Coming Soon: Top 5 Opening Scenes

For our next Top 5, I suggested the topic “opening scenes” to Thorsten. There was some confusion over what exactly I meant, and he asked me to clarify the term. So let’s try:

I don’t mean opening credits. There are some truly great examples for those – “Seven” rightfully being cited as one of the best of all time – but that’s not what I’m after.

Staying with “Seven” though: Remember the scene before the opening credits? The one at the crime scene? Probably not. (I do, but only because I’ve seen the film a dozen times. Putting four commentary tracks on a DVD is a good way to ensure I’ll watch it at least five times.)

Anyway, that scene before the “Closer” remix starts playing and John Doe starts his scrap-book collection, that’s the opening scene. The pre-credits scene.

Now, not all movies have pre-credits scenes. Take another David Fincher movie, “Fight Club.” There’s a great credits sequence (taking the viewer all the way from the fear center of the narrator’s brain to the end of the gun forced into his mouth) that segues right into what I consider the first scene of the movie. So while it’s not the first thing we see when the movie starts, for this list’s purpose, it’s the opening scene.

Of course most movies don’t have elaborate opening credits like that at all. In that case it should be even easier to define what the opening scene is. The first scene. Maybe the first scene after the title card.

When in doubt, go where the action is. The opening scene of “Groundhog Day” is, of course, not the shots of clouds set to cheesy 90s rock music. It’s the scene of Phil Connors presenting the weather forecast, obviously.

I hope this clears things up. I’m not decided on my Top 5, yet, though I do have a few ideas – none if them mentioned here. Share your favorite opening scenes in the comments! And then we should have our lists by, let’s say, the weekend.

5 thoughts on “Coming Soon: Top 5 Opening Scenes

  1. I’d throw Sunshine in there because it’s visually, and from a story-persperctive, very engaging, you’re immediately there. But it’s also good because of the twist and reveal of the ship. It’s really amazing.

    Also, Children of Men. Cuaron not only establishes his complex world within a few sentences and images but also manages to give us an impression of what’s to be expected from the camera work. The opening is foreshadowing the intense, long scenes near the end and prepares unfamiliar audiences for what’s to come.

    Also, just for the sake of it, Star Wars. The opening shot tells us everything we have to know about it within seconds. The little rebellion is fleeing from the big, long-reaching Empire and its powerful star destroyer. That shot is so amazing and timeless, I doubt Lucas came up with it.

  2. (Good thing I didn’t specify which weekend I was talking about when I said we would have our lists by the weekend… Been really busy, you guys!)

    Have to check those openings out again. I’ve seen all three films, but, except for “Star Wars,” I don’t remember how they opened at all.

  3. The first openig scene that comes to my mind: “C’era una volta il West”. It’s slow, but deliberate and full of anticipation. And it’s the first scene and the credits at the same time, right?

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