Celebrating Four Iconic Opening Sequences

In any film, the title sequence is intended to capture the viewer’s interest and introduce the film’s mood. In the best title sequences, you’ll find elements of character, setting, visual style, genre, plot and themes, expertly combined to capture the essence of a film itself. There have been countless title sequences that have gained fame for their ingenuity or memorability, including opening sequences for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Fight Club, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the Star Wars films, North by Northwest, and several others, and they’ve all incorporated outstanding ingenuity by graphic designers who have helped to create a “voice” from the very first second of the film.

The four quintessential title sequences we’ve identified can all be broken down by their incorporation of elements from the films they introduce, their unique graphic design work, and their ability to set the stage for the story that follows. Whatever mood or tone these films present, their title sequences leave nothing to be desired. Check out our picks for groundbreaking title sequences, and read more about what makes these sequences effective and memorable on the Art of the Title’s website, including interviews with producers who shed light on their methodology for creating these iconic opening sequences.

1. Vertigo

Alfred Hitchcock’s films have become known for their critical acclaim and masterful use of suspense. The dark themes of his films are enhanced by the characters, settings, camerawork, music choices, and more, and this is all incorporated into the opening title sequence of Vertigo. The film’s title sequence includes graphics and live action that shows the viewer what to expect in the film – a sense of dizziness and confusion. From the characters in the film depicted in this sequence to the edgy camerawork, coloring, and sound effects incorporated, Vertigo’s title sequence is notable for being everything the viewer could need and more to prepare for a film that promises to keep them on the edge of their seats.

2. Se7en

Just as Vertigo sets the stage for suspense in its title sequence, Se7en opens with a title sequence that can’t be misinterpreted or forgotten. The music chosen to accompany the swiftly-changing frames of meticulous action creates a sense of eerie foreshadowing that couples perfectly with the film itself. Se7en incorporates elements of character, plot, visual style, themes, genre, and mood by succinctly introducing the inner-workings of a serial killer’s mind. The obvious attention and commitment to detail displayed in this sequence mirrors the hyper-focused nature that characterizes the main antagonist of this film.

3. Catch Me If You Can

The title sequence for the film Catch Me If You Can is, to say the least, a depiction of the film’s narrative, incorporating elements of the plot, key characters and settings. The film’s mood is foreshadowed with a suspenseful, jazzy music and graphic style that’s reminiscent of The Pink Panther, preparing the audience for a run around with a witty, conniving, and artful protagonist that we all come to be rooting for – despite his operating on the wrong side of the law.

4. Napoleon Dynamite

What makes this title sequence a groundbreaking addition to cinematic history is two-fold; it incorporates many of the elements used to evoke a sense of the film itself, and it was created with a very low budget for an equally low-budget film. Overall, the title sequence for Napoleon Dynamite is one that’s memorable for the same reasons the movie itself was loved and immediately adopted into pop culture. The opening sequence introduces us to the protagonist, his mannerisms, his hobbies, and even his eating habits with little effort. The simplicity of the title sequence reflects the simplicity of the film itself, from its characters to its setting, and even its production. Just as the film depicts the average life of an average student in a rural, slow-paced environment, the opening sequence follows suit with very little effort or expense. The unique filming style and themes and relaxed, lyrically relevant music prepares the audience for the exact type of humor they’ll encounter until the end credits roll.

Looking for more iconic film title sequences? Check out these articles:
19 amazing movie title sequences – This Creative Bloq article incorporates film artists’ reviews of opening sequences and discusses what makes iconic sequences so brilliant.
Giving Credit: The Creators of Movie Title Sequences – CBS interviews title and visual effects producers and designers as well as the managing editor of Art of the Title, Lola Landekic, about title sequences that have forever impacted the film industry.

At The Los Angeles Film School, our Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design program allows students to study any facet of graphic design that interests them, including filmmaking. Take a look at the design that makes these film title sequences great, and see if you can see yourself creating your own one day!