The 25 best movie credit sequences to get you in the mood for the movies

Gem Seddon
·19-min read
 null
null

If the movie is the entree, then the credits are the appetiser and dessert. These tasty morsels designed to bookend the main action are essential components to the overall movie. The best movie credit sequences set the tone and establish the style of what’s to come, giving you a glimpse into the feature that’s about to unfold, without giving away all of its secrets. Some delight in technical wizardry that’d make your head spin, others adopt a simpler, hand-crafted approach, while others are happy to use that time to spin out outtakes, gags, and general tomfoolery.

There is no one way to craft a cracking credit sequence, with graphic designers across the decades adopting a slew of different techniques. Earlier creatives chose to utilise practical effects, whereas more modern designs lean on both a mash of physical and computer-generated effects. Whatever the medium or duration, the end products of the following movie credit sequences are truly something to be celebrated. 

25. Zombieland (2009)

Apocalypses in movies are seldom cheery affairs. You wouldn’t think that based on the flat-out silliness of Zombieland’s opening, where we’re introduced to Jesse Eisenberg’s character Columbus while he runs through the rules essential to surviving the zombie apocalypse. This gruesome montage cuts to the credits proper, where director Ruben Fleischer takes ultimate artistic license to prepare us for the blood-splattered zomedy to come. 

Lensed using a Phantom digital camera, ideal for slow-motion photography, this sequence captures a slew of zombie mutilations in all their bloody, gory glory. A fitting introduction to his world that doesn’t miss a beat, Metallica’s doom-laden thrash anthem “For Whom The Bell Tolls” further cements the fate that awaits our intrepid group. 

24. Juno (2007)

A whole lot of components go into every movie credit sequence. For Juno, that “whole lot” was actually 900 photos of Ellen Page taken by the husband and wife design team, Smith & Lee. The pair then printed, hand-traced, and colourised xeroxed copies of those pics, before cutting each one out individually. That’s 900 photos, just in case you’d forgotten. 

That labour of love designer Gareth Smith says required “supernatural patience,” and their dedication paid off, making the titles an integral part of the movie experience. The seemingly-simple moment follows Juno MacGuff as she walks from her house to the convenience store soundtracked by Kimya Dawson’s twinkly acoustic croonings. It matches Juno’s character, a quirky, effervescent teen, so perfectly, it’s hard to imagine the movie starting any other way.

23. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1985)

Ferris’ final farewell is immortalised in movie credits history. At the very, very end of the credit roll, Matthew Broderick appears in his robe, walks up to the camera and addresses the audience directly: “You still here? It’s over. Go home.” A fun bit that’s since been spoofed by Deadpool in *his* credits. Everyone knows and – quite rightly – loves this moment, kickstarting the trend of post-movie tags. 

But let’s not forget the comedy gold that awaits in the main end credits. With Ferris, Cameron, Jeanie, and co. all squared away and content, the remainder of the day continues to unravels around Principal Ed Rooney. Still without his shoe, and bearing the marks of his altercation with the Bueller family dog, he tries to catch the school bus – as his car was earlier towed. It rings out the day *perfectly*. 

22. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

No-one watches a Harry Potter movie anticipating a raunchy sex scene. And, while the end credits to the third outing aren’t exactly bursting with eroticism - this is still a Harry Potter movie, folks - they do include a touch of naughtiness. The credits stream down the screen as part of the Marauder’s Map, a magical map that Harry and co. use to locate people around Hogwarts. 

As various footprints stomp around the map, eagle-eyed viewers spotted two pairs of feet intertwined, with both facing different directions. Ahem. While it’s since been debunked as a full-blown sexy shenanigan – apparently it was a mere smooch – it makes these closing credits a little spicier than usual. 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Marvel and Columbia’s opening production logo slides shudder, oscillating between modern and retro stylings. The faux-glitch wobble lets you know there’s something a little different about this Spider-Man; it’s a cheeky wink to the stuttering worlds of the Spider-Verse. That’s just for starters. The credits start proper, using spiky dialogue balloons, to ground you in the comic bedrock, delivering a breathless history of Peter Parker. 

In a little under ten minutes, the opening sequence gets you up to speed on the character, splicing in nods to questionable Spidey merch, animated recreations of scenes from the live-action movies, which of course includes a poke at the awful dancing from Spider-Man 3, and mentions of his Christmas album. Funnier than any of the 2000s Spidey movies, it sets the tone perfectly for what’s to come.

20. Wall-E (2008)

Pixar’s modern classic that tells of a likeable robot who wanders the Earth tidying up the remnants of a civilisation that ultimately made the planet uninhabitable. Like all Pixar’s animated tales, this movie works for children and adults alike, and its final credits continue the film’s story, intertwining hope for mankind’s survival with some truly incredible artwork. 

Featuring the work of designer Jim Capobianco, the story of human civilisation is retold through inspiring art that spans from our past, to our present, all the way into our future. Cave paintings through to works from the Renaissance are soundtracked by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman’s song “Down to Earth.” It rings out the movie on a high note, a clear-cut slice of optimism that signifies all is not lost for humans, we’ve got another shot.

19. Dr. No (1963)

A silhouetted man walks into the frame. He turns, raises his pistol and fires at the screen. Blood pours down. It’s likely that when you picture a Bond credit sequence you’re thinking of this exact motif. Referred to as the gun barrel sequence, as the visual we see is the inside of a squeaky-clean 6mm, this iconic opening was created by American designer Maurice Binder and featured first in Dr. No. It has since served as the opening moment in most of the Eon-produced Bond flicks. 

Dr. No’s credits continue in their sparse, retro way, with a series of colourful circles flashing on and off while neon-coloured silhouettes of women parade around the screen. Far less rambunctious than later Bond credits, but its simplicity works wonders.

18. Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes reinvented the public image of the fictitious detective, gifting him six-pack abs and a shabby chic haircut. That being so, it’s only fair that for his modern reinvention, Holmes is given a brand-new type of end credit sequence as well. Far from the standard scroll of names, Emmy award-winning creative director Danny Youst led 14 creative designers at Prologue Films to roll out a retelling of the film through its last moments. 

Nabbing stills from the movie and repurposing them in an off-white Victorian style, ink ebbs across each screen in a bleeding scrawl, as the images come to life. Along with Hans Zimmer’s score, the perfect way to send out Holmes’ newest incarnation.

17. The Naked Gun (1988)

The opening credits are a good place to drop 17 production company logos, sure, but they’re also a lead-in to prepare audiences. You can use this space for a big info dump, dropping lots of important things to know. Some filmmakers spring for stylish openers, too. The team behind The Naked Gun, however, opt for an entirely different approach. 

Yep, this is all about setting the scene for Lt. Frank Drebin’s dunderheaded antics, as the camera sits atop a police car, its light flashing, for what appears to be a routine patrol down a busy city street. Routine, that is, until the vehicle mounts the pavement, grazes a handful of pedestrian then heads into a car wash, into a locker room, onto a roller coaster before finally crashing through the window of a doughnut shop. Subtle? Not in the slightest.

16. The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)

Legendary designer Saul Bass’ ability to match the tone of his credits to the movie is why filmmaker Otto Preminger hired him 13 times to do the honours. For The Man with the Golden Arm, the 1955 film based on Nelson Algren’s urban novel about addiction, Bass chose to keep things sparse. 

A series of white bars against a black background appear on the screen, synced up to Elmer Bernstein’s foot-tapping jazz score. The graphics assemble over the course of the credits into the symbol of a disjointed, broken arm. Bass himself stated his intentions to mirror the story’s topic of loneliness without getting too sombre. Today, this inimitable style remains effortlessly cool, a signifier in themselves that the movie you’re about to watch is gonna be something.

15. Enter the Void (2009)

Watching the opening credits to Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void is an experience. An experience, you might say, akin to entering a void. They’re an attempt to redefine the credit sequence in a wholly unique way. Because, really, when you can barely read the words on screen: what are they even they for? Simple. To throw you into a disconcerting world of violence utterly on edge. 

The plot follows an American drug pusher killed by cops in Tokyo, and this opening sequence exists to seemingly prepare you for Noe’s blisteringly uncompromising take on that premise. Strobe lights flash on and off with each block of credits, soundtracked by the pulsing of LFO’s “Freak”, frying your synapses. It’s an uncomfortable sensation that’s entirely on purpose. 

14. The Pink Panther (1963)

While Blake Edwards’ 1963 crime caper is so-so, it features a turn from Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, a bumbling detective tasked with locating The Phantom, a jewel thief in pursuit of a flawed diamond dubbed a ‘pink panther’. For the movie’s stellar opening credits sequence legendary cartoonist Friz Freleng, known for his work at Warner Bros. creating the likes of Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, and Porky Pig to name a few, spawned a new animated character based on the title. 

The Pink Panther plays pranks, goofs off, and generally acts the clown, all to the tune of Henry Mancini’s signature tune. The character proved to be such a smash in this opening sequence, he went on to star in his own TV shows and featured in all of the movies.

13. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

For saying his trademark style is sparse, frugal, and to the point, this is easily one of Saul Bass’s longest, most detailed credit sequences. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World opens with a simply-drawn globe, around which a series of amusing visual gags emerge. A fat-fingered hand enters the frame to saw open the globe, yanking out a credit block, again, it appears to unwind the sphere with a key to extract another. Then a hen comes along. 

Cut together with Ernest Gold’s frantic musical theme, the cluttered frenzy of typeface graphics and amusing sketches add a splash of colour to this haphazard smash of ideas. It’s a simple concept that’s executed perfectly to match the title of the movie as a way of suggesting how bonkers the world truly is. 

12. Deadpool (2016)

Considering Deadpool’s on-page persona as something of a meta-obsessed prankster, there was no chance in hell the credits to his long-time-coming movie wouldn’t channel that influence. A freeway car gun battle between the titular hero and a car of thuggish brutes quickly goes sideways for the bad guys. At the moment of their demise the camera slowly moves through the careening vehicle, revealing up-close the damage inflicted on the crooks, along with a copy of People magazine declaring Ryan Reynolds the Sexiest Man Alive. The credits unspool across this bloodied snapshot. 

Even the titles themselves take potshots at the cast and crew, listing director Tim Miller as “An overpaid tool” and leading man Reynolds as “God’s perfect idiot”. An en-pointe introduction to Deadpool. 

11. Watchmen (2009)

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s classic graphic novel received its first screen treatment in 2009 with Zack Snyder’s feature-length adaptation. Clocking in at three hours long, that run time still wasn’t sufficient to give audiences the requisite backstory, leading to this superbly crafted opening credit sequence by Neil Huxley. 

Unraveling in glorious slo-mo to Bob Dylan’s “Time’s They Are A’changin”, it charts the superhero group’s rise from their previous monicker, the Minutemen, to the Watchman. Across the years we witness their involvement in several key historical moments: the Second World War, Vietnam, JFK’s assassination, to name but a few. It works as a speedy catch-up for newcomers to the material as well as setting the tone for the movie to come. 

10. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

Orson Welles’ sophomore feature, his iconic melodrama The Magnificent Ambersons, acquired notoriety for many reasons – its troubled production and studio interference – but none more interesting than its final credits. Instead of incorporating a traditional roll call, Welles chose to introduce the audience to his cast and crew via spoken credits. 

In a nice throwback homage to his early radio days, as the final shot fades, Welles’ baritone voice runs through those involved in production; for a split second their face flashes up on screen, or the equipment they used appears. Like a lot of Welles’ choices, it’s an unusual one, that stands out considerably even if he did receive a lot of flack for it at the time. 

9. Baby Driver (2017) 

Edgar Wright spent decades plotting Baby Driver, a heist tale told from the vantage of the music-obsessed getaway driver. The opening credits sequence kicks in immediately following a six-minute chase scene, where we follow Ansel Elgort’s movin’-and-groovin’ youngster down the street to the sound of the Harlem Shuffle. 

But that’s not the best part: Wright’s playful style paints the lyrics to the song all around Baby while he’s strutting his stuff. They appear on trees, in the sky, and on signage. Leaping with grace and effortlessness to avoid passers-by, Baby’s trip to grab his co-conspirators a coffee is more than a simple camera tracking him while credits appear. Wright transforms this casual moment into one we can all recognise: walkin’ down the street, listening to our favourite song, feeling unstoppable.

8. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Oddly enough, Catch Me If You Can's opening credits were not designed by Saul Bass. This opening ditty to Spielberg’s crime caper is a glorious homage to the graphic designers of the ‘50s and ‘60s, as the filmmaker instructed French designers Kuntzel and Deygas to produce a credit sequence directly influenced by that era. And they don’t disappoint. Lines bounce in and out of the frame, alongside giant colourful blocks, moving in time with the cool, smooth overture of John Williams’ jazz-inspired score. 

Keeping with the general spirit of Spielberg’s adaptation, a light-hearted tune accompanies a cut-out of DiCaprio’s character, the charming conman, as he makes his way through scene after scene pursued by a law enforcer. A small movie in itself, it’s the perfect preparation for one of Spielberg’s most underrated films.

7. Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club’s bombastic opening credits by Digital Domain were designed to deliberately alienate audiences. The jabs of The Dust Brothers’ frantic score along with the racing visual of the camera chasing a thought through the brainstem of the narrator aren’t warm and fuzzy. These credits unnerve. It’s the point. 

The first shot originates in the Narrator’s fear centre, venturing outward as the Digital Domain team employ then-state of the art CGI to map the human brain the same way you might a tree. As the camera slaloms around synapses, flashes of neurons firing, things grow more and more dizzying, culminating in the retraction along the dirty, oily ridge of a Smith and Wesson. Before you’ve even realised it, you’ve already been introduced to the strange inner workings of the Narrator.

6. The Shining (1980)

Sometimes, the simplest option lands with the biggest impact. For The Shining, Kubrick’s penchant for long, uninterrupted takes forgo the bells and whistles and maintain steady constant moodscapes, much like the opening credits. From an eagle-eye view, the camera soars high above the Torrances’ car as it winds along the road, weaving through snow-capped crags and firs, passing by a glistening lake, revealing a splash of evergreen treetop here and there, it’s as if they’re being slowly engulfed by something unseen on their way toward the Overlook Hotel. 

As the camera rises even higher, the family vehicle is barely visible, swallowed by nature as they await their fate. On its visuals alone, The Shining earns serious points for its opening credits, that land firmly in the realm of eery-as-hell, but the cherry on top of this sinister Sunday is the score: based on a 13th-century Gregorian chant, Carlos and Elklund’s grudging theme is the perfect accompaniment to the Torrances’ entrance into isolated doom.

5. Lord of War (2005)

Arguably one of Nicolas Cage’s best roles in the last twenty years, this actioner dives into the world of arms dealers right from the get-go. The journey of a bullet, from its origins to its final purpose as it fires from the barrel of a gun is chronicled in this unique, self-contained sequence. 

Taking its cues from a first-person shooter the camera snags a ride on the top of a bullet, tracing its entire life cycle, from its moment of creation in a factory, to its transport in a shipping container all the way to the hands of a gang, it’s a truly fascinating sequence that’s made all the more impactful by Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” playing over the top. This is certainly one way to make maximum use of the two-minute credits. Not only is this a visually dynamic creation, but it’s also a creative way of packing in extra exposition into the movie - without having it handled via clunky dialogue. 

4. Vertigo (1958)

Credits appear over a close-up of Kim Novak’s frightened face, as her eyes dart from side to side. The film’s title emerges from her pupil, quickly pursued by spirographic imagery, swirling outwards. The titles stretch across the frame, while an ebbing psychedelic mass floods the screen. Tense, masterfully cut, and utterly unnerving, the distinct opening to Hitchcock’s Vertigo, is, simply put: a mood. 

Saul Bass’s traditional minimalist handiwork stitches the imagery of John Witney with Bernard Hermann’s foreboding score, perfectly setting the scene for the suspenseful feature. It’s no surprise that this sequence continues to generate discussion about what credits can achieve, either as a warm-up for the main act or as a cinematic masterpiece of their own.

3. Seven (1995)

Credited with reigniting interest in the art of credit design, David Fincher’s dark, gloomy mid-’90s thriller needed some dark, gloomy credits. Enter: Kyle Cooper. The designer tasked with the duty wound up looking to real-life serial killers for inspiration. In particular, the meticulous habits that make up their day-to-day. Cooper consulted Fincher in order to utilise props from the movie used by John Doe in his sickening preparations. 

The soundtrack remixes Nine Inch Nail’s "Closer" into a frantic, disturbing blot of staccato dischords, that, while uncomfortable as they are to listen to, create the exact mood required to transport the audience into Doe’s world of methodical deviance. You can look to modern horror credit sequences to see Cooper’s long-lasting influence. 

2. North by Northwest (1959)

Lines careen into the frame, eventually merging to form a skyscraper. Names appear in block typeface, zooming around the screen, the first instance of such kinetic typography to be made use of in a credits sequence. From the first second: there’s no question that Saul Bass crafted this iconic sequence. It’s simple, it’s to the point, and it syncs beautifully to the movie it precedes. 

Bass was a natural go-to for Alfred Hitchcock, who enlisted the minimalist designer to craft the opening credits for North by Northwest following on from his work the previous year on Vertigo. His work, twinned alongside Bernard Hermann’s roving score, makes this sequence stand out, as a grid of intersecting lines lay the foundation for the story to come. 

1. Goldfinger (1964)

Another Bond entry that’s long-since been considered the, ahem, gold standard of credits sequences. Created by Robert Brownjohn, the dynamic beginning to Goldfinger is a cracker that earned a British Design and Art Direction Gold Award and went on to appear as a 2012 MOMA installation. 

This isn’t your typical title sequence; it’s visually stunning and it features a toe-tapping, show-stopping tune. Brought together these elements craft a mood that prepares the audience for what’s to come, providing a sample of Goldfinger’s mystery, action, and suspense. Footage from the previous Bond movies is spliced together and projected onto the body of actress Margaret Nolan, while Shirley Bassey belts out the film’s now-iconic signature theme.