Disney’s remake of their award-winning classic The Lion King arrives in Cineworld on 19th July.
It’s directed by Jon Favreau (2016’s The Jungle Book) and stars Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé as Nala, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar and James Earl Jones as Mufasa. Meanwhile, Hans Zimmer, Elton John and Tim Rice all return to revamp the Oscar-winning soundtrack.
Clad in gorgeous, photo-realistic CGI (to the extent where people are arguing if the movie is actually live-action), this latest Disney remake really is shaping up to be astronomical. And it only takes one look at the trailer’s shot-for-shot reconstruction of the original’s spectacular opening sequence to see why.
Even 25 years on, the opening scene of The Lion King remains a doozy: jaw-dropping animation full of vibrant colours and impressive camerawork, fused with the Elton John-composed powerhouse anthem that is ‘Circle of Life’ (brought to life by the soulful vocals of Lebo M and Carmen Twillie).
It’s undoubtedly one of the most triumphant and joyous film curtain-raisers ever put to screen, and we can’t wait to see how the remake upgrades it.
This isn’t the only time a film has wowed us from the offset, however. Here are five more outstanding openings to our favourite films.
1. Touch of Evil (1958)
While the famous "Rosebud" scene that begins Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) was a close contender for this list, it was just beaten out by the masterfully suspenseful three-minute long take that opens Touch of Evil.
Based on Whit Masterson’s 1956 novel Badge of Evil, this seminal film noir starring Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh commences with a close up of a bomb being placed in a car, which a couple enter moments later. We know the car is going to explode, we just don’t know when, which makes the slow drive to the border all the more nerve-wracking.
Simultaneously setting up the plot and introducing the protagonists, this sequence is undoubtedly a masterclass in visual storytelling, direction, and suspense, which easily places the opening scene as one of the greatest of all time.
2. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Adapted from Anthony Burgess’s classic 1962 novel, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange transports viewers to a dystopian near-future where violence rules the day.
We follow the exploits of young delinquent Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his fellow ‘droogs’ as they embark on a little bit of the old ultra-violence. However, when Alex is arrested after his friends abandon him, he finds himself the guinea pig for a revolutionary behaviour-altering experiment.
The opening credits set the tone for one of the auteur director’s greatest film-making achievements. Beginning with a trance-like synth score (actually composer Wendy Carlos’s adaptation of Henry Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary), set to brightly coloured title cards, the film starts with the now iconic close-up of Alex’s menacing stare as the camera pulls back to reveal his gang sitting at the Korova Milkbar.
In just one shot, Kubrick conveys so much about this surreal world through the music, the bar’s striking décor and the strange fashion sense of its patrons, and the manner of speech in the opening monologue that every cinephile should know by heart. The scene is wholly mesmerising, sucking us into this odd place, and we love every second of it.
3. Jaws (1975)
Considered to be the first summer blockbuster, Steven Spielberg’s multi-Oscar-winning Jaws made entire generations terrified of the ocean. And this sensation of thalassophobia is instilled right from the opening scene in which happy-go-lucky teenager Chrissie (Susan Backlinie) partakes in what will be her final late night swim.
The tone ranges from fun to frightening in a matter of moments, as we first see the doomed Chrissie race to the water with her intoxicated companion, who falls asleep before joining her.
Everything seems peaceful at first, until an approaching underwater POV shot accompanied by John Williams’s mysterious score signals something isn’t quite right. But before she knows what’s happening, something grabs her leg and thrashes her about in a genuinely harrowing sequence. Screaming frantically, she’s finally pulled under without a trace.
4. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
Imagine sitting down at the cinema to watch Star Wars for the first time. The lights go down, everything grows silent, and the famous words 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…' fill the screen. You hold your breath waiting for what’s next, and then you’re blasted with the fanfare of John Williams’s score, setting the tone for the epic adventure that lies ahead while the opening crawl fills in the narrative gaps.
And if that introduction isn’t spectacular enough, it’s immediately followed by an eye-widening chase scene that showcases the sheer scale of the film, as the Imperial Destroyer famously soars across the top of the frame. We then jump straight into a tense shootout as stormtroopers board the rebel ship, leading to the intimidating reveal of villain Darth Vader (James Earl Jones), the capture of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and the escape of droid duo R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels). The Star Wars saga has always began with a bang, but none have been as big as A New Hope.
5. The Dark Knight (2008)
Hailed as one of the greatest superhero movies ever made and helmed by five-time Oscar-nominated Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight often finds itself topping many film lovers’ lists for its gritty take on the DC hero.
There are dozens of exquisite scenes to be found throughout the movie, and one of them is the opening bank robbery sequence. Kicking-off events with Hans Zimmer’s superb, suspense-building score, we follow a group of thugs in clown masks executing an intricate heist, killing each other off one by as they go.
It’s meticulously constructed, tense and oddly playful, but more importantly, acts as the unforgettable introduction to Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the Joker, who happens to be the mysterious man we see in the opening shot; just one of the clever details littered throughout the film.
The Lion King arrives in Cineworld on 19th July, so tweet us @Cineworld with your favourite movie opening scenes.
Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.