It takes a lot of effort, vision, talent, and a bit of je ne sais quoi to make a movie that is consistently entertaining and worthwhile throughout its runtime. Plenty of movies only end up with moments that stand out and plenty others are too bad or mediocre to get noticed or remembered at all.
For this list we’re looking at a particular kind of bad movie, perhaps one of the most frustrating kinds. Some movies start out with gripping scenes, or a promising premise, or a creative credits sequence, and then don’t follow up with a good story, engaging action, or compelling characters. Movies like these leave especially bitter impressions; nobody likes to be let down once a movie starts out interesting and or entertaining.
These are movies where that one great scene that your friend says you have to see is, conveniently, right at the beginning. Here are 15 Bad Movies With Amazing Intros!
15 LORD OF WAR
Lord Of War is a perfect example of a film that has its most creative and striking moments in the beginning. The camera plans along a ruined city street with a layer of spent bullet casings covering the ground. Nicholas Cage’s Yuri Orlov comes into view with one simple goal, put a gun in the hand of every human being on the planet. The opening credits sequence that follows is a truly inspired bit of visual world building.
We follow the life of a bullet, from its manufacturing to its changing multiple hands to its final loading into a rifle. The credits end as we stare literally down the barrel of a gun and the bullet is propelled into the head of a child soldier in Africa. Underscoring the pitch black commentary of the whole sequence is Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth.” The song’s message about paying attention to violence happening under our noses is perfectly suited to the war profiteering happening in the film that most of the developed world cares little about.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t balance its commentary and entertainment value as well as the opening.
14 X-MEN ORIGINS WOLVERINE
X-Men Origins Wolverine’s dreadful version of Deadpool feels much more distant since Deadpool did such justice to the character, but X-men Origins Wolverine is still among the worst in the X-Men franchise. The other fan favorite mutant, Gambit, was pretty under-cooked and the movie introduced some serious discontinuity with the prior X-men films.
Still, the opening was a compelling take on the formative years of James Howlett, at least. He was a sickly child when his mutation for prodigious healing, strength, and retractable bone claws emerged. In a fit of blind rage he killed the man who murdered his father only to get the revelation that the murderer was his real father. Then we get the opening credits sequence that shows Logan and Sabretooth as surrogate brothers fighting together from the Civil War to Vietnam. They absorb plenty of gun fire and the rift between their two levels of jadedness becomes more pronounced. We get to see the end of Wolverine's story next year in Logan.
13 KILLING THEM SOFTLY
A mob crime thriller with Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Vincent Curatola and Ben Mendelsohn sounds like a fine recipe for an entertaining movie. Unfortunately, most viewers agree that the movie ends up being too heavy handed and needlessly complicated.
The opening does a fine job of introducing the characters and the style of film Killing Them Softly sets out to be. The title card of the 2012 movie comes in the middle of a scene where a destitute character walks down a tunnel towards the light, while a rousing speech by Obama scores the scene. Then the character emerges only to find more bleak streets. Pretty direct commentary there. The opening act follows two small time crooks preparing to rip off a major mobster poker game. We get to see them do absurdly mundane preparations and arguments like wearing dishwashing gloves and slipping transparent stockings over their heads. Brad Pitt's street wise hitman also makes a memorable introduction scored with Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around.”
12 QUANTUM OF SOLACE
Casino Royale was a well received, invigorating new direction for the Bond Franchise. It brought an engaging pathos to the series that hadn’t really been tapped among all the action, gadgets and dalliances the series had relied on. Quantum of Solace obviously aimed to go even deeper with the emotional, unbalanced Bond character, but it comes across taking itself way too seriously.
It that sense it’s ironic that the opening works so well because it avoids all the dramatic misfires of the rest of the film. Bond leads a chase through a construction project right on the Italian coast. A disfigured beam on an innocent commercial truck spears through Bond’s driver door and rips it off, so he spends most of the chase with no driver door on his car. There’s lots of nail biting verticality and plenty of collateral damage. Eventually Bond gets away to park his car in a Sienna alley. Turns out Mr. White from the last movie was in the trunk all along. Bond invites him out with a hilariously understated one liner. And to top the into off is Jack White and Alicia Key’s interesting blend of classic Bond theme percussive jazz and modern pop, "Another Way to Die."
11 GHOST SHIP
This 2002 horror film is actually not a remake of the 1952 of the same name, but that hasn’t saved it from being a pretty forgettable and largely laughable horror flick. Except for the beginning.
The opening sequence features a 14 year old Emily Browning as a young girl on a luxury liner sitting out a grand ball when the cordial captain comes over and offers a dance. They’re enjoying themselves, but an unidentified saboteur cause a thin steel cable to unwind and rip through the crowd on the deck at waist level. Dozens of people are ripped in half. The camera lingers over several horror struck dancers as they slowly realize what’s happened to them and blood spreads over the floor. Browning seems to have been spared due to being short, but her captain got the worst of it trying to duck with her. As the top half of the captain’s stunned face topples off, Browning’s scream can be heard echoing far across the water. It’s a superb horror massacre.
10 WHEN A STRANGER CALLS
The 1979 When A Stranger Calls is proof that Hollywood has been making mixed bag horror movies for a long time. Most of the film ends up as boredom punctuated by a few moments of tension and scares. It’s a shame because the opening 20 minutes has been canonized as one of the scariest opening sequences in horror movie history.
The audience follows Carol Kane’s bookish Jill Johnson as she arrives at the Mandrakis House to babysit their kids for a night. Not long after the parents take off, the calls start coming. “Have you checked the children?” Trying to describe the scene really doesn’t do it justice. For a whole 20 minutes the movie builds tension and terror with minimal dialogue, music and suggestion with no actual frightening images or scenes. It all builds to the pulse pounding revelation that the stranger on the phone is in the very same house, sending Jill racing to unlock the front door as a shadow appears on the upstairs landing.
9 INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
It was nearly 20 years since action/adventure fans had last seen Indian Jones on screen. Now with a couple more years in hindsight, most fans agree that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the worst of the four Indiana Jones Films. Cate Blankchett’s Colonel Irina Spalko was stereotypical and hammy without being compelling. The crystal skulls were a dip into pseudo-science rather than myth or historical legend and the plot overall was nothing new.
However, the opening act was a whole lot of nostalgic fun. Jones gets reintroduced with his signature wry humor as a Soviet prisoner conscripted to help them uncover an artifact from a warehouse of historically sensitive material. He manages an ingenious escape to the Area 51 nuclear testing ground. What follows is one of the most ludicrously improbable survival feats ever passed off on film. Jones tucks himself in a lead-lined refrigerator and survives a nuclear test blast with just a few scratches, so silly it’s amusing. And don’t forget the Ark of the Covenant Easter Egg.
8 BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA
Remember this dubious duo of animated teenage American metal heads? Chances are if you watched late night MTV during the '90s you will. Mike Judge’s animated satire sketch series was popular enough to get a theatrical adaptation released in 1996 and it’s about as ridiculous and vulgar as you could hope for.
The initial premise is that the slackers’ TV set has gone missing and they assume it’s been stolen. How will they ever judge music videos nonstop with no TV set?! The opening credits sequence features Beavis and Butt-head in send-ups of Hollywood scene staples, like crime fighting on rooftops, damsel rescuing and vehicle chases. All of them have the two characters behaving just a bit more believable than normal, like any teen would in a wish fulfillment daydream. And of course there’s the very first daydream where Beavis and Butt-head terrorize the city as Godzilla sized monsters trying to score with the scream queens. The film isn’t as consistently clever or original.
7 DIE ANOTHER DAY
The 20th entry in the James Bond franchise really missed the mark for some fans. Sure Halle Berry was a natural Bond girl and there was plenty of globetrotting adventure, but the action relied too heavily on special effects. Gustav Graves’ world domination plot was more or less a rehash from the Connery era Bond film Diamonds are Forever, which was already pretty silly. Also the gene therapy that transformed the son of a North Korean general into a British celebrity philanthropist/secret Bond Villain was never sufficiently explained.
The film started out well enough. Bond takes the place of an arms dealer making a trade with Colonel Moon, but a secret informant blows Bond's cover. A booby trapped briefcase of diamonds lets Bond make his escape in a well-staged hovercraft chase complete with flamethrowers, grenade launchers, mounted mini-guns and a minefield. Madonna’s “Die Another Day” is also one of the least liked Bond theme songs but the credits sequence itself is one of the most visually interesting in recent Bond films, full of elemental feminine figures playing tricks on Bond’s mind while he’s tortured by the North Koreans.
6 THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
By the third film in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, the extra subplots and underdeveloped characters were detracting from the story more than ever. The romance between Kili and Tauriel felt forced. The interjections with Sauron and foreshadowing the War of the Ring raised all kinds of apparent plot holes. And for all the inventiveness and flash of the movie-spanning battle, it just didn’t garner the same investment that Return of the King had earned for many fans.
But fortunately for The Battle of the Five Armies, the opening sequence where Smaug razes Lake Town didn’t suffer from these problems, as much. Watching the dragon unleash his full powers of destruction on the town was truly awesome. At least in the scene, Bard and his son were easy-to-root-for, improbable heroes. The sequence where Bard uses his son as a post for the black arrow as Smaug is bearing down on their perch is a nail-biting, cheer-worthy moment. And the Master of Lake Town got what he deserved when the dragon’s corpse crashed on his greedily loaded escape boat.
5 BOOK OF ELI
Book of Eli was a disappointing film with a promising set up. Denzel Washington plays a preacher more dangerous than he looks, and the custodian of a holy book in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Unfortunately most viewers thought that the film tried to do too many things at once and that it all built up to an absurd, unsatisfying ending.
But with the mystery just being introduced in the opening, Washington gets to enjoy himself as the most understated badass in the desert for a pretty satisfying fight scene. He’s walking along an underpass and encounters a woman on the side of the road asking for help. But Washington can smell the bandits waiting in ambush just behind the wreck of a bus. They demand he lays down his pack. Washington never raises his voice above a soft utterance, but he still manages to slice off the leader’s hand in one fluid motion. Then he backs into the shadow of the underpass and fends off the other five with ease in continuous steady frame shot.
4 JAWS: THE REVENGE
Jaws was a movie that never needed a sequel, but Hollywood is not one to pass up capitalizing as such an unprecedented success. As the fourth entry in the franchise, it starts to get a bit silly and melodramatic, including Banana Boats and telepathic sharks. But for the first few scenes, the silliness is at least entertaining.
We get a nice tribute to Roy Scheider’s Chief of Police Martin Brody on Amity Island, the heroic slayer of the previous killer Great White Sharks. It’s coming up on Christmas on Amity Island and we see a choir of young girls singing carols near the docks. Brody’s younger son Sean is dispatched on his boat to clear a log from a buoy, but a new shark is swimming in wait for him. The first shark attack scene repeatedly cuts between Sean getting mangled and eaten and the girls carol choir, making for some serious tonal whiplash.
After John Travolta laments Hollywood’s tendency to make unbelievable, unremarkable trash, you might expect his subsequent movie to actually try to be believable or remarkable. Unfortunately Swordfish ends up being neither in story nor in action. Except in the beginning.
Travolta’s Gabriel Shear is at least interesting to watch as he monologues about a more ruthless hypothetical scenario for Dog Day Afternoon set in the present day. So he goes off to pull off such an ingenious heist by dog collaring the hostages with proximity radio tags, 20 pounds of C4 explosive and 15 pounds of stainless steel ball bearings. The resulting explosion when the SWAT team tries to get one of the hostages away not only blows her up, but devastates the whole city corner with high speed flying metal.
The rest of the scene to scene action is forgettable. Also Swordfish has some of the least exciting “Hollywood Hacking” in recent movies, which might explain why there’s at least one scene where Hugh Jackman has to pull off one of his improbable hacks with a gun to his head to manufacture tension.
2 NINJA ASSASSIN
This blatantly gratuitous R-rated action flick just didn’t have the action to make up for its generic, forgettable story. The action relied on obviously made-for-3D special effects with daggers on meteor hammer chains threatening to break the fourth wall in several shots. Most of the action throughout is poorly edited and shot anyway.
But the opening was promising. We start in a gangster controlled bar when the boss receives a letter with an old fashion wax seal. Inside the envelope is fine black sand. An old man at the bar recounts the tale of the victim of a deadly ninja, who he saw receive a letter just like this one. The skeptical thugs laugh and mock the man, until one of their heads comes flying off in a torrent of blood. The thugs shoot wildly into the shadows. One by one they are hacked to pieces by blades flying out of nowhere. When only the old man is left, the ninja assassin emerges literally out a shadow on the floor to eliminate the only witness. Unlike the rest of the film, the narrative is contained and the action is bloody and well presented.
1 THE HAPPENING
M. Night Shyamalan was once a promising up and coming director of suspense thrillers. Now you’d be hard pressed to find a film critic or fan that would claim his work has been consistently good. The Happening is arguably his first out and out bad movie. The begging is tense and eerie with people all across the East Coast inexplicably committing suicide in disturbing ways and Shyamalan does a fine job presenting it.
Unfortunately the entire rest of the film is full of baffling acting, incoherent twists and unintentional hilarity. The movie gives away the cause of the phenomenon early on and never recoups the suspense or investment. Plants are emitting some kind of neurotoxin that’s causing the mass suicide. It might have been forgivable and even interesting to use every day floral scenery as tension building shots with our imagination filling in the menace. However, there is no such build up or payoff or even a message to be found.