Rachel Quinn outlines the opening scenes in films that entranced audiences in a matter of minutes.
We’ve all watched our fair share of amazing film scenes, but there is something about a great opening that captivates the audience in a film. An entire film essentially revolves around the opening scene, but it takes a special blend of performance and direction to etch an opening scene into the minds of generations.
We all know director Wes Craven has a passion for those incredibly dark and brutal slasher films, but the introduction to Scream (1996) was a game changer. It kept the audience alert and on their toes. By the end of the first scene, everyone is just left hungry for more. The first ever scene of the film, starts with actress Drew Barrymore, playing the character of Casey Becker, a cute blonde girl, home alone making some popcorn about to watch a scary movie. It was no accident that the writers of Scream use the already well known and striking Barrymore to make the audience feel comfortable and familiar with the scene. The introduction is simple but lays the foundation for how the masked killer taunts its victims.
Casey answers a phone call from a male voice which begins as a flirty conversation but turns deadly and taunting causing tensions to skyrocket. The killer reveals that he is watching Casey, causing her to flee her house. She is chased outside her front yard by the masked killer, where she is stabbed to death. The epic conclusion to the opening scene really hits the audience when the camera pans to Casey’s parents walking through the front door. They immediately notice that something is awry when they enter the home and frantically search for Casey. The frantic pair walk back outside to call the police, looking up to find Casey’s b mutilated body hanging from a tree. The final clip of the scene is the sound of sheer screams from Casey’s mother as the audience is left shook but excited for the story to continue.
The iconic Hollywood actor Heath Ledger created a memorable opening scene for all us Batman fans in The Dark Knight (2008). The film begins with a group of masked clowns, smashing the window of a high-rise building in daylight, ready to operate on a mission. The camera quickly cuts to the streets of Gotham city and we see a figure holding a clown mask in hand, waiting to be picked up for the operation. The audience is filled with anticipation, as we watch and wait for the expected villain; we’re eager for him to make his first appearance.
A bank heist ensues, each thug looking similar in appearance, with no sign of the Joker. However, as the heist goes down, each clown turns against the other and kill their allies for a higher cut of the money taken. But where is the Joker?
A perfectly timed school bus drives into the wall of the city bank, in preparation to take the bags of cash. The remaining clown is shot dead and the bank manager is badly wounded on the marble floor, cussing at the remaining thug who loads the bags of money into the bus. The most captivating moment of the scene arrives, as the thug casually removes his clown mask and reveals himself as the Joker with a confident smile and the look of a psychotic menace ready to take over Gotham. Within one scene, Ledger cements himself as a Joker for a new generation.
The beautifully engaging romance in Water For Elephants, between characters Jacob and Marlena had the audience reeling. However, the opening scene made us all feel incredibly nostalgic. The Circus Vargas’ owner encounters an elderly man who was lost from his nursing home. He introduces himself as Jacob Jankowski and tells Charlie that he had a career with the circus during 1944 and was present for the most infamous circus fire in Hartford. The audience can immediately depict that this man had an amazing history and a tale that would recreate the way that we observe a circus. It is evident that the present-day Jacob had lost his identity along with Marlena.
It’s clear that the opening scenes in cinema really grip the audience to discover their interests and also their awareness for Hollywood and its creative opportunities.