[This is a repost of a previous Screen Realm article]
The very start of a film is highly important; establishing characters, perhaps introducing the setting, establishing a tone and more, all in a small moment.
The opening gives the viewer an idea of what world they are about to step into, and one way of grabbing the viewer from the get-go is with some music. A catchy or timeless classic, or perhaps a new song, can be extremely effective in immersing the viewer and grabbing their full attention.
Here are ten examples of it done just right:
10. “Come and Get Your Love” | Guardians Of The Galaxy
The soundtrack to this 2014 action extravaganza is nothing short of sensational. With a collection of 70’s and 80’s hits, director James Gunn had already struck gold. Early on, the film has 10cc’s great song “I’m Not in Love,” and it’s brilliantly used, but let’s look towards the song playing during the opening credits. We see our hero Peter Quill (Star Lord) on an unknown desolate planet in search of the film’s McGuffin. Putting on the headphones to his dorky walkman, which is just about the only thing he has to remind him of Earth, the drums of Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” kick in, followed by that well-known bass line. When the film’s title engulfs the entire screen and the lyrics blurt out, you’re immediately drawn in. This scene perfectly sets up the tone of the film, as Chris Pratt dances around, singing to the song and hilariously using local fauna as a microphone.
9. “For What It’s Worth” | Lord Of War
Nicolas Cage is undoubtedly an eccentric actor. And while his over-the-top acting can seem out-of-place and confronting, every now and then he takes on a role and dials the crazy down to pitch-perfect levels. Generally, these films in particular end up being greatly received, and this was the case in 2005. In Andrew Niccol’s Lord of War, Cage plays arms dealer Yuri Orlov, a Ukrainian living in America following his rise and fall in the arms race. Opening with Orlov standing amongst a sea of empty shell casings and dropping a very sad but true fact about guns in the world, we are then taken to some dark factory as Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” begins to play. We follow the life of a bullet, from the base being cut out, to the gunpowder filling it up, through the assembly line as it makes its way around the world. Once it finally makes its way into a cartridge of an assault rifle, it is fired into the head of a child soldier. The scene is very confronting and the soothing music and lyrics throws you off, but yet bet that you are drawn in to see where it goes from there.
8. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” | Zombieland
Just when you thought the zombie genre was starting to die down, along came this genius film. Set in a future where zombies have taken over America and one would assume the world, Zombieland centres on Jesse Eisenberg’s ‘Columbus’ as he is makes his way across the land. He comes across Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee and the two decide to keep each other company. Eventually they meet Wichita and Little Rock, played by Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin respectively. The opening song here is Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” rocking out as we are treated to a heap of different situations with zombies running amok; zombie strippers chasing clients down the street, to zombies on fire attacking firemen, and a whole bunch more – all whilst interacting with the text of the opening credits. It is exceptionally shot, in slow motion to boot, and the metal song perfectly compliments the film’s chaos.
7. “The Times They Are a-Changing” | Watchmen
Watchmen, the acclaimed comic book limited series from writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins, was constantly referred to as unfilmable. Not to be deterred, director Zack Snyder decided he was the one to do it. And boy did he impress. Although not perfect, it was still a phenomenal film, filled with action, romance and, of course, slow motion. Due to the sheer size of the story he was trying to tell, certain things had to be left on the cutting room floor. However, the opening credits allowed him to throw in a good amount of story, from the humble beginnings of our titular heroes, to their downfall and subsequent apprehension from the authorities for continuing their ‘vigilantism’. Bob Dylan’s 1964 track “The Times They Are a-Changing” is used to great effect. The sombre tune plays while dark, disturbing scenes unfold, from the murders of several heroes, to the heroes themselves committing horrible acts, such as the assassination of a certain beloved American president
6. “When The Man Comes Around” | Dawn Of The Dead
From one Zack Snyder film to another. This time he is following in the steps of the brilliant George A. Romero with a redo of the 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead. In his feature film debut, Snyder had the daunting task of bringing something fresh whilst paying respects to the original and pleasing fans. Almost three decades’ worth of advancements in technology meant he could deliver on a grander scale, and the advancements in practical effects meant we were in for more realistic gore. After an intense opening, showing us the beginning of the zombie apocalypse from one person’s perspective, we are shown news footage of the unfolding anarchy. Again using a classic artist, Snyder uses Johnny Cash’s “When The Man Comes Around” to counter the brutality of the visuals. You wouldn’t imagine the images and the music would blend together, but they complement each other perfectly. It’s perfectly haunting. The icing on the cake is the use of Revelation 6:1-6:2 that opens and closes the track:
“And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder: One of the four beasts saying: “Come and see.” And I saw. And behold, a white horse. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts. And I looked and behold: a pale horse. And his name, that sat on him, was Death. And Hell followed with him.”