These Ain't Just Opening Credits: The Art of the Title Sequence
by Ethan Anderton
December 29, 2009
The opening moments of any film are truly pivotal in fully capturing the audience's attention amidst the opening of snacks, late audience arrivals and post-trailers chatter. Some movies just throw you right into the story, while others like to ease you in with a not-so-distracting credit sequence that runs throughout the opening scenes. But then, there are some movies which have meticulously crafted opening sequences to not only make sure you know damn well the people who worked so hard to bring it to you, but also to introduce you to the world where you'll spend the next few hours. And herein lies The Art of the Title Sequence.
A couple of guys have taken it upon themselves to bring more attention to the "Art of the Title Sequence" at their blog of the same name. There they take the time daily to post various opening credit sequences that usually go above and beyond simple title cards. In addition to commentary and sometimes interviews with the credit sequence creators, every now and then they'll even focus on end credit sequences as well. While complex and intricate title sequences are something that have become easier and more common due to the advent of various computer technologies for animation, editing and the like, there are title sequences from all different decades highlighted on the site.
One of my personal favorites is the opening credits from Steven Spielberg's 2002 film Catch Me If You Can. Accompanied by a spectacular score from the masterful John Williams, the credit text interacts with the minimally styled animated characters and provides the environments and obstacles that the characters we are about to meet will take on throughout the rest of the film. It essentially is a short and sweet animated silent film version of the entire movie, and is enjoyed slightly more upon a second viewing. Watch it below:
A more recent favorite comes from Peter Berg's 2007 Saudi Arabia-set action film The Kingdom, where the opening sequence acts as both credits and an abridged animated lecture that combines graphs, timelines, maps and archival footage to inform people of the delicate situation in the Middle East. The most powerful and striking use of this effect comes when a 3-D bar graph in the shapes of the countries identified as top oil consumers swivels around to show the United States' towering #1 bar split into the Twin Towers as a plane flies into one of them. The imagery is powerful and sudden, and sets the tone for the rest of the film.
In addition to featuring incredible spotlights on other personal favorite title sequences like Coraline, Juno, Kung Fu Panda, Lord of War and Thank You for Smoking as well as fantastic closing credits sequences for Jon Favreau's Iron Man as well as Pixar's The Incredibles and WALL-E, they also have special features like their currently running series on long single take shots that run through title sequences as well as a focus on films that you may never have heard of before. Personally I'm waiting to see a little focus on what I think to be 2009's best opening title sequence: Watchmen. What are some of your favorite title sequences?
Reader Feedback - 32 Comments
The obvious thing here is the James Bond opening credit sequences, which will most likely be overlooked (though I haven't checked out that blog yet, so I may be totally wrong). Although I feel like Quantum of Solace wasn't a very good Bond film, despite being a pretty good movie overall, the opening credit sequence was possibly my favorite of the 22 Bond movies that have been released. The visuals of it coupled with Jack White and Alicia Keys' "Another Way To Die" was a great opening and got me really hyped for what i thought would be an even more decided return to Bond being both good films and having that sense of style.
Jake on Dec 29, 2009
Carfonexdo on Dec 29, 2009
Ryan on Dec 29, 2009
Monsters Inc., Pink Panther, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.. Rocky Horror Picture Show.. LOL
FlaWiio on Dec 29, 2009
I love good opening and ending sequences. My favorites in alphabetic order (from the The Art of the Title Sequence webpage): http://www.artofthetitle.com/2008/01/14/casino-royale/ http://www.artofthetitle.com/2008/03/28/fight-club/ http://www.artofthetitle.com/2008/05/10/iron-man-end-titles-2008/
Robbie on Dec 29, 2009
Catch Me If You Can is one of my favourites also. I can see I'm going to love that blog. I love a good title sequence (or end credit sequence... Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events end sequence was better than the movie).
Mark on Dec 29, 2009
I really like the Kite Runner titles by MK12. Another couple of good ones: http://www.watchthetitles.com/articles/0034-The_Mummy_III_Tomb_of_the_Dragon_Emperor Terrible film The Dragon Emperor, but nice titles. http://www.watchthetitles.com/articles/0015-Kiss_Kiss_Bang_Bang Also nae bad.
crapola on Dec 29, 2009
Because I finally got around to seeing it last night I think Up in the Air has an incredible opening title sequence. But amen to Lord of War as well.
DC on Dec 29, 2009
I really like the opening sequence to Gone in Sixty Seconds...
peloquin on Dec 29, 2009
Bond movies always have cool opening credits. Then, off the top of my head, Re-Animator has a good opening credit sequence.
Luke on Dec 29, 2009
ohhhhh for real man, the best opening is got to be " Hustler's real milf cruise 7 ", yummm
PinkSushit on Dec 29, 2009
mine favorite's would be "Watchmen." Loved it, Bob Dylan's "Times they are a Changin" great opening sequence, and the opening of "Nightmare Before Christmas."
Xerxex on Dec 29, 2009
The opening sequence of Cool Hand Luke is amazing.
Pete on Dec 29, 2009
i was lucky enuff to meet Kyle Cooper (the guy from imaginary Forces/Prolouge... ok.. how about this, the guy who made the opening credits for SE7EN http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEZK7mJoPLY).... at a design conference. he was talking about how much control they have over the opening credits... there are instances where they are given complete freedom to do what they want to do, what tone to start the movie with... but usually its a studio ctrled enviorment. they do say this and that every often... but still they do push the effort given into the 3 minutes of credits. which may or break a movie. which may build or kill the hype of the movie.... and oh Kingdom, i agree with ALex, that was fcking sudden... never expected the planes to come accross. and with danny elfman's pulsuating score that was like...woooah ...9/11 all over again.. too bad the movie didnt hold up to the opening credits.
evilnik on Dec 29, 2009
Ro on Dec 29, 2009
25th Hour is also my choice for movie of the decade
Ro on Dec 29, 2009
Run Lola Run Blue Velvet Waltz With Bashir Magnolia North By Northwest Although not my favorite, "Napoleon Dynamite" had a pretty creative title sequence.
Sculthorp on Dec 29, 2009
Lord of War.. with the following of the bullet. Oh that was an awesome opening.
Hedgehog on Dec 29, 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf2yk1x-Fis&feature=related Pretty much anything done by Kyle Cooper.
Noemi on Dec 29, 2009
Watchmen was a great opening title intro, i loved it a lot. Lord of War was another great one, havent seen anything like it at the time, and of course all the 007 titles. There are so many great opening title sequences...
Nikhil Hariharan on Dec 29, 2009
wm on Dec 29, 2009
300 Closing Credits The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Napoleon Dynamite
Brandon on Dec 29, 2009
The opening credits of Casino Royale. Fantastic.
Tim on Dec 29, 2009
I think there is some confusion between "opening title" and "opening sequence", which are sometimes mixed together. For titles, though, as a kid, I used to love Saul Bass' silhouetted naked women posing, jumping, swimming, whatever (while Shirley Bassey or Nancy Sinatra sang their insinuating pop songs) prior to James Bond movies. They really were barenaked ladies (you could see nipples) and there wasn't nearly as much--really none at all--nudity in flicks back then. So at 13-14, you can imagine... I liked those "fade into infinity" serial-like recap scrolls that opened the original Star Wars movies. More modern, I liked the title for the first Batman movie in which Danny Elfman's darkly riveting score took you through twisting turns and tunnels that turned out to be (spoiler)..... SURPRISE! The Bat symbol! My god! Even that was 20 years ago!
zubzwank on Dec 29, 2009
Once Upon A Time In The West has one of the most epic opening credits ever. Leone mastered playing with time. I don't think I have ever seen a director manipulate time like he did. The whole fly bit was genius.
Brandon on Dec 29, 2009
To add one no one's mentioned yet, Sweeney Todd has a pretty bomb opening credit scene.
ren54 on Dec 29, 2009
Definitely Watchmen! The soundtrack of Bob Dylan goes perfectly with the opening!!
cub on Dec 29, 2009
what about Running Scared? well not the opening but the credits? that was pretty badass.
Xerxex on Dec 29, 2009
Anatomy of a murder north by northwest (just about all Saul Bass work) I think MARVEL has set a great standard by using the flipping of old comic book pages based on whichever character franchise they are using and turning that into the marvel logo..
lando on Dec 30, 2009
Napoleon Dynamite Also Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs doesnt list names in the title sequence, just states the film was made by a 'bunch of people' - thought that was cute.
ashah on Dec 30, 2009
I really really enjoyed the opening sequence for Up in the Air. I think they did a marvelous job editing all of the aerial shot together and matching it with the music. I also want to add that while I don't remember the openings for the most recent James Bond films, I typically despise them. I think they always use terrible music that I would rather die than listen to, and the visuals are always some crazy fucking kaleidescope shit and silhouettes of people. I just really can't stand them
NamelessTed on Jan 1, 2010
Layer Cake. And like a few people said, Watchmen.
west on Jan 3, 2010
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