In a film, there is nothing more important than the opening scene. This is because it has the ability to establish the mood, tone, ideas, setting, themes, the score, central characters and their relationships. It also serves one very important purpose – it helps in drawing the audience into the world the filmmaker works hard to create.
If you really love a film, chances are, it had a great beginning. That is what good opening sequences do, they keep you hooked.
As we cannot list down every great opening scene there is, we picked five for our list, hoping you'll watch them if you haven't already.
Rear Window (1954)
Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window revolves around a man's voyeuristic pleasures as he spies on his neighbours. The film opens with a curtain raising as the camera cuts to just outside his home. We see a cat walking up the alleyway, a woman changing in her bedroom and pigeons on the rooftop. Nothing extraordinary, however, someone commits a crime. This leaves questions in the minds of the audience from the moment the neighbourhood is introduced.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
In the opening of this Sergio Leone western, we see three men sit at a train station for the arrival of a man with no name. There is nothing, but the sounds of crickets and a wind turbine. The noises of the area, as they grow irksome, craft the tension for their impending shootout, making this one of the greatest shoot-outs ever mounted.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Tobe Hooper, gives us nothing but sound in the opening scene of this film, building an uneasy picture in our minds of an act might be taking place in the dark. Suddenly, there is a flash as we see fading frames of decomposed body parts. This forces us to unearth some maniacal mysteries.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Apocalypse Now, which is loosely based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, has an opening scene, which is nothing short of a masterpiece. It unfolds to the befitting sound of Jim Morrison and The Doors as a forest is set ablaze with napalm. Helicopters then ride over as the fires run wild. The images of Captain Willard lying in his room staring at a ceiling fan are superimposed over burining trees. This gives us an idea of the state of mind in which the character lives.
On one hand we see a man struggling with sex addiction, on the other, the protagonist, Brandon, pursues a woman through a busy train station and wakes up in his white apartment – devoid of any life. It is remarkable how a truly profound sense of emptiness, despair and criticism of Brandon’s actions is put across through the cross of the stream of conciousness and narrative.