The 50 Best Opening Scenes of All Time

Creating the right opening scene may not always be the most difficult part of making a movie, but it’s invariably the most perverse.  Every film ever made begins with the same sense of endless possibility, the infinite canvas of the universe at its disposal, and then — in a flash — limits it all to just. One. Thing.

In our current cinematic climate, opening scenes are more important than ever before. The theatrical experience has remained largely unchanged over the years, but since the advent of home video — be it Betamax or Blu-ray — most movies come with a built-in escape route. Whereas the dark confines of a theater inherently provides an immersive experience by blocking out the rest of the world, nowadays, most people have to actively deny the intrusions of the outside world in order to really get into a film — the onus is no longer on us to surrender ourselves to a movie so much as it is on the movie to actively keep everything else in our lives at bay.

Be that as it may, the mark of a great opening sequence is the same as it ever was: It has to grab you by the throat and insist that you don’t look away. So far as great beginnings are concerned, even the most seemingly benign examples are imbued with a certain violence, stealing you away down the rabbit hole with such force that you’re powerless to resist. The best opening scenes will seduce you into the world you see on screen, regardless of its kind or size. And so, inspired by the tone-setting orgy of adolescent hedonism with which  “Spring Breakers” explodes into life, presents our list of the 50 Best Opening Scenes ever made.

50.) “Snake Eyes” (Brian De Palma) 1998

Lest we kick things off on the wrong foot, let’s be clear that this isn’t a list of the greatest opening shots of all time (and if it were, “Snake Eyes” would sure rank a hell of a lot higher). Be that as it may, for Brian De Palma there may not be much of a difference. “Snake Eyes” isn’t a great movie. If you want to be a stickler for details, “Snake Eyes” isn’t really even a good movie, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t know how to get your attention. Kicking off with an absurdly complex 12.5-minute tracking shot that combines De Palma’s dual loves of seediness and nested images as it follows Nicolas Cage (at his sleaziest) as he works all the angles in the lead up to a title fight in Atlantic City. Leisure suits, lizard-men (Gary Sinise), snipers and intrigue … it’s such a delicious set-up, you’ll never believe the taste the film eventually leaves in your mouth. – David Ehrlich

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