Movies, in general, have to grip the audience from the get-go in order for viewers to enjoy it. Naturally, the best way to do this is to start the film with a great opening scene that will intrigue viewers and leave them wanting more. Opening scenes should be a taste of things to come throughout the rest of the film.
However, with some films, the audience might as well stop the film right after its opening scene, because it does not necessarily get any better. Some opening scenes get audiences excited for the film they have just started to watch, only to be wanting more from something that simply cannot deliver. Quite simply, the opening scenes are the best parts of these films.
The beginning of these films are exhilarating and captivating, reeling in the audience for a great film. Unfortunately, these films simply peaked way too early and the remainder of these films are nothing special at all.
1. Cliffhanger (Renny Harlin, 1993)
The impressive Rocky Mountains (although in reality they are the Cortina d’Ampezzo-Dolomites Mountains in Italy) made for a great, foreboding setting for an action movie. The mountains are high up in the sky and it’s quite a long way down. While there are mountain climbing professionals who climb these mountains for a living, accidents can still happen.
The sight of those huge mountains can send a chill down one’s spine at how scary they look in “Cliffhanger”. After climbing one of the aforementioned mountains, Sarah’s (Michelle Joyner) harness comes loose when trying to slide from the mountain and into the helicopter.
The shot above Joyner showing how far down she will fall, and the terror in her eyes and those of the other actors, make it seem incredibly real. Add some dramatic music to a situation when a woman’s life is literally in Gabe’s (Sylvester Stallone) hands, and once she actually does fall, there is no hope for her.
What follows is a group of thieves accidentally crashing into the mountains after an aerial heist, and they have lost their bounty mid-air. Gabe gets stuck in the middle of it all and has to fight these criminals who are certain to kill him afterwards anyway. While there are some impressive action scenes in “Cliffhanger”, all the overacting throughout the film, especially with Qualen’s (John Lithgow) weird attempt at a British accent, makes it hard to take “Cliffhanger” seriously.
There is also a scene where Gabe goes into icy water and takes off his shirt, which would surely cause him to freeze to death. There is little doubt that this was done just to show off Stallone’s muscular physique.
2. The Informers (Gregor Jordan, 2008)
“The Informers” is based on a collection of interconnected short stories written by author Bret Easton Ellis, which is why there are various plots in the film. One key difference between the book and the film is the lack of acclaim that the film received, and it is understandable.
However, the film started off well, with a pumping 80’s party song that sets the tale of reckless youth and the 80’s Los Angeles setting. There is a lively party with sex, drugs, and a car crash that kills someone, which puts a sudden halt on all the fun. That sums up the film for the most part; being young is one big party until the harsh realities of life and death happen.
After this scene, the film is slow and dense. “The Informers” depicts the misery and apathy of both young and middle-aged rich people who have become complete narcissists. Although this was never meant to be a lively party movie, it isn’t a deep film, either.
3. Signs (M. Night Shyamalan, 2002)
Director M. Night Shyamalan has had a very mixed career, from making Oscar-nominated films to making pure dreck. In between the two extremes, he made “Signs”, an alien invasion film starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.
The film sets itself up well at the beginning, with a slow introduction to Gibson’s character, Graham Hess, waking up in the morning, until he hears his daughter screaming. Upon inspection, he realizes his crops have an alien symbol shaped into them, which is the beginning of aliens stalking his family and their invasion of Earth.
The opening scene is great because there is very little revealed, but so much is said about Hess’s life, or lack thereof. The daughter’s scream comes out of nowhere, upsetting the earlier calm silence, which is a signifier that the protagonist’s world is literally about to change. However, the rest of the film is pretty slow and its logic is flawed, such as aliens who can travel through space but are not able to knock down wood.
4. Hereafter (Clint Eastwood, 2010)
During the 2000s, Clint Eastwood had a string of highly successful movies, with the likes of “Mystic River”, “Million Dollar Baby”, “Changeling”, “Gran Torino”, and others. His 2010 supernatural drama, “Hereafter”, was the dud of the bunch. It did not have the same commercial or critical impact of Eastwood’s previous films.
Despite its overall lackluster feel, the opening scene of “Hereafter” is certainly well made. The film begins in Thailand when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hit destroyed the region and killed many people. It is gripping and sad to see so much destruction and so many lives taken, especially as this event actually happened. Marie (played by Cecile de France) gets swept up in the water and actually drowns, but she comes back to life.
The rest of the film details what happens to Marie and the other protagonists, who have experiences with the afterlife. Overall, “Hereafter” is a forgettable drama about grief and the supernatural, a weak point in Eastwood’s otherwise strong directorial career.
5. Narc (Joe Carnahan, 2002)
“Narc” received plenty of acclaim upon its release for its gritty depiction of what police officers must do when working undercover. While it certainly was not a bad film, it has since been forgotten, as it is ultimately a pretty standard cop drama. However, its opening scene is very tense, gritty, and fast-paced where everything happens all at once.
The audience gets thrown into a situation where an undercover cop is chasing a criminal on foot, without any context to what happened beforehand. The look of terror and the gargling from the first victim is gross and disturbing. When the criminal takes a toddler hostage, the cop guns down the perp, but accidently shoots the toddler’s pregnant mother; it is very bloody, and the screams are powerful. This senseless violence foreshadows the rest of the film.