Jason Coleman’s Top Ten Memorable Movie Openings

Having recently witnessed the glorious opening slow-motion spectacle of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, complete with full man of steel angst and long-reaching death howl, it inspired me and reminded me just how powerful an effective opening scene can be.  Sometimes as the only saving grace of a flawed flick and sometimes an appetizer of tasty things to come, a good first scene impression is always welcome in the world of movie magic.  So I’m taking some time out to pay a little tribute to some of MY favorite first scenes that have long lingered with me even after the flick finished unspooling.  Take heed – these may not be the best film openings of all time (hence no Jaws, The Dark Knight, or 2001: A Space Odyssey here!), but these are the ones that personally made me excited both then and now.  So run hot, choose life, drive fast, feel melancholy, check the calendar, get arrested, prepare for 100% Alabama ass-kicking, get into a knockdown brawl, grab some hot jewels, and gain some serious deep reflection – here are my own…TOP TEN MEMORABLE MOVIE OPENINGS!

10. The Hurt Locker

Harking back to meaty movie moments in flicks like Near Dark, Blue Steel, and Strange Days, helmer Kathryn Bigelow brought back her cinematic wares in an explosive opening scene that had not only palpable pace and tension but also her signature visual style back in full form.  Then topped with a sprinkle of humor and a pinch of unpredictability, and you’ve got a return to form of one of the best female filmmakers working – you can’t beat that Bigelow magic.

9. Trainspotting

Wasting no time in its desire to portray both the ups and downs of being a heroin addict, genre-jumping movie maverick Danny Boyle had his drug-addled characters both running for their lives and spouting quirky catchphrases right from frame one in an attempt to jump-start the audience into one wild cinematic ride – it did.

8. Drive

There’s just something about Ryan Gosling’s unnamed driver’s cold and emotionless delivery that worked when the character was both standing tall and seated behind the wheel.  But featuring a clever car getaway that involved both cunning moves as well as speed (not to mention the pulsating score by sex, lies, and videotape alum Cliff Martinez!) and followed up by an 80’s credit montage to Kavinsky’s Nightcall, and you had a strange and stylistic original first act that could only come from a filmmaker like Nicolas Winding Refn.

7. Up

Showing the progression of a loving marriage through the years in all its sweetness and sadness in only the way early Pixar could, I hazard to say the first five minutes of Up was not only better than the rest of the film but the animation company’s best work ever.  Showing the loving differences, compromises, heartaches, and total devotion between Carl and his wife Ellie could have been a movie unto itself.  Happiness, disappointment, tears, and joy on a small scale…and effective as hell.

6. Day of the Dead

One empty room.  One calendar on the wall.  Such was the barren setting for the prologue of the late great George. A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, and frankly, it didn’t need extra trimmings. Putting both the iconic hypnotic music tones of John Harrison and the sullen yet hopeful character work of lead actress Lori Cardille front and center, Romero fittingly set the tone for one of the darkest but most thoughtful outings of his Dead series.  There’s a reason the Duffer Brothers used this zombie arm opening in their 80’s revival series Stranger Things – perfection deserves to be seen by many.

5. Band of the Hand

I know this flick is not a favorite among some of my high-profile peers, but there’s simply no denying that Band of the Hand’s stylistic 80’s intro via helmer Paul Michael Glaser kicked some serious pastel ass.  Creatively introducing and putting together the films’ gang of Miami Vice like juvenile delinquents complete with crimes, arrest cards, and all set to the swinging sounds of Bob Dylan’s title track may not be in a film that tickled everyone’s fancy, but it was one damn fine start.

4. The Devil’s Rejects

After the unpleasant, almost snuff-like quality of House of a 1000 Corpses, color me surprised with the arrival of William Forsythe’s tough-as-nails badass Sheriff John Quincey Wydell and a little payback to boot.  Meeting their match in a heated firefight with plenty of guns, ammo, and inspiring words (“let’s do what the good Lord made us to do!”), the homicidal Firefly family got a little comeuppance in the opening of The Devil’s Rejects, and it was a sight to see – karma is indeed a bitch.

3. Watchmen

Being on the fence about certain bits of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, which in my opinion had its fair share of ups and downs, there was one part that nevertheless had an undeniable and memorable movie magic – the opening.  Blasting in on TV watching hero The Comedian, an unknown assailant proceeds to kick the stuffing out of the very tough super guy, and thankfully he doesn’t go down easy.  (Though windows aren’t exactly his friend!)  Plus, matching that brutal bravado with the crooning sounds of Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable makes for wonderfully strange bedfellows – Snyder had my full attention.  (Not to mention his history building credit sequence to The Times They Are-A-Changing via Bob Dylan was masterful too!)

2. Beverly Hills Cop II

This one doesn’t get mentioned a lot and seems to have fallen by the wayside for most cinephiles, but I dare anyone to find a cool, slick heist sequence with so much toe-tapping fun.  Start with the methodic synth sounds of master of the game Harold Faltermeyer, enlist the signature visual style and savvy of late great filmmaker Tony Scott and insert six-foot blonde bombshell Brigitte Nielsen as the slick and at times scary (when she irks “stay down,” she means it!) leader of a gang of jewel thieves and you’ve got a forgotten robbery sequence that if attached to any other film would be considered a classic.

1. Apocalypse Now

Hardly a surprise for most film fans; this hypnotic opening to one of the most amazing war films ever made still packs an emotional wallop.  The exploding landscape, the despair of war-beaten Captain Willard, the sounds of copters, flies, and the buzz of Saigon outside all work in tandem to create the environment.  But mostly, it’s Francis Ford Coppola’s visuals paired with both The Door’s The End and Martin Sheen’s haunting voice-over as the films’ beaten narrator that makes Apocalypse Now still utterly effective to this day – the horror is it will never be that perfect again.


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

1 Response to “Jason Coleman’s Top Ten Memorable Movie Openings”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Cool list Jason.

    Offhand, some of my favorite openings include some of the ones you listed, plus:

    Grosse Pointe Blank
    City of God
    From Dusk Til Dawn