1. “Do The Right Thing” (1989)
Why it works: So much angst (Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power”) and energy (a pint-sized Rosie Perez) packed into such a tight, lean sequence. How there isn’t a “Rosie Perez Dancing Like a Fly Girl” emoji or a “‘Do The Right Thing’ Opening Credits Sequence” workout class at your gym is a crime considering it’s just so damn expressive (and sweaty).
2. “Watchmen” (2009)
Why it works: Regardless of your opinion concerning this adaptation, everyone can agree its opening was outstanding. This INVINCIBLE credits sequences did a ton of heavy lifting — providing backstory, cleverly recreating key moments in history, and incorporating a Bob Dylan song.
3. “Se7en” (1995)
Why it works: You had to know this movie wasn’t going to end well from the start. More unsettling than most full-length horror films, these credits effectively introduce us to John Doe’s psyche as we watch his hands obsessively flip, scribble, and slice through a series of notebooks to disturbing effect (that remix of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” definitely helps).
P.S. – If you’re seeing shades of this sequence all over the intro to “American Horror Story,” good eye and ear. That too is the handiwork of Kyle Cooper, the titles designer of ALL YOUR NIGHTMARES.
4. “Enter The Void” (2009)
Why it works: SO DO YOU LIKE THESE TITLES OR WHAT? HEY WHERE’D YOU GO?! SORRY CAN’T SEE OR HEAR YOU OVER THIS MOVIE’S CREDIT SEQUENCE!!
5. “Lord Of War” (2005)
Why it works: Thoughtful. Ingenious. Powerful. Not to mention, That Awkward Moment When Your Opening Credits Are More Memorable Than The Rest Of The Movie You’re Opening.
6. “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997)
Why it works: Four women (who aren’t even in the movie at all outside its titles) lip-synch to a cover of “Wishing And Hoping” by edgy Ani DiFranco. Memorable for the way it happily frolics through the generic tone of most romantic comedies, while also being a tongue-in-cheek parody of it. Also, yes, we see you Rosalee from “Grimm”.
7. “American Psycho” (2000)
Why it works: The playful imagery cleverly reflects the biting (and bloody) satire prepared for audiences here. Also because now you can’t ever order a plate of über fine dining without signing your check “Patrick Bateman” again.
8. “Lost In Translation” (2003)
Why it works: Okay, hi, look down here everybody! As you can already tell, sometimes it doesn’t take more than Scarlett Johansson’s backside and a guitar riff by My Bloody Valentine frontman Kevin Shields to capture your full and undivided attention.
9. “Children Of Men” (2006)
Why it works: Aside from presenting its studio and the movie’s title, this is a liberal use of the word “credits.” But that armless woman wobbling out of the coffee shop at the end of this opening is forever seared in your consciousness.
10. “The Player” (1992)
Why it works: An impressive single-take tracking shot floating us through a sprawling studio lot while also exposing the idiosyncrasies and hypocrisy of the complex Hollywood system. In one exchange, two executives discuss the excruciating length of another film’s opening shot within this film’s 8-minute opening shot — ha!
It gets even more (unintentionally) meta midway through with a tour guide played by Jeremy Piven, better known as Ari Gold of “Entourage,” another comedy-drama that put a microscope over the movie making industry.
11. “Adventures In Babysitting” (1987)
Why it works: For basically being the ’80s wrapped up in an Elisabeth Shue-shaped Trapper Keeper. Also, for holding a mirror up to what your soul looks like on a really good morning in any decade.
12. “Funny Games” (2007)
Why it works: You know when you’re confronted with a situation where you’re left laughing uncomfortably as a defense mechanism because you’re not sure if someone’s joking or not? Whether you should be smiling along or running far, far away in the opposite direction? That’s this titles sequence — a practically frame-by-frame remake of the 1997 original.
13. “Panic Room” (2002)
Why it works: An homage to Hitchcock’s “North By Northwest” (1959), it’s a seamless trifecta of titanic typography, Howard Shore’s score, and expansive establishing shots of the NYC metropolis. If it feels dated that’s only because it went on to inspire a decade of opening titles (e.g., “Fringe”).
14. “Persona” (1966)
Why it works: In what could easily double as an art film at the MoMA, it’s technically more a lead-in to its opening credits. But unlike most movies where you can’t wait for the titles to be over, this one leaves you relieved when they begin flashing.
15. “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” (1999)
Why it works: For proving that to be effective, not every opening credits sequence has to be high-brow exercises in subtlety. Sometimes it can just be Mike Myers.
16. “Memento” (2000)
Why it works: In one quiet shot, it takes a while before you realize this is a Polaroid developing in reverse. When you finally do, everything to expect thematically from this psychological thriller comes into focus. OR DOES IT?
17. “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)
Why it works: Commanding score. Confident editing. Just perfect for every millisecond. A title sequence has never felt more all-powerful, supreme, and divinely orchestrated by the golden ratio. After all it was created by God*.