The first scene in a movie has to quickly set the stage for the action to come and draw a viewer into the plot, making them immediately glad they put that particular film so high on their Netflix queue. There are an unlimited number of ways movies can do this; some movies do it with great dialogue, some with shock value, others do it by making sure you’re practically laughing till you pee your pants.
Another kind of movie takes real places and portrays them in such a dynamic way that the viewer can’t help but want to visit where the film is set. After all, who doesn’t want to be watching to opening scene in a movie with their friends and get to say, “I’VE TOTALLY BEEN THERE!”.
1. Mission Impossible II
The opening scene of Mission Impossible II, filmed in Dead Horse Point in Utah, features Tom Cruise (playing secret agent Ethan Hunt) on a relaxed pleasure rock climb. Seriously – who doesn’t just scale gigantic red rocky cliff sans ropes on their day off? Supposedly Cruise did most of the stunts for this scene himself while attached to harnesses that were then digitally erased.
Some film critics say this opening scene, narrated by the iconic voice of Woody Allen, is one of the greatest of all time. It begins with Allen reading out loud a narrative he is writing, and then re-writing about how to define Manhattan with a black and white montage of New York showing on the screen. Although the visuals are a nod to classic movies of New York, Allen’s voice-over adds a nervous, indecisive, and self critical element to the traditional scene…a classic Wood Allen moment.
3. Casino Royal
Filmed in the fictional city of “Nambutu”, Madagascar with famed “free runner” Sébastien Foucan, this opening sequence really sets the tone for Daniel Craig’s first Bond movie. Focan’s skill and Craig”s ULTRA manliness are highlighted as they dive in and out of the chaos, poverty, and illicit snake fighting in the ramshackle Madagascar town.
4. The Lion King
Set in the Serengeti, the opening scene of this Disney classic shows an array of adorably anthropomorphic African animals coming to honor the birth of baby lion Simba. Although zoologists won’t likely confirm this animal behavior as being totally accurate, the landscape depiction is pretty spectacular.
Braveheart’s calm and beautiful opening scene doesn’t exactly set the mood for the bloodbath that ensues, but it does highlight the stunning Scottish countryside where it was filmed. Historically, the scene would have been set in the Ayshire Hills and the actually scenes were filled in Glen Coe, Glen Nevis, and the Mamore mountains in Scotland.
6. The Italian Job
This classic 1969 British caper just oozes style. The movie opens with simple but elegant shots of a Lamborghini Miura driven through the Alps, and ends with a, “BANG!”. And just in case you were wondering, no Lambos were hurt during the filming of this movie – only fake shells of cars were hurled down the mountainside.
7. Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark
Set in Peru in 1936, Indiana Jones manages to escape sudden death by booby traps, hidden pits, smashing stone doors, run-away boulders, partner betrayal and pesky poison-dart sporting locals all within the first 8 minutes of this film. Clearly the indigenous Peruvian aren’t treated with the utmost respect in this film. Cultural sensitivity isn’t one of Indy’s strong suits.
The opening of this Alfred Hitchcock classic follows unknown men in a chase scene along the rooftops of San Francisco with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
Although the Arabian kingdom of Agrabah where the story of Aladdin is set may be fictitious, there are tons of theories on what Arabian nation the Disney classic is set. Some argue that “Agrabah” is a thinly veiled name for Baghdad and the movie is supposed to be set in Iraq. Other people argue that it’s made by Disney and Agrabah is about as real as the movie’s sweetie-pie tiger, thieving monkey, and cheeky flying carpet.
10. High Noon
In 1952 cowboys were the manliest of men, and the opening to the ultimate western High Noon proves it. They didn’t talk much, they rode horses, and they surveyed the serene but austere landscape at the Brooks Ranch in Jamestown, California with jaded eyes.
What Cliffhanger lacks in title subtlety, it more then makes up for in action. The opening scene to this thriller involves…you guessed it…Sylvester Stallone “cliffhanging” and attempting to save two climbers who are stuck thousands of feet on a mountain top. Although the movie is supposed to be set in the Colorado Rockies, filmmakers weren’t given permission to film in the US because of the possible damage their equipment would do to the environment. Instead, many of the scenes (including this opener) were filmed in the Italian Alps.
BONUS! Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
Tasteless. But who could resist!
12. A Hard Days Night
Although this first scene was set in Liverpool, it was actually in London’s Paddington Station where the adorably young Beatles are fleeing from their hoards of clamoring female fans.
13. The Shining
MAJORLY creepy music make the sweeping, gorgeous shots of Mt Hood in Oregon seem ominous instead of inviting. Interestingly, the Timberline Lodge was used for the exterior shots of the hotel, but all the interior filming was done in studios in London. It looks so real!
14. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
When the movie begins the audience meets both the gorgeous Audrey Hepburn and Tiffany’s, on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. The city is positively peaceful in this opening scene – everyone seems to be still asleep at the wee- hours of the morning. Somehow Audrey manages to look impossibly glamorous even while wearing the evening gown she went out in the night before and munching on a pastry with elbow length gloves.