I remember the first time I had seen T-1000’s entrance in ‘Terminator 2′. The lightning, the blue atmosphere, the melted fences, the storm blowing ferociously and that behind the shoulder shot, followed by the first glimpse of the merciless robotic killer. I was blown away, and I later thought about how big an impact first impression really makes. Now, this may not necessarily hold true in all cases and would spoil the character development in many others but if perfectly applied where it fits, a great character entrance always seizes the viewers’ attention. I also remember the first appearance of Death in ‘The Seventh Seal’, there’s nothing flashy about the shots, only an immeasurable awe at the concept Bergman would introduce in his first feature film.
Some entrances also grown on us after a duration, as a result of our increasing fondness towards certain characters, in my case Snake Plissken’s entrance in ‘Escape From New York’. They maybe long drawn out shots, playing with our imagination or unexpected reveals, showcasing the director’s imagination, one thing is for sure they stick with us for a long time. Now, I’ll be looking at some iconic character entrances from films that definitely shaped the way characters were introduced in the future. Here’s the list of top movie entrances ever.
15. Tony Manero in ‘Saturday Night Fever’
Tony Manero’s entrance in ‘Saturday Night Fever’ was probably the coolest moment of that decade. The few minute long introduction sums up the 70’s in perfect fashion; Bee Gees’s Stayin Alive, Travolta’s Presley get-up, the impoverished streets and most importantly the flashy lifestyle that every youngster lived no matter how shallow the present or future was. Flashy doesn’t necessarily mean being ignorant here, it signifies the optimism they had and this is what makes it a defining piece of visual literature from that decade.
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14. Space Station 5 in ‘2001 : A Space Odyssey’
Though Space Station 5 isn’t a character, the transition from the bone tossing scene to the visuals of the space station is one of the greatest moments in cinema. The graphics marked the first time, space was shown on film with attention to visual detailing and movement, instead of the campy special effects that were used during the 60’s. Also the entrance of the Space Station is so iconic, Nolan paid tribute to it by planting similar scenes in ‘Interstellar’. With the waltz playing in the background, and the astonishing anti-gravity effect, displayed through the effortlessly floating shuttles and the pen.
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13. Indiana Jones in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’
During the time when superhero movies reeked in pre-80s campiness, came Indiana Jones. Jones for a decade was the superhero material for every kid, and you’d definitely find the series’ merchandise in every home. ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ in specific is the movie that set up character, right from his exhilarating introduction. The caves, the treasure, the cheesy practical effects, the close escape and especially Indy’s grit to tackle such situations is classic 80’s entertainment.
12. Willy Wonka in ‘Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory’
Gene Wilder was one of the wittiest people you’d ever come across, and hence his improvisation was almost natural. Probably the most famous example is the Willy Wonka entrance in ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, where instead of having a normal entrance, Wilder had it changed to the famous somersault which brilliantly signified the eccentricity of the character. In the movie, Willy Wonka is a myth until he shows up and you’d have expected an older, matured man incharge of a factory but what greets us is a man in an attire that is indigenous to fairy tales.
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11. James Bond in ‘Dr No’
Bond. James Bond” – Sean Connery. There’s only one character who could be suave, charming, attentive, dangerous and unpredictable at the same time. Sean Connery was the first Bond, and though there are instances where people prefer the original version due to nostalgia and legacy, this is not the case here. Connery was the perfect 007, he had Craig’s lethality, Brosnan’s charisma, Moore’s humor, Dalton’s immorality and his own guise that made Bond a beloved anti-hero.
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10. The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’
“I believe, whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you…… stranger” – The Joker
Right from the shot of the Bozo mask, with The Joker standing at a pavement to his revealing, this is one of the most memorable character entrances in modern day cinema. ‘The Dark Knight’ is considered to be greatest superhero movie by many, and we are all aware of the part The Joker had to play in that achievement. Despite countless rewatches, fans still gasp in at the sound of his first line “I believe… what ever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger”. The Joker’s entrance is so effective because it is never expected of him to partake in a heist he set up and contrary to the comic books where he adopts a mob leader persona, here we see a very nihilistic version whose only aim is to bring chaos, brilliantly depicted with the bus kill.
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9. Jesus Quintana in ‘The Big Lebowski’
How could the image of a man licking his ball get past the Certification Board is seriously beyond me. Jokes apart, this particular shot still remains the gateway to an unforgettable character entrance. Jesus Quintana “You said it, maan” is a pedophile played by John Turturro in Coens’ ‘The Big Lebowski’, which happens to be my favorite movie. The characters in Coens’ films are extraordinarily written and the brothers know that first impressions always matter. With the first few moments focusing on Jesus’s rings and the peculiar coke snorter little finger and his tight purple costume and the confused looks on the film’s trio, while Gipsy Kings’s Hotel California plays in the background is delightful! And for people who find this unamusing, well, 8 year olds, dude.
8. The Alien in ‘Alien’
The chestbuster scene from ‘Alien’ is the most iconic scene from the original trilogy, and one that plummeted the bar for creature effects in Hollywood, apart from B grade horror movies. Though Alien works as a great slow burner and frankly its terrific atmosphere scares the crap out of you, more than the Xenomorph itself, never before had a mainstream film portrayed an alien’s montrosity with such realism. When I say nobody saw this scene coming, I mean it because the cast themselves were unaware of this and the expressions you see on their faces is infact genuine.
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7. King Kong in ‘King Kong’
Though there were monsters in films before ‘King Kong’, none of them stood at a staggering 50 feet and roared like a thousand trumpets blown at the same time. The giant ape has always had great entrances and many would consider the ridiculous one in Peter Jackson’s remake that never lets the camera sit still for two seconds, has villagers acting like an orgy is going on, the whole sequence actually hurts the brain and causes confusion instead of terror. Merian Cooper’s original version has an ape that doesn’t look like a magnified gorilla and that serves as a distinction to classify Kong as a monstrous “ape”. The stop-motion animation is still a sight to behold and though it may feel too mechanical for audiences used to preposterous CGI, with the terrific sound design and Fay Wray’s deafening screams as well as the wide shot of Kong mowing down trees serves as the grand entrance the beast deserves.
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6. Robert Mitchum in ‘The Night of the Hunter’
‘The Night of the Hunter’ is one of those rare classics I couldn’t force myself to like. The cinematography and Robert Mitchum’s performance are masterful, you could spend hours and yet not find a single fault with them but apart from that the movie doesn’t work for me. Coming back to Mitchum, his character is a Grade A a****** and this is adamant right from his short monologue where he fails to remember the widows he has killed in the name of God. His relaxed demeanour after murdering a woman, and his pursuit of all the unholy pleasures in the world while having a preacher’s bow tie pinned to the neck, is a great introduction.
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5. Harry Lime in ‘The Third Man’
Now. before someone slates me for not putting this on the #1 spot, I love the movie and Orson Welles, and the build-up to it is probably etched as the finest moments from the 40’s. The cat slowly walking up to a pair of shoes, the bewildered victim, the expressionistic lighting, the score by Anton Karas, the multi-angles shots followed by that smirk on Harry’s face after what seems like minutes of concealment, is what truly makes the mystery behind ‘The Third Man’ so interesting. This is also a startling revelation contextually, but I wouldn’t be discussing that because of obvious spoilers.
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4. Hannibal Lecter in ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’
Though Brian Cox had already played Dr Hannibal Lecter in ‘Manhunter’, it was Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal that sent ripples across the industry, especially his delivery in his character’s first appearance. Lecter had already been introduced by Crawford when he warns Clarice to prevent the cannibalistic genius from getting inside her head. Lecter is a constrictor, he hisses his words out but doesn’t spit them like venom. He waits for Clarice to feel comfortable to talk to him, and then starts wrapping around her, every movement of her face and tongue for her self defense used to his advantage.
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3. Alex DeLarge in ‘A Clockwork Orange’
“There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence…” – Alex DeLarge. Sorry, but I couldn’t help myself from quoting the whole monologue not because it’s famous but these few lines and the delivery describe Alex’s complex borderline personality to a great extent. The surrealistic imagery in the Korova milkbar and Kubrick’s gradual close-up, sets the eerily unnerving visual material in the movie. It’s also interesting to see Alex so relaxed, sipping milk (something which is associated with innocence) with some creepy drugs.
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2. Darth Vader in ‘Star Wars’
Amongst a barrage of lasers, stormtroopers, C-3PO’s constant bickering, enters a black figure, tearing apart the white smoke in the background. Maybe audiences then did not have the same reaction to this entrance because this was Vader’s first appearance and had no build-up like the Emperor’s. It took time for people to discover the gravitas behind James Earl Jones’s commanding voice and David Prowse’s domineering presence. Darth Vader, May The Force Be With Him, is one of cinema’s most tragic villains, regardless of how badly the tragedy was conveyed later on. Though Vader wasn’t the strongest Sith or Jedi, he was “The Chosen One” and brought back balance to the Force by killing a rather aged Sidious. The follow-up to this entrance is equally amazing, when Vader lifts a captain effortlessly by the neck.
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1. Charles Bronson in ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’
I remember buying a Hohner SilverStar, and the first thing I tried was Charles Bronson a.k.a Harmonica’s tune from his marvelous entrance in Sergio Leone’s ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’. The scene has every thing Sergio Leone was famous for; long shots, close-ups, the music ringing like a bell to signal a showdown, the clever comeback line and obviously the stand-off itself. Probably the reason why Bronson looked so comfortable with a gun on screen would be because of his iron clad frame that made it feel like just another piece of steel. With a rock solid expression (which I believe was a great deadpan in the company of his enemies), he mutters the coolest opening lines “You brought two too many”. I wish I could shoot down problems in life as effortlessly as Harmonica does.
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