I bet this has been done before, but what the hell.
For best movie opening credits ever, my choice is Dog Day Afternoon with Elton John’s Amoreena playing over an amazingly evocative montage of New York during the summer. It’s all the more striking because of the fact that it’s the only music in the movie - the rest of the film completely lacks any soundtrack, which adds to the drama and suspense of it.
For television show, I’d nominate The Sopranos. I haven’t watched a lot of TV shows, but I think it’d be pretty hard to top this one in terms of the mood it sets and the music.
Since most video games have opening credits, I think that’s also a category, and for it I’d choose the classic intro to Final Fantasy VII, with the still-amazing and truly revolutionary for its time FMV pan through the city of Midgar, giving a great feel for the cyberpunk/high-tech feel of the environment and making a perfect segue into the beginning of the game with the attack at the train station.
*The Player *does it all in a single eight-minute tracking shot–a huge technical feat.
Also, I kinda liked the way the searchlights in the Fox logo abruptly switched off in the Live Free or Die Hard opening credits (where terrorist hackers manage to shut off half the nation’s electricity).
Superman, the Motion Picture
The shot opens on one of the pre-wide-screen-era movie curtains. They open, and you hear the gentle purr of an old-style projector. You’re looking from a kid’s point of view as he lies on the floor and opens his copy of a comic book (obviously “Superman” on an old-fashioned patterned rug; he must be reading this on the living room floor. The kid’s voice over reads the narration in the comic book panels. The camera closes in as you get to the last panel – the top of the Daily Planet building, with its iconic Planet, and the scenes dissolves into a realistic shot of 1930s architecture with a believable art deco Planet on top. The camera continues past it into the night sky. The narration stops, the music swells into fanfare, and the stars start to fly by. he credits appear dramatically in 3-dimensional-looking Slit Scan camera work, appearing at dramatic angles as the fanfare blares, and pass by with a Sssshhhh sound. We pass by various galactic things, and at the end of the credits pass the Red Sun of Krypton, then to the planet Krypton itself, and the scene blends into the Faces of the Council and we hear Jor-El’s voice saying “This is no fantasy…”
Beautifully done, transporting you from the dreary days of the Depression through space to place you square in the fantasy, which self-awarely proclaims it not to be so. R/Greenberg and Associate’s innovative slit-scan effects work transformed credits sequences when they produced the original (which took leftover footage from Ice Station Zebra of the POV passing over and though cinematic clouds, and imposed those same 3-D credits over them.), and was the glitziest stuff before CGI came along. The Galactic Sights weren’t up to the stuff used in 2001 during the “Trip” sequence (which also used slit scan for the most part, but included some superb work depicting star formation and galaxies expanding), but I can ignore that. The Red Sun looked like it was made of red cloud, but I’ll let that pass too. The overall effect, especially with John Williams’ score (the man knew how to write a fanfare. And still does) is engrossing.
Damn. I came in here to mention exactly that movie, though without as much technical information. I was about ten or eleven years old when I saw that movie at the biggest screen in Austin. The opening sequence was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. And the music… It was on TV not too long ago, in 5.1, and I was blasting it in the living room. My wife got home and wondered what in the he** I was doing.
Another I would add, though not really credits, is the prologue from Star Wars. Presenting the back story in simple text was great. But then the rebel cruiser followed by the star destroyer passing over head. Pure excitement.
"Blood Simple", another Coen Brothers masterpiece. Seen from the inside of a car travelling on a Texas highway at night in the rain. As a car passes in the other direction, the headlights flash a credit on the screen, which is then wiped away by the windshield wipers.
While I wasn’t crazy about Napoleon Dynamite, I thought the opening credits were truly brilliant. They (and the rest of the movie) clearly got much of their visual style from Aaron Ruell. He played Napoleon’s brother Kip in the movie, and is an accomplished and distinctive photographer in his own right.
I was thinking Superman as well… wierd. I thought I was going to be mocked even. Funny…
Credit as well to Superman Returns… only because they copied this very opening, and when that John Williams score started with the faint beginnings of the score- I don’t think I could have been more excited for a movie to start.
Once Upon a Time in the West’s 10 minute credit sequence, with three tough guys waiting at a train station to ambush Charles Bronson’s Harmonica, would have to be up there. It’s like a microcosm of the whole movie: little to no dialogue; the camera lingering on the actors’ faces for what in any other movie would seem like an eternity; and of course, a beautifully paced crescendo up to blink-and-you’ll-miss-it violence.
If I end up watching more than 30 seconds of that sequence, I have to watch the whole movie, which at nearly three hours can prove a mite disruptive to my day.