Different styles for opening credits in movies

Been watching a lot of movies lately, and I’ve been noticing the differences in the opening credits depending on I presume the director’s preferences or artistic desires. This is going to be tough to word since I don’t know all the right terms, but I’ll try. I see at least the following major variations:

  1. Credits just show up over top of the opening scenes - so the movie is progressing during this time.
  2. Credits are shown before the movie really starts, but during the credits something related to the movie is shown - at a minimum, scenic shots from wherever the movie is taking place, or some kind of other “mood setting” shots. Maybe even using stock footage of the city or wherever.
  3. Credits are shown before the movie starts, but during them is shown either basically a blank background with some music or some graphics, but this doesn’t really add to the movie in any way.

There are more, but I see these as the three main types. Personally, I prefer #1, since #3 makes me think “get on with it already”, but that’s not the question.

I was just kind of wondering what kinds of things lead the director to choose which way to go - is it only artistic considerations, budget (always I’m sure), movie length perhaps? (If a movie’s too short you can use #2 or #3, if it’s too long use #1?)

Anybody been involved with this kind of work and might know why one method might be picked or preferred over the others?

Generally, a “prestige” film these days has a single title credit (and sometimes not that – IIRC The Dark Knight had no credits at all), with all the credit information at the end of the film.

Traditional Hollywood studio releases had a series of credits at the beginning of the film, with maybe a card with a cast listing at the end. That started changing as the studio system broke down. It was common in the 60s to have a pre-credit sequence (e.g., in From Russia With Love, you saw a short sequence where “James Bond” was killed before the credits rolled).

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was the first to have the main credits at the end; Lucas had to pay a fine to the Director’s Guild for not putting the director’s name where it was supposed to go (the final name in the opening credits).

As for choice, it’s still pretty much artistic considerations. Whichever choice the director thinks will work. Certainly length of film is no factor – opening credits only add a couple of minutes to the film, and cost pretty much the same no matter which is chosen. Current style is a single title card, but some directors like the other options.

Do you mean that it was the first movie after Star Wars to not have credits in the beginning?

Solaris was another one to not have any opening credits.

There’s also the style where the opening credits are in the opening scenes but they’re also a part of the scene. As in, you’ll see the actor’s name on a billboard or on the side of a taxi, etc…

The original Star Wars had opening credits; the director’s credit was required by SAG rules to appear before the movie began, and Lucas could not ignore that until Empire. He was fined by the Guild what would have been a substantial sum for anyone else when he put the credit after the film in Empire

Later editions may have eliminated the opening credits, since after Empire SAG rules were changed to allow the director’s credit to be the first credit after the end of the film. Lucas has never been shy about making changes to rereleases.

Styles in movie titling change, like most everything. During the 1960’s, elaborate titles with sight gags and graphics were popular – think of The Pink Panther or early James Bond movies.


I have seen Star Wars many times starting with its original theater run and there has never been opening credits beyond the 20th Fox and Lucasfilm logos.


FWIW, IMDb concurs also. Second cite.

SAG is for Actors. The Guild in the situation here was the Director’s Guild of America (DGA). He quit the guild so he could do it the way he wanted, rather than pay the fine.

I really, really don’t like the current trend of having no opening credits. I like to see what actors I should be watching out for. And if I don’t already know who directed it when I sit down, I like to be told so I can watch for his trademark style tells.

Nowadays, I tend to pause the movie and go to IMDb on my tablet before it gets going, just so I can do my “homework” before settling down to enjoy the show.

And the point is moot anyway, as both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II were free of opening credits. They were both major films and both pre-date *Star Wars *and Empire (while still being contemporaneous).

Long before that, Disney’s Fantasia and Citizen Kane had no opening credits back in the 40’s, very rare then.

FWIW I saw an original print of Star Wars in a theater in the 90s (it was missing Threepio’s narration and still had Mark Hamill yelling “Carrie!” at the end) and the opening was the same as I was used to.

Threepio’s narration? Huh? What crazy ass version of Star Wars did I miss?

When the heroes are in the little room making plans on the Death Star, Artoo brings up a screen showing the Tractor beam. At some point, very early on, George added some narration by Threepio to explain how they can shut the tractor beam off to better explain what Ben was doing but this wasn’t originally there.

Another type, usually done in the 60’s (the main example I can think of is It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) is where ALL the credits play before the film, with no credits at the end.

I’m a huge fan of Kyle Cooper’s credits. They’re like mini-movies that are often better than the actual flick.

Most people would be familiar with his work from the title sequence of Seven (Se7en - blegh). One of my favorites of his is the opening of The Island of Doctor Moreau. What a piece of crap, but his work is a gem.

Oh! I forgot the most amazing of all, the remake of Dawn of the Dead.

I’ve never heard of this before. Thanks!