Great opening movie scenes usually satisfy several audience needs or demands. They are entertaining. They are emotionally engaging. And they establish an honest “contract with the audience.” That is, they lay ground rules for the experience the filmmaker is promising to deliver, in terms of tone, style and content. This contract does not mislead, over-reach or promise something the movie will not deliver.
Film.com recently published a piece ranking the “50 Best Opening Scenes of All Time.” Their list contains several great examples of movies that satisfy the above criteria. Below are a few of my favourites:
“2001: A Space Odyssey” (Stanley Kubrick)
“Trainspotting” (Danny Boyle)
“Reservoir Dogs” (Quentin Tarantino)
“Aguirre: The Wrath of God” (Werner Herzog)
“Jaws” (Steven Spielberg)
“Once Upon a Time in the West” (Sergio Leone)
“8 ½” (Federico Fellini)
Head over to Film.com to see the entire list.