Greatest Opening Scene Of A Film

I think my vote has to go for Sergio Leone’s magnum opus Once Upon A Time In The West. For all of it’s flaws (it takes two or three viewings to really make sense of the complex story and fully grasp the machinations of the characters), the nearly 10 minute opening scene is truly memorable; the three assassins taking their places in the decaying train depot, each waiting impassively for the arrival of “Harmonica”. “It looks like we brought one horse too few.” “No, you brought two too many.”

A close runner up is Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch; a setup bank job (interspaced dramatically with the credits) in the middle of a town full of children and temperance campaigners. “If they move, kill 'em!

A third is Hitchcock’s Rear Window, with its voyeristic pan around the neighborhood. And Thelma Ritter (Stella, the nurse) gets the best lines: “She sure is the ‘eat, drink and be merry’ girl.” “Yeah, she’ll wind up fat, alcoholic and miserable.”

I hate to delay a mention of Raiders of the Ark–its exended chase sequence tops anything offered by the Bond films for action–but it has to wedge in at number 4. (The opening sequences in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, while not making it into the top five, are still the best parts of those films.)

Coming out to a nice round accounting of digits on the hominid hand, Kubrick’s nearlhy pornographic opening scene in Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, consisting entirely of stock footage of a B-52 performing a mid-air refueling operation, sets the entire tone for the movie; starkly playful, groundedly satirical, maddenly realistic. You don’t know whether to laugh or worry that General Turgidson is, in true Curtis LeMay fashion, justifying a disarming first strike as a protective measure against the reciprical action by the Soviets in response to Attack Plan R, all the while enthusiastically chewing his gum. “Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.”

There are, no doubt, others that I’ve missed or have been forced, in limiting my selection, to omit. The teasers in Goldfinger (“Shocking…positively shocking.”) and The Living Daylights (the training mission to infiltrate the Gibralter radar installation turning into an assassination…“Double-oh-seven here; I’ll report in in an hour…better make that two.”), while not perhaps qualifying as greatest opening scenes were certainly iconic. What else?


The original Star Wars: From the opening line “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”; to the expository crawl disappearing up into the starfield; and of course the fanfare of John Williams’ score; and most of all that big-ass Imperial starship coming into frame from the upper right corner.

Star Wars, with Princess Leia’s ship in the running chase with Darth Vader’s star destroyer has to be up there somewhere.

Ack, shoulda previewed.

In that case, I nominate Airplane II: The Sequel as having the greatest openign sequence evar.

Star Wars is my #1 choice. #2 would probably be the opening sequence to The Lion King.

Jaws & Saving Private Ryan.

A Clockwork Orange, with the eerie synth music over the close-up of McDowell wearing the cocky and somewhat manical expression.

Apocalypse Now, with the napalmed jungle shot slowly disolving to an inverted close-up of a disoriented looking Sheen.

I thought both did a brilliant job of grabbing the viewer’s attention while setting the tone of the film, utilizing sound as well as visuals.

I was very taken by the opening of Contact, in which we leave Earth and travel through space, encountering old television and radio transmissions along the way.

In this thread, which at this moment has had zero replies and 80 views, I went after the same notion as the OP, but with additional request for ending scenes.

I was going to mention Saving Private Ryan, but that incredible battle sequence comes after the walk to the gravestone in Normandy, so I don’t think you can count that as the “opening.”

The beginning of The Others made me jump.

I’d vote for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Opening sequence of The Player, where we hear dozens of conversations going on. It’s nearly the equal of the opening of Touch of Evil, where we see the bomb being planted and the car driving until it explodes.

Aaaww, what the heck. I’ll throw in Raising Arizona. Its roughly-8-minute opening is a whole movie in and of itself. Of course, it’s not a single scene, but all that does happen before the opening credits.

Woody Allen’s Manhattan, with the sun rising over New York City in beautiful black and white, set to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue.” Nowhere has there ever been a more heartfelt love letter to the greatest city in the world.

I opened this thread in order to talk about “Once Upon A Time in the West”
…And it’s the first one mentioned…
Stranger… if you were a woman I’d marry you.

Well, it’s not on a par with classics like A Touch of Evil, but the opening sequence of Get Over It, in which the rejected Ben Foster walks away from his ex-girlfriend’s house to the accompaniment of the Captain and Tenille’s Love Will Keep Us Together, is a very funny.

It’s not a great movie, but I love the opening to Silverado. Within a rough wooden cabin, a man (Scott Glenn) is rudely awoken by somebody kicking the door in and shooting at him. Glenn uses a six-shooter and a Winchester rifle to take out three would-be assassins from inside the cabin; when he cautiously steps outside, the view opens up to show a vast mountain range, and the music and credits start.

As a corporate drone of many years, I must nominate Joe versus the Volcano. The opening scenes of the disconsolate workforce trudging thru the gates of the anal-probe factory is simply priceless. Let’s not even mention the closeup of the single flower that has struggled thru the sidewalk crack… only to be crushed under a boot.

Subtle it ain’t; But oh so meaningful.
To those of you familiar with the movie; There really is a giant red valve-wheel in my building at work. Complete with the stern warning. I’m pretty sure when my retirement date is, and I’m making my plans. I promise you a thread about the outcome. :wink:

Another great scene (I wouldn’t call it #1; that’s too hard for me to rate, and the ones mentioned have all been excellent) is the opening sequence to Desperado. With Steve Buscemi (coolest actor in Hollywood) spinning the tale of a bar room massacre ("…and in walks the biggest Mexican I’ve ever seen…") to bartender Cheech Marin, with accompanying flashbacks and music from The Tarantulas and Mark Knopfler.

Although it’s somewhat spoiled by a Very Bad song in the background, the opening scene to Kelly’s Heroes is pretty cool. -Clint Eastwood driving a jeep through a French town in WWII… in the rain… at night… with armed German troops patrolling… until one notices that this military vehicle slowly passing by is an American vehicle, with an American driver, in an American uniform… Clint punches it and drives back across the line to American occupied territory.

Love Once Upon a Time in the West, Clockwork Orange, Indiana Jones …

But I seriously adore the beginning to xXx … the Bond hommage thing. A man being pursued and killed, his killer stripping off into a tux, then himself running for his life. Breaks into a night club 'coincedently owned by the guy whose minions are chasing him] full of seriously punk/metal kids headbanging to some killer tanz-metal with lots of killer pyrotechnics … the tux-clad spy jumps on the apron of the stage and gets shot by the lead villian’s sniper, only to fall back into the audience and get crowd-surfed out of the camera range… absolutely killer, definitely a Bond is no longer The Man, time for a new action hero to step in.