Screenwriting : Favorite Opening Scenes by Martin Reese

Martin Reese

Favorite Opening Scenes

One of the challenges in writing a screenplay is the opening. You gotta grab the audience. I thought it would be a nice exercise to list some of your favorite opening scenes. I have a few, but one of my favorites is Once Upon a Time in the West. Another is Blade.

Ronika Merl


Dale Swaby

Richie's; Sherlock Holmes / Rock'n'Rolla.

Willem Lodewijk Elzenga

Saving Private Ryan

Louisa Kendrick Burton

Oh Martin, this is making me think hard! The New Yorker in me goes to one of my favorite comedies Death Becomes Her because I think the tone is so nicely set with the music, the juxtasition of the bright lights against the dark raining sky. AND John Wick. I know I'm all over the place, I can't pick :)

JJ Hillard

Always enjoy the opening scene of "Pitch Black" where the crew must decide what must be jettisoned if they're to survive a crash landing:

Louisa Kendrick Burton

JJ Hillard yes! I enjoyed that movie.

Tony S.


Craig D Griffiths

The Dark Knight

Martin Reese

I still say Pitch Black was underrated JJ Hillard and Louisa Kendrick Burton

Martin Reese

I'm still getting over that open Willem Lodewijk Elzenga .

Christopher Phillips

Yes. Pitch Black was a good opening. Also tied well into choices near the end. OWENS: "Don't touch that switch! "

Dan Guardino

Get Shorty.

Aray Brown

Louisa Kendrick Burton I'm with you

Martin Reese

One more: IT FOLLOWS

Aray Brown

Drag Me To Hell

Kacee DeMasi

I think the best opening scene of any movie is the opening scene in Sly Stallone. Michael Rooker and John Lithgow 1993 film 'CLIFFHANGER'.

Adam Jestin

The Killers. Unfortunately the opening scene is the high point, rest of the film is pretty dull.

Majestic Kingston

American history X.

Bill Albert


Barry John Terblanche

007 James Bond movies

Rohit Kumar

Nadine's film "Capenaum" which won Cannes and many more awards I think. I wished her on social network, was so elated wishing her and receiving a reply. Amazing film maker. The opening scene of the two leads boy's life and woman's situation is brilliant. One of the best films of Nadine

Nuri's film "Winter sleep", one of my another favorite films. Film itself is great finesse in each frame, incredible.writing. This too won Cannes I think

Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov's film "Honeyland". Beautiful opening scene. Visually impeccable, great beat, mood set up.

There are few more of my favorites which brilliant opening scenes. like "City of God", "Life is Beautiful", "Troy" , "Seven Samurai".. Few more.. Yeah..

Stefano Pavone

"The Great Silence".

Christiane Lange

Queen's Gambit.

Aray Brown

Umbrella Academy

Aray Brown

What Lies Underneath

Martin Reese

I live for the Bond openings Barry John Terblanche

Scott Sawitz


"All my life I wanted to be a gangster."

Laura DeBar

Gas Food Lodging.

"If it weren't for Elvia Rivero,

this story wouldn't even be worth telling."

Doug Nelson

I'm sure it's just me but for some reason this post just wrankles my fur in the wrong direction. I realize that I'm getting more cantankerous as the years drift by so please don't take my rant to heart... I just gotta get it off my chest. Here goes: This is a screenWRITING forum; it's not a movie appreciation forum. While watching other peoples work can certainly be educational and of value; if you are learning by copying other's - you are doomed to failure. You MUST develop your very own style.

A challenge to each & every one of you: You show me (us) your current script opening scene; I'll show you mine. Then we can have a meaningful discussion that can make this forum worthwhile.

Dale Swaby



We zoom to a FIRE at the entrance to an OUTCROP. A resident

of the land carrying an ANIMAL CORPSE lumbers toward the

CAVE'S opening, this HAIRY MALE goes inside...


A LADY is on her back with legs in the air. This is

inviting to the grunt. He throws the corpse to one-side,

and goes for copulation with the female of this species.

They rub their bodies together without inhibition.

Sex follows, but we trail away from the oddest situation.

TITLE~ The Oldest Job In The World

Martin Reese

I respect your thoughts on this Doug Nelson , but my view is that part of writing is studying not only scripts, but films also. You most certainly don't want to copy, but you do want to see and understand why an opening works.

Doug Nelson

We all need basic instruction when we first take up the art/craft of screenwriting for sure, no one denies that. But you need to take the training wheels off asap - learn by doing. Why do you like the opening scene of Once Upon a Time in the West (I'm not familiar with it). What button, foreshadow or question holds your attention/leads you to the next scene, to the next...?

Craig D Griffiths

Doug Nelson as writers we see different things than fans. We also discuss opening scenes different to fans. We see what is being done and why.

Here are someone opening shots and part scenes from three of my unsold (and unfinished) scripts. The names have ### marks beside them. One is a street Drug Drama AMY, there is a horror I haven’t named and my take on Sherlock Holmes.



A busy city street, masses of people moving like a herd, we focus on no one.

A deep really mechanic voice comments.


There was an experiment were people heated the bottom of a monkey cage. They want to see how much heat was needed to be before the mother monkeys would climb over their babes to escape.


Suburban Street children playing, cars driving.


People believe that they would be willing to die for what they believe.


But once they realise that help isn’t coming. They all become monkeys.



A Victorian era tavern filled to capacity with loud, drunk men and women. Lower class. It is lit by lamps and candles Making it feel shadowy and dangerous.

Two men stand facing off at each other. One is younger, maybe 20, good looking, dressed like a gentleman, very out of place, SHERLOCK. The other is a big man, well muscled, unshaven, sweat marks his clothes.

Sherlock has a strange smirk on his face. His eyes say he has too much to drink.


So. People are expecting you to hit me.

The big man is angry. He can barely hold himself back.


A man of your stature. Come on.

The crowd is straining with expectation. The onlookers want violence.


You want to hit someone? Hit the guy sleeping with your wife.

##### AMY ####


All sound and dialogue in this scene is in (V.O.) and comes from a different scene.

AMY late teens maybe twenty, thin, short dark pixie hair, white t-shirt and jeans. She is slumped in her chair completely uninterested in what the cop opposite her is saying.

Opposite sits HARRISON early thirties, black, t-shirt, jeans, detective badge hanging on a chain around his neck.

He is reading a file out loud.

Harrison is talking and being ignored, he doesn't care.

We hear the sound of a phone ringing.

AMY (V.O.)


A male voice, twenty something, dull verging on dumb. We'll learn this is GUY.

GUY (V.O.)

Where you been?

AMY (V.O.)


What do you want?

Harrison pushes his BUSINESS CARD across to Amy. She doesn't react, just keeps staring at him

————- Thanks for reading ————

Matthew H Emma

Pulp Fiction

Valeriy Chernyavskiy

My favorite "opener" - Faculty, Aliens, Terminator and Gladiator. All the opening scenes I have listed have a conflict and a weak person who loses in this conflict. I find this useful for engaging the audience in the story.

Ian Buchanan

Has to be The Dark Knight. but yeah I remember seeing the Blade opening.

Also, the Matrix opening was mind-bending the first time I saw it in the cinema.

Darjan A4

The Prestige was captivating.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

I find reading a screenplay so different from viewing. I loved reading the Alien opening, but not a fan of the viewing opening experience.

Jason Mirch

Love this Martin! Raiders of the Lost Ark, Scream, Pulp Fiction, Inception....

Aray Brown


ILEANNA "The Parish", black, 40s, regal, and her family are taking a portrait. Ileanna and her husband hold two newborns, one in each hand, as they pose for the photographer. He glimpses at her. Eyes her revealing neckline, lingering there for a bit. She looks at him and he recoils. Curls his lip. What was once love turned into disgust.

The servants surround them, along with the rest of their children. A mix of newborns, preteens and teenagers. Twenty in total. All girls.

WIDER: Twenty women are positioned behind each child. Last but not least, there's a teenage boy who looks out of place. Out of his element, even. His stoic expression masks how he feels inside.

The women and children look at the boy like he's insignificant.

He fidgets with his collar. Feels like he can't breathe. It's in all his head but can't escape the feeling of losing control.



He takes a deep guttural breath. Exhales. Shifts his focus to the camera.

The boy feels the flash as the photographer takes the shot.

FREEZE FRAME on the picture.



The family portrait is hanging above the fireplace. There are other family portraits, with different matriarchs. Numbers are below the frames, starting from 1 to 4. Four generations of women. Four generations of The Parish.

Adam Lane Sturkenboom

Inglorious Bastards. Still leaves me gobsmacked every time I watch that opening scene!

Katherine de Bois

Breaking Bad - and that isn't even my type of genre to watch.

Tim Bragg

The Big Chill, that hook sets up the whole film nicely.

Craig D Griffiths

Marty Howe histories greatest character setup. You understand Theo so well by the end of that. He even uses everyone’s grief (which was demonstrated in that scene he doesn’t share) as an excuse. I had forgot about this film. Great choice.

Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT is up there for me. Going from full on slapstick cartoon into reality with that long take. I would have loved to witness that in theaters for the first time.

Hard agree on ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. So much tension building with so little dialogue for 10 minutes. Imagine trying to write that in a spec as an unknown.

Also going to go with GHOSTBUSTERS. It's a horror movie opening. Not a single funny moment. Then going into the opening credits and the song as she screams? It was my only problem with the reboot. Still enjoyed it, but wished it tried to be scary.

Aray Brown

I second Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Louisa Kendrick Burton

I love openers. I prefer watching great ones then reading the first part of the script. just talking about craft, I agree with Sarah, the opener of a film doesn’t necessarily inform my writing, often has so many people’s perspective on it, the director, cinematographer, editor; it’s hard to use it as a writing lesson without knowing how much of what was on the page is in the cut. Having said that, the Matrix blew my mind. And as for Tv, I know I keep repeating this but The Queens Gambit was a game change as far as what to show and when to show it. It has changed the way I approach openers.

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