deadpan delivery of all his lines. If you look hard enough though, you can see a brooding sadness behind his eyes at all times. It’s truly a wonderful performance. Paltrow and Sam Jackson play their characters very well and the ending was earned and lasting.

Seeing the first film of my favorite director after all these years was an interesting experience and I’m going to have to revisit it again. It reminds me of watching Blood Simple and realizing that the Coen brothers have been talented since they first put a camera on somebody. The same can be said of PTA. He’s still a young guy and will hopefully be making flawless cinema for decades to come.