Best opening scenes in movies

I have a couple on mind

  1. Star Wars (A New Hope)
    Back in 1977, no one had ever seen or heard anything like that.

  2. The Player
    10 minute tracking shot across a movie lot featuring big stars/directors as themselves.

  3. Saving Private Ryan
    The D-Day scene is phenomenal

  4. Supertroopers
    Hysterical. “Officer, I’m already pulled over!”

Harold & Maude. It is a bit disturbing if you are not expecting it but as the movie develops you realize it’s really the only possible opening scene.

2001, hands down. Both the opening shot, and the whole pre-human sequence.

Patton has to be on the list.

The Godfather (1) establishes the mood of that film as well as (if not better than) anything in the genre.

The long tracking shot from *A Touch of Evil. *

Raiders of the Lost Ark – Great action scenes that introduced a brand-new character in an iconic way

Boogie Nights – Undoubtedly influenced by Altman’s tracking shot mentioned in the OP, this long shot introduces most of the movie’s major characters

The opening credits scene for ** Touch of Evil** is absolutely compelling – someone puts a bomb in the trunk of a car about to cross the US-Mexico border, and the camera tracks its progress. All the while, the credits roll over the scene.

Jaws. The girls last swim…

I wouldn’t really say that it’s one of the best movie openings of all time, but the first scene of The Informers based on the Bret Easton Ellis short story collection always sticks in my mind as a good introduction. Too bad everything that followed was so lackluster.

Joe Vs. The Volcano

Probably my favorite opening sequence is the one for Richard Donner’s superman. It starts out with a filmed “theater curtain” opening, recalling 1940s cinemas, then goes to a comic book spread open on a typical 1930s/1940s living room rug, with a kid reading the words and turning the pages. As he gets to the end, the camera zooms in on the drawing of the top of the Daily Planet building, which dissolves into a shot of what is clearly supposed to be the real building – with glass-covered “planet” and a Time/life-like headline feed circling it (I always wondered what the Planet building top would look like in real life), but the camera continues up into the sky, going into the stars, which become a moving starfield, with the stars going by on either side. John Williams’ fanfare score starts up, and the R/Greenberg associates titles with their slit-scan appearance (which was incredibly innovative at the time – the trailer for the film used them, and created a huge amount of buzz for the movie), and you get the full fanfare, along with “whooshing” noises accompanying the motion of the slit-scanned credits.

It was really impressive, especially if you were sitting in the front rows, and it took you all the way to the planet Krypton with its red sub, taking you through the journey in the young comic book fan’s mind from the humdrum world of the depression to the superscientific world of Superman’s ancestry. (And then, of course, you get the real opening line of the film, delivered by Marlon Brando – “This is no fantasy.”)

My only objection is that the film’s special effects (aside from the starfield and the R/Greenberg titles) really aren’t up to it. They tried to show “the wonders of space” with burning fuses and spilling bubbly liquids (supposed to be stars and comets and the like, I suppose), but Kubrick had done it infinitely better ten years before in 2001, using chemical reactions in tiny spaces. Worse, Krypton’s Red Sun looked more like a ball of red-lit dry ice vapor (which it probably was) than – and convincing suns had been done many times before this (2001, again, but also by lots of other folk.)

Not only is it the best opening scene of all time, it’s also the best (and only good) part of the movie: The Way of the Gun (featuring Sarah Silverman’s greatest performance, as well).

“Littering and…littering and…”

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, where"Smiler" Grogan kicks the bucket (literally)!

Pumpkin and Honey Bunny deciding to rob “a” coffee shop in Pulp Fiction.

The Great Escape, with the German convoy rolling through the countryside to Elmer Bernstein’s score, and finally ending up at the gates of Luft Stalag III. Much, much more than just a title sequence!

I know!


Le Samourai

This one cropped up in an old thread I started and it’s haunted me ever since: THE KEEP 1983 OPENING SEQUENCE.

633 Squadron, where the Germans are hunting the Norwegian resistance fighters and the courier plane takes off just in the nick of time!

The Train, where the national treasures of France are being looted with Germanic efficiency—just another day on the job. The banality of evil!