You can go balls to the wall and create a kick ass memorable opener that’ll stick in the audiences mind long after they leave the cinema.
I know what I’d choose. Here are some of my favourites:
Without a doubt one of the best character introductions ever. But first we have the vampire blood club/orgy scene. It sets the tone nicely; these aren’t your normal movie vampires, these are hardcore vampires. The one human guy starts freaking out as he realises where he is, he tries to get away, music pounding on the soundtrack, the vampires are taunting him as he crawls across the blood soaked floor and then he stops in front of a pair of boots. The music cuts out. We pan up to see Blade for the first time. There’s a few seconds pause as all the vampires stop. They know who he is. They know what he does. They know they’re dead. Even before he does anything, we know Blade’s a dude to be feared.
And then…Blade kicks everyone’s ass. It’s a scene that’s nearly 15 years old, but still looks incredible. Blade using silver stakes, a shotgun and his freakin’ bare hands to kill everyone in the club and save one guy. Best moment: either Blade using his spinny, um…blade to decapitate three vampires in a circle or the bit where Blade hits a vampire in the stomach with the butt of his shotgun, she doubles over, Blade puts the shotgun under her chin, fires, and she disintegrates. Awesome.
Final Destination 2
While the first movie had the plane explosion it was the second where the extravagant opening scene that became the series signature really took off, and as we knew what was going to happen they could really go all out. This one is the best of them all, surpassing the later roller coaster and racetrack openers. The shit consistently hits the fan in this scene, with each gruesome death building on the one before it. Special mentions go to the sheriff (Lois and Clark’s Jimmy Olsen – the first one) getting a massive log through the face, and to the dude in the sports car, getting explodified, burning alive, and then getting creamed by a jack knifing lorry.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Slow building dread before heart thumping full throttle zombie apocalypse in less than ten minutes. Not bad, Zack. Not bad at all. It’s the little hints that really sell this one. The guy with bite wounds in the hospital. The unheeded warning message on the TV. And then once the little girl appears at the door, shrouded in darkness, everything kicks off. It’s the frantic nature of this whole scene that really convinces you that the whole world has gone to hell so quickly. The husband gets bitten, dies, and comes back as a zombie in minutes. Our protagonist races outside to see that the whole block has been zombified or shortly will be. Panic everywhere, people screaming, and a school bus full of children getting massacred. Neighbours turning on each other. Zombies chasing cars. It’s quick, it’s effective, and it’s scary. It doesn’t give you time to react to what’s going on before something else unexpected happens. And it gets all the exposition you need for the film out of the way. Basically: there’s zombies. Lots of ‘em. And they’re fast. Real fast.
My favourite part of this scene though (aside from the shot from behind the car as it drives away) is the wide shot in which a car slams into the side of another and into a petrol station, and then closes in on the car of our protagonist.
Also, it leads into some end of the world Johnny Cash. And who doesn’t love that?
Okay, so this isn’t an action opener. But for an opening that sets the tone of the movie you’re about to watch, Brodie’s monologue is hard to beat.
And by the way, I can quote this entire speech from memory.
A masterpiece of FX and stunt work, as well as one hell of an exciting scene. Nightcrawler bamf-ing all over the place, taking out guards here and there, and being all cool as he does it. It’s so good it was homaged (or copied, if you’re cynical like me) in this year’s X-Men: First Class. This scene announced X2 as bigger, better and more ambitious than the first X movie.
Revenge of the Sith
Whatever your feelings about the prequels, you have to admit that the opening battle of Episode 3 was a terrific opener, almost recapturing some of the originals carefree knockabout magic. From the simpler opening crawl (no bollocks about trade routes or taxation here. It starts with one word: War!) to the banter between Obi Wan and Anakin, the aerial dogfights, the lightsabre fights, as well as some enjoyable back and forth between Anakin and Grievous (“You’re shorter than I expected.”) it’s a throwback to a simpler kind of movie. I mean, even the droid slapstick kind of works.
It’s a triumph of great FX, great fights, and the terrible dialogue somehow works in the context of these not-taking-itself-so-seriously moments.
The Two Towers
This is the opener that inspired me to write this blog. You could argue that the opening scenes from the other two Rings movies were better til the cows came home. And yes, they are both fantastic scenes (the ‘History of the Ring’ and Smeagol turning into Gollum) but The Two Towers pips it. It’s the only opening scene that’s not a flashback. Well, it sort of is but one to only a few days before, and we get to see it from a different perspective. In Fellowship we see the Balrog drag Gandalf into the depths, and then we follow the remaining fellowship out and see their grief at losing their friend. At the start of Towers, we see Gandalf’s epic (no other word for it) fight with the Balrog as they plummet downwards.
It’s not a scene I think anybody expected, and that’s what makes it great. Watching Gandalf open a can of whoop ass on the creature that leads him to his doom is incredibly satisfying after watching it supposedly kill him in the previous film. Cathartic almost.
And it doesn’t hurt that everything in this scene is incredible. The action, the effects, the music. The fact that you can make out what’s going on throughout the whole scene, through the heat haze from the Balrog, the twists and turns the two make as they fall as well as the speed at which they’re falling. If I had to pick out a favourite moment it would be Gandalf, after the Balrog crashes into the wall, losing his grip but then calmly grabs hold of the Balrog’s horn and continues fighting. It paints Gandalf as a total badass, which is great because up until now we haven’t really seen him fight. It also sets up his eventual return later on in the film.
It’s possibly my favourite opening scene ever and gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. I'll link a video when I can, a picture doesn't do it justice.
So, what are yours?