Trailers get a bad rap for misleading audiences, making them think an inferior movie is better than it actually is. Once you've bought the ticket and you're in the seats there is no recourse. Opening titles on the other hand, are innocuous. They get ignored and are mostly forgettable —serving as extra time afforded you while you lumber in late from the concession stand. You're safe,  you haven't missed any of the movie. That is, until you do.

image credits: ©2012 Warner Bros. Studios

A good director is one who realizes that the time "wasted" on the film title sequence (often used to satisfy legal, ego and studio requirements) can be used to set the mood, further the story line, or fill in back story.

A great director is one who realizes he can't do it himself and collaborates with acclaimed and sometimes obscure design houses.

Here's a list of my current favorite movie title sequences and hopefully some of yours. (in no particular order)


01. The Dark Knight Rises

As of this writing, the movie isnt even out yet so how could the official title sequence be out for public viewing? No its not an internet scoop, its a film school project by Doğan Can Gündoğdu and it's quite good.


02. Seven

David Fincher's thriller masterpiece augmented by the work of Kyle Cooper now at Prologue.


03. Stranger Than Fiction

Will Ferrell playing a character outside of his comfort zone. The title sequence/opening credits by MK12 who, at the time, were also playing outside of their comfort zone. If I remember correctly, they also did the end credits.


04. Catch Me If You Can

"The title sequence for Catch Me If You Can from 2002 by french duo Kuntzel+Deygas is often credited as being the most influential animated title sequence of the 2000-2010 decade. It certainly reopened the path for lavishly animated movie titles." ~submarine channel

  • Deborah Allison wrote an informed article about this subject. Be patient if the servers down.


05. Thank You for Smoking

If you've ever smoked, or lived with people who smoked, this title sequence is a nostalgic trip through come iconic packaging. So iconic, just the juxtaposition of color and typography is enough to recall the brand name. It is the work of Shadow Play Studio, which was disbanded in 2011. Former Shadowplay designers Gareth Smith and Jenny Lee started Smith & Lee Design in 2011.


06. The Number 23

Even if you don't believe the premise of this movie, you can't deny that facts communicated in this backstory are more than a little bit eerie. Michelle Dougherty directed the work by Imaginary Forces.


07. The Final Destination

For The Final Destination, PIC (the design shop behind the opening title sequence) wanted to do something that was fast, in-your-face and aimed for maximum impact. If you pay close attention, some of the plot point are hidden in the titles. Embedding was disabled by the request of the studios so follow this link to see the video. Final destination 4 opening animation and ending. (probably not a good idea to view this at work)


08. The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo

Another David Fincher film that sports a very magnetic opening title sequence. You're sucked into the animation without knowing what to make of it. According to Fincher, the title sequence represents the type of dreams, or rather nightmares, that the main character (Lisbeth Salander) might be having. Onur Senturk's work on the opening titles with design animation and creative direction at Blur Studios.

  • Onur's own BTS video on his design process.


09. Johnny Quest

OK. OK. So there's no Johnny Quest motion picture coming out any time soon. But...I and other like me love me some Johnny Quest. In the words of John, um I mean Roger D. Evans, "In 1964, Jonny Quest aired to rave reviews as the first, adult action/adventure cartoon in prime time. It had cool jazz music by Hoyt Curtin and terrific, high contrast pen and ink design work by Doug Wildey...Here is my Valentine to one of the coolest, if not THE coolest, cartoons ever to spin up the imagination of a 53 year old man now going on six." Maybe this will light a fire under the studios' 


10. Tron Legacy

The opening titles for Tron Legacy are visually stunning — and for good reason. Bradley G. Munkowitz, a protoege of Kyle Cooper, led "a black-ops team into the darkness of Digital Domain creating over 12 minutes of holographic content for the film." (For the entire year of 2010!) As part of that process Joseph Kosinski awarded them the Opening Titles.

  • Also see the documentation of that process. Videos, notes, photos.
  • Good quality videos of the official title sequence are hard to find online. To view the actual quality of the CGI work you can peruse the Tron legacy work on the Digital Domain website.


    My father often indulged me, to the chagrin of my mother. This included seeing movies years before I was able to appreciate the story or the subtext. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, along with Cool Hand Luke, are the movies that stick with me to this day. If you've seen either of those films you already know why they would resonate with a boy who misses his father.

    ... ... ...

    After we escaped from Laos* the days blended together like summer vacation when, as kids, you were allowed to roam the neighborhood on your bike — as long as you were in earshot of the call for lunch/dinner. This was not my existence. Mine was spent on a balcony of a Bangkok apartment calling out to people as they walked by. My only distractions were my younger brother Guillaume,** poorly crafted LEGO™ knockoffs and a Spiderman™ action-figure. It was on one of these sweltering summer*** days that my dad indulged me, in more ways than I knew at the time, in an escape from the heat and our current state of mind. 

    [ See links at the end of this post for a tribute video]

    It was after the fall of Saigon and the Vietnam War was coming to an abrupt close. We were in limbo. A family without a country and no immediate plans for immigration. Even at nine years old I could tell from the hushed conversations between my parents that all was not right with the world. We had traded a life of privilege for one of survival. We essentially depended on the kindness of strangers. My father would work the streets of Bangkok looking up contacts and calling in favors, in an effort to acquire the paperwork and sponsorship required to relocate us to France. Towards the end of this process, there was a day when he came home in great spirits. He told me during dinner that he had a great surprise for me. My father was so excited he couldn't contain himself. It had been months since I'd seen him this happy. During his street travels he had come across a theater showing an animated feature of my favorite super-hero: Spiderman. This was a treat just for the two of us. My mother was staying behind to care for my brother who was too young to tag along. 

    The next day we walked the city of Bangkok as my father tended to his affairs. I can only imagine the difficulty of accomplishing this task with a nine year old, ADD-afflicted boy in tow. As the day drew to a close, we were hot, sweaty, and covered with the dust of the streets. It was then that my father unveiled his surprise. Imagine his disappointment when I bluntly informed him that the movie he thought showcased my favorite superhero instead starred the Thai equivalent of Mighty-Mouse. When my dad asked if I was still interested in seeing the  movie, the ungrateful imp in me yelled, "No!" I'm sure that was followed with the characteristic whining of a tired, hungry child.

    My father made an immediate executive decision and that is how we ended up in the only other movie showing at the theater. The movie 'Thunderbolt & Lightfoot' starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges was not exactly children's fare. Regardless, it got us off the street, into the air-conditioned darkness of the movies and filled my wailing mouth with a cold Coca-Cola. If you've never seen the movie the plot goes as follows:

    "Seven years after a daring bank robbery involving an anti-tank gun used to blow open a vault, the robbery team temporarily puts aside their mutual suspicions to repeat the crime (after they are unable to find the loot from the original heist). The hardened artilleryman (Eastwood) and his flippant, irresponsible young sidekick (Bridges) are the two wild cards in a deck of jokers." ~ • It is also a movie about, "The nature of freedom and loneliness. Youth vs age. The American dream - inverted (criminal as hero). It's the kind of movie that sticks with you. It is an unappreciated masterpiece." ~ orpheus44

    This oscar-nominated movie subconsciously affected me in ways not obvious to me until I watched the film again years later. There is a running theme of honor (among thieves), genuine friendship and the support of family — no matter how unorthodox the family. I now realize that these are the same principles I applied to my current life-long friends and family members. These are people who will bail you out of jail, drive cross-country to come to your aid and loan you money without the expectation of being paid back. They are few and far in between. I am blessed to have more than my fair share.

    To this day, though I own the movie on DVD, if 'Thunderbolt & Lightfoot' is playing on television I must stop to watch — even if only for a few minutes. That is all it takes to transport me back to that hot, sweaty, afternoon with my first friend and father.

    Laotian Chronicles: A Life Story [ an excerpt from the novel I may never write ]

    * I'll go into more detail on the 'Escape from Laos' in future posts.
    ** Not his real Laotian, given name.
    ***Actually it was late spring, since summer in Thailand & Laos is monsoon season. 

    ... ... ...
    THE TRIBUTE VIDEO BY: TangledWebFilms