Wednesday, April 29, 2009

TOP TEN Opening Movie Scenes/Sequences of All Time by Urban

*Posted March 28, 2009*

How do you successfully start any form of entertainment, a book, TV Show, or music album? It needs a great opening. I remember that the first time I saw the “f” word was on the first or second page of the Godfather, how about intros on LOST, TV’s best show, Dan and Dave can talk all day long about how good Pearl Jam is in their opening album songs. The same holds true for movies, you have to capture the audience as soon as possible. As with the Godfather, LOST, and Pearl Jam being at the top of their respective fields of entertainment, the movies on this list are some of the best of all-time. Enjoy

10. Quantum of Solace - 2008

Bond movies all have the same formula: a short intro scene followed by the credits interposed with the theme song music video. Most of the intros were pretty sweet and Casino Royale was top-notch with the “intro” of Daniel Craig’s character, but Quantum of Solace’s was better. Herb hated the quick action cuts of fighting scenes like a quick shot of a gear, or mirror, hand, etc. It seems a little choppy in the following fight scene with Bond in the castle/temple building, but I believe it works brilliantly here. This scene is already considered to be one of the best car chases in history and probably the best scene of this above average movie, it should also be considered as one of the best opening movie sequences ever.

9. Star Wars - 1977

I remember during the special editions that the audience clapped when the Luscasfilm thing came on screen and continued to go nuts during “a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” and the scrolling marquee. I’m not even talking about that. How about that effortless Rebel Blockade Runner flying through space and then you see the massive Imperial Star Destroyer chasing and capturing it in its lower haul section, and you get the first glimpse of Darth Vader. Lucas made all six opening shots of his Star Wars movies special and paid homage to a New Hope with the ship approaching Naboo in the Phantom Menace. All in all, nothing beats the first intro in 1977. I still think the scene looks cool in 2009, I can’t imagine what moviegoers were feeling over thirty years ago.

8. The Godfather - 1972

Why is the Godfather one of the best movies of all-time? The story, acting, overall feel, music, nothing held back? Those aspects are all prevalent from this opening scene. Signore Bonasera’s “I believe in America” speech sets the stage for what he wants individually but also gives a quick glimpse of one of the facets of the mafia. The scene is directed beautifully with a close up of Bonasera’s face that slowly moves back to encompass his entire seated body facing Vito Corleone. The scan back ends with the first shot of Corleone’s face, played by Marlon Brando. If you remember by Top Ten overall movie scenes, not just openers, I think I used three scenes from the first two Godfather movies, a list could be made of just Godfather scenes. This sequence didn’t make that cut, but certainly deserves inclusion on this list.

7. The Matrix - 1999

The Top Man management likes to make fun of the Matrix movies but the trilogy is one of the best of all-time and the first two movies are some of the best individual films ever. Like the Star Wars marquee for the Lucas films, all the Matrix movies open with the green Matrix blueprint followed by the opening sequence. In the first Matrix, we are introduced to Trinity and Agent Smith as well as lot of WTF moments. 1999 was the same year as Lucas’ Phantom Menace and the two movies went head to head in all of the special effects Oscar categories. This opening scene shows why the Wachowski Brothers captured most of those awards over the legend George Lucas.

6. Touch of Evil - 1958

Webmaster Herb frowns at old movies so I’ll make this the only one in the Top Ten. A lot of critics say that Orson Welles hit gold with Citizen Kane in 1941, but could never make another movie that was close to the level of that masterpiece. Touch of Evil comes fairly close in my opinion. It is a disturbing film, like a lot of Welles’ movies, with Charleton Heston playing a Mexican detective who matches wits against Welles playing a crooked cop. The film is known publicly for its opening scene in which Welles opens with a shot of a hand and ever slowly pans back. The youtube video calls it a crane shot, and the scene is famously referenced in the opening shot of Robert Altman’s The Player.

5. Saving Private Ryan - 1998

Most of the scenes on this list have famous images or shots that resonate in the viewers mind like the Star Destroyer in the Sky or Trinity hanging in mid-air. The opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan doesn’t really have a strong image for me, other than perhaps Tom Hanks’ shaking hands, but the opening sequence, the landing on Omaha Beach, the first 20-30 minutes of the movie shown in a flashback is the extended sequence that I have chosen to use. The most violent and realistic scene in movie history? Probably, easily in the top 3. Spielberg holds nothing back with views of broken and blown limbs as well as spilled intestines. In 2001, TV Guide ranked this number one on its list of the top Movie Moments of all-time. This is not a quick five minute opening like all others on this list, it’s really just a half-hour of hell that certainly captures the audience’s attention.

4. Jaws - 1975

Steven Spielberg again. His first major movie hit, Jaws, is filtered with many memorable moments and the opening sequence is certainly one of them. It starts out innocent enough with a beach party that leads to a couple running off and the female going into the ocean. It’s pretty chilling when the music starts and Jaws eyes the girl’s dangling legs. The dark ocean and the sense of total loneliness in the water is certainly frightening. Spielberg decision not to show the shark until much later in the film works well for this scene. It’s a great beginning to an outstanding film.

3. Sin City - 2005

Special credit for this selection goes out to disgraced former Top Man writer Dave who showed me this scene on his computer about six months before the movie actually came out. It certainly got me hooked and evoked all that Sin City was about. Sly, sheik, mysterious with a film-noir backdrop. Josh Harnett is a loser, but is pretty sweet as a smooth-talker slash assassin. I didn’t see the hit coming, the scene itself minus the kill would have been a solid opener and good intro for the rest of the movie, but with the big shocker this becomes one of the better opening sequences in movie history.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark - 1981

Lucas and Spielberg seem to dominate this list. The opening of Raiders is the perfect intro for the Indiana Jones character: leather jacket, whip, fedora, and the face of Harrison Ford. The booby-trapped jungle temple is awesome with the numerous tarantulas, the traitor Alfred Molina, and the boulder. The height and climax is when Indy switches the bag of dirt and sand for the gold idol. All three Indiana Jones films, nobody cares about the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, have a solid beginnings, with Shanghai in Temple and the River Phoenix flashback in the Last Crusade. My favorite Indiana Jones scene is probably the Map Room in Raiders, but this opening sequence is not far behind.

1. The Dark Knight - 2008

When I first starting looking at this list, I checked out the one I made for just scenes in general a couple of months ago. This scene was the only one that was on that list. Not much needs to be said about the beginning of the Dark Knight that has not already been discussed. It has the WTF moments like the Matrix, the music that made Star Wars, Jaws, and Raiders so popular, and it has the huge reveal like Darth Vader or Vito Corleone. It is an all-around perfect scene for a near-perfect movie. The first look of Heath Ledger’s Joker, probably the best villain in movie history, is outstanding and stands right next to if not surpassing other great villain intros like Clarice Starling descending to see Hannibal Lector or Anton Chigurh killing the cop with his handcuffs. 2008's best film contains the best opening sequence in the history of movies.

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