I wanted to do this list for quite a while because I think the importance of a strong opening scene/ sequence is something that gets overlooked. The first impression a film makes is super important and some of the best films of all time are built on the strength of their opening gambit. So here are my top 10 openings which have knocked my socks off. I’ll be spreading these over the coming week or so.
Kicking things off is…
I am probably in the minority who think, overall, Up is an average film. It’s dope and everything but I find every character, bar Carl, uninspiring to the point of annoying – especially Russell.
But with all that said, the opening of Up caught me cold. I remember I first watched this in the cinema with my future wife and for 15 minutes I felt like I went through every emotion possible. I remember grinning so much that it hurt my face and I remember laughing out loud especially at how forceful the young Ellie was (anyone in any meaningful relationship would understand why). And then I remember being fearful, especially when you start to recognise the patterns in the opening montage – and then came the gasp – and then tears. I balled my fucking eyes out. I can’t remember the last time I felt that embarrassed in public.
But this film lives on that truly magical opening sequence and there is nothing wrong with that. The film fails quite miserably to reach the heights of that opening. If people think Up is the best animated film of all time, I disagree, but I understand because it’s opening sequence rivals anything that I have ever seen on screen – whether animated or not.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
The very first time I watched Pulp Fiction, I didn’t get it. The damn film left me confused even after numerous sittings (I am pretty sure I was in my mid-teens) – but when it clicked I was blown away.
Pulp Fiction is an exhausting masterpiece – it never loosens its grip on your throat from the very first scene until the last. And the film is full of iconic moments but I think its opening gets overlooked much too often.
The guy from Lie to me (Tim Roth) and Amanda Plummer’s diner scene is an obvious nod to Tarantino’s first film – but here everything is refined. The dialogue is sharper, the rhythm is infectious, the humour is irresistible and by the time you realise something is off – BOOM! And this seemingly throw away scene is actually pretty important to the film. Honestly, it is just genius. And speaking of the G word…
I am one of those people who is convinced that Quentin is a genius, that his ego is justified and part of my reasoning stems from this film and more acutely, this scene.
(to be continued)