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Film critic Jim Emerson is collecting great

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2006

Film critic Jim Emerson is collecting great opening shots from movies, including Star Wars, Primer, and Annie Hall. Do you have any favorites that Emerson hasn’t covered yet?

Reader comments

sleepingKellyAug 28, 2006 at 6:53PM

The opening shot of the graduate is one of my favorites!

HosenpantsAug 28, 2006 at 6:56PM

West Side Story - beautiful opening shots / titles - all Google Map / Powers of Ten’ed out. A pan across NYC, looking down, getting closer and closer to the neighborhood where the drama takes place. It has been a while, but I wanna say there is some bold color tinting as well.

MarkAug 28, 2006 at 7:04PM

I was always impressed by the opening of Lost In Translation for more than one reason. It was beautiful.

RyanAug 28, 2006 at 7:07PM

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, when Joel wakes up and kicks his extra blankets off. One of the best opening shots that I have seen is Memento, where the Poloroid is shaken backward and the bullet flies back into the gun.

ChrisAug 28, 2006 at 7:39PM

The opening sequence of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, where those bounty hunters ride into a little town trying to capture Tuco.

ChrisAug 28, 2006 at 8:50PM

Jean-Pierre Melville’s “L’Armée des ombres,” with the stunning shot of German troops marching down the Champs-Élysées.

Ernst Lubitsch’s “Trouble in Paradise” comes to mind as well.

ReubenAug 28, 2006 at 9:20PM

I am surprised that there isn’t a distinction between opening sequences and title credits. Often a separate company will put together the opening credit sequence under the direction of a number of different people. Of the sequences in the source website, ‘Fight Club’ seems to be the most blaring example of the difference.

That being said, one that I always think of is the opening ballet sequence from ‘White Nights.’ It could be argued that this falls under the credit sequence rather than opening scenes.

NickAug 28, 2006 at 10:14PM

My personal favorite opening sequence: Back to the Future.

JoeAug 28, 2006 at 10:28PM

Woody Allen’s Manhattan.

KellyAug 28, 2006 at 11:28PM

Joe Versus the Volcano

AdamAug 29, 2006 at 12:30AM

I really liked the title screen for Me You and Everyone We Know

fangsAug 29, 2006 at 2:38AM

The opening tracking shot from Touch of Evil. Suprised it’s not there already!

ReubenAug 29, 2006 at 2:59AM

Once Upon A Time in the West, without a doubt.

LesterAug 29, 2006 at 3:46AM

My favorite opening scene is the one from Happiness.

“You think I don’t appreciate art? You think I don’t understand fashion? You think I’m not hip? You think I’m pathetic? A nerd? A lard-ass fat-so? You think I’m shit? Well, you’re wrong, ‘cause i’m champagne, and you’re shit. And ‘til the day you die, you, not me, will always be shit. “

mathewAug 29, 2006 at 10:13AM

i can second joe versus the volcano.

i also enjoyed the opening shots of ‘the swimming pool’ - those few seconds spoke volumns about the main character.

mathewAug 29, 2006 at 10:13AM

oh! man. forgot my absolute favorite: magnolia

MattAug 29, 2006 at 10:43AM

I’m biased because this also happens to be my favorite film (and I’m a neeeeerd), but I think the opening sequence in Contact is stunning. Zooming out from the Earth to the edge of the known universe, and then out from the iris of that little girl…it is wonderful.

mattbucherAug 29, 2006 at 11:38AM

The long, three-minute tracking shot that opens “Boogie Nights.”
Also, “Touch of Evil.”

emilyAug 29, 2006 at 1:18PM

Dang, mattbucher beat me to ‘Boogie Nights’ — establishes so much about the characters in one long, snaking take (wink wink).

I’ll throw in a classic with “The Sound of Music” — silent helicopter over the alpine hills, then swelling violins, zooming in on Julie Andrews who begins to sing sweetly…perfect! Robert Wise really knew what he was doing; he directed “West Side Story” also.

HasanAug 29, 2006 at 1:27PM

Blade Runner, Touch of Evil, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

HasanAug 29, 2006 at 1:50PM

Woops, didn’t see that mattbucher had already mentioned Touch of Evil, so I’ll withdraw that one end enter Taxi Driver instead.

jaAug 29, 2006 at 1:52PM

Lord of War, which follows the lifetime of a bullet - from manufacturing to shipping to loading to killing.

james severinAug 29, 2006 at 2:24PM

Great find, Jason. I’m surprised — shocked, really — that no one has mentioned the opening of Robert Altman’s The Player. Indeed, it’s so breathtakingly virtuoustic as to be almost too much; but it’s not.

ScottAug 29, 2006 at 6:14PM

The underseen masterpiece Once Upon a Time In America, if only for the courage to have your four-hour movie begin with a phone ringing like 40 times.

EricAug 29, 2006 at 9:55PM

Ja scores a good one with Lord of War. My personal favorite is Favreau’s MADE, which opens with Favs boxing Vince Vaughn. It’s immediately tense and funny — which is disorienting. The combination repeatedly remerges. And the scene tells a lot about the two characters.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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