A gripping beginning scene is required for an excellent film to capture the audience and entice them to join the ride.
A memorable opening scene may go a long way toward making a movie a classic, from Stanley Kubrick filling in humanity’s creation tale at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey to Chrissie Watkins getting devoured by a shark in the middle of the night at the beginning of Jaws.
However, with an overly good beginning sequence, filmmakers can unintentionally shoot themselves in the foot. On some occasions, the opening scene is superior to the rest of the film.
1. Inglourious Basterds
From the bone-chilling entrance of “The Bear Jew” to the historically inaccurate death of Adolf Hitler, Quentin Tarantino’s WWII epic Inglourious Basterds has a lot of great moments.
The opening sequence, in which S.S. Col. Hans Landa interrogates a dairy farmer who is secretly concealing Jewish immigrants under his floorboards, is the best scene in the film.
Tarantino claimed that the legendary Sicilian scene from True Romance had always been the benchmark of his writing career and that he had now exceeded it with the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds.
To create intolerable tension, the pan under the floorboards employs the Hitchcockian bomb-under-the-table approach. This scene alone may have won Christoph Waltz an Oscar nomination. He captures the startling shift from Landa’s affable demeanor to the ruthless “Jew Hunter” he truly is.
In the first scene, Wes Craven’s subversive slasher Scream establishes its self-aware humor.
A hooded attacker calls an unsuspecting teen home alone at night and asks, “Do you like scary movies?” Drew Barrymore’s casting, as one of the biggest movie actresses in the world at the time, is reminiscent of A-lister Janet Leigh being slaughtered in the shower in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Scream was a breath of fresh air thanks to its subversion of horror movie conventions and its characters’ understanding of the genre they’re in.
Scream expresses everything it has to say about itself by forcing one of its victims to answer horror movie trivia questions to stay alive, Scream says everything it has to say about its own genre in the opening scene. The rest of the movie just offers more of the same meta-edge.
3. The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, is the definitive Batman film. The hospital explosion, the pencil murder, the vehicle flip, and the terrible interrogation sequence are just a few of the memorable scenes.
However, the first bank theft sets a high bar that none of the others can match.
Nolan skips the narrative and jumps directly into the action, allowing the audience to catch up as the theft unfolds.
This is a wonderful beginning sequence because of the IMAX sights, the mounting tension, and the Joker’s unsettling entrance.
4. The Lion King
Set to Elton John and Tim Rice’s majestic Oscar-nominated classic “Circle of Life,” the opening sequence of Disney’s animated musical The Lion King sees animals flock from all over to see the birth of Simba, the heir to their kingdom.
This sequence is a faultless work of art in and of itself, thanks to the lush colors and stunning scenery.
The rest of the movie is a loose rendition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet set in the animal realm, but nothing compares to the opening scene in terms of beauty and majesty.
5. Lord of War
Lord of War by Andrew Niccol is a reinvention of Goodfellas based on the arms trade.
The film’s harrowing opening montage, which follows a bullet’s journey from the factory floor through a warzone and into the head of a child soldier, is more remarkable than its poor replication of Scorsese’s technique.
Amnesty Worldwide praised Lord of War for spotlighting the issue of international arms trafficking, although the film’s condemnation of the arms industry is never more effective or tragic than in its opening sequence.
6. 28 Weeks Later
28 Weeks Later, the sequel to 28 Days Later, is shockingly uninteresting for a zombie film.
It takes place so long after the emergence of the zombie virus in comparison to its predecessor that the majority of the characters are already living happily in a post-apocalyptic society.
However, the prologue could stand alone as a gripping and disturbing horror film.
It shows Robert Carlyle’s terrible past, in which the undead breaks into his cottage shelter, forcing him to leave his wife to die so that he might narrowly escape the horde on a boat. The film never approaches this level of terror again.
Pixar’s Up is a wonderful depiction of bereavement, following the narrative of a widower achieving his wife’s lifetime dream of flying their house to Paradise Falls.
However, when the plot becomes a large, lavish adventure movie with talking dogs and a gun-toting blimp, the trek to Paradise Falls takes an odd turn that loses sight of these ideas.
The opening montage, which depicts Carl and Ellie’s lifetime of bliss before the sorrow of Ellie’s death, is probably the film’s best section and might be considered a heartbreaking short film in and of itself.
This is still considered one of the best shark films ever created! Steven Spielberg’s masterwork started a wave of murderous shark films that hasn’t stopped since.
The film begins with the audience following Chrissie, a young woman who decides to go nighttime skinny swimming in the water.
Spoiler alert: she does not survive her time in the sea. What makes the opening sequence so fantastic is that the audience is terrified before they even see the shark. This heightens the tension, as Chrissie is dragged into the sea by a creature we have yet to see.
She screams for aid, but her inebriated friend is useless. We believe she’ll make it at one point, but she’s pulled back down.
Thanks to the Spectre opening scene, this is one James Bond film you won’t forget in a long time! The action takes place in Mexico City during the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) parade.
The colors, costumes, and music are all stunning.
These moments, directed by the excellent Sam Mendes, required a total of six months to thoroughly construct a plot.
A whopping 1,500 extras were used! Throughout the bustle of the procession, Bond is on the lookout for a villain. This adds a degree of intrigue to the proceedings and sets the stage for the action-packed sequences to follow.
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