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