MOVIE LAND — When I saw "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," its opening scene blew me away. I was smiling from ear to ear and couldn't wait to see what else the movie had in store. I then got thinking about some of the greatest opening scenes of all time and decided the topic needed an article, so here we are.
Opening scenes of movies need to hook the audience and get them excited and invested in everything else that's about to unravel. The opening needs to be memorable and set the tone for the whole movie, which is the criteria I considered as I complied this list.
Here are the five best opening scenes of all time:
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is known for his smart and clever dialogue and his keen ability to make the most mundane of topics seem fascinating. Good dialogue doesn't just engage the audience, but it also transports them into the character, psyche and motivations of the characters speaking. I'm not sure I've ever seen this done more brilliantly than in the opening scene of "The Social Network."
The scene is very simple when looked at on the surface: Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) chats with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) in a bar and they talk about trivial things like final clubs. But the dialogue, the delivery and visuals created by director David Fincher makes for one of the most brilliant opening scenes in movie history.
In this conversation, we understand so much about the Zuckerberg character and backstory without ever mentioning where he came from or his previous experiences. The moment I saw this opening scene, I knew that Sorkin deserved the Oscar for screenplay, and deservingly so, he got it.
If the brilliance of this scene is lost on you, don't worry — I think a lot of people may have missed it, but for me, it undoubtedly earns a spot on this list.
This isn't the only time you'll see Steven Spielberg on this list, but both entries are very deserving.
"Jaws" is one of my all-time favorite movies and much of that has to do with the brilliance of its opening scene. The terrifying opening of a woman enjoying a late night swim in the ocean only to meet a horrifying end is exactly what an opening should be.
Without any fanfare or dialogue or even any warning, we are given the tone, intensity and terror we can expect from the rest of the film. "Jaws" still holds up as an amazing film and much of its iconic status is thanks to this opening scene.
Director James Gunn has a quirky style that I appreciate and it is on full display in the opening of the new Marvel movie. Part of the opening scene shows Baby Groot jamming to some tunes as his Guardians teammates battle a huge beast in the background. The music is counter to the battle raging on in the behind the tiny sapling, but the focus is on Groot and his short attention span.
The opening is absolutely brilliant and will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time. If this scene had extended on for 30 minutes, I wouldn't have minded one bit. It was so clever and funny while setting the tone of the film that I didn't think the rest of the movie could live up to its opening. Truth be told, as much as I liked the movie, I'd have to say the opening is the highlight of the film.
I told you we'd be visiting another Spielberg film on the list. I toyed with the idea of "Saving Private Ryan" and its incredibly intense and powerful opening 20 minutes, but I instead went with the iconic and memorable opening of "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Indiana Jones is one of cinema's great characters, and he receives one of the best intros of all time. The iconic scene finds the fabled archeologist in an old temple trying to recover a priceless artifact. What follows includes a bag of sand, a giant boulder and some restless natives.
We all know the opening, and we'd all gladly watch it again and again.
I'm going to be honest, I'm not sure I can get through writing this without tearing up. When we talk about opening scenes, we talk about engaging the audience, getting them invested in the characters and what's to come. I'm not sure any movie does this more effectively than "Up."
For those who have seen it, you know what I mean. For those who have not, I will not spoil anything here, but know that it's something that needs to be experienced. (Note I didn't write, "watched," I wrote "experienced" because that's what you'll do.)
The entirety of the opening takes about 8 minutes, and it's some of the most brilliant 8 minutes in film history. Watching the relationship of a couple from its first blossom to its wilting end is an emotional ride that is sure to touch the heart of anyone seeing it. Any filmmaker from here on out will be hard-pressed to match the emotionality and poignancy of "Up" and its opening scene.
What are some of your favorite opening scenes? Let us know in the comments.