I believe opening scenes are one if not the most important scene in a film. That lone scene has the power to either secure the audience’s investment in the film, or completely throw them off. Since there are a million examples of great opening scenes, I’ll only focus in films of the last decade. This list will not only have my favorite opening scenes, but also the scenes that I believe are the most effective.
So let’s begin:
10. “7 Days Tonight.”
The Ring is my favorite horror film of all-time. To me its works on every level and makes me nostalgic for the VHS era. Its opening is a lot of things: funny, cool, really creepy and end with an ambiguous bang. We’re introduced to the mystery that will carry the film, but what makes it so effective is that it relies on subtle scares. The scary things are really atmospheric and play around with our imagination. I think its awesome.
9. Blinded Monologue.
Opening a film with a voice-over monologue from person you don’t see is a risky thing to do and the reason why this one works so well is because the script is brilliant. By only showing shots of a building and the offices on this building, the monologue and the script take a greater and more haunting effect on the audience. It also helps that Tom Wilkinsin is absolutely brilliant in this film and has such a raw and attention-graving voice. This scene is one of the reason why Michael Clayton is such a great film and why its script is one of my all-time favorites.
8. Parenting Negligence.
If there is one thing Lars von Trier proved with Antichrist is that he has a knack for creating slow-motion, beautiful and highly poetic imagery. The opening scene showcases a couple (Charlotte Gainsburg and William Defaou) making love in various rooms in their apartment, while their baby boy gets out of his crib and walks out of the window. The scene is in black and white with everything happening in slow motion and accompanied by an operatic track. This whole scene is quite graphic and depressing, but it is also one of the main reason why Antichrist is such a poetically beautiful film.
7. “Au revoir, Shosanna!”
I was one of those that did not like Inglourious Basterds the first time I saw it mostly because it wasn’t at all what I expected. After watching it a few more times I fell in love with it and its largely thanks to its opening scene. This is one of those scene that is perfectly and masterfully shot and performed, and showcases the genius of Tarantino. The whole scene is a build-up to the discoveries of the hidden Jews and it is quite an intense scene, especially because Tarantino drags the anticipation for a long time. I love so many things about it from Christoph Waltz excellent dialogue delivery to the music cued when the germans start shooting, everything about it is great. Like all the scenes on this list, I get insane goose-bumps every time.
6. Nina’s Dream.
The thing I love the most about this scene is how effectively frightening it is. If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that ballet couldn’t be scary this scene will easily prove them wrong. The film’s brilliant cinematography is in full eerie effect here accompanied by Clint Mansell’s horrifically beautiful score. What really freaked me out though was the notion that if the film is openning like this, then it can only get unnaturally more intense from here on out.
5. “I’m in.”
I never understood why people didn’t like The Matrix: Reloaded. I personally think it is one of the best action films ever and its opening scene easily proves it. While I agree that The Matrix’s opening scene is more iconic than this one, you have to admit that this one takes everything that worked in the that one and enhances it tenfold. As a result you have a really badass action sequence that gets even more impressive as it progresses. That part where Trinity jumps out of the building, turn back and starts shooting the agent all in slow motion always blows my mind, and I’ve seen it at least 100 times. This scene also sets the bar really high for the rest of the film’s actions sequences, which get even better and better.
4. “You’re the Captain now Mr. Kirk.”
J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek had a lot of things to prove from remaining faithful to the source material to being accessible for non-Star Trek fans to delivering good action. After that opening scene everyone pretty much knew that this was going to be an amazing film. The attack on The U.S.S. Kelvin is exciting, chill-inducing and pure awesomeness that still manages to have a lot of sentiment and heart in it. I always get goose-bumps when I see it and my favorite part is when that women is running and the wall behind her explodes, and she flies out into space and everything goes quiet. That is just brilliant.
3. “It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”
Even though The Social Network’s perfection comes from its various elements working together, this first scene is purely Sorkin. It shows Sorkin’s witty and so-quick-you-might-miss-it dialogue expertdly performed by Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara. It sets the film up for what is to come, which is easily one of the best and perfectly crafted film experiences ever.
2. Sudden Explosion.
Children of Men is one of my favorite films of all times and I could honestly write a whole dissertation of why its opening scene is brilliant. You got the use of that long take, the introduction to this world, the cinematography that adequately shows the grimness of this world and it all flows naturally and very quietly until the coffee shop explodes. This scene tells us right away that you won’t see things coming, that there will be a lot of unexpected moment throughout. And this scene is perfectly shot and choreographed in such a realistic manner that no manner how many times I see the film, I’m always surprised and shock by that explosion especially when you see that women walking while holding her severed arm.
1. Nightcrawler’s Dies Irae.
In my opinion, this is easily the best opening scene of any comic-book film (yes, even better than TDK’s so deal with it). The scene stars with a tour of the White House and after a few seconds we see one of the tourist alone. Next thing you know a blue tail appears and Nightcrawler goes berserk on everyone’s assess. He easily overcomes the security guards by constantly teleporting, which becomes increasengly cool the more you see it. And with Mozart’s Requiem: Dis Irae playing on the background the scene takes on a full-fleshed epic vibe. This is a great way to introduce us to not only the coolest character in the film, but also the conflict the film will deal with.
And that’s it! Hope you enjoyed it and sorry I haven’t made lists like this in a long time. Now that summer school is finishing, you can expect more lists in the near future.
As always thanks for reading.