9. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
Creative direction by Ben Smith
Alternative history genre-mash up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies brought audiences the union we didn’t know we needed in 2016: class conflict and kung-fu. The opening title sequence is tasked with selling us on the film’s bonkers premise: grounding the undead in the realities of the Regency-era, and forcing Jane Austin to conceivably cozy up to the walking dead. Political cartoonist Martin Rowson lends his pen to emulate the work of 18th-century caricaturist James Gillray, and the resulting animation is enchanting, irreverent, and beautiful to behold. Add in some narration from Charles Dance and you’ve got a well-armed contender for one of the decade’s best title sequences.
8. Mandy (2018)
Creative direction by Richard Kenworthy
While Mandy’s real deal title card (the shining star among a host of other standout textual ~moments~) only shows up after the hour mark, the opening credits for SpectreVision’s trippy revenge nightmare have enough guts to stand on their own two feet. Guitar noodling, synthy waves, and a humming baseline come together as the logos roll, coming together in harmonic union as Douglas Roberts’ final words manifest on-screen. And then the main event, as far as opening credits are concerned: the opening tune-up fades into a high-hat count signaling true-blue prog-rock: “Red,” the name of the film’s protagonist and the revamped King Crimson song that eases us into this strange and magical cinematic landscape of dark woods, darker souls, and a script so blood-shot it threatens violence.
7. Uncut Gems (2019)
Titles designed by Randall Balsmeyer
The opening credits for Uncut Gems are a mesmerizing whirlwind that, fittingly, journeys through a kaleidoscopic world of jewels, tracing the minute and dazzling details of the galaxy contained within a small gem. The synth soundtrack imbues the credits sequence with a magical and otherworldly quality. The credits are a double-edged sword: at once serene and anxiety-inducing. It’s a peaceful trip through a funhouse of beautiful imagery that works as a palette cleanser before the film grabs you in a chokehold and won’t let go. But the pumping score emphasizes the credits as being especially frenetic, setting us up for the most intense film of the year. The cherry on top comes when the credits conclude with a surprise so good I wouldn’t dare spoil it here. (Anna Swanson)
6. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Titles designed by Aaron Becker
After one of the best show-don’t-tell cold opens of the decade is brought to a screeching halt by a car crash, we’re treated to, well, a real treat: silence. Horrifying silence as Michelle’s chaotic careen off the highway is intercut with dead calm title cards. Hard cuts to black with a simple, unambiguous text that punctuates her spiral like a heart murmur. It’s terrifying, affecting, succinct, and unexpected, which is to say: the perfect opening title sequence for a film like 10 Cloverfield Lane.
5. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Titles designed by Aaron Becker
The real impossible mission was picking a favorite opening title sequence from Hollywood’s preeminent 21st Century action franchise. Every Mission: Impossible cold open lays out a blood-pumping amuse-bouche that culminates in one of the silver screen’s most recognizable theme songs. And while the best cold open sequence is indisputably the Russian prison escape from Ghost Protocol (which I will continue to watch every day like a Frank Sinatra-certified Lord’s Prayer), the franchise’s best title sequence comes courtesy of Rogue Nation. With a needle drop expertly timed to a triumphant parachute deploy, in classic fashion, we are given breakneck glimpses of scenes to come, fleeting glances of car chases, underwater set pieces, and guns-that-look-like-flutes. With familiar text and tunes, it’s a throwback to the franchise’s 60’s origins that marks one of the best credits sequences of the franchise, and of the decade.
4. The Forbidden Room (2015)
Titles designed by Galen Johnson
The Forbidden Room, an experimental feature from Canadian auteur Guy Maddin and his longtime collaborator Evan Johnson, is a trippy, absurdist love letter to the “lost film.” Despite the film’s dense machinations, the title sequence clears up any confusion about what the viewer is about to sink into (after all most Maddin films feel like wading into a tar pit and flirting with the lucidity afforded by heatstroke). We’re met with a series of antiquated, remarkably authentic-looking silent-era title cards that dissolve and mutate before our eyes. It’s as though we’ve been presented with some rotted box of motion picture miscellany, found, we’d imagine, under the stairs of some putrid basement. Perhaps the emulsions have melted together or the silver has begun to lift; a noble rot of silent era pastiche stitched together, Frankenstein-like, for our perverse viewing pleasure.
3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Creative direction by Tim Miller
2. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Title design by Jessica Hische
Wes Anderson has distinguished himself as the King of the Opening Title Sequence, a superlative I just made up, but we’d all agree is accurate. Of his 2010s entries, Moonrise Kingdom takes the cake for its enchantingly precise orientation to the cast, the world, and this particular articulation of Anderson’s obsessive aesthetic. The sequence sees us peering into a meticulous coastal house populated by characters, of whom Suzy is the only one who peers back. Hische’s refined and playful typography signals the film’s lightness and the time-lag of island life. It’s an appropriately intricate and expressive act of world-building that perfectly captures Anderson’s most blissfully melancholic effort to date.
1. Skyfall (2012)
Titles designed by Daniel Kleinman
It’s a testament to the enduring power of the Skyfall credits that I can’t see a Rorschach test and not hear Adele croon “Where you go I go, what you see I see…” Bond credits are always special, but Skyfall stands out among a collection of greats. The title sequence, designed by Daniel Kleinman, works in tandem with the film’s cold open as we see James Bond (Daniel Craig) literally pulled under and engulfed in mystery, peril, and even death. Without giving it away, the abundance of skulls and graves told us from the get-go that this film had stakes and real consequences. From fiery glimpses into Macau’s criminal underbelly to blood-red rains and crumbling ruins, the Skyfall credits are simply breathtaking; one of the franchise’s strongest credits sequences, and certainly the best of the decade. (Anna Swanson)