Thursday Top 10 – Opening Scenes

10. The Fellowship of the Ring

Adapting the epic trilogy to the screen, capturing the scale and condensing the fictional history was a big sell. Telling us that it was going to be achieved by a Kiwi director whose most seen previous work was Braindead was an even bigger sell. Needless to say that this opening montage made believers of many naysayers.

9. Trainspotting

There’s two things that form the foundation of Boyle’s best work – Renton’s anarchist ideology and the characters. Both are cleverly introduced through voice-over, montage and Iggy Pop.

8. Pulp Fiction

Both Inglourious Basterds and Reservior Dogs could have laid claim to this list, but the simplicity of this scene edges it ahead. Tarantino’s opening scenes frequently showcase his gift for writing and directing dialogue. Sharp, witty and clever with a nice punch at the end to round it all out.

7. X-Men 2

One of my favourite action sequences, and the kick-off for one the best superhero flicks ever. Nightcrawlers solo attack on the White House is an amazing piece of effects work and unlike most SFX action scenes that isn’t enough for it to rest on its laurels. Fast, exciting and an intriging opening.

6. The Matrix

While searching online for others opinions on this topic, this scene didn’t get a single mention. Possibly it’s been forgotten amid the disappointing sequels and countless parodies, but at the time it packed one hell of a punch, instantly became part of the zeitgiest and remains some solid film work.

Intially I thought I was watching a goth version of Hackers. Then the guys in suits showed and something about them seemed amiss. The Trinity leaped into the air, froze…

5. A Clockwork Orange

Kubrick provides so many potential options for this list, but this stands out even among openings from 2001 and The Shining. Haunting score, flat colours, then one of the most iconic visages in cinema. Track backwards to reveal the frozen scene and begin the narration from a complete psychopath.

4. Star Wars

An orchestral fanfare, followed by the silence of space, the screen is dominated by an Empire ship closing in on its prey. Already the might of the enemy has been established and the viewer is hooked.

3. The Player

An extensive and complex tracking shot in and around a movie studio revealing the machinations of the business end of the film industry. Smartly filmed, and meta to boot, starting with the clapper board signalling the beginning of the film, in-jokes about sequels to The Graduate and Julia Roberts and closing with Fred Ward’s complaints about good tracking shots being a thing of the past.

2. Jaws

Nightmare inducing for pretty much every member of the audience, leading in from a POV shot from the perspective of a predator before it takes its first victim. Showing nothing of the shark, the soundtrack combined with the image of the girl thrashing her last is enough to keep everyone in stunned silence.

1. The Godfather

“I believe in America…”
Starting with a monologue from a minor character, the scene outlines the culture, the history, the setting, the tone and the main characters in a matter of mesmerising minutes.


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