Unforgettable Beginnings: 14 Greatest Movie Opening Sequences of All Time

The opening sequence of a movie is so important for setting the tone and drawing a viewer in. Someone in a popular online forum asked, “What movie has the greatest opening of all time” and film fans offered up some of the best. Here are the top 14 responses.

1 – Star Wars (1977)

star wars
Image Credit: 20th Century-Fox.

There's no denying that Star Wars had an epic opening scene, with movie fans pointing to the goosebump-inducing music, the scrolling text, and the way the action started. “The way Star Wars began pulled you right into the story,” one person noted.

2 – Up (2009)

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Up came out of the gates immediately tugging at your heartstrings. One movie lover shared, “Those 10 minutes are an award-winning film in itself. I've watched it dozens of times and still break down crying.”

3 – Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Image Credit: The Weinstein Company.

Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds has one of the most high-tension scenes I have seen. A Gestapo officer finds French resistance fighters hiding out in an alpine lodge, with the proprietor's cover as a German blown. “Tarantino said he kept Christoph Waltz out of all the rehearsals so that the reactions from the cast on film would be genuine,” one movie fan said.

4 – Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction 1
Image Credit: Miramax Films.

Newlyweds decide to stick up a diner, robbing customers of their wallets and jewelry, before coming face-to-face with the two baddest hitmen in Los Angeles. “Pulp Fiction is a masterpiece of storytelling, and the opening scene is a perfect setup for everything that is to come,” a Tarantino lover commented.

5 – The Revenant (2015)

The Revenant 2015 New Regency Productions
Image Credit: New Regency Productions.

I don't know of many films that capture the chaos of hand-to-hand combat better. The Revenant‘s opening scene is a long-winding, unnerving visual spectacle, shot on steady cam in a voyeuristic single-shot that lasts 15 minutes, depicting one of the best ambush scenes in cinema history.

6 – Saving Private Ryan (1998)

saving private ryan 1
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Steven Spielberg's epic World War II drama opens with the famous Omaha Beach landings, with thousands of young men brutally mowed down by a desperate Nazi host. A beleaguered movie fan reflected on what they consider an Oscars travesty. “Saving Private Ryan lost Best Picture at the Academy Awards to Shakespeare in Love,” they lamented. “Think about that.”

7 – Goodfellas (1990)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

“As far back as I remember, I always wanted to be a gangster,” quoted one film fan. This opening line is from Martin Scorcese's masterpiece, following a graphic moment in which a ‘stiff' in a mafia car trunk makes the mistake of still being alive. This shocking scene sets the tone for the almost comical violence that follows in the movie. Goodfellas is a must-see for any crime movie aficionado.

8 – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Harrison Ford Films Indiana Jones and The Raiders of The Lost Ark Paramount Pictures 2 e1690271892633
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is screen gold of the shiniest quality. Harrison Ford's iconic race against a boulder, then from dart-spitting tribal warriors, before his escape via biplane is legendary.”No contest,” declared one contributor. “It’s movie magic defined.”

9 – Contact (1997)

Jodie Foster Contact
Image Credit: IMDb.

Jodie Foster's iconic sci-fi movie begins with one of the greatest pull-out shots ever — beginning on Earth, then flying out through the solar system, the Milky Way, then far out into the wider universe. This happens “all while listening to older and older radio transmissions,” reflected one fan. “Genius.”

10 – The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight 2
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

A bank heist involving a series of incredible fast-moving, highly organized operatives provides the perfect exposition for the Joker. “They coulda left Batman out of the movie,” said one person, “and it still would've rocked with just Joker vs. the mafia.”

11 – The Matrix (1999)

Image from the movie The Matrix
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The Matrix draws movie watchers in right from the start. “It's pretty perfect,” one movie fan noted of the opening. “Super exciting and introduces main characters, villains, and the world very well in only like 7 minutes.”

12 – Wall-E (2008)

Image Credit: Disney/PIXAR.

Wall-E‘s opening montage comes with no dialogue, only the sweeping vistas of an abandoned wasteland, the planet left to ruin by a departing, overindulged human race. We have the dear Wall-E in his feedback loop of cleaning up, collecting trinkets from the past, and feeling alone in dystopia. The Hello, Dolly! motif is just cinema gold.

13 – The Lion King (1994)

the lion king disney
Image Credit: Disney Enterprises, Inc. Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Goosebumps at the ready for this perfect blend of music and warm Disney artwork that even the grumpiest movie fan can't ignore. “Arguably the finest 4 minutes of hand-drawn animation ever produced,” one movie fan said. The Lion King‘s exposition of its protagonist is hard to beat for pure feel-good drama.

14 – Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Top Gun Maverick
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

“The opening of Top Gun was so good they used it again in Maverick,” joked one film buff. While I agree they kind of did this, it worked! I am not sure any movie had the hair on my neck standing to attention more than Tom Cruise's high-octane love letter to American aviation.

Source: Reddit.