15 Amazing Opening Title Sequences

A lot of people seem to be divided over whether or not Zack Snyder’s Watchmen was a masterpiece or merely a serviceable adaptation of a great graphic novel, but one thing that almost everyone can agree on is that the opening title sequence set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” is a fantastic work of art unto itself. This recently reminded me that I had been meaning to put together a list of some of my own favourite opening credits in film. A quick Google search reveals that this topic has already been covered a number of times, but nonetheless I thought I’d revisit it and hopefully add a few new ones to the conversation.


1. Seven

You can’t talk about opening credits without mentioning the work of Kyle Cooper, and Seven is surely one of his best. I still remember the first time I saw this in the theatre, and it totally blew me away. Creepy and ominous, and set to a remix of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”, it completely changed how I thought about the opening titles of a movie. Cooper has since carved out a career creating hundreds of amazing title sequences for movies, including the Spider-Man movies, Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, and more recently, Speed Racer and Iron Man.

2. Vertigo

Saul Bass is another master of graphic design who brought his artistic talent to opening titles on screen. He is best known for creating the intro to a number of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, including Psycho, North by Northwest, and Vertigo, plus several Scorsese movies later in his career. Very rarely do we see things kept so clean and minimal nowadays.

3. Lord of War

In just one short sequence, we trace the path of a bullet from production to its entry into a human body. This incredible opening for Lord of War almost made the rest of the movie irrelevant.

4. Goldfinger

The title sequence for any new Bond film is almost as anticipated as the movie itself. While there have been some amazing ones over the years, I think my favourite is still the classic Goldfinger, from back when they didn’t have digital effects to rely on.

5. Lost in Translation

Just a static shot of Scarlett Johansson’s butt… what’s not to like?

6. Juno

The combination of live action and animation used for the opening credits in Jason Reitman’s Juno meshed well with the theme of a teenage girl who is forced to grow up. Reitman is clearly a fan of cool opening credits, also check out the intro for Thank You For Smoking. (Note: The actual opening credits were pulled off YouTube, so I used the music video instead.)

7. The Incredibles

Only the creative folks at Pixar would think to open a CG animated movie with some stylish 2D animated titles. Awesome.

8. Dr. Strangelove

Although hand-scrawled lettering seems to be used everywhere in movie marketing nowadays, Pablo Ferro was one of the first to employ them on the credits at the beginning of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, while a B-52 bomber “mounts” a KC-135 Tanker in mid-flight.

9. Funny Games

Never has a movie made it so clear that it plans to mess with its audience as Michael Haneke’s Funny Games does with these opening titles set to screeching grindcore, directly after an intro involving classical music.

10. American Psycho

In this highly clever intro for a movie about a serial killer, what at first appears to be blood actually turns out to be dessert decorations in a high class restaurant.

11. Superbad

There’s no real good reason for this funked up ’70s intro to teen comedy Superbad other than the fact that it’s cool, but hey, that’s good enough for me.

12. The Pink Panther

Set to Henry Mancini’s classic theme, The Pink Panther‘s animated opening actually spawned an entire cartoon series based on the character. As a kid I was always puzzled as to why a movie called The Pink Panther only featured the cartoon version of the panther during its opening credits.

13. Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Classic Mike Myers brilliance with an entire opening sequence based around Austin Powers dancing naked with various objects blocking his crotch at every turn. (The Simpsons Movie later played on this same idea with an unexpected twist.)

14. Bullitt

Stylish and suspenseful, the opening titles for Bullitt were set to an awesome jazzy tune by Lalo Schifrin.

15. Undertow

David Gordon Green’s first foray into the thriller genre, Undertow puts its opening credits over freeze frames during an opening chase scene. This same idea was also re-used for the HBO series East Bound & Down, several episodes of which Green has directed. (Warning: There is something in this video involving a rusty nail that is not for the squeamish.)

As an honourable mention, I wanted to include The Naked Gun intros featuring a POV shot of a cop car driving through ridiculous places. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any videos online.

For more great opening credits, check out The Art of the Title Sequence.

What are your favourite opening title sequences?

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  • Ben

    Can’t believe that Fight Club didn’t make the list.

  • Jason

    Love the opening credits on Snatch where they just introduce the characters right after the prologue.

  • http://www.myspace.com/nativesocialite Mya Parker

    Hey people, does anyone know the song that plays in the opening credits for Femme Fatale?

  • http://www.filmjunk.com/category/podcasts/cantankerous/ Reed Farrington

    Mya, I popped my DVD of Femme Fatale into my DVD player to check out the song. There is no song. You did mean Femme Fatale directed by Brian de Palma? And you’re not referring to the music from the Double Indemnity clip on the television set? Or maybe I didn’t watch far enough into the opening?

  • http://www.theauteurs.com/ Robert Diaz

    Mya I’ve been looking for this for a long time the title is “Bolero De Ravel” scored by Ryuichi Sakamoto

  • ThaCrip

    i am a HUGE fan of ‘Lord of War’ (2005) and i agree it’s a great ‘Opening Title Sequence’.

    in fact, the film as a whole would rank pretty high on my all time list of great films ;) , it’s a masterpiece imho (it took repeated viewings for me to come to that conclusion though ;) … as it’s got great music/great directing/nice feel to it and i love the ending etc etc. hands down Nick Cage’s best film and i am a pretty big fan of his films in general)

  • Captain Scratch’n'Sniff

    Full Metal Jacket
    Fight Club

  • Kelly

    I was just wondering, does anybody know who designed the title sequence for Superbad?

  • James

    Please, for the love of God, I need to know the name of that classical piece from the opening of American Psycho. I have looked everywhere and typed everything possible into google and yet nothing has materialized. I’m literally BEGGING for help. Can anyone?

  • Goon

    James, maybe this can lead you towards your answer

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0144084/soundtrack

  • Henrik

    Hey James.

    I usually find that youtube is a great place to find these things out, so I went here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bXESFT2sRQ

    And found these comments regarding your problem:

    unku (9 months ago) Show Hide

    “Oh man I’ve been trying and trying but I really can’t find out what song this is (the opening one).

    I looked through the whole movie credits and there’s no mention of who composed it or what it’s called.

    Does anyone have any idea?”
    SNK038 (8 months ago) Show Hide

    “The music was all composed for this movie by John Cale – a founding member of The Velvet Underground.”
    unku (8 months ago) Show Hide

    “Yeah, I found that out, but I guess the song in that particular scene isn’t available in any format. :(

    “One of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard, and yet it has to be damn near impossible to find anywhere except on here…:|” – PaintedNails1

    “It’s called the monologue or something, but if you find it, let me know. IT’S UNFINDABLE. Trust me. ” – Stard0mChild

    From these it looks like you are out of luck, unfortunately.

  • James

    Thanks for the help Henrik and Goon, I guess I’ll just have to live without it then (at least in portable form anyway).

  • Blangadanger

    One I haven’t seen mentioned is The Shining, mainly because of the music. It’s very grandiose with a pinch of nervous suspense in the background. It always gets me in the mood for what remains an incredibly thrilling screening.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM8nFZiXbGU Edwardo Perdew

    Great Blog. Just not sure why I am up in the middle of the night reading this. :) :)

  • Joe

    Where is Star wars?
    I mean a decent movie, but The opening credits..Wow I mean I was born in 1991 and the opening credits still mean alot to me.
    Just thought I’d throw that in.

  • Xenia

    Where’s Rocky Horror Picture Show? I mean, come on, the first 5 minutes of the movie. Had lips. Fucking red lips that belonged to Patricia Quinn.

  • Steve

    THX-1138. Brilliant from the opening credits all the way through

  • tii

    resident evil 4′s opening was baddass

  • rtambree

    Alien3 – another Fincher title sequence for the exposition intercut with the credits, undoing everything Aliens led up to. Economical & shocking. Probably the most depressing opening title sequence ever.

  • Akumetsu

    The “off the top of my head” answer for people wondering about the Pink Panther, there never was a “live” Pink Panther. He was an enigma that was never seen, just a perpetrator of high-end cat burglary used as a plot device for our endearing, bumbling Inspector to chase.

  • http://www.trueedgepictures.com Gregory Hoffman

    I’ve always admired the opening to rear window. So much is established about where you are, the kind of person who’s apartment you’re in etc. without showing any characters or anybody saying a word.

    And I second anyone saying the napoleon dynamite titles.

    Guilty Pleasures: First scene of super troopers and opening of role models.

  • Will

    The intro titles to “i’m a cyborg but thats ok” are amazing, infused within the shots itself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXR1zh2045Q

  • Dangusloughlin

    Obviously no one has seen the opening sequence of Duplicity, where Paul Giamati and Tom Wilkinson come face to face for a bitter scene f conflict where not a word is spoken, cheer genius

  • JP

    2 words… The Shining

  • samuel

    15 videos that have been removed for copyright reasons.
    Awesome!

  • Sean

    The opening credits for Zombieland were perfect for the movie’s theme: Violent AND Funny.

    The combination of slow-motion and still shots, along with the chaotic tone and short run time was fantastic.

  • SamFilmGuy

    I know this thread is a million years old, but I found some discussion of the Tom Tykwer film Winter Sleepers (Winterschläfer) during a Google search. Could someone please tell me what the music rolling over the ending credits is? I was even able to find the (VERY) rare soundtrack to this film, but it did not contain this music.

    I hope someone will see this, but I’m not holding my breath! Thanks.

    SFG

  • http://www.cheese.com/ John Goatbirth

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. well Lord of War probably wins this. Innit. Star Wars is probably the most famous. I fink Alien deserves a mention as it’s as creepy as fuck.

  • Francis Lamontagne

    One that could have been here is Pulp Fiction’s opening credits!

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