Saturday, September 22, 2012

I'm Three Years Old!

It's September, and my blog is three years old now. The scary rate of watching movies (in lieu of the addition of a third member to the family) continues, as I watched more than 130 movies during the past year, approximately a movie every three days. I'm glad that this year, finally another movie (Prometheus, probably to become my favorite film of 2012) surpassed The Human Centipede in terms of number of blog entry hits.

So in keeping with my annual tradition of providing a treat on the blog's birthday (here are my first and second birthday treats), this time it'll be: My 10 Favorite Movie Openings. These films may not necessarily be masterpieces, and some of them may actually be pitiful movies, but all 10 were openings that blew me away, making me ask: "What the hell is this? Where did this come from?", and created a rare crave to watch the rest of the film, in search for another high.

Here's the list, in chronological order, with a youtube clip showing why they're so incredible. Feel free to post comments and your own favorite movie openings. The curious common point amongst almost all of mine, is their great soundtrack. At the core, it's really the music that makes them so good:

1. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1969)

Ten minutes, almost entirely without dialogue. The soundtrack is the ticking of a telegraph, the buzz of a fly, the squeal of a locomotive entering the station, where three mercenaries await the arrival of an old foe. And when the characters do speak, in a background of Ennio Moriccone's captivating music, the result is just hypnotic:

- "You bring a horse for me?"

- "Hehe. Looks like ... looks like we're shy of one horse."

- "You brought two too many."

2. The Cassandra Crossing (George P. Cosmatos, 1976)

The movie itself may not be much, but that's one hell of an opening. And for the pre-Spielberg 70s, watching three German terrorists enter the WHO headquarters in Geneva, only to be a infected by deadly bacteria, must have been quite charming for its own time. Again, the soundtrack prevails, this time by Jerry Goldsmith:

3. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)

The genius that started it all. The moment that defined my love for movies. An Imperial Star Destroyer, invading my life as strong as it enters the story, descending from the heavens above:

4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)

O, John Williams. How do you make grabbing the golden idol out of that cave in Peru still "sound" so good after all these years?

Nope, couldn't find the clip on youtube.

5. Cliffhanger (Renny Harlin, 1993)

Look at the girl's eyes, going down. Harlin may not be much of a director, but he sure knows how to make action scenes.

6. Se7en (David Fincher, 1995)

It's actually the opening credits sequence here that's different from any other. The filth that exudes from these two minutes is so disturbing, it sets the mood for the entire film so perfectly, you feel like washing your hands when it's done. On this one, the credit goes to the cinematographer, Dariush Khonji.

7. Scream (Wes Craven, 1996)

I don't care how the rest of the movie went, and I don't care how idiotic the sequels were and are to this day. That opening (with its popping popcorn on the stove) was explosive. Wes Craven knows his craft.

- "You never told me your name."

- "Why do you want to know?"

- "Because I want to know who I'm looking at."

8. The Matrix (Andy and Lana Wachowski, 1999)

Everything green. Everything in pixels. Characters connecting to virtual worlds through phone lines, as the internet age was born. The camera circling 360 degrees around Carrie Ann Moss, as she jumped up in the air. With that opening, something strange had been introduced into cinema. Someone once said this was the sci-fi revolution The Phantom Menace of the same year was supposed to be.

9. Star Trek (J.J. Abrams, 2010)

A captain dies, another one takes his places, an entire ship is evacuated and blown apart, and in the meantime, Captain Kirk is born - all in a matter of minutes. It's hard to beat that. Watch this again, and see how brilliant Abrams' mind works.

10. Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)

The dream collapses, and suddenly a whole new world of artistic concepts pour in - because it takes a whole two and half hours (and maybe repeat viewings) to explain what those first five minutes meant. And there is a chance that Hans Zimmer is the new John Williams.


  1. Happy birthday Moblog! Hopefully to celebrate 100th,-))
    It’s my honor to be follower of such great collection of smart comments so far.Thank you for giving me this chance.
    I agree with your options.(1 through 6 for sure !)
    definetly with Star Wars (1977)..especially those yellow words floating through space, scored by masterpiece of John Williams , epic feel, right from the start.
    I got impressed by your words :invading my life as strong as it enters the story...beautiful!

    As far as I remember right now , I loved the opening scene of “Basic instinct “and everybody knows why!!....kidding but Not just as a erotic scene,just because it shows an opening of a very intelligent screenplay I’ve ever seen . I liked the Antichrist opening scene as well as Melancholia....I loved “ Jaw “...have feeling for Pulp fiction & inglorious Basterd from brother Q.T ....Full metal jacket ‘s was good enough to know it’s a different style of war- movies by Master Kubrick before it reach to incredible peak....and Godfather always has been winner of most favourite scenes from the first to the end.! The first scene of “Leon” was shocking too but I don’t know the scene of that family massacre was opening scene or not? Maybe it’s not coming just after opening credits,I don't rememeber exactly. ...another shocking opening scene for me belongs to “Casino” ,when the car of Deniro was exploded suddenly & unexpectedly ....I loved open scene of “Omen” which is similar to Prometheus somehow, the opening scene of lost highway was good,beginning the movie in the total dark scene was amazing as well as “Saw” How many number till now ? with adding to your choices my list passed 10 but the titles still continue.!

    Thanks and good luck in the new year of life !

  2. Dear Maryam,

    Thank you for the kind words. It's an honor to have you as a reader! Your comments reminded me of how many favorite movies I eliminated to narrow my list down to a top 10:

    - Spielberg movies generally have great openings, and I was undecided between "Jaws", Indiana Jones, and "Saving Private Ryan". But since Indy was considered an improvement on the James Bond theme (an entire franchise with great openings!), I had to just forget James Bond, forget "Jaws", and forget Ryan", and come down to the best Indy opening: "Raiders".

    - If I was to choose my favorite James Bond opening, maybe I would go with either "Goldeneye" or "The World is Not Enough" - both Pierce Brosnan.

    - "The Godfather" was another favorite I crossed out at the last moment. "I believe in America" ... said in a black background. The contrast is hypnotic.

    - "Basic Instinct" 's opening provides another shocking contrast: eroticism, and then sudden extreme violence. I wish Joe Ezsterhas would write more screenplays.

    - "Full Metal Jacket" was so strange. I was checking the VHS tape I had found with such difficulty in Tehran, and that opening forced me to watch the entire first hour. I just couldn't let go.

    - "Leon" 's family massacre happens in the first half hour, but the movie's opening is still great on its own.

    Maybe next year, I'll go with my 10 favorite shocking endings ...

  3. 10 favorite shocking endings ......Ohhhh,even now ,I got excited and counting minute for next birthday and such cool article....

  4. Dear Mohsen

    Thank you for your interesting collection specially for Cassandra Crossing opening title. I enjoyed all the videos but there was a little mistake about Se7en. As I understood you gave the title credit to Dariush Khonji, but I am not sure he even was present by the time of making the title (because it was made after post production of the movie). The title fully designed and created by Kyle Cooper and he became a legend in title design after this film. The title design was so great that it get a stand ovation in premier night of the film. Anyway maybe Khonji was present or not as cinematographer of this sequence but generally Kyle Cooper has been praised for the title design.

  5. Dear Amir,

    "The Cassandra Crossing" is movie that connects all of us belonging to a certain time, a certain place, a certain generation. Isn't it?


    And thank you for the correction on "Se7en" 's title sequence. Khonji's cinematography of the entire movie was so stark and beautiful, I probably mistakenly gave him credit for the title sequence too.