Your opening is everything. Set the tone, mood, score and visual language. Establish characters, themes, ideas and relationships. Most importantly of all: Bridge the gap across the silver screen to your audience and immediately draw them into the world you wish to craft. Movie openers can range from patiently paced monologues like ‘No Country for Old Men’ to exhilarating action sequences like ‘The Dark Knight’, whose first moments remain the blistering highlight of Chris Nolan’s hero-centric tale.
Indeed opening so strong can in some cases hinder your film as a whole: Build up the audience’s expectation with an incredible first scene and then shatter their hopes as the rest of the flick fails to live up to its promise. That’s why, whilst writing this list, I tried to take into account movies whose openings served them well in the long run, rather than facilitated them fizzling out by the half-way point. With that said, here is the list of top movie opening scenes ever.
10. Le Samouraï (1967)
A close contender with ‘Army of Shadows’ and its own engrossing static long-take opener, Jean-Pierre Melville’s classic tale of a lonely assassin in the mood for love with the police hot on his heels begins with a beautiful tableau: The sparse apartment room of said killer; complete with minimal furnishings, a total lack of personality and only a caged bird to keep him company. The pet is a succinct and tragic visual metaphor for the events destined to entrap Jef Costello, his blank expression in the face of its hopeful chirps perhaps a subtle nod to the man’s acceptance that however long he lies on that bed in peace… fate is forever waiting for him on the other side of the door.
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9. The Big Chill (1983)