10 Films Which Didn’t Live Up to Their Opening

Posted: March 22, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

First impressions are important. The opening scene of a film is one of the most crucial. Filmmakers need to grab the audiences’ attention right from the start while establishing certain elements which will run through the film, such as tone, characters, story, setting, etc. A lot of filmmakers have come up with some ingenious openings and I’ve wanted to do a list of my favourites for a while. However in my research I thought of another idea; movies that started really strong, but were never able to match their first scene. These movies listed aren’t necessarily bad, some I’d even call straight-up good, but each opened with a promise that wasn’t really met. The rankings of the list are based on two factors: how the excellence of the opening and how disappointing what follows is.

10. Star Trek (2009)star_trek-newposter3

The new Star Trek films have been defined by being big, loud, and action packed. It’s a decision that’s irked some long-time fans, but there’s no denying it can be effective, as seen in the opening where a Federation ship is besieged by a Romulan vessel coming through a black hole. The black hole and the coming ship give a sense of sci-fi intrigue, the space battle is very well-realized, and Kirk’s father having to sacrifice his life for his newborn son, wife, and the crew gives the scene a sense of poignancy. The rest of the movie has lots of entertaining action scenes as well, but none could really capture the emotions of this opener.

9. Lethal Weapon 3lethal_weapon_three

I’m a sucker for this franchise and enjoy all of the films to some extent. However there’s really no denying that some entries are lesser and for my money, this is the worst. It’s not really a terrible film so much as it is an unmemorable one. It does however feature a great opening where Riggs convinces Muratugh not to wait for the bomb squad to investigate a threat. The scene is full of playful banter between Riggs and Murtaugh, genuine tension, and an awesome explosion. There are a few good scenes later on, but as far as embodying the action and humour that define the series, this opening is the best.

8. House on Haunted Hill (1959)HOUSEONHAUNTEDHILL-final

This cult horror film comes from director/producer William Castle, a man known for overcoming budgetary issues with some fun gimmicks and imagination. This intro embodies that spirit perfectly in its minimalist approach. The first 30 seconds of the film is literally a black screen with the sounds of screams, moans, chains, and creaks played over. We then get some talking head narration with Vincent Price talking directly to the audience, explaining the history of the haunted house and the people coming to stay in it. It’s obviously a little hokey, but that’s what makes it so fun. Unfortunately, the supernatural mystery and amusement set up in this opening scene is eventually diminished via a totally practical and uninteresting ending.

7. Dawn of the Dead (2004)dawn_of_the_dead_ver2

To some extent I actually feel bad listing this as I do think it’s a pretty enjoyable movie on the whole. However I also think the opening is inarguably the highlight of the film. It’s a simple scene; main character Ana returns home to her husband and daughter before zombie outbreak occurs the next morning. In just a few minutes, Zack Snyder establishes the character’s family life and then proceeds to tear it apart. The zombie attacks themselves are vicious and the camera work while Ana drives through the chaos of the growing apocalypse is awesome. The icing on top is the opening credits, which use a news footage style to show the global impact of the zombie rise set to Johnny Cash’s “When the Man Comes Around”. On the whole, it’s horrific and badass. The rest of the film is okay too, but once the characters get to the mall the film more or less becomes the remake everyone expected.

6. Austin Powers in Goldmembergoldmember

The Achilles heel of the Austin Powers sequels has always been the blatant recycling of old jokes. However this intro was different and got the movie off to a great start. The film opens with some ridiculous stunts and action, before it is revealed that the intro is actually a scene from a fictional Austin Powers film existing within the series’ universe. Seeing what we think is Austin Powers engaged in such a legitimate action scene is itself a lot of fun, but the real treat is all of the cameos. Danny DeVitto’s Mini-Me is especially funny. However from there the film goes on to recycle all of the same gags from the last two films and it isn’t nearly as fresh. Admittedly, I did laugh at a lot of this stuff, but that says more about my own history watching this film as a kid than it does its own quality.

5. ScreamScreamPoster

I don’t particularly care for Scream. I don’t think it’s nearly as clever or as scary as it thinks it is and on the whole it’s no more sophisticated than the movies it mocks. I can however get behind the opening scene which is all kinds of awesome. We have a young woman (played by Drew Barrymore) home alone when she starts getting calls from a mysterious stranger. At first there is a sense of harmless flirtation, but the calls gradually become tenser. Next thing we know the voice is threatening the woman and it becomes quite clear he’s at the house too, and she’s in danger. This scene is what Scream should have been. It works at face value as a suspenseful and well-executed horror set-piece, and as a subtle commentary on the clichés of slasher films. Kudos as well for killing off the second-billed character in the opening scene.

4. House of 1000 Corpseshouse_of_a_thousand_corpses

I’m an outspoken fan of The Devil’s Rejects, but that film’s predecessor, House of 1000 Corpses is a confused mess which offers little outside of some weird violence and gross moments. It does however open on a pretty effective scene where we meet Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), a local clown who runs a shop which triples as a cheap horror museum, a gas station, and a fried chicken joint. That very concept is a perfect way to represent the low rent, kitsch horror realm Rob Zombie is playing in. Two incompetent gunmen try to rob Spaulding, which leads to some great comedy from Sid Haig, punctuated by violence. It’s an ugly opening, but it also brings some laughs and is pretty fun. From here, the movie descends into unpleasantness and never really finds its way back.

3. Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insultnaked_gun_three_ver2

The Naked Gun films are only concerned with one thing; making you laugh as much as they can. Almost every shot is dedicated to multiple gags. However as a result, the films are only as good as their laughs. In the case of the first film, that works out fine because it is hilarious from beginning to end. By the time you get to the third entry however, it becomes problematic. The Final Insult has its moments, but a lot more jokes fall flat and rarely does it construct a truly gut bsutingly funny scene. I say rarely though because there is an exception and that is the opening sequence. Spoofing the train sequence from The Untouchables, the scene sees Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) and his crew attempting to bring down some mobsters while contending with several baby carriages and a mess of other problems. It’s a hilarious sequence which is perfectly built and brings a lot of laughs. A classic sequence that can stand strong with the best moments from the first film.

2. Moonrakermoonraker

The pre-credit Bond action scene is a tradition of the series and as such the filmmakers usually put forth their best effort. Even in the series’ worst entries, the intros are usually still good fun. No film captures this juxtaposition of great intro and shitty film better than Moonraker. After getting into a fight on an airplane, Bond is pushed out without a parachute. As the soundtrack alternates between the sound of wind and the James Bond theme, Bond freefalls toward a villain and struggles for his parachute. Shortly after, Jaws comes down to make sure Bond won’t survive. It’s an exhilarating sequence accomplished through some incredible camera work and stunts. Granted, the comedic ending with Jaws’ parachute failing is pretty fucking lame, but I really can’t deny how impressive the scene is from a practical level. The rest of the film? Well, it features the villainous Jaws falling in-love with a country girl and becoming a good guy, along with Bond going into space and firing laser guns. As you can guess, it’s not exactly one of my favourites.

1. 2010two_thousand_ten_ver1

This is easily the simplest opening sequence, but it’s very haunting and effective. The film opens on a black screen and we here a distorted voice: “Oh my God, it’s full of stars.” This line (incidentally my favourite from the novel 2001) alone conjures such a sense of wonder and perhaps fear of the unknown. Following that, a mission report is filled on screen describing the events of the first film, effectively reminding viewers of 2001 while clarifying what the characters of this film know about the Discovery’s voyage. This text is set against the backdrop of still images from the first film, while György Ligeti’s “Lux Aeterna” plays in the background. When the report is complete, the screen cuts to black and we yet again here, “Oh my God, it’s full of stars”. Like I said, this is a very simple opening, but there’s something very powerful and haunting about the proceedings. Unfortunately, the scene is the closest the movie comes to capturing the mystery and aura of 2001: A Space Odyssey. What follows is a much more normal plot that strives to clarify some of the ambiguities of Kubrick’s masterpiece before ending on a totally unambiguous and disappointing finale. Those first few minutes still give me shivers though.



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