There are unquestionably a lot of memorable final movie lines out there. But what about the first line of a movie? The first words we hear on screen that draw us in, captivate us, and entice us with their story. Whether they are screamed from the window of a speeding car or whispered into a delicate ear, those first spoken words on the screen can determine the power of a film. The first few words can be foreshadowing, they can set the entire tone of a movie, or they can be a hidden secret that becomes revealed in the final few minutes. People say don’t judge a book by its cover but it’s hard for us not to judge the first few words of a film.
Audience members want to be pulled in by a story. An unforgettable opening remark can do the trick. And so here are The 15 Best Opening Lines In Movie History.
15. The Jerk
“I am not a bum. I’m a jerk. I once had wealth, power, and the love of a beautiful woman. Now I only have two things: my friends and… uh… my thermos.”
Steve Martin may have been jerking around in this film but we were deadly serious when we decided this was one of the best opening lines in movie history. Although Martin has many incredible films under his belt, this is one of his bests. The Jerk is about a man named Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin) who believes he was born a poor, black, child. Once he realizes that he’s actually white, he heads to St. Louis to figure out who he is, which leads him from one misadventure to the next. While directly addressing the camera, Navin tells his story. The movie was written by Steve Martin himself and it is also his first starring role in a feature film.
14. Stand By Me
“I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being.”
Originally a novella written by Stephen King titled The Body, Stand By Me has stood the test of time and remains a classic. Rob Reiner’s coming-of-age film was given an R rating due primarily to language and centers around four young boys who go in search of a dead body. This is the one and only film that Stephen King has stated to be the truest to his original story and the first line is taken almost verbatim from his novella.
The film is rife with up and coming actors– River Phoenix, Kiefer Sutherland, Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman, Will Wheaton, and John Cusack– and chock full of classic scenes. Remember the mailbox baseball scene with Kiefer Sutherland’s character or the vomit-inducing pie-eating contest?
Interestingly enough, Richard Dreyfuss plays the narrator of the film and the older Gordie (played by Will Wheaton as a young boy) but was not the first choice for the role. Rob Reiner had thought to have a number of other actors play the adult Gordie until he finally settled on Dreyfuss, his old high school friend. We can’t even imagine another voice speaking the first line of the movie.
“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour of sitting at the table, then you are the sucker.”
Well, we aren’t suckers, so we know that this is one of the best opening lines in movie history. Matt Damon has been in many blockbuster hits and we definitely felt the punches in his first spoken words of the 1998 drama Rounders. In the movie, we meet a reformed gambler named Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) who loses all of his money in a poker game. He then promises to quit gambling… that is until his friend Lester “Worm” Murphy, played by Edward Norton, needs Mike’s help to pay off a loan shark.
Reviews were mixed, and although the movie did top the box office on its opening weekend, it only earned a low $8 million dollars. But it is a film many poker fans will never forget. From its opening lines, viewers felt that the writers, David Lavien and Brian Koppelman, knew exactly what it was like to spend hours in that smoke-filled atmosphere, eagerly waiting for the cards to go their way.
12. Good Will Hunting
“Oh My God, I got the most f—– up thing I been meanin’ to tell you.”
Never has a line been more fitting for a film than this opening line in Good Will Hunting. Not only did this film launch the careers of two virtually unknown actors named Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, but it also won them an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Who can forget the scene of two young men on the Academy Award Stage gripping their two golden Oscars, tears streaming down their faces as they honestly and humbly celebrated the ultimate Oscar dream?
The film went on to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Robin Williams, the only Oscar he would ever win. It was nominated for Best Film, Best Actor and Best Actress and a host of other award nominations. While the film was lauded by the Academy, it stayed true to Affleck and Damon’s Boston roots, as evidenced by the film’s first lines– the kind of conversation millions of best friends in Boston (and around the world) have had.
11. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
“Mmm. I look good. I mean, really good. Hey, everyone! Come and see how good I look!”
There is no doubt the character Ron Burgundy, played by Will Ferrell, is a legend. And this opening line is legendary in its own right. Anchorman follows the life of Ron Burgundy, San Diego’s top-rated newsman. He works alongside his friends on the news team; field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), sportscaster “Champ” Kind (David Koechner), and the kind-heated but not very intelligent meteorologist Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). Not only does this movie have one of the funniest lines of all time, but the rest of the movie, written by Ferrell and director Adam McKay, is packed with hilarious lines too.
From Ron talking to his pooch Baxter and asking, “You pooped in the refrigerator? And you ate a whole wheel of cheese?” to letting us know “I’m kind of a big deal. I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany“, this film has memorable quotes from start to end.
“Who am I? You sure you wanna know?”
Oh yeah, we definitely wanted to know after hearing this opening line in this 2002 film. Spider-Man focuses on a student named Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, who gets bitten by a genetically-altered spider. This makes him gain superhuman strength and the ability to cling to any surface. Peter decides to use his abilities to fight crime and protect New York City. (Peter Parker? More like Peter Parkour.)
The movie also stars Kirsten Dunst as Peter’s main love interest, Mary Jane Watson, James Franco as his best friend Harry Osborn, and Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn, AKA the Green Goblin. Spider-Man is action-packed and always thrilling, with a script that was written by David Koepp and then rewritten multiple times until it was perfect. The open lines reflect the dynamic, comic book fun of the rest of the movie and lampshade the origin story it is about to tell.
9. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
“If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never be able to forget that big snowstorm…a couple of years ago. The weather closed in, and, well, you might not believe it, but the world almost missed Christmas.”
Burl Ives’s voice is smooth as molasses and soothing like a southern drawl, but the words “almost missed Christmas” can strike fear in any child’s heart – no matter how young or old. These first words– and the voice that says them– give the impression of a kindly grandfather sat by the fire, surrounded by grandchildren who are hanging on his every word. They may be the coziest lines in movie history.
From its blinking red nose to its Abominable Snow Monster, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is a true classic that hits every television set at least once each December. It is such a classic that even Will Farrell pays homage to it in the extremely hilarious film Elf.
“I always wondered why no-one did it before me. I mean all those comic books, movies, TV shows… you think that one eccentric loner would’ve made himself a costume.”
After watching Kick-Ass we wanted to make a costume of our own. The very first lines of the movie inspired all of our inner Batmans and Supermans to come out by describing a thought that so many comic book and superhero fans have had before. This film, expertly penned by Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughan, tells the story of an ordinary teenager named Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who wants to become extraordinary. He sets out to be a real-life superhero and calls himself “Kick-Ass”. It’s a non-stop film that is both gratuitously violent and gratuitously hilarious.
7. Jerry Maguire
“All right, so this is the world and there are five billion people on it. When I was a kid there were three. It’s hard to keep up.”
Though hardly the most famous line in Jerry Maguire, this opener stuck in our minds as much as “Show me the money!” or “You had me hello!” It’s a quieter alternative to those punchy one-liners that accurately reflects the fast-paced, overwhelming energy of the sports agent business that Jerry is struggling to succeed in. The film was written the ever-hip Cameron Crowe. It took him three and a half years to complete the script and he earned a Best Original Screenplay nomination for his efforts.
It was also Johnathan Lipnicki’s debut film, he played the adorable son of Dorothy and his character’s iconic line “the human head weighs eight pounds” actually came directly from Johnathan, who showed up on set one day repeating the statement, so Cameron threw it into the script. The film became a huge blockbuster success and is still a favorite among men and women alike.
6. Kubo And The Two Strings
“If you must blink, do it now.”
After we heard those words we could not take our eyes away from the screen. Kubo and The Two Strings knew how to draw audiences in from the very first few words. This 2016 film, which was just released this August, tells the tale of a young boy named Kubo, played by Art Parkinson. He accidentally summons a vengeful spirit and must rely on his friends Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) to unlock a secret legacy, battle gods and monsters and save his family. We find out later in the film that these opening words, written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler, are part of a story Kubo tells to entertain the townspeople, giving the lines a clever, meta layer.
This is a movie that anyone can see no matter their age. Not only does this film have gorgeous animation, it takes viewers on an incredible adventure filled with tears and laughter. Kubo and The Two Strings is not only mighty but extremely moving as well. It is bold and daring, touching and unique. And the same can be said for the opening line.
5. Love Actually
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport.”
We are actually in love with Richard Curtis’s Love Actually and its opening line. This Christmas-themed romantic comedy is heartfelt right from the beginning, with the opening scene capturing the essence of the film by showing families and couple’ reuniting at an airport terminal. Hugh Grant delivers those simple, pure lines over shots of real people in the airport. It’s a contemplative beginning to a film packed with zany and melodramatic plot lines.
There are hilarious scenes with Bill Nighy who plays a rock and roll legend, Billy Mack. They play at the soft humor with Hugh Grant who is the Prime Minister and has a solo dance scene (this is something you definitely need to watch). There is also the relationship between widower Liam Neeson, and his step-son, who is trying to win over his one true love. With all of these different story lines in the movie, it is bound to make you laugh, cry, and truly be moved. Right from the very first line.
4. Pretty Woman
“No matter what they say it’s all about the money.”
It’s always fun when a movie disproves its own opening lines by the end. Pretty Woman was written by J.F. Lawson who lets these lines set up a selfish, cold world view that our protagonists will have to fight against. The 1990 romantic comedy tells the story of a business man named Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) and a prostitute named Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) and how the unlikely pair fall in love with each other. With his money and looks, the man could have anyone, but instead he falls for the most unlikely of characters, a fresh-faced escort.
Still to this day the film is one of the most iconic love stories of all time, many have even called Pretty Woman an unlikely Cinderella story. In fact, a lot of us to this day can’t help but sing “Kiss” while in the bathtub. Although Richard Gere may have once said Pretty Woman was his “least favorite movie”, the opening line will forever be one of our favorites.
3. The Departed
“I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.”
The Departed mobster movie for our generation. In this crime-thriller, we see an Irish mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) have Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) become a mole within the police department. Simultaneously, an undercover cop Billy Costigan, played by the Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio, goes undercover to infiltrate Costello’s crew. Both men try to unmask the other guy before they get unmasked themselves. The movie included more well-known names such as Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, and Alec Baldwin and earned Scorsese his first Academy Award win for Best Director and Best Picture. The film was written by William Monahan, who won an Academy Award for adapting it from the Hong Kongese film Infernal Affairs.
The opening line, delivered in Nicholson’s iconic rasp, reflects the can-do, boot-straps attitude of Costello and men like him– men who grew up in low-income neighborhoods and decided the only way to get real power was to turn to a life of crime.
2. Risky Business
“The dream is always the same.”
With that first monologue, audiences were introduced to one of the biggest movie stars of the 20th century. Risky Business was a dream come true for Tom Cruise, who finally hit got his break out role; the one that put him on the map, the galaxy, and was the beginning of Tom Cruise Mega Stardom. though just a small film, Risky Business was a lead role for him. Playing a senior in high school name Joel, who is left home alone for a few days while his folks are away on a vacation, he’s free to let loose with his high school friend Miles, who has lots of good ideas all centered around Joel having a good time.
The dream that Joel references in the opening lines showcases the tension between his desire to be a fun-loving, rebellious teenager and the pressure he feels to over-achieve. Risky Business trusted its young start to deliver these words to the audience and it clearly paid off.
1. The Prestige
“Are you watching closely?”
Christopher Nolan is a brilliant director, directing all of The Dark Knight Trilogies, and he certainly knows how to get an audience’s attention. And he does it once again with this opening line in the 2006 drama The Prestige. The movie has a stacked cast, starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as stage magicians Rupert Angier and Alfred Borden, respectively. The two men participate in a competitive competition to create the ultimate stage illusion, each seeking to one-up and destroy the other. Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson are also a part of the cast.
The film is always engaging, electric, and makes viewers wonder what the two have up their sleeves. The Prestige is eerie, dark, and unsettling with a Gothic feel to it. As the opening line foreshadows, viewers are left guessing at every turn, just like a great magic trick. These wonders make the viewer wonder what is real and what is not real? Whether you believe in magic or not, we believe The Prestige has one of the best opening lines in movie history. Were you watching closely? We definitely were.
Now you know our favorite opening lines in movie history, but what are yours? If you think we missed any let us know in the comments!