Opening scenes matter: they set the tone for the entire film. We wanted to know what the greatest opening scenes in movie history were – so we rounded up the best fan answers to this very question.
Some of these opening scenes are so iconic you can almost picture the whole thing in your mind. Others stood out stronger than the rest of the film, making it all you might remember. From action-packed to utter tearjerkers, these iconic opening scenes are often considered to be the greatest in movie history.
You only need to see Up once to have its opening scene burned into your memory. I still have a hard time watching this romantic, tear-jerking 7-ish minute opening sequence despite having seen it several times. It’s just so powerful.
“Shoutout to UP for being able to tell the life story of a married couple with zero words while simultaneously making half the theatre cry,” the most popular comment read.
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark
All of the first 3 Indiana Jones movies had great opening scenes, but the first 10 minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark are by far the most iconic. Every beat of this opening sequence sets the tone of the movie: booby traps, betrayal, and those Indiana Jones quips we know and love.
The biggest proof, though, is how much this scene is quoted and referenced in pop culture.
3. Saving Private Ryan
I won’t even describe this scene to you because you need to go watch it for yourself. Just know that it’s one of the most harrowing depictions of war that most folks, including myself and the thousands who agreed with this suggestion, have ever seen.
4. Inglorious Basterds
Christoph Waltz’s performance in the opening scene of Inglorious Basterds is truly something to write home about. Every second of that sequence, from the acting to the writing, is executed flawlessly. It only takes 6 minutes to completely despise the character, Hans, which in my opinion, makes it a perfect opener to set up the rest of the movie.
5. Terminator 2
Imagine watching the opening sequence of Terminator 2 after only having watched the first movie. Chances are, if you came to this series late, you had parts spoiled, but going in blind truly made T2’s apocalyptic future war scene one of the greatest in movie history.
6. The Matrix
I’ll never forget the first time I watched The Matrix; that opening scene still holds up, even now. What I really like about the way The Matrix starts is that it’s super confusing. A taste of what’s to come, yes, but it takes a while before you actually understand what’s going on.
Drew Barrymore kills it (pun intended) throughout Scream, but nothing beats the way this 1996 horror movie opens. It’s another one of those scenes that’s so iconic you probably know parts of it even if you’ve never seen the film. Rewatching this scene myself, it’s amazing how much horror and tension they pack into the first 10 minutes of the movie.
“That opening scene with Drew Barrymore is iconic,” someone commented, and quite a few people agreed.
8. The Dark Knight
If it’s been a while since you watched The Dark Knight, let me refresh your memory: it opens with a bank robbery scene where all the criminals are wearing masks. After an intense scene, the Joker is revealed and double-crosses the other thugs in a series of brutal murders – a dark, edgy intro that’s fitting of this iteration of Batman.
9. Star Wars
I’m specifically referring to watching the original from 1977 in the theatre. I would argue the opening scene is still iconic even if you watch it for the first time now, but I can only imagine how enthralling that opening with Skywalker Sound (the sound effect studio created for the film) and the unique special effects would have been at the time.
10. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
This is an interesting suggestion, especially since the movie opens with credits. Starting with the credits was customary at the time so that part isn’t remarkable; what is remarkable is the hilarious way it’s executed. First, the sound design is on point. Second, there is a hilarious fake subtitle sequence that looks like a foreign language (but is, in fact, legible.) It then devolves into more silly antics, all before we’ve even started the movie.
“The opening credits are pure art,” someone praised. So many others agreed, with some replying with movie quotes like “The people responsible for the subtitles have been sacked” and “Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked have been sacked.”
11. The Sound of Music
While you might not think of The Sound of Music when you’re discussing the greatest opening scenes in movie history, there is definitely some merit to this fan answer. Simple and gorgeous, it moves from sweeping landscape shots before finally zooming into the hillside with Maria (Julie Andrews), who starts singing the iconic title song.
Beautiful now, but even more remarkable for 1965.
12. Jurassic Park
“Shoot her!” someone commented alongside this suggestion. If you’ve seen the movie, you can probably replay this scene in your mind frame for frame; it’s so intense! Definitely a little taste of what’s to come throughout the movie!
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