The first few minutes of a film are largely considered the most important. These days, the opening scene can mean the difference between an audience watching the film with their eyes and watching the film with their ears while they play on their phone. Throughout history, filmmakers have tried to perfect the opening sequence but it's unlikely that anyone has done it yet. We have yet to see it, though the films on this list come pretty damn close. An opening scene needs to set the mood or the setting, giving the audience something to build on moving forward or look back to later on from the end. Some opening scenes blow us away right off the bat, whereas some simply layout the boundaries of the film, displaying the core themes and the environment that will frame the film to follow. A powerful opening scene is difficult to do well and almost impossible to do brilliantly, but all of the films of this list somehow managed the latter.
The best opening scenes play out like a mini movie. As short films, each of these openings would be some of the best we've ever seen. But they are not standalone shorts. They are each contained within great overall movies which make them even better, if that's possible. We can talk about some of the notable omissions here, a sad fact which is bound to happen on any list. Citizen Kane is probably the most striking opening scene not noted within the list, but it was simply a numbers game. In an effort to spread the love around, we've had to ignore some greats. So many could not be included, Lord of the Rings, Children of Men, Vertigo, There Will Be Blood, Funny Games, Rear Window, and many more. But let's not cry about what's missing; let's celebrate what we do have. Here are the 15 best opening sequences in film.
15 Star Wars: A New Hope
14 A Clockwork Orange
13 8 ½
11 Once Upon a Time in the West
10 Saving Private Ryan
8 The Dark Knight
5 Touch of Evil
4 Inglourious Basterds
2 Raiders of the Lost Ark
1 2001: A Space Odyssey
They call the opening of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey, "The Dawn of Man." It begins with Richard Strauss' tone poem, "Also sprach Zarathustra," and opens on a bunch of man-apes doing ape things. They bicker and fight over territory; they are set up as animals, predatory and primitive. After a quick nap, a tone starts to build, like a buzzing of many voices. The apes begin to go crazy and it's revealed that a large black monolith has appeared in their territory. They approach it slowly and hesitantly. The scene is stretched out. The closer and more comfortable the apes get to the monolith, the louder the music. It's beautiful and poignant and it starts the journey of humankind about as perfectly as you could ever ask for.
Sources: TasteOfCinema; IMDB; Youtube
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