Film Industry

Opening Scenes Top 10: What Are The Best Opening Scenes In Movies?

Photograph of the blog post author, Jodie Francis

Jodie Francis

16.6.2021

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Opening scenes are of vital importance. They serve to set the mood, tone, the literal setting, and the characters. In fact, the success of a movie can rely on how effective the opening scene is. We aren’t talking about walking out of a cinema, however if you’re watching a movie at home then there’s nothing stopping you from switching the channel if you don’t like the look of the beginning!

Clapperboard indicating the shooting of an opening scene

So, with this in mind, here is our list of the top 10 best opening scenes in movies. You never know, the films on our list could help to inspire you to create your own memorable opening scene. So, make sure that you keep reading! 

10 Of The Best Opening Scenes In Movies

So, let’s just jump straight in and give you our list of the ten best opening scenes in movies!

10. Jaws (1975)

Jaws has one of the best opening scenes in movies

At our number ten spot, we have the movie Jaws. This remains one of the best shark movies ever made! Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece actually sparked a wave of killer shark movies that still continue to this day. 

The movie begins with the audience following a girl called Chrissie, who decides to go skinny dipping in the sea at night. Spoiler alert: she doesn’t come back out of the sea alive. What makes the opening scene so fantastic is that the audience experiences great terror without actually seeing the shark yet. This makes it more ominous, as Chrissie is pulled down into the sea by a creature that we can’t yet visualise

She yells for help, but her drunken companion is no use. At one point we think that she’s going to make it, but she’s pulled back down. This will make you think twice before going swimming when you are next at the beach!

9. Lion King (1994)

Lion King has one of the best opening scenes in movies

The lion king opening scene is one of the best opening scenes, as it sets up the rest of the film. There is both tragedy and moments of joy in this film, the most tragic (of course) being Mufasa’s death. The opening scene begins with a herd of animals walking towards a cliff. Simba has just been born, and they are travelling to witness him being presented as the Prince of the Pride Lands. 

The chanting begins and the crowd cheers in celebration of this new life. The opening scene of this film provides us with some much-needed joy, in comparison to the struggles that come later. Luckily, we know that this film has a happy ending

8. Saving Private Ryan (1998) 

The Saving Private Ryan opening scene is truly memorable.

The Saving Private Ryan opening scene is one of the most memorable. We’re cheating a bit here, as the film first follows Private Ryan when he is much older.

The film then moves to a D-Day sequence at Omaha Beach, featuring the captivating Tom Hanks and Matt Damon. Opening with the older Ryan lets the audience know that he has been a part of a great character arc, and that what they are about to witness won’t be an easy watch.  

7. Macbeth (2015)

The Macbeth opening scene is truly memorable

There are many different versions of Macbeth in film, however, we have decided to put the focus on the 2015 film adaptation. The Macbeth opening scene is particularly memorable. It begins with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth burying their child, an act that is certain to evoke emotion in many viewers. 

Macbeth is then seen preparing for battle a short time after. This highlights the brutal nature of the film within the first few minutes and signifies the many deaths of innocent people that are to follow. If Macbeth is of particular interest to you, then we recommend checking out some of the other versions to see how the other opening scenes compare to each other. Also, to compare how the witches’ meeting special effects have evolved over the years! 

6. Spectre (2015) 

Spectre has one of the best opening scenes in movies

This is one James Bond movie that you won’t forget in a while, thanks to the Spectre opening scene! Setting the scene in Mexico City, the action begins during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) parade. The colours, costumes, and music are wonderful to watch. 

Directed by the brilliant Sam Mendes, these scenes actually took a total of six months to fully develop a plan. An incredible 1,500 extras were used! Bond himself is chasing after a villain through all of the chaos of the parade. This adds an extra layer of excitement to the proceedings and sets up the action-packed sequences to come. 

5. 28 Days Later (2002) 

28 Days Later has a fantastic opening scene

This post-apocalyptic legend among zombie movies is a favourite of viewers and critics alike. The plot follows the breakdown of society after a mysterious virus turns people into zombies. The 28 days later opening scene sees Jim wake up from a coma and he walks out into London. It’s absolutely deserted, and he walks across Westminster Bridge. 

Jim begins to realise that something is terribly wrong, as London would usually be crawling with people. This sets the tone of the film, and it’s seriously impressive and eerie to witness London so empty. We recommend that you check this movie out, even if it’s just to watch this scene!

4. Scream (1996) 

Scream has one of the best opening scenes in movies

This remains one of the most shocking and memorable opening sequences from a horror movie. Wes Craven was able to spice up the common tropes and features of the genre to create a terrifying opening scene that no doubt left people scared to answer the phone for a while! 

The movie opens with Casey, a teenager, who is home alone. She is on the phone chatting with her friend. When she hangs up the phone rings again. She doesn’t know who is at the end of the line, and assumes it’s a prank. The voice at the other end tests her knowledge of horror movies and threatens her if she gets the answers wrong. 

Finally, the man suggests that he is inside the house, and this results in Casey being stabbed – like if the Romeo and Juliet opening scene had played out far less romantically. Her parents arrive home to the horrific sight. Not only is this shocking, but Casey is played by Drew Barrymore, a famous actress. This lures the audience into a false sense of security that everything will be okay, and is a clever move from Wes Craven. 

3. Inglourious Basterds (2009) 

Inglourious Basterds has a fantastic opening scene

The opening scene of this movie introduces the audience to one of the most terrifying movie villains – Hans Landa. His nickname is ‘The Jew Hunter’ and he is an Austrian SS Officer, seeking Jews living in Occupied France.

Landa makes his way to the countryside house of Perrier LaPadite and his family. Perrier sympathises with the Jewish people, and he is hiding a family underneath his floorboards. He is interrogated and admits where the family is. To our horror, they are executed – however, Shosanna Dreyfus manages to escape. 

This sets her character arc for the rest of the film and her desire for revenge. It also demonstrates to the audience the brutal tone of the movie. 

2. The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight has one of the best opening scenes in movies

The opening scene of The Dark Knight immediately sets the creepy and dark tone of the movie. The Joker’s henchmen zip line down into one of Gotham’s banks with guns. They get into the vault, but they begin to shoot each other – this has been ordered by the ever-capricious Joker. 

Then only one of the henchmen and the Joker remain. Not for long though, as a school bus completely destroys the final henchman. The Joker then reveals himself to an injured employee and the audience gets to witness the Joker in all his creepy glory. This serves to set up all of the craziness to come. 

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction has a fantastic opening scene.

The pulp fiction opening scene has the number one spot on our list. This Tarantino movie follows many different narratives, such as the contract killer Vincent Vega and his partner Jules Winnfield, and a fighter Butch Coolidge. The opening scene immediately grabs the attention of the audience, as we are taken to a diner in LA in the middle of a robbery. 

A couple is discussing the pros and cons of being a professional robber. They have made their money by robbing stores and they both think they will have to commit murder one day. They rob the diner and the customers; however, this scene sets the final confrontation scene where their plan is not successful. 

Those Were Our Favourite Opening Scenes

Clapperboard indicating the shooting of a movie's opening scene

So, there we have it – our list of the top ten best opening scenes in movies. We would recommend any of these films to you, so why not check them out? 

Of course, we know that this is by no means a comprehensive list – 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Raiders of the Lost Ark deserve their own analyses! So, if your favourite opening scene did not make the cut, please don’t despair. We hope that our list has inspired you to write or film your own memorable opening scene. 

If you would like to read more great content related to film, then head over to the Music Gateway blog. We have a variety of articles for you to check out, so you’re bound to find one that will interest you! For example, How to Become a Filmmaker, How To Make a Short Film, Foley Sound, and the best Film School

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