Do you pay attention to during the movie credits? If you’re like most people, you probably look at them with little more than a passing interest. Sure, the actors are important, as is the director. Some folks might even be interested in knowing the names of the writer or the producer. But generally speaking, credits are either the things you endure to get to the movie, or the scroll that plays on the screen as you’re walking out afterward.
Some movies use the need to list above-the-line cast and crew members as an excuse to have a little fun. They design elaborate credits sequences that can be as entertaining as the main feature itself. With a little bit of imagination and a touch of style, they get the audience to sit upright (or stay in their seats) to watch all those names. What follows are fifteen of the most creative and memorable credits sequences in motion picture history. They can be enjoyed as part of the film itself or independently — that’s how good they are.
Here the 15 Best Movie Credit Sequences Of All Time.
Director Ruben Fleischer knew he needed something offbeat to get this one off on the right foot. After all, his horror-comedy Zombieland was not a conventional undead chiller. It had plenty of blood and guts, but also a skewed sense of humor that, at times, made fun of the entire zombie genre. The answer? An opening credits sequence unlike anything audiences had seen before.
Using a special camera capable of producing super slow-motion images, Fleischer staged a series of gruesome zombie attacks. An undead bride bites her groom, a bloody body smashes through a car windshield, people flee marauding zombies in the street. Because it’s all photographed in ultra slo-mo, you can carefully observe every little gory detail., and it’s all scored to the ominous strains of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” While certainly violent, the sequence is also weirdly funny. You can’t help but laugh at the exaggerated nature of the images. The credits help set Zombieland apart from other, similar pictures for sure.
On the page, Deadpool is designed to poke self-referential fun at superheroes and comic books, and the movie adaptation of the famed antihero keeps that spirit alive. The film’s opening credits capture a moment frozen in time, as the camera weaves through a bullet-ridden car while it’s in the process of flipping over. This allows the audience to study the damage (shards from a broken window), injury (a guy whose face has just been burned by a cigarette lighter), and flying debris (a People magazine cover proclaiming Ryan Reynolds the “Sexiest Man Alive”). All of it is set to the tune of Juice Newton’s 1981 hit “Angel of the Morning”, and we cannot stress enough how awesome that is.
The best part is that Deadpool doesn’t even list the names of the people who made it. Instead, “God’s Perfect Idiot” is listed as the star. “A Hot Chick” and “A British Villain” are named as co-stars, while the credited director is “An Overpaid Tool.” The entire sequence is hilarious, but it also preps the audience for the kind of in-jokey humor the movie is about to indulge in.
13. Lord of War
Lord of War is the story of Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), an arms dealer specializing in selling abandoned Soviet weapons and military technology to Third World nations. He starts to have some moral questions about his line of work while also attempting to avoid an Interpol agent (Ethan Hawke) looking into his actions. Jared Leto co-stars as his brother/partner, who becomes addicted to cocaine after they do some business in Columbia.
Given the movie’s subject matter, the opening credit sequence is perfect. Set to Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” the scene follows the life of a bullet, from manufacture in a factory, down a conveyor belt, into a shipping crate, and right to the hands of some dangerous individuals. At one point, the crate it’s in is knocked over, sending it rolling. (The camera rolls right along with it.) The sequence ends with the bullet being put into a gun and fired, where it ends up embedded in the head of a young boy. The sequence is thought-provoking, confronting the audience with the recognition that millions of bullets just like this one are being peddled around the world.
Saul Bass is the master of credit sequences. The graphic designer’s groundbreaking work on the titles of 1955’s The Man with the Golden Arm made him a much-desired collaborator in Hollywood. In particular, he caught the attention of Alfred Hitchcock, and Bass went on to design the titles for some of Hitch’s best films, including North by Northwest, Vertigo, and, of course, Psycho.
For the 1960 shocker, Bass created lines that come in from different sides of the screen to form the names of the actors and crew members. The movie’s title, meanwhile, is assembled in a jittery, disjointed fashion that calls to mind Norman Bates’ mental disturbance. Behind these stylized images is Bernard Hermann’s famous score, which makes heavy use of strings repeating a shrill note. It’s the kind of sound often used to denote stabbing – an act that is central to Psycho‘s famous shower scene. The beauty of this credits sequence is that, visually and sonically, it sets the viewer on edge immediately. You know you’re in for a nerve-rattling experience before the story even starts.
11. Superman: The Movie
Superman: The Movie, released in 1978, was a precursor to the big-budget superhero adventures we get several times a year now. Such things were not at all in fashion back then. For that reason, there was a desire on the part of the filmmakers to make it an “event” picture that would generate excitement and enthusiasm. Part of that entailed an elaborate opening credits sequence that was, at the time, the most expensive ever committed to film.
By today’s standards, it seems simplistic. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still powerful, though. While John Williams’ famous score pumps from the soundtrack, the blue-lettered credits move through a cosmic background, starting as streaks before snapping into clarity and then vanishing into the distance. They swivel as they fly by, much like the titular hero does when in flight. Everything about the sequence notifies the viewer that they’re about to see something spectacular – a promise the movie itself more than delivers on.
10. The Pink Panther
Blake Edwards’ The Pink Panther provided Peter Sellers with one of the best roles of his career. He plays Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the inept detective hunting down “the Phantom,” an infamous jewel thief. The title refers to a rare pink diamond with a very unique quality, noticeable only to those who inspect it closely. Due to a flaw, it has a marking that resembles a pouncing panther. Needless to say, the Phantom wants it, and what follows is a slapstick-heavy comic adventure for the ages.
The opening titles feature an animated pink panther interacting humorously with the credits. At one point, he spins them. When the music credit comes on, he steps up to a podium, as if about to conduct the orchestra. For the cinematography credit, he gets covered in black powder by an exploding flash bulb. It’s all done in a very witty manner. The sequence was so popular with audiences that the Pink Panther went on to star in his own short cartoons and TV shows. He also appeared in all the Pink Panther sequels, in addition to the 2006 Steve Martin-starring reboot.
9. Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad was one of this summer’s biggest box office hits. Based on the popular DC Comics series, most of its principal characters are villains, which means they’re colorful and unusual. Among them are the Joker, half-man/half-crocodile Killer Croc, and the deranged Harley Quinn. Comic book-based movies often have elaborate title sequences, but the one for Suicide Squad is particularly fun.
Infused with bright neon colors, the credits are designed to reflect the characters’ personalities. Will Smith plays ace assassin Deadshot, so his credit is surrounded by bullets and handguns. Margot Robbie, who plays Harley Quinn, has her name framed by some of the character’s favorite belongings, such as diamonds and a giant carnival hammer. Jay Hernandez, who plays the fire-controlling baddie, El Diablo, sees his name surrounded by flames and skulls. The band Twenty One Pilots penned a pitch-perfect theme song called “Heathens” to accompany the clever sequence. Suitably, when it’s all over, we hear the Joker’s maniacal laugh as the film’s title recedes.
We only wish that the movie was equally as impressive.
In 1978, Grease most definitely was the word. Randal Kleiser’s screen adaptation of the popular Broadway musical was a smash hit, thanks in part to the chemistry between stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Great songs and lively direction also contributed to the movie’s success. To this day, it remains the highest-grossing musical of all time.
To help set the 1950s vibe, Grease utilizes an animated credit sequence. Cartoon versions of all the characters are seen doing their respective things before the names of the actors playing them are presented. For instance, it opens with a bushy-haired person turning on the radio and crawling out of bed. He goes into the bathroom and combs his hair, allowing us to see that he’s Travolta’s character, Danny Zuko. The movie’s title, meanwhile, is seen being squeezed out of a tube of hair product. Iconic images of things from the ’50s are also animated in the sequence to further establish the setting. On the soundtrack, Frankie Valli belts out the theme song, which was written by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. Clever and funny, the Grease credits are like a mini-movie unto themselves.
7. Enter the Void
Of all the credits sequences on this list, the one for Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void has to be the craziest, essentially deconstructing the entire notion of credits. The movie itself calls for something bizarre. It’s set against the backdrop of Tokyo’s neon-lit club scene and involves an American drug dealer killed by police. His spirit hangs around, continuing to watch what happens and, eventually, looking for resurrection. Noe shoots part of the film in first-person, as though the viewer is seeing everything from the perspective of the dealer’s soul.
Enter the Void‘s credits put the gas pedal to the floor immediately. You see the production company logos and list of names/occupations strobing by so quickly that you can barely read the words. Every title card flashed on screen is done in a completely different font, each busier or more outlandish than the one before it. Techno group LFO’s “Freak” accompanies the trippy visuals. This amazing sequence is like watching a normal credits scene take a hallucinogenic drug and then have a complete meltdown.
Watchmen, created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, is justifiably considered one of the best comic books ever. (Time magazine placed it on their list of the “100 Greatest Novels,” making it the only graphic novel to earn that honor.) The book was designed to take apart the entire notion of superheroes and reassemble it in a brand new way. There was a lot of political content in there, as well. Turning Watchmen into a movie was no small feat, thanks to its richness and scope. Even at three hours, Zack Snyder’s film adaptation had to leave some material out.
One of the things there wasn’t a lot of time for was the origin of the characters, specifically how they evolved from a previous group of crimefighters known as the Minutemen. To fill audiences in on this backstory in the most expedient way possible, Watchmen created a stunning credits sequence set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The slow-motion segment spans several decades, giving viewers a fast history lesson on the stuff they need to know in order to fully appreciate the rest of the story. It’s an evocative, beautifully photographed sequence.
5. The Naked Gun
The Naked Gun came from the comedy team of David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams, the guys who first hit pay dirt with Airplane! Their style, of course, involves a lot of random humor, non sequiturs, and sight gags, all presented in rapid-fire manner. In 1982, ABC commissioned a half-hour sitcom from the trio. It was a spoof of police procedurals called Police Squad!, and it starred Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin, a clueless cop. The show was short-lived (it only lasted for six episodes), but they revived it for the big screen as The Naked Gun.
After a brief prologue, the credits kick in. The camera’s POV is from the top of a police car, right behind the flashing red light. At first, everything seems normal, as the light rushes down a city street. Then things get hilariously weird. It leaves the street and starts going down the sidewalk, nearly hitting several pedestrians. From there, it goes through a car wash, into the home of a perplexed family, across a women’s locker room, and up and down a roller coaster track. The light finally ends up in front of a donut shop. This delightfully daffy sequence indicates the anything-can-happen humor that the rest of The Naked Gun will pay off in spades.
We should preface this entry by saying that all James Bond credits sequences are amazing. In fact, they set the gold standard. Ask any film buff which one is their favorite and you’re certain to get a variety of answers. If forced to choose just one, though, we’re going with the sequence that kicked off 2012’s Skyfall. Part of the reason is because Adele’s theme song is one of the very best of the Bond tunes. A powerful voice singing a memorable melody is always a good start.
Beyond that, the sequence weaves organically into the plot. Following the traditional opening action scene, Bond is presumably shot and falls into a river. The song’s first note is timed to coincide with him hitting the water, and from there, we get what is essentially a flash-forward. The images shown provide little hints about what is to come in the story, including the revelation that Skyfall is the name of Bond’s childhood home. The character makes his way through this dreamscape, which is packed with all the iconography we’ve all come to expect from the series. Skyfall offers a 007 credits sequence operating at the highest level of artistry.
3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
David Fincher’s movies often have memorable credit sequences. Se7en has a jittery one that shows the killer writing, cutting words out of paper, and assembling some sort of demented journal. Panic Room has its titles looming over New York City and hanging from the sides of buildings. Fincher is good at many things, but he especially understands the power of using credits to set the mood for the story he’s about to tell.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features what has to be considered the best and craziest credits in any of his works. Set to singer Karen O’s pulsating remake of Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song,” the two-and-a-half minute, all-black sequence features a person (presumably lead character Lisbeth Salander) drowning in a sea of what appears to be an oil-like substance. The black goo drips over her face and between the letters on a keyboard. Some spouts from an eyeball. There’s also a lit match, a bunch of flying computer cables cables, a fair amount of bondage imagery, and a Phoenix emerging from the flames.
2. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is comedian Mike Myers’ attempt to spoof the British spy pictures of the 1960s. He plays the title character, a randy, catchphrase-spouting secret agent trying to bring down the nefarious Dr. Evil (also played by Myers). To really get the crowd in the mood for some genre-mocking silliness, the movie features a big musical number for the opening credits sequence. Packed with “mod” awesomeness, it has Powers busting out some go-go dance moves, a visual nod to the opening scene of the Beatles’ A Hard Days Night, and even a marching band. Part of what makes it work is the music, of course. The filmmakers were fortunate enough to stumble across an old Quincy Jones recording called “Soul Bossa Nova” that provides perfect accompaniment for the on-screen shenanigans.
Interestingly, the Austin Powers sequels try to out-do the original with their title sequences. The Spy Who Shagged Me has the character strolling naked through a hotel, his privates creatively camouflaged by various objects. Goldmember‘s takes place on a Hollywood backlot and features cameos from Steven Spielberg and Britney Spears. All of them are extremely funny, but we’re picking the original because it set the precedent.
1. Do the Right Thing
Spike Lee’s 1989 drama Do the Right Thing is a powerful examination of racial tensions in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood boiling over on the hottest day of the summer. It starts off as something of a comedy about a white Italian pizza shop owner, Sal (Danny Aiello), working in a predominantly-black area. It ends with a race riot that leaves one innocent African-American man dead at the hands of the police and the pizzeria burned to the ground.
Lee knew he had to prepare his audience for the story ahead, and he did so with an opening credit sequence that has since become iconic. Set to the tune of Public Enemy’s hard-hitting song “Fight the Power,” the credits have one of the film’s stars, Rosie Perez, doing some aggressive hip-hop dancing in front of a set designed to look like a city block. She has an angry scowl on her face much of the time, and her moves incorporate boxing stances and punches. The dance routine is intentionally on the rough, edgy side, reflecting the film’s own anger about racial injustice.
Do the Right Thing lets viewers know from the very first second that they’re going to see a work infused with both energy and outrage. The credits sequence is masterfully staged, serving as a prime example of how such sequences can be vital in helping to establish a movie’s tone.
Which of these sequences is your favorite? Do you love another one that didn’t get mentioned here? Let us know what you think in the
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