The first sentence in a paragraph, the beginning of a story, and the opening scene in a movie all prepare you for what has been set in motion. They should draw you in, providing context and exposition for a film’s plot and characters. So why are there so many forgettable opening scenes?
If you were asked on the spot what happened in the opening minutes of Catch Me If You Can, could you remember? If you were asked which character was the focus of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones’ intro, would you know? There are scenes out there, so disconnected from the rest of the movie, that most people don’t remember that the film opens that way. It’s no one's fault - everything else is just much more memorable.
These openings are the complete opposite of a dramatic character introduction or a short and shocking cameo, but that's okay. Sometimes opening scenes contain things that aren't meant to be explicit and don't really connect with the audience until afterwards.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Stressing the importance of the transportation industry, Cast Away opens with a FedEx driver picking up a package stateside and delivering it to Russia.
How is this at all relevant to the rest of the film? That package is shipped by the same woman Tom Hanks's character meets at the end of the film. Why Russia, and why to a Mr. Cowboy? Who knows?
4735Did you forget?
- Actors: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Chris Noth, Frederick W. Smith, Jenifer Lewis
- Released: 2000
- Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
- Photo: DreamWorks Pictures
Catch Me If You Can opens with a clip from the game show To Tell the Truth. Three men are pretending to be Frank William Abagnale Jr., a former con man and current security consultant. The men are asked questions about the life of Abagnale so that the contestants may determine who is the real one. Although it is not actual footage from the real-life game show, the real Abagnale did appear on To Tell the Truth years after being caught by the FBI.
The opening scene, while brief, tells the audience what the film is about: the true story about a young man who forged checks, as well as pretended to be an airline pilot, physician, and lawyer (among other things), ultimately making a lot of money and avoiding the FBI for years.
It’s a great piece of exposition. However, for those not paying attention to Catch Me If You Can’s opening seconds, it's extraordinarily forgettable.
4842Did you forget?
- Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner, Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Banks
- Released: 2002
- Directed by: Steven Spielberg
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Name one of the most memorable scenes from 1990, you say? Easy - the pottery scene from Ghost. Why is that scene so memorable? It is steamy, charming, and it establishes the chemistry between Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze’s characters (which needs to happen early and often considering the latter is deceased for more than half the movie).
The opening scene of Ghost is meant to contextualize that later moment, but you probably don't remember it. It shows Sam Wheat, Molly Jensen, and Carl Bruner renovating the main couple’s Manhattan apartment. It’s not a long scene, but it aims to establish the group as close so that Carl’s betrayal is all the more surprising. However, the renovation happens so quickly that you might not even realize they're in Sam and Molly’s apartment.
The next time we see them inside it, everything is finished. Behold - the definition of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, irrelevant scene.
2831Did you forget?
- Actors: Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Swayze, Tony Goldwyn, Vincent Schiavelli
- Released: 1990
- Directed by: Jerry Zucker
- Photo: Artisan Entertainment
You’d think it’d be hard to forget Ryan Phillippe repeatedly punching Sarah Silverman in the face. Yet, the opening scene of The Way of the Gun doesn’t do much other than establish Parker and Longbaugh as savage and reckless crooks.
The opening scene is completely unrelated to the whole “big score” plot; it does, however, give the audience a clear idea of just who these guys are. It shows our main characters starting a whole lot of mayhem for little to no reason, and then being pounded into the dirt.
78Did you forget?
- Actors: Sarah Silverman, Juliette Lewis, James Caan, Ryan Phillippe, Benicio del Toro
- Released: 2000
- Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie