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.
- Also see "Dark Genius of Kyle Cooper" a Wired Interview from June 2004
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.
- Also see StudioDaily's interview with Michelle Dougherty on the vision and process for the paranoid numerology thriller.
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'
- Also check out Roger D. Evan's BTS videos on just how he made this opening credit/title sequence.
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 gmunk.com 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.