Ten of the Best Opening Scenes in Cinema
As all regular readers of The MALESTROM know, us guys here like our films, a lot! We got talking in the office about our favourite ever movie opening scenes, which quickly led to more arguments than an episode of Game of Thrones and one desperate plea for a particular inclusion that saw a grown man begging on his knees for his choice. Pathetic, but there you go, movies can be an emotive subject. That being said here are ten of our best opening scenes in cinema. There’s blood, nudity and violence (much like any good party) but for those under eighteen or of a nervous disposition, it may be best to look away. We kick off with classic Quentin.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Tarantino’s heist gone wrong masterpiece will be remembered for smiling psychopath Mr Blonde and the gory drawn out torture scene set to Stuck in the Middle. But we’re shining a light on the marvellous opening to the film where our would be robbers enjoy breakfast and discuss everything and anything from the meaning behind Madonna’s Like a Virgin to tipping etiquette, the dialogue is razor sharp and it’s Tarantino at his very best. On leaving the diner we get the now iconic title sequence underscored by George Baker Selections’s brilliant song Little Green Bag, as our black suited protagonists are introduced walking in stylish slo-mo.
After watching the opening scene of Jaws a generation would never look at the water in the same way again. Spielberg’s classic begins with an underwater camera lurking menacingly beneath the water, a bit like… well, a shark. Coupled with John William’s famous ‘da da da dah’ score the audience knows something bad is on its way. Indeed it is, we move to shots of teens at a beach party sitting round a campfire, two decide to go for a moonlight skinny dip. This is where we begin to shout at the screen warning them not to go in, as a quick swim and frolic in the ocean quickly turns into a late night snack for a big old shark called Jaws. Watch the scene HERE
The award for coolest opening titles of all time might just have to go to Drive. The whole sequence is dripping with cool. The 80s synth soundtrack, the pink florescent titles, Ryan Gosling, toothpick in mouth driving a hot car. He even makes wearing driving gloves cool, not an easy task. Dimly lit at all times it sets the tone for his character’s secretive lone wolf attitude. We won’t even go into the car chase that follows it, if you haven’t seen the film, what’s wrong with you? Do so immediately!
One of the horror genre’s eeriest openings, a fear inducing synth written by John Carpenter underwrites the scene as we watch from an unknown persons point of view perspective at the outside of a house. The figure peers through a window at a pair of teens fooling around. We’re then led into the house in sinister fashion, taking the stairs up to a room where the figure puts on a mask, which we stare through at the dimly lit walls finally moving into a room where an unclothed girl sits brushing her hair in the mirror. The cry of “Michael!” tells us, the audience, she knows the assailant. The twist at the end gives you a sickening feeling when you realise a young Michael Myers has just massacred his very own sister. Gut-wrenching, unforgettable. Watch the scene HERE
Rear Window (1954)
The genius of Alfred Hitchcock can’t be overstated, he was responsible for some of the greatest movies ever to grace the silver screen. One of his very best was thriller Rear Window, a voyeuristic tale of a photographer played by James Stewart, laid up in a wheelchair after an accident, who entertains himself by watching the goings on of his neighbours through the windows of their flats and one night discovers something disturbingly suspicious. The first scene is a masterclass on how to set-up a film, the camera leads us from window to window as the residents of the buildings go about their daily business, we get a taster of the environment the movie focuses on and are introduced to our two main characters in one fell swoop. A true work of art.
It’s almost impossible to mention incredible opening scenes without mentioning Bond, so here we go. Brit director Sam Mendes made a big impact with the first shot in Spectre. Like Boogie Nights it uses a steadicam to suck us straight into the action as it seamlessly follows our mask wearing hero Daniel Craig as he makes his way into a hotel during Mexico’s Day of the Dead parade. We go through the lobby, up in the lift then into a hotel room where he makes his way through a window up onto the hotel’s roof. Here he sets his rifle sights on an enemy in a window across the way. And before long all hell breaks loose with a breathtaking section involving a helicopter. It’s an epic opening on a huge scale that set the bar even higher for kicking off a Bond film.
There are few opening scenes as captivating as the beginning of Martin Scorsese’s gangster masterpiece. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is driving a car with passengers Tommy (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy (Robert DeNiro). We hear a banging sound from the boot leading to a line of enquiry from Henry as to whether they hit something on the road. On stopping they open the trunk to find a bloodied body in the back squealing and writhing around. Rather than being shocked at the discovery the men are annoyed the man isn’t dead, but he soon is after the vicious Tommy drives his knife repeatedly into him. We see these men are violent characters and we’ve entered their world in shocking style. The scene ends with the now classic line delivered by the films narrator Henry, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” If we were in doubt of the professions of these characters, we’re no longer under any illusion.
Boogie Nights (1997)
Director Paul Thomas Anderson is a bit of a visionary and he proves it here with this impressive three-minute opening that drops us directly into a seedy 70s porn world party in one dizzying continuous shot. We watch the action captured by a whirring steadicam as it introduces us to all the main players in this story. A fantastic piece of cinema that sets up the whole movie in a single shot.
Old Boy (2003)
This fantastic yet brutal Korean film was re-made a few years back with James Brolin in the lead role, but it’s the barnstorming original we want to focus on here. It’s not one for the fainthearted or the squeamish for that matter, but the 2004 Cannes Grand Jury Prize award winner is the ultimate quest for vengeance. The opening transports the viewer to the roof of a tower block, and as we learn later this incident is pivotal to the overall interpretation of the film. Protagonist Oh Dae-Su is clinging tightly to man’s tie as he perilously hangs on the edge of the building, his face completely silhouetted by the sunlight. It’s menacing and intense and although leaving you with more questions than answers perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come in this scintillating film. Watch it HERE
Another club scene at the start of the Wesley Snipes starring Blade. This one’s a bit more sinister though. We see a boy driving to a ‘surprise’ destination, accompanied by a femme fatale luring him there. The pair enter a club through the back of a butchers (alarm bells!), the place is packed full of ravers pounding to the beat of some pulsating techno. Everyone looks a bit pasty and sketchy, so far so normal(ish) until that is … the showers of blood! This clearly ain’t no normal club! And if the blood didn’t give you the clues the throng of fangs that appear through the plasma being sprayed everywhere signals this it’s vampire night down the disco.
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