Updated: Nov 12, 2019
One of the main functions of a great opening sequence is to introduce us to the main
character of the movie. The hero we’ll grow to love, admire, rise and fall with as the
movie unfolds. When the prologue does a great job of this, both the character and the
scene become imprinted in our minds and hearts, and often live on many years after the
Here are just a few famous movies that achieved this remarkably well.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
“Yeah. But you don’t look like the one who’ll collect it.” Few lines in movie history are
more memorable than Clint Eastwood’s opening delivery in this classic. One of the real
greats, not just in its genre but, which introduced a whole new style of direction in
general, this movie begins with a truly unforgettable scene. As the bandit Tuco is
surrounded by a group of bounty hunters eager for his head, they are abruptly
interrupted by a mysterious gun fighter.
The lead bounty hunter decides to challenge this gun fighter (Clint) to a duel, but pays
the ultimate price, as in super quick fashion Clint whips out his six-shooter and lays
waste to all three bounty hunters in the blink of an eye. Just as Tuco thinks he is safe;
Eastwood walks up to him and smugly asks what the price on his head is. By the time
Tuco realizes it isn’t a joke, we are in the scene where he is angrily cussing and being
hauled off to the authorities. Few sequences capture the essence of their main
character so powerfully and in such style!
Mission Impossible 2 (2000)
The film begins with a distant view of a figure scaling a perilously steep rock in the
middle of nowhere. The camera come flying in and as we zoom in closer to the rock-
climber we see that the little daring figure is Tom Cruise aka Agent Ethan Hunt. With no
ropes whatsoever, Ethan hangs hundreds of feet above the ground with nothing to save
him if he makes even a single mistake!
We watch him carefully move from ledge to ledge until he very nearly falls off the cliff. In
a death-defying move, he grabs another ledge and through sheer grit pulls himself up to
the top of the plateau. There, a helicopter flies by and delivers a kit for him to access
and retrieve his new mission brief. In typical John Woo style, he assimilates it all from
the sun- glasses in the kit and throws them off the cliff as they self-destruct! Despite a
corny close to this prologue the scene, shot remarkably well, says it all about Ethan
Hunt and captures so effectively and powerfully, his focus, fearlessness, and
unmatched determination; traits the entire series of movies so consistently reinforces
about this central character who has indeed become a legend!
Casino Royale (2006)
There was a lot at stake casting Daniel Craig as Bond! To have to walk in the footsteps
of the giants who starred in this iconic role is nothing short of daunting. But fortunately,
for fans of the 007 franchise and for the producers, Craig pulled it off in style. And this
opening scene set the stage for him spectacularly. There is no soft build up here.
Instead, we witness a continuous switch between two scenes in black and white as
Bond recalls his first kill to his MI6 boss, Dryden.
Their interaction is interspersed with brutally violent scenes of Bond literally smashing a
guy in a bathroom and eventually drowning him in a sink. The filming is austere, the
black and white choice adds finesse to the scene and the sharp contrast of action and
stillness between the two sub sequences positions this opening sequence very
differently. Here is a new kind of bond; suave, debonair like he is meant to be but brutal
and unflinching unlike any previous bond we have known! If that weren’t enough, just as
you think it’s all done, Bond shoots Dryden point blank toppling him off his chair in a
dramatic twist; confirming a second kill for himself, reinforcing his status as a 00 agent
and leaving us panting with anticipation as this one-of-a-kind Bond movie unfolds.
What do you think are some of the other outstanding character introductions in opening