The opening scene of any movie does more than tell the first part of the story. It sets the tone for the quality of the movie. If you enjoy the opening scene, you likely want to see the rest of the movie so you can see what the writers have to say and how the director has put it all together. If the opening scene falls flat, you may be watching the rest of the movie to see how bad it gets. Here’s a look at the five best opening scenes in movie history.
"Citizen Kane" (1941)
This movie is considered one of the great films of all time. Orson Welles’ masterpiece on the life of fictional millionaire and industrialist Charles Foster Kane (Welles) still resonates more than 60 years after its release. Despite having every luxury and creature comfort imaginable, Kane’s final word – shown in the opening scene in the move – is “Rosebud.” The rest of the movie is about trying to find the meaning of that word in Kane’s life. The most meaningful explanation is that it was the name of the sled he used to play on in the snow as a child.
"Saving Private Ryan" (1998)
The story in "Saving Private Ryan" is about trying to save a soldier whose three brothers have all been killed in World War II. There is no way the Army wants to send Mrs. Ryan a telegram saying that her fourth son, James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon) , has also been killed in action. The opening scene is the most graphic portrayal of Omaha Beach that has ever been displayed. Not only does director Steven Spielberg convey the enormity of the operation, he shows the impact on the individuals who are heading the invasion as they hit the beach.
"Mission: Impossible III" (2006)
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is the protagonist of the successful movie series that is based on the memorable television series of the 1960s. In the opening scene, Hunt is chained to a chair and in the control of evil Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Hunt is trying to convince Davian to save the life of his girlfriend. Cruise’s acting is among the best work he has done in his career while Hoffman is calm and quiet in a very disturbing fashion as he listens to Hunt’s logic.
The movie terrorized beach goers and ocean enthusiasts for years. When a great white shark terrorizes the small island community of Amity during its peak summer season, it throws the community into a panic. During the opening scene, beautiful Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie) who is swimming in the ocean, is taken by the huge, terrorizing behemoth and is bitten in half. Those who watch the opening scene are gripped in terror throughout the rest of the movie.
"It’s a Wonderful Life" (1946)
One of the most beloved films ever made, “It’s a Wonderful Life” opens with two chief angels talking to each other because one of the earth’s best people – George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) – is on the verge of committing suicide because of a financial mistake his blithering idiot of an uncle made. The angels don’t want this to happen, so they call in a third angel named Clarence to step in and find a way to keep Bailey from doing himself in. The tone for one of the greatest feel-good stories is set in this opening scene.