Features and Columns · Movies

The Glorious (and Endangered) Art of the Opening Credits Sequence

Every film deserves a hype man. And what better hype man can you ask for than an opening credits sequence?
Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad World opening credits sequence
By  · Published on October 19th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the rise and decline of movie opening credits sequences.

Okay, so opening credits sequences aren’t totally a thing of the past. The past decade has graced us with a solid handful of righteous titles sequences. I thoroughly enjoyed Randall Balsmeyer’s titles for the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems: a journey through an abstract, crystalline space later revealed to be our protagonist’s colon. Likewise, Galen Johnson’s credits for The Forbidden Room are a top-tier silent era pastiche and an immaculate mood-setter for the trippy absurdist “lost films” love letter to follow.  And while most (read: basically all) Marvel movies have forgone the opening credits altogether, the Guardians of the Galaxy films feature two of the most memorable sequences in their weight class.

And yet, indelibly, over the past few decades, opening credits sequences have fallen out of style. More often than not, movies eschew the practice altogether, relegating everything to the end. You know, when most people stop paying attention to the screen, chat with their neighbors, or close their streaming tabs? The great tradition of starting movies with a flourish is linked to a series of less artistically inclined trends, from unions to the decline of newsreels. And as the video essay below details, their rise and decline effectively follow the degree to which they were deemed “essential.” And considering that, with a few exceptions, opening titles are purely reserved for tone, theme, and style, they were easy fat to trim.

The essay provides a concise history of the opening credits sequence, including their innovative heyday in the mid-1950s to the early 1970s. It’s a little depressing to think about what we’ve lost in jettisoning this sense of showmanship. Perhaps it’s not unrelated that hummable film scores are becoming rarer and rarer. And perhaps the experience of seeing films in theaters would become all the more magical if we had a sequence to bridge the gap between reality and fiction.

Watch “A Celebration of Opening Title Sequences (And Why They Need To Come Back)”:

Who made this?

New York-based Patrick (H) Willems created this video essay on the rise, fall, and hopeful return of opening credits sequences. Willems has been making content on YouTube for the better part of a decade. You can find their own directorial efforts and their video essays on their channel here. You can also find Willems on Twitter here.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.