Top 5 Classic Opening Credit Sequences
There’s nothing more engaging than a film that has a memorable opening credit sequence. What better way to immediately grab an audience than to draw them in right from the start? Whether it simply utilizes its iconic score sans image or scrolls through the credits with an animated sequence, there are certain films that have gone above and beyond the usual creative expectations. There are dozens of lists out there, each one proclaiming to include every great opening credit sequence ever. Therefore, I decided to rein it in a little and compile a shorter list of films all made prior to 1965. Granted, this means I wasn’t able to include The Graduate (1967), Se7en (1995) or even Catch Me If You Can (2002) — but it was still a pretty tough list to compile since I limited myself to five spots.
So, here they are. The Top 5 Classic Opening Credit Sequences. What else did I miss? I know there are dozens.
No list would be complete without at least a passing mention of Alfred Hitchcock’s haunting masterpiece. Lensed entirely in black and white, a series of fractured lines fly across the screen to assemble into the names of the cast and crew — as unsettling and slightly jarring as the film’s main protagonist, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Oh, and did I mention Bernard Hermann’s iconic theme? Few classic film scores still manage to generate chills on this level.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
A childhood favourite of mine, it’s hard not to get drawn in from the moment you hear the first soft notes of its memorable score. The credit sequence cleverly makes use of tiny objects that each carry significance within the context of the film. For those who haven’t read the Harper Lee novel, the objects that are lovingly lensed in the credits provide a sneak peek at some of the profound moments that are to come.
Before the Catch Me If You Can credits, there was Charade. This Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn film opens with a barreling train that dissolves into a groovy animated sequence backed by a psychedelic score.
Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
This title sequence sets the tone for this Stanley Kubrick classic. A Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker makes contact with a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress in a manner that looks… sexual, to say the least. As an instrumental version Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” plays over the visuals, audiences are treated to an image of two planes engaging in what appears to be a mating sequence. The sexual innuendo that populates the film is up and running by the opening sequence.
Once again, composer Bernard Hermann plays an instrumental role in a Hitchcock credit sequence. This time around the music is combined with intimate close-ups of lead actress Kim Novak and John Whitney’s trippy spirographic images. Highly influential and impossible to forget, the opening credit sequence for Vertigo remains an iconic moment in film history.