5 Best-Ever Opening Title Sequences
In the world of video, nothing sets the stage faster for audience expectations than the opening title sequence. Whether it be a shoestring production for your personal blog or a multi-million-dollar theatrical release, those few fleeting moments establish the baseline for everything that is to follow. Tee up your audience with anything short of a well-crafted intro, and they’ll immediately begin to devalue everything that follows.
There are shining examples of great title work across every medium, but here are the five best for their respective categories.
#1 Westworld (CGI – Photo Realism)
The JJ Abrams reboot of the Michael Crichton classic is perhaps the best show on TV. But unlike most shows you DVR, you’ll never find yourself fast forwarding past the nearly two minutes in length opening sequence. It’s visually stunning and filled to the brim with metaphor and juxtaposition that encapsulate the entire essence of the HBO masterpiece.
Everything in Westworld has been created for your entertainment. From the dusty and beleaguered environment of the old western town to the life that populates it; every element meticulously engineered and crafted in a laboratory. From the strings of the player piano to the fibers of muscle running beneath the hosts, we are reminded that the propagation of life (in all of its beautiful and terrifying forms) now bows to the hand of man. But just as the wondrous final acts of season one find defiant self-aware chaos running wild in Westworld, we are reminded that just like the player piano, it too just follows the script.
#2 Daredevil (CGI – Artistic)
Is there a show more violent than Netflix’s Daredevil? From the opening beat, we are given a glimpse of what wickedness awaits our eyes as the story’s arc is painted in the blood of our dark hero. Only blind vigilante justice can stop the evil which tears at the underbelly of NYC’s “Hell’s Kitchen.” But for what should be the disturbingly gruesome site of blood pouring over and giving shape to that which we cannot see, there is an emotional calm and uplifting quality of hope amidst the violent backdrop. A single, divine light, of conflicted faith, shines down on our hero to show him the way forward.
#3 Napoleon Dynamite (Practical)
A lacking budget can often drive the most creative solution to a problem.
“Yes, I can tell that we are gonna be friends.” The haunting, stripped-down simplicity of the White Stripes’ music perfectly tunes up of this low-key journey of an offbeat but endearing outsider.
We’re introduced to the colorful textures of Napoleon’s life in a small Idaho town. Frame after wonderful frame we are served up the most eccentric, yet lovable and appetizing opening title sequence. All of the memorable one-liners from this modern-day classic are skillfully alluded to well before grandma breaks her coccyx.
#4 Casino Royale (Motion Graphics)
As a franchise, James Bond sets the Goldfinger standard for opening title sequences. But Casino Royal broke with tradition and reset the tone for Ian Flemming’s master spy series in more ways than one. While Daniel Craig (insert your swoon here, ladies) brought a new, raw power to the character – the stunning departure for the franchise was set in motion the moment we looked down that iconic gun barrel.
Gone was the titillation de jour for 13-year-old boys everywhere, with its nude silhouettes and fiery explosions. In its place emerged a refined maturity of visual storytelling through stunning motion graphics. The intricate details of playing cards sprawling across the screen to ensnare James at every turn and define his world. A pitched battle between hero and henchmen gives way to a flurry of suits. A crisp and stylized motion that would be revisited just one year later for a certain AMC television show about my favorite industry.
While other 007 flicks since Royale have only elevated the standard even further, it was this redefining sequence and its illustrative use of flat, 3D motion graphics that wins it the top honors here.
#5 Catch Me If You Can (Animation)
Don’t give me any grief about how this really belongs in the motion graphics category for consideration. I’m speaking of the style of the piece and not how it was technically created. OK, we good now? Then I shall continue.
As a motion graphics artist (insert BIG YAM reel plug), I am simply in awe of every frame of this timeless piece of cinematic art. The transitions from plot point to plot point are as flawless in execution as they are in creative genius. We follow our anti-hero Frank as he effortlessly evades the looming bars of prison that Carl so desperately wants to place him behind. Always one step, and one transition, ahead of the dutiful flatfoot.
Deadpool (Honorable Mention)
Because comedy is king, and self-deprecating humor reigns supreme.
Perhaps the best resource for any aspiring title artist is Art of the Title. With its in-depth breakdowns of the creative and technical process behind the best work since Hitchcock, you’ve got enough binge watching here to last you a night fueled with Coca-Cola and Red-Vines.