Movie openings often serve as the first impression of a film’s essence, setting the tone and pace for the unfolding narrative. Some beginnings are so powerful that they’ve secured their place in cinematic history, leaving a lasting impact on audiences. Here we look at 13 unforgettable movie openings that have managed to achieve such status.
Children of Men
Alfonso Cuarón’s dystopian thriller, “Children of Men,” presents a bleak opening scene set in a future where the youngest human has just died at 18 years of age. As the camera moves through a devastated London, we witness a sudden explosion, immediately conveying the despair, chaos, and sense of urgency that permeates this world where humanity faces extinction due to infertility.
Director Wes Craven’s horror masterpiece “Scream” begins with a phone call that seems innocent enough, but it quickly turns sinister. Featuring Drew Barrymore, the film’s opening scene set the tone for modern horror, playing on the audience’s expectations. It demonstrates that no character, not even a high-profile star, is safe from the film’s unknown killer, adding a layer of unpredictability to the narrative.
Saving Private Ryan
The intense and gritty portrayal of the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach in “Saving Private Ryan” is both visually and emotionally overwhelming. Director Steven Spielberg does not shy away from showing the brutal reality of war, as soldiers navigate the bloody shores under heavy enemy fire. This unforgettable sequence is lauded for its realism, immersing viewers in the chaos of battle and setting the stage for the mission ahead.
Launching viewers headfirst into a world of intrigue, “The Matrix” begins with a thrilling chase scene between the mysterious Trinity and relentless agents. This introduction serves as a primer to the film’s unique blend of science fiction, action, and philosophy. It leaves audiences with countless questions about the nature of the Matrix, setting the stage for the mind-bending revelations to come.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas introduce us to the adventurous archaeologist Indiana Jones in a high-stakes opener set in a booby-trapped South American temple. As Indy navigates pitfalls, darts, and the iconic rolling boulder, the scene captures the essence of his character and the adventurous spirit of the film, promising viewers a thrilling journey ahead.
Mike Judge’s satirical comedy “Office Space” humorously kicks off with a scene of stifling rush-hour traffic. As protagonist Peter Gibbons languidly sits in his car, his mounting frustration with the mundane and the ridiculousness of modern life becomes palpable. This scene perfectly sets up the film’s exploration of the soul-sucking nature of corporate culture and the desire for genuine human connection.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, “Contact” opens with an awe-inspiring backward journey from Earth through the cosmos, showcasing our galaxy and beyond. This visual spectacle effectively conveys the vastness of the universe and our tiny place within it. It sets the stage for a narrative that delves into mankind’s first contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, and the profound implications such an event would have on society and individual beliefs.
Guy Ritchie’s crime comedy “Snatch” opens with a dazzling heist sequence that immediately introduces viewers to its fast-paced style and intertwined narrative. With rapid cuts, witty dialogue, and a peek into the London underworld, the film promises a wild ride filled with eccentric characters and intricate plots. This dynamic opening sets the stage for the chaos and comedy that ensues.
Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen” commences with a suspenseful scene featuring Hugh Grant’s character, a private investigator with a penchant for drama. The audience is quickly pulled into a world of crime, power plays, and sharp wit. The captivating opener not only teases the complexities of the story but also highlights the film’s unique blend of humor and menace.
The iconic opening of “The Godfather” showcases a dimly lit room where Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone listens to a plea for vengeance. Accompanied by the haunting score of Nino Rota, this powerful introduction immediately establishes the Corleone family’s influence and the film’s exploration of power, loyalty, and crime. The slow zoom out from the petitioner’s face is a masterclass in building tension and atmosphere.
Dawn of the Dead
George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” presents a chilling start, plunging viewers into a television studio in chaos as society crumbles from a zombie outbreak. This frenzied opening underscores the societal commentary of the film, suggesting that even in the face of apocalypse, human priorities and biases persist. The beginning acts as a stark reminder of the fragility of civilization.
The comedy “Super Troopers” by Broken Lizard starts off with a bizarre and hilarious traffic stop that perfectly sets the tone for the film’s irreverent humor. As a group of troopers pulls pranks on unsuspecting motorists, we get a taste of the movie’s playful approach to law enforcement and the shenanigans that these officers get up to, proving that not all cops are by-the-book.
The Lord of the Rings Movies
Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s epic “The Lord of the Rings” series is filled with magnificent opening sequences. “The Two Towers,” for instance, dives straight into Gandalf’s fight with the Balrog, leaving viewers breathless. Meanwhile, “The Fellowship of the Ring” begins with a history of Middle-earth, grounding the saga in a rich tapestry of lore and legend. Each opener is a visual feast, setting the grand scale and tone for the adventures to come.