Undefended: Top Five Opening Scenes

Undefended is posted every Friday. All FilmFisher writers are given a prompt and respond with a list of five items, none of which are explained or rationalized. This week… …In nearly every short fiction workshop I’ve ever taken, at some point the prof comments on the need to have “a gripping opening sentence.” Today, with thousands of movies available at the click of a button, it is easy to drop out of a film which doesn’t begin well. Action directors of the last decade have often taken to chopping the beginning and ends out of their films. JJ Abrams has made an art of it. So many films begin in medias res to compensate for impatient audiences. But there’s more than one way to begin a story. This week, choose the five best opening scenes in film history. sumofitsparts James Banks

1. The Usual Suspects

2. Miller’s Crossing

3. Goodfellas

4. Pulp Fiction (though not a great movie overall)

5. Silverado


Justin Spencer

1. Touch of Evil

2. Vertigo

3. Once Upon a Time in the West

4. Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark

5. Apocalypse Now


Timothy Lawrence

1. The Social Network

2. Once Upon A Time In The West

3. Apocalypse Now

4. The Godfather

5. Inglourious Basterds


Thomas Banks


2.The Godfather pt.1 (“I believe in America.”)

3.Manhattan (Woody Allen)

4.Raiders of the Lost Ark

5.All about Eve


Christian Leithart

1. Saving Private Ryan

2. Un Flic

3. Strictly Ballroom

4. The Matrix

5. The Lion King


Joshua Gibbs

1. Magnolia

2. A Serious Man

3. Out Of Sight

4. X-Men (2000)

5. Trainspotting


Remy Wilkins

1. Contact

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark

3. Punchdrunk Love

4. Post Tenebras Lux

5. Children of Men


Sean Johnson

1. Inglourious Basterds

2. Once Upon A Time In the West

3. The Searchers

4. Rushmore

5. Sunset Boulevard

Joshua Gibbs

Joshua Gibbs teaches great books, collects records and jogs to work. He and his wife have two children, both of whom have seven names. He tweets at @joshgibbs and blogs for the CiRCE Institute.

8 Responses to Undefended: Top Five Opening Scenes

  1. While unbelievably crass, I’ve probably watched the opening sequence in the parking lot from The Way of the Gun about 50 times, and laughed myself sick every time. Same with Dumb and Dumber. Would have liked to see more comedies on the lists.

  2. As a parent with a toddler, I watch alot more children’s movies than those for grown-ups. For me, I would have to consider including the “prologues” for Beauty and the Beast (1992) and Finding Nemo.

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