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The Dark Knight (2008)
Within the first few seconds of The Dark Knight, it’s clear that Christopher Nolan’s version of The Joker is much different than what theatergoers have seen before. A chilling bank heist, those creepy masks and a masterful portrayal by Heath Ledger are enough to jolt the viewer into the grittiest Batman interpretation of all time.
“Choose life?” No thanks, says Mark Renton. Right from the get go, Trainspotting introduces us to the dodgy life of a heroin addict. With the upbeat “Lust for Life” and a zippy chase scene, the good times can only go down from here.
With the introduction of the longest spacecraft in cinema history, Spaceballs brilliantly shows off the type of smart parody humor that propels the rest of the film. Without uttering a single word, the tone of the film is cemented with the spacecraft’s bumper stick, which reads, “We Brake for Nobody.”
Children of Men (2006)
Introducing the back story of a movie plot can often prove difficult. Children of Men shows how a tricky back story can intelligently be delivered as simply as possible. Joining Clive Owen in a quiet town, we immediately learn that we are in a world without births, and the last man to be born has just been killed. Then, with a fiery explosion, we learn how unstable and dangerous the world has become.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
When it comes to opening movie scenes, Quentin Tarantino is one of the greats. The slow, menacing persona of SS Colonel Hans Landa is enough to get you on the edge of your seat. The scene is dragged out considerably to exaggerate the suspense, and just when you think the pleasant farmer and his hideaways might be in the clear, the vicious truth is revealed and the sound of gunshots rings out.
The horror classic Scream opens, interestingly enough, with a conversation about horror films. Miss Casey Becker (aka Drew Barrymore) is home alone when she receives an odd phone call. The anonymous voice on the other end quickly turns unsettling, and the tension escalates until Drew’s great cameo appearance comes to a grisly end.
“Rosebud.” With a single word and a few cryptic details, it’s easy to be drawn into the classic film that is Citizen Kane. A rusty “no trespassing” sign, a shattered snow globe and a dead rich man raise plenty of questions, and beautifully sum up the artful beauty of the movie.
The Matrix (1999)
A pack of police officers close in on a door. Behind that door is a mysterious woman dressed in all leather seated at a computer. A quick cutaway and cutback from the agents, and we see that the woman (Trinity), has already killed the entire lot of police officers. Then, the opening scene goes into overdrive, with an epic rooftop chase scene that brilliantly immerses you into the world of The Matrix.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Naturally, the best way to introduce badass archaeologist Indiana Jones to the audience is by showing him doing badass archaeological stuff. Right off the bat, we see Indy bravely avoiding booby traps, retrieving a golden idol and then being chased by a giant boulder. Take note, aspiring film directors, because Steven Spielberg is a master of the opening sequence.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
What a perfect way to introduce the Vietnam War. As the foreboding words of Jim Morrison’s “This is the End” fade in, we see a tranquil Cambodian jungle. BOOM! Then that tranquility is murdered in its face with a hailstorm of napalm and explosions. Welcome to the jungle, people.
Opening a movie with a question is often a simple and great way to start a film. In the beginning of Goodfellas, that question is, “What the hell is that noise?” Of course, it doesn’t take long for us to find out. Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci soon get out of their car and open the trunk to reveal an already bloodied man. A few knife stabs and gunshots later, and we hear the epic opening line, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”
It doesn’t take long for the nightmare lurking below the dreamy town of Amity to rear its ugly head. Within seconds, a fun late-night beach party turns cold with the blood of an innocent skinny dipper. Kudos to actress Susan Backlinie for her very believable I’m-about-to-be-pulled-under-water-and-eaten-by-a-shark performance.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” These words dissolve to reveal the beaten, bloodied body of a pregnant bride. A moment later, an unknown figure stands over the woman and –- bang, bang -– shoots her down. And with that -– in the matter of a few seconds -– you’re completely immersed in the bloody world that is Kill Bill.
Even your mom will tell you that first impressions are important. When it comes to movies, the opening scene sets the tone for the next two hours. Whether it’s a slow, subtle introduction or one that starts with a bang, here are 13 of the very best opening movie scenes to ever grace the big screen.
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