Here’s a list of some of my favorite opening scenes. The opening scene of a film will often establish a plot, introduce the characters, setting, mood, or theme of the film. Outside of the trailer, its a movie’s first impression. I love all kinds of movies, so don’t be too surprised that there are no Horror movies on this list.
This opening scene from the second X-Men film is action packed, visually stunning, introduces the basic plot, and also a new character, and the rest of the movie isn’t a disappointment either.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
I wanted to put these two movies upfront. This is also an establishing scene of a new character, and just as visually stunning as the first movie on this list. It drops slightly behind it though, because without the theme or plot, its just a gorgeous opening action sequence. Also, the rest of this movie isn’t as good as this opening scene, and this isn’t one of my favorite characters, although this entire sequence says a lot about what type of person he is, is just loads of fun, and makes me wish I had this superpower.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
You would think that this would be a great opening scene for the rest of this movie’s characters, and themes, but no. This opening has almost nothing to do with the plot or themes of the film. Its simply an introduction to the setting we’ll be visiting for the next two hours, which is fine, because this is yet another visually arresting film, but I thought it was lacking in character development, which for me, is one of the more important aspects of getting into such a fantastical film. This opening is a favorite of mine, because I’m both a huge David Bowie fan, a movie extraterrestrial fan, and a Science Fiction fan, and I feel this song was perfectly chosen for this scene.
Here is yet another sequence that introduces the audience to a very specific setting. We know all we need to know about this world, from the opening, and what type of movie we’re dealing with: SciFi Noir. This is a dark world, full of gray characters, scuttling through this rainy, urban, corporate hellscape of auditory and visual noise, or flying through it in cars. This is America’s dystopic future.
It also introduces two important characters, and sets the plot in motion, as it’s the death of the interviewer in this scene, that requires that another Bladerunner be called in. Upon first seeing this movie, these things are all a mystery, but you later learn that all of the primary components of the rest of the plot are present, like the Voight-Kampff Test, the Bladerunner, the speed and power of the Replicant, and just why they’re banned from coming to Earth.
I love this opening. It introduces the three primary characters, the basic plot, and the theme: Regret. This is the autobiographical story of a mobster wannabee, his rise, and eventual decline. This is the scene just after the protagonist and his two friends kill an actual mobster, a Made Man named Billy Batts, and now need to hide the body. Contrast the protagonist’s final statement in this scene, with the look on his face. That is the face of a man who is wishing he were anywhere but where he is….
Sometimes I get a feeling about a movie just from watching the trailer, and I have almost never been wrong when i got that feeling. Even with movies that didn’t do particularly well at the Box Office, when they were released, if it was one where I got that feeling, it would eventually go on to become a Classic, or Iconic film. I had that feeling when I first saw the trailers for Alien, The Thing, and Bladerunner. And I had that feeling for this trailer, too. Not that I’ve never been wrong, but even at a very young age, I knew what movies I was gonna love!
I remember walking out of the theater, after watching this movie, and my brain had to take a few minutes to readjust to reality. I had the unsettling thought that the “real” world wasn’t real. And I guess, I’m not the only person who felt that way.
I chose this opening scene, not becasue it’s particularly special, or well done, (although it is), but because I’ve seen a number of scenes like this in other films, and I’ve always loved them. So, when a martial arts movie starts off with some watery ass kicking, its always loads of fun for me. Martial arts movies love to do these types of scenes, because it’s a very easy way to convince the audience that the fighting is real, and that those arms and legs are actually connecting with faces and bodies! Its also a great way to make the scene feel dramatic, and important to the rest of the movie, although really, this is just a scene from earlier in the film, showcasing the lead character’s skills.
Below, is another one of my favorite movies, and of course, the opening scene looks uncomfortably wet. Slow motion ballet fight scene? Check! Fight scene in a tavern? Check! Gruesome fight ending? Check!
This has to be, hands down, one of the most awesome car chase scenes in movie history. I love everything about it, from the introduction of the lead character, and getaway driver: Baby. To the music: Bellbottoms by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion! (which I used to listen to a long time ago.) To the cutely mediocre compact car with the great gas mileage: The red 2007 Subaru Impreza!
This entire scene just slaps!
And back down to Earth, with the Intermezzo from The Cavalleria rusticana, by Mascagni, and the opening theme from Martin Scorceses’ 1980 Raging Bull, which is now considered a modern Classic. I was just a kid when it was released, so I didn’t see this until I was an adult, long after I knew this theme from other movies. There’s not a lot going on here, but from this, you know its going to be a somber tragedy, about the rise and fall of a Boxing career. This is way down here at the bottom of my list, although most of these are not in any particular order, because its really upsetting for me to watch family dramas, and I generally hate them. But I liked this intro.