Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Best Movie Openings (that EW Left Out)

Entertainment Weekly’s new list of “30 Classic Opening Movie Scenes” touches on some masterful movie introductions – both classic and contemporary – but paves way for a shocking number of omissions.

I’m no proponent of Entertainment Weekly, a publication whose film criticism has gone from steady to mediocre to poor to laughable, but Breia Brissey’s list is worth mentioning.

First off, she wisely leaves out impressive title sequences (a category that has been listed to death) opting instead for genuinely impressive introductions. There are the obvious (Citizen Kane, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Touch of Evil), the commendable (Reservoir Dogs, The Godfather, Manhattan, Scream, Up), the welcome surprises (The Dark Knight, The Departed, Strange Days), and the baffling (Contact….? The Notebook….?).

Brissey also does a rare thing by highlighting that the real opening to Saving Private Ryan takes place in a massive graveyard, not on a beach.  Hell, she even included  my favorite film opening of all time

A list like this could go on forever, but here are a few of my favorite movie openings that EW left out:

Boogie Nights/Magnolia/There Will Be Blood
Boogie Nights brilliantly introduces all of its main characters in one extended steadicam shot, while Magnolia chronicles three popular urban legends before frantically, masterfully intruding on the lives of its many characters, and There Will Be Blood begins with a nearly wordless, elegant short film.  Watching these movies again, it’s clear that the only character development we need is presented in the films’ opening scenes.

The Player
And speaking of extended steadicam shots…

This opening has been debated and twisted and pulled every which way since the film’s release.  Books have been written about it, and popular filmmakers have stolen from it. (What does the music remind you of?  Who else used quick inserts of the male reproductive organ?)  As good as movie openings get.

(opening technically ends at 6:42, but if you finish the clip, you've watched an eighth of the whole film)

2001: A Space Odyssey 
The jump cut from The Dawn of Man to the year 2000... come on. 

Starting at the end never looked so good.

Iggy Pop+frenzied monologue+heroin-thin Ewan McGregor+being chased by the police= bliss.

(plays after advertisement)

Blue Velvet
Bobby Vinton, blue skies, red roses, white picket fence, a Leave it to Beaver sentimentality... is this a David Lynch movie?  Oh, a rotting human ear.  I knew I was in the right place.

(credits end at 1:39)


  1. did Johnny Greenwood give credit to Persona for his There Will Be BLood score?

  2. Not to my knowledge. Greenwood's does sound awfully similar, doesn't it?

  3. What about Scream's opening sequence?

    1. Oh that is a brilliant one right there. Love it.

  4. Hiroshima mon amour has an unforgettable opening sequence, as does Le Samourai and The Wild Bunch. Diamonds of the Night also begins superbly.

    1. Yes those are all great picks. I need to rewatch Hiroshima mon amour again and desperately need to watch Le Samourai again soon.