Why did they start putting movie credits at the end of movies?

Up until around the 70s I notice most movies had credits at the beginning and when the movie was over it just said “The End”. At some point this changed to where the credits are mostly at the end. Why did this change? What was the last movie to use the old format?

George Lucas got fined by the director’s union because he put credits at the end of Star Wars. Not sure if he was the first to do it but that was in 77. His response was to pay the fine and quit the union.

Being a movie question, I think this’ll do better in Cafe Society than General Questions. I’ve moved it.

According to these articles in Wikipedia, it was over the course of the 1970s and 1980s that the shift occurred.


Not quite. Lucas was fined because he put his production company logo (Lucas Films) at the start of The Empire Strikes Back. The directors guild said this violated the union contract because if the producer gets a credit at the start of the film then the director should as well (Lucas didn’t direct ESB). Lucas protested saying the credit was for the company and not a personal credit for himself.

I don’t know why the change occurred, but I like it. Before seeing the film, I’m not likely to know most of the actors, and of course I won’t know the characters. The credits are largely meaningless. Afterwards, I can use the credits to identify who played whom.

For one thing, in the old days, far fewer people needed to be credited. Over the years, the unions have negotiated for more and more people that work on films to be credited, to the point where now the guy that sweeps the floor gets a mention. This has made credits much longer, to the point where nobody would put up with it all before the picture starts. By putting the bulk of the credits at the end, it saves time for the theater, because this is time that people are walking out anyway, so it doesn’t reduce the number of showings they can squeeze into a day.

One of the things my and my GF have in common is we wait till the credits are finished to leave. Sometimes we get rewarded, like at the end of the Iron Man credits. :cool:

Also, way more people work on a lot of modern films. Especially films with a lot of CGI. CGI is very labor intensive. People seem to think that you just have the computer make the images, but everything you see has to be created. A dozen people might spend six months on one shot that goes by in seconds.

I comes down to people can walk out of the theater and not watch the credits. They are just too stinking numerous.

Still, you’d think it would still make sense to do like they do on TV and have the important people upfront. What’s the point of putting your name on something if nobody’s going to read it.

Well, I remember Fozzy asking Kermit if anyone reads all these names, and Kermit goes, “Sure, they all have families.”

You can think of it as a free posting of your resume, most people don’t care who the Best Boy was, but if you’re making a picture, and you liked the way a certain job was done in a movie you just saw, you’d stick around, write down the individual’s name, and look them up to hire them for your picture.

I’ve kinda convinced myself that an artistic mind is simply wired differently than an analytical mind, or other, more ordinary mind. An artists ego must be fed, or it will crack. Yes, the lab technician who sweeps up where the new cancer drug was invented doesn’t get to share in the Nobel prize. And when you wake up from difficult surgery, the anesthesiologist isn’t there to say, “Yes, the team of neurosurgeons did excellent work, but you only woke up at all because my part of the job was awesomely done.” Yet the lighting guy wants recognition. It’s just always been that way.

Many older films, from the 30s and 40s, had the main credits at the beginning, plus a more complete “Cast of Characters” at the end.

A lot of movies still list the important credits at the front of the movie with full credits at the end.

But as mentioned most of the details are contracted, a publicist once gave me the “requirements” version of the credits for some movie I can’t remember where each credit was listed with the requirements for how it was to be displayed.

So it would be something like

Movie Star A: If any person is named in credits at the beginning of the movie then Movie Star A must be included. Only names that can precede name of Movie Star A are director and producers. Movie Star A’s name must be presented in size equal to that of director and producer and at least 20% larger than all other actor credits.

There were similar restrictions on displaying the credits at the end, too. The order, size, etc., of all those is negotiated.

It was for some Disney/Bruckheimer movie where there were no credits at the front other than production company logos. It was interesting because the regular Walt Disney Studios logo could be used because Walt Disney is dead but they had to use a different Bruckheimer Productions logo without the name because having Bruckheimer’s name in the logo would have required lots of other credits be displayed.

So now I know that if at the start of a Bruckheimer movie that if this logo is displayed without the Jerry Bruckheimer Films text, then I’m about to be dropped straight into the movie without any opening credits.

Maybe… but also artistic minds tend to work one project at a time and they need to amass impressive credits to help secure their next job. I see you sort of said that in your previous paragraph.

If the anesthesiologist had an agent and a union you very well might see something different.