Memorable movie opening scenes

The opening scene is very critical to any movie; it grabs audiences’ attention from the very beginning. It gives the viewer a sense of the film in terms of aesthetics and story. If the first couple of minutes of a film are truly great then the audience will be captivated. Mostly an audience walks into a movie theatre with expectations and those expectations are often met, exceeded or disappointed within the first moments of the film’s start.

So, yes, it is right to say that the opening scene sets the tone for the entire film; and can be funny, scary or even epic. It translates into an important moment in the movie-going experience and carries even more clout in the screenwriting world.

Here, we have selected our Top 5 opening scenes; they may not be the most intense, captivating or breathtaking scenes of all time, but they definitely succeed in setting the tone for the rest of the film in a cinematic way.


Star Wars IV: A New Hope
A long time ago in a galaxy far away, followed by exciting space music composed by John Williams with the text that starts to crawl backwards – this is the opening scrawl which is a spacecraft chased by a long spaceship, followed by a quick cut to the inside of the spaceship. A laser gun fight is going on which then shows the iconic entrance of Darth Vader, one of the greatest villains in movie history.

When it released George Lucas’ Star Wars became the most grossing movie in the box office and won several Oscars too.


In this classic breakout film, Christopher Nolan shot this opening scene in reverse order, but we didn’t realize this in the first shots of the photo. We couldn’t identify what is on the photo; it starts to fade, making the plotline more obscure.  It only makes sense when we realize the photo is taken by the man and all shots before are taken backwards. The opening of Memento is a game of revealing the truth and asking more questions about truth.

With his well-designed narratives, this movie’s opening is considered a landmark one and in a league of its own.


Reservoir Dogs
The camera rotates 360 degrees around the table, putting us right in the middle of the conversation where we see a bunch of guys sitting around a dinner table talking about the actual meaning of Madonna’s hit song “Like a Virgin”, and whether they should tip a waitress. Unlike the usual dressing associated with gangsters, these men are dressed in white shirts and black ties. Another difference is that these men are talking a lot, about topics that are totally irrelevant to their heist plans. You end up wondering what these guys are up to and can’t wait to see what will happen next. 

This is the land of Quentin Tarantino, whose movies have always been a tad different from the rest.


Social Network
David Fincher shot the opening scene in this movie in a rather conventional manner i.e. over-the-shoulder two-shots. What adds to the brilliance here is screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s long dialogues which the two main characters fire at each other. The overlapping dialogues are so fast that the camera quickly moves to the other after landing on the one talking for only few seconds.

Unlike the run-of-the-mill opening scenes that are free of dialogues, this one stands apart with its rapid dialogues.


Rear Window
Alfred Hitchcock, is not known as the master of suspense for anything. He is also the master of visual storytelling. In the opening scene of Hitchcock’s all-time classic, Rear Window, it tells us all the background stories without saying a word. First, the camera goes outside the window, spans 360 degrees to give us a whole view of the neighbourhood. Then it cuts to Jeff’s living room, using two shots to indicate the high temperature. Next the camera goes out again, giving us more details about the people living in the yard. The second time we see Jeff, the camera shows us the cause of his immobility and what he does for a living. The objects tell you everything you need to know about the protagonist.

First it’s his broken leg with his name written on it, then a broken camera he used before the accident, then the photo of the accident, more photos that reveal his occupation, last, and a pile of fashion magazines that further explain it.

Hitchcock started his career as a silent movie director and he remained that way all his career, using visuals to tell the story. This is pure cinema at its best.