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10 Thrillers with Incredible Openings Scenes

May 18, 2023May 18, 2023

We're looking at some of the best opening scenes to engage audiences and prepare them for exciting and captivating thrill rides.

Some films like to build the tension and wow you with one epic moment at the climax of the plot. But today, we're talking about thrillers, a genre of films that keep you on the edge of your seat from the beginning to the very end.

Here, we will look at the best opening scenes of these films. These scenes are important because they help to set the tone for the rest of the film to come. We'll include scenes from movies that are generally thought of under different genres because thrillers have a habit of intermixing with multiple genres to help bring out the best of any given plot.

The Prestige takes much of its thrills in exploring the unknown, or more specifically, stage magic. The story is told en media res, with the opening scene showing an out-of-context scenario. We see many allusions to plot details that will come later, such as a field with many abandoned magicians' hats and a rope hanging in the form of a noose when a significant character walks by.

While this film would be a tale of two rival magicians (or perhaps more) going to war, this opening scene shows that the stakes will only grow more dangerous when Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) discovers Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) drowning after having performed his "Transported Man" trick. All of this is done to the narration of John Cutter (Michael Caine), describing the three acts of a magician's performance.

Ryan Gosling stars as "The Driver" in Drive (2011), and the opening scene is used to establish that he is one of the best getaway drivers a criminal could find. Driver conducts business professionally, ensuring his clients know that they are on a tight timeframe and that they will be on their own if they can't meet his deadline.

With his clients in tow, the scene follows Driver as he wordlessly works to evade attention, pulling off to the side of the road when police are searching the area. The action picks up when a helicopter finds them on a bridge, and Driver picks up the pace, silently weaving in and out of lanes of traffic. With an ear to the radio, Driver manages to enter a parking garage as a bevy of people enters. After donning a cap and jacket, Driver manages to escape the garage, succeeding in his job and setting up audiences for an exciting film.

One of the most remembered scenes when discussing The Dark Knight (2008) doesn't involve Batman (Christian Bale) at all. With the Joker (Heath Ledger) pulling strings, we see members of his gang rob a bank, only to turn on one another as the job continues.

When we're down to the final member, it's revealed that Joker was on the job the entire time and had purposely misled his team to turn on one another for the joy of chaos. Despite the seconds that may have been lost during the chaos, Joker remained on schedule, avoiding police pursuit by escaping in a school bus and driving alongside multiple other school buses, confusing any who attempted to stop him.

This scene may not be an exciting one, but it's one that can speak to the heart of the film. The opening to Reservoir Dogs (1992) is a perfect example of the camaraderie to be found in this group of gangsters. The crew is instantly relatable, all sharing laughs as Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino) explains the meaning behind the song "Like A Virgin."

The conversation becomes a bit more tense as Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) admits he doesn't believe in tipping. The group debates the ethics of tipping versus not tipping, a conversation many can sympathize with as they've likely had the debate while on an outing with friends. While the action only picks up in intensity, this scene is still often looked upon fondly, helping to ease the audience into accepting the characters as human beings before they begin their doomed heist.

Related: Reservoir Dogs: 5 Iconic Scenes in the Quentin Tarantino Movie

Following the tale of Baby (Ansel Elgort), a getaway driver with tinnitus, the opening scene of Baby Driver (2017) sees Baby working with a crew of criminals to rob a bank. We quickly get a sense of the film's musical nature, with Baby using some Elvis Presley music to help with his tinnitus.

With "The King" providing the score, Baby would use his expert driving skills to get the crew to safety and his wits to lead the police to mistake another red car for his. The audience is led to understand that this film will focus heavily on Baby's skills as a drifter, racer, and analytic, focusing on his expert use of the E-Brake.

Another thrilling heist, only this time, the heist occurs in the mind. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is in the midst of performing corporate espionage by way of looking into Mr. Saito's (Ken Watanabe) dreams. Things appear to be on the level as Dom and his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) begin their plan of stealing confidential information, until Mal (Marion Cotillard) shows up.

Mal is revealed to be a manifestation of Cobb's psyche, representing his deceased wife. While the team left in the waking world works to ensure Cobb's safety, Cobb is frantically trying to find any useful information they were tasked with ensnaring. Upon being thrown into a bathtub full of water (which manifests in the dream as the building flooding), Cobb wakes up, having succeeded in the extraction though his team was about to be held up by an angry target.

With Casino Royale (2006) set to begin a new era for 007, in the first scene, audiences would witness James Bond (Daniel Craig) earn his status and his license to kill after pulling off a successful mission in Prague. The scene is eerily reminiscent of classic Bond films, with the opening being done in black and white.

There's a juxtaposition as the two scenes overlap with each other, with Bond fighting an underling in an aggressive bathroom brawl while calmly speaking with Dryden (Malcolm Sinclair) in a cozy office. As Dryden attempts to kill Bond, it is revealed that Bond had disabled the gun before making himself known. Bond would then calmly assassinate Dryden, and we would be brought back to his scene in the bathroom, where audiences would see the modern-day reinvention of the classic pistol shot that has become synonymous with the Bond franchise.

The first chapter in the remaking of Stephen King's classic, It (2017) begins the thrilling horror with the first on-screen kill for Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård). When Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) sails his paper boat in the rain, he loses it down a sewer drain. This is when he comes face to face with the creature that would come to haunt Derry, Maine.

Pennywise would have a menacing presence as soon as his eyes pierced the darkness of the sewer. Though he would converse with Georgie, putting the young boy at ease and making him laugh, Pennywise's nature could be seen in the expressions on his face. As Georgie went to get his boat back, Pennywise would bite the child's arm off. As Georgie attempted to crawl away, Pennywise reached out and dragged his victim to his death, setting the stage for one of the scariest films of 2017.

Related: Best Recent Adaptations of Stephen King Books

In thrillers and horrors alike, some scenes can transcend the film, lasting forever in fans' memories and pop culture media. One of those iconic scenes is the opening scene of Jaws (1975). Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie) decides to have some fun and go skinny-dipping in the ocean, unaware of the danger beneath the surface.

With the iconic music accompanying the scene, audiences begin to feel the tension build without ever laying eyes on the eponymous Great White Shark. This is thanks to the music by John Williams and the thrashing and screaming of Chrissie as she is being attacked and eaten alive by the shark.

A film that predated the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Blade (1998) was an introduction for many to the dark and violent wonders that awaited them in the decades to come. With an opening scene focusing on a man attending a rave with his stunning date, things would turn grisly as this man would be drenched in blood before being confronted by the many vampires that call the club home.

Blade (Wesley Snipes) would arrive on the scene, his reputation preceding him. He would proceed to stake the deadly creatures using guns, stakes, and his signature sword. This epic fight scene would provide the spark the film needed to entice audiences with a subgenre that had yet to be embraced by the public.

thrillers MOVIEWEB VIDEO OF THE DAY SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT The Prestige Drive The Dark Knight Reservoir Dogs Baby Driver Casino Royale It Jaws Blade