30 Best Opening Scenes in Movies

April 14, 2022 | Benjamin Carpenter

Opening scenes play an integral role in a film. They set the tone for the movie and establish the foundation that pulls you into the story. In the world of streaming, opening scenes are even more important. There are a plethora of choices on streaming platforms, and if a film’s opening scene doesn’t hook you, you’re likely to move on to the next title. The best opening scenes in movies introduce important characters, set up the narrative for the film, or provide information about the world in compelling ways. Need some examples? In this blog post, we have compiled the 30 best opening scenes in movies. This list defines the opening scene as the first major sequence in the film’s first five minutes. Each opening scene is ranked by how they stand the test of time.

 

30 Best Opening Scenes In Movie History

30. 28 Weeks Later

28 Weeks Later opens by quickly introducing viewers to the violent and depraved world of a zombie apocalypse. In this world, no one is safe and survival is the top priority. The horror film is a sequel to 28 Days Later and it’s about a small area of London that the US Army helps to secure for survivors of the Rage Virus to repopulate and start again. However, not everything goes according to plan.

 

29. Dawn of the Dead

Zombie apocalypse films generally overlook showing the beginning of the apocalypse, concentrating instead on how people have adapted to survive in a zombified world. From the opening sequence, Dawn of the Dead focuses on the start of the apocalypse and the shift from mundane life to the survival of the fittest. Zack Snyder directs Dawn of the Dead and uses his visual style to grab attention early on. The film follows a nurse, a policeman, a young married couple, a salesman, and other survivors of a worldwide plague who take refuge in a mega Midwestern shopping mall.

 

28. Halloween (1978)

Halloween’s opening scene is a chilling look into Michael Myers’s home life before he becomes the infamous killer we know him as. The sequence allows us to experience the POV of our antagonist and has an unsettling reveal that cements him as the villain. The 1978 slasher film takes place in the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night as Michael Myers returns fifteen years after murdering his sister to kill again.

 

27. Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead grabs our attention early by playing on the expectations that audiences have about horror films. The opening scene is a strong introduction to the narrative and gives us a taste of the horror to come. Evil Dead was originally written and directed by Sam Raimi but the 2013 remake is directed by Fede Alvarez. Evil Dead is about five friends who head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVy-TSs7Gio

26. When a Stranger Calls

The opening scene in When a Stranger Calls could be a short film in and of itself. It has an incredible amount of suspense, a protagonist, an antagonist, and a clear conflict. The scene is so well done that it was parodied in Scream. When a Stranger Calls is a horror film about a psychopathic killer who terrorizes a babysitter, then returns seven years later to menace her again.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZj43rtoEp4

25. Watchmen

Watchmen takes place in an alternate reality and spends its first few minutes showing how famous real-life historical events are altered in this world. Set to Bob Dylan’s “Times are a Changin”, the opening sequence introduces us to the superheroes that we will follow for the remainder of the film. Watchmen takes place in 1985 where former superheroes exist and the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own investigation where he uncovers something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.

 

24. Star Trek

A great opening scene establishes an emotional connection and hooks the audience into the main narrative. Star Trek (2009), directed by JJ Abrams, opens by showing the tragic death of Captain George Kirk which coincides with the birth of the main character James T. Kirk. The sci-fi film is about James T. Kirk, a brash Starfleet officer as he tries to live up to his father’s legacy, while a vengeful Romulan from the future creates black holes to destroy the Federation one planet at a time.

 

23. Shrek

When Shrek was released in 2001, it revolutionized how animations were seen and challenged the tone that animations typically have. The animation also made “All-Star” by Smash Mouth an iconic song that will forever be associated with the movie. The opening scene is a great example of the movie’s humor as it pokes fun at other popular fairy tales and instead introduces us to a character that isn’t depicted fondly in classic fairy tales – an ogre. Shrek is about a mean lord who exiles fairytale creatures to the swamp of a grumpy ogre, who must go on a quest and rescue a princess for the lord to get his land back.

 

22. Blade

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most popular movie franchise currently in modern-day cinema. However, there was a time before the MCU when Marvel superhero movies were released and were not as popular as they are now. Blade was released in 1998 and told the story of a fresh new superhero. The opening scene for Blade is hair-raising and gives an action-packed introduction to our hero. Blade is about a half-vampire, half-mortal man who becomes a protector of the mortal race while slaying evil vampires.

 

21. Drive

The opening scene in Drive reveals a lot about the protagonist while also providing a thrilling car chase sequence. The director, Nicolas Winding Refn, uses the opening sequence to showcase the main character’s driving abilities, gaining a sense of admiration for the character. Drive is about a mysterious Hollywood stuntman and mechanic who moonlights as a getaway driver and finds himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbor.

 

20. Mission Impossible 3

The opening scene of Mission Impossible 3 is only 3 minutes long and yet it establishes the high stakes that is felt throughout the entire film. Tom Cruise gives an incredible performance as he goes from calm and collected to desperate. Mission Impossible 3 is about IMF agent Ethan Hunt who comes into conflict with a dangerous and sadistic arms dealer that threatens the life of his fiancée in response.

 

19. Mad Max: Fury Road

When introducing a post-apocalyptic world, usually there needs to be exposition to give background to how the world got to this point. Mad Max: Fury Road manages to do this in three minutes while at the same time introducing us to the predicament our main character is in. The action movie is about a woman in a Post-apocalyptic world who rebels against a tyrannical ruler in search of her homeland with the aid of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max.

 

18. Lord of War

Lord of War’s opening sequence is one of the most unique openings in film history. The opening introduces viewers to the world of weapons manufacturing and takes us through the life of a bullet. Starring Nicolas Cage and Ethan Hawke, the film is about an arms dealer who confronts the morality of his work as he is being chased by an INTERPOL Agent.

 

17. Children of Men

The dystopian world of Children of Men is bleak and also grounded in reality. Audiences are immediately immersed in this world through the opening scene which only lasts three minutes. The end of the scene also has a shocking turn of events that leaves viewers on the edge of their seats. Children of Men takes place in a chaotic world in 2027 where women have somehow become infertile and a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.

 

16. Baby Driver

Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver has a distinct style and is heavily inspired by the soundtrack. The opening scene is a perfect example of this as it is set to the song “Bellbottoms” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The scene sets the tone for the rest of the film and establishes the impeccable driving skills of the main character. Baby Driver is about a young getaway driver who finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail after being coerced into working for a crime boss.

 

15. Skyfall

James Bond movies are known to start with a bang but Skyfall may have one of the most gripping openings of the franchise. The title sequence that follows is just as captivating, depicting gorgeous artwork with Adele’s “Skyfall” playing underneath. Skyfall is about James Bond as his loyalty to M is tested when her past comes back to haunt her. With MI6 under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

 

14. Prince of Egypt

The music from Prince of Egypt is seen as some of the best music in film history. Viewers get to see that in the first scene as the narrative for the film is set up perfectly. The music from Prince of Egypt is regarded as some of the greatest in film history. The first scene, which serves as the film’s introduction, is a perfect demonstration of this fact. The film starts on a high note with an opening music number of “Deliver Us”, and it maintains this level of excellence throughout. Prince of Egypt is about Egyptian Prince Moses who learns of his identity as a Hebrew and his destiny to become the chosen deliverer of his people.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LYz4tUrxzs

13. Inception

The majority of heist movies begin by showing a job that was wildly successful or a failure. Inception begins with a heist that is already in progress, except there is a twist that will keep you speculating about what’s real for the remainder of the film. Inception is about a thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology and is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a C.E.O., but his tragic past may doom the project and his team to disaster.

 

12. Up

Pixar has a reputation for pulling at the heartstrings of viewers, sometimes to the point of tears. In Up, Pixar succeeded in creating an emotional connection with the audience within the first five minutes with a montage over the course of a couple’s relationship, leading to a tragedy that people could deeply resonate with. The animated film is about 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen who travels to Paradise Falls in his house equipped with balloons, inadvertently taking a young stowaway.

 

11. La La Land

La La Land’s opening musical number perfectly captures the mood for the film as well as establishes a high bar for future numbers. The wide-scale production of “Another Day of Sun” is also an impressive feat, as the number takes place on a highway and is beautifully executed. La La Land is about a pianist and an actress who fall in love while navigating their careers in Los Angeles and attempting to reconcile their aspirations for the future.

 

10. X2: X-Men United

Even though the X-Men movies are about human beings born with mutant powers, they still managed to stay grounded in our reality. The opening sequence, which features the mutant Nightcrawler leaping past Secret Security and nearly killing the president of the United States, makes clever use of that effect. The action is excellent, and it immediately piques your interest as to how the film will top this. X2 is about the X-Men as they ally with their archenemy to stop anti-mutant Colonel William Stryker when he kidnaps Professor X and attacks his school.

 

9. No Country for Old Men

Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh is known as one of the best villains in cinema history. It only makes sense that the first scene in No Country For Old Men introduces us to the villain Chigurh before the hero. The opening scene was made by the Coen brothers to set the mood for the film and demonstrate what the protagonists will be up against. No Country For Old Men centers around the violence and mayhem that ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.

Read More: The Greatest Movie Villains of All Time

 

8. The Social Network

Aaron Sorkin is known to be a master when it comes to dialogue. Many opening scenes start big with an action scene but The Social Network starts with a simple conversation between a guy and girl at a bar. The dialogue between them reveals a lot about their characters and perfectly sets up the rest of the narrative thematically. The film centers around Mark Zuckerberg as he creates the social networking site that would become known as Facebook.

 

7. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark has the perfect opening scene for many. It manages to introduce us to Indiana Jones, his world, and provides a compelling conflict to overcome. Not to mention it’s also the first instance where the iconic Indiana Jones theme plays for the viewers. The film is about archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones who is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before Adolf Hitler’s Nazis can obtain its awesome powers in 1963.

Read More: 10 Best Steven Spielberg Movies, Ranked

 

6. The Lion King (1994)

A good song in a musical will capture the tone and feel of a movie while also introducing the characters and setting up the story. “The Circle of Life” does all of that while also being a beautiful song on its own. The Lion King’s opening scene is incredibly moving and has a wonderful message that goes beyond a simple moral. The 1994 Disney animation is about both Lion prince Simba and his father who are targeted by his bitter uncle, who wants to ascend the throne himself.

 

5. Scream (1996)

Wes Craven, the director of Nightmare on Elm Street, created a unique horror movie in 1996. Scream was a slasher film that also parodied the slasher genre. It functioned both as terrifying and as a comedy. The film was subversive to the horror genre and the opening scene took everyone by surprise on its initial release. Scream centers around a teenage girl who is terrorized by a killer that uses horror films as part of a deadly game.

Read More: Best Horror Movies That Subvert Your Expectations

 

4. Jaws

The influence of Jaws can’t be understated. The film is largely responsible for the cultural phobia of sharks that people have today. Steven Spielberg creates an opening scene that is haunting and horrific as we watch a young lady get killed by an unknown creature. The scene is simple, mysterious, and extremely effective. Jaws is about a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer who team up to hunt down a killer shark that unleashes chaos on a beach community off Long Island.

 

3. Inglorious Basterds

As introductions to villains go, the introduction to Hans Landa is one of the best of all time. The opening scene is full of suspense and features some of the best dialogue in the film. Inglorious Basterds is a Quentin Tarantino movie about a group of Jewish American soldiers and a theater owner whose plans to assassinate Nazi leaders unwittingly happen at the same time.

 

2. The Dark Knight

The opening to The Dark Knight does something incredible. In less than 10 minutes, we are introduced to who the Joker is, what he’s about, and why he will be so memorable. The scene is also full of mystery as we see The Joker’s sinister plan play out. The Dark Knight follows Batman who must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice when the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham.

 

1. The Matrix

The ultimate goal of an opening scene is to entice the viewer to keep watching. When The Matrix was released, audiences had no idea what to expect. After watching the opening scene, viewers were amazed and completely captivated by what the film had in store. The opening scene still holds up today and is largely considered one of the best opening scenes in movies. The Matrix is about a beautiful stranger that leads computer hacker Neo to a forbidding underworld where he discovers the shocking truth — that the life he knows is the elaborate deception of an evil cyber-intelligence.

 

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