Some movies start with a bang (sometimes literally), that not only tells you what the film is about, and who the most important characters are, but also leaves you glued to your seat from the start. Here are the 10 action movies with the most over-the-top opening scenes, ranked.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight starts with a bank robbery by the Joker (Heath Ledger). It’s a thrilling scene, that looks more like Heat than a superhero film, and it also helps get introduced to the bad guy, as every robber with a clown mask is talking about him while doing their part of the heist.
Audiences understand that he’s enigmatic, ruthless, and smart, and that he has full control of everything that’s happening, as he even knows when the school bus is coming and that it will kill the last goon. A surprising, entertaining robbery, that shows how masterful and good of an adversary the Joker is going to be in this film.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The Spy Who Loved Me might be the best opening scene in any James Bond movie. This was in the Roger Moore era, and it starts with him in a cabin with his latest conquest. Bond receives a telegram on his watch and knows it’s time to leave, even when she tells him “But James, I need you”; he’s resolute “So does England”. From there, there’s an incredible skiing chase where everyone on the mountain is trying to kill Bond, and he’s able to stop them all.
If that wasn’t enough, he ends the scene by skiing off of a cliff and, after some moments where things are looking grim, opens his parachute (with the United Kingdom flag on it, of course). The stunt is incredible, and it’s the best way to get to the opening credits in this Bond film.
Baby Driver (2017)
Baby Driver’s first scene, scored to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms”, shows how fun of an idea director Edgar Wright had for this film. The getaway driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort), is dancing along with the music, until his cohorts of robbers steal from the bank, and it’s time for him to show his prowess as a driver, as he has to leave the police behind.
The scene is an incredible entrance into the stunt driving Baby can do, and how he’s able to improvise mid-chase. Everything is edited to go along with the music, making it the best video clip this song will ever get. This is the best driving scene in the whole film; an incredible start where speed, stunt driving, and music became one to create a thrilling start.
Gladiator starts with a battle between the Romans and the Barbarians while showing its lead character, Maximus (Russell Crowe). Here, he’s still one of the most decorated military leaders in the Roman Empire, and this battle shows how everyone respects him, his strategic prowess, and how much of a badass he is; all characteristics that we’ll see again once he’s in the Roman coliseum fighting as a gladiator.
This is one of Ridley Scott’s best films, and from the start, with this battle, it is obvious his mastery of the movie. He knows how to shoot thrilling, incredible action sequences with sword fighting, arrow-shooting, and horse-riding, using an inspiring score, some gory images, and Russell Crowe at the top of his action hero game.
Haywire starts with a woman, Mallory (Gina Carano), entering a diner looking for time for herself. A car pulls on the driveway, and Aaron (Channing Tatum) comes inside the restaurant and goes directly to talk to her, as he knows her. What starts like a lover’s spat becomes a full-on fight when Aaron throws a hot coffee to her face and smashes a mug on her head.
It’s surprising seeing how much violence is there, but also how she defends herself, proving more than capable to end someone like Aaron. This is the first scene in the film, showing why Mallory is a worthy lead character. It’s also a clue on how much fun director Steven Soderbergh is having with this movie, and shooting some action scenes with someone as capable as MMA’s Gina Carano.
20th Century Fox
Deadpool is an irreverent, sarcastic, superhero film and as such, action scenes are more than expected. What the movie does at the start is give audiences an idea of the film’s tone, not only with its jokey titles and the surreal conversation with Dopinder, but especially with a fighting scene like no other, which shows what we can expect from the rest of the movie. Violence, blood, R-rated killings, fun comments, talking to the camera, and the character dropping as many punches as punchlines show what the movie is going to be like.
The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix surprised audiences from the start, with an incredible action sequence around Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). The black leather-dressed character looks like she’s in trouble until she isn’t. She not only kicks butt, but she also does so by defying all logic and gravity, including jumping to another building in a way that’s impossible according to gravity, getting a phone, and disappearing. Now, we all know what the movie is about, but after this thrilling first scene, audiences had more questions and interest in seeing what was coming next.
About playing Trinity, Carrie-Anne Moss told The Guardian: “When I did the first Matrix, it seemed to really impact women a lot. Women would come up to me, women directors, and stuntwomen, and they would thank me for opening this door or that. So I hold it with a lot of reverence, and a lot of deep respect. I respect this character more than any character that I’ve ever played.”
Hard Boiled (1992)
Golden Princess FIlm Production
In the ’90s, John Woo became one of the best action directors in Hong Kong, thanks to movies like Hard Boiled. The film about loose cannon cop Inspector “Tequila” Yuen (Chow Yun-Fat) starts with a literal bang, as his character and his partner start an incredible shooting scene in a tea house. The five-minute scene has all the mayhem and destruction possible, with more guns and people getting killed each second.
The sequence keeps getting crazier and crazier as more people are in the fight, and “Tequila” keeps killing them in more original ways, like sliding down a railing while still shooting. The scene ends with his character killing the bad guy, in what looks more like the film’s end than the beginning. It’s one of John Woo’s best movies, and not only for these action-filled, adrenaline-fueled, first five minutes.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 starts with an incredible fighting scene in a kitchen between The Bride (Uma Thurman) and Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox). Well, technically, that’s the second scene in the film, but the first one with Bill shooting The Bride is so strange and confusing that we believe this is the real opening. Everything starts when The Bride arrives at a nice Pasadena house to see an old friend; what we don’t know, is she’s there to kill her. What follows is an incredible fight between them, showing how both are incredible martial arts fighters that will use anything at their disposal to kill the other. The scene also shows how violent, spectacular, and surprising the film will be, and how deadly The Bride’s revenge tour is going to be.
About preparing for the film and her scene, Vivica A. Fox told Indie Wire: “For three months, Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, and I spent eight hours a day studying martial arts at a gym they put together in Culver City,” Fox writes. “It was nine to five, Monday through Friday.”
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Raiders of the Lost Ark is the first movie in the Indiana Jones saga, and as such, it has to start presenting its hero. It does it perfectly in a thrilling sequence. Indiana Jones enters a booby-trapped temple in Peru, to get a golden idol. He switches it with a sandbag of the same weight and believes his job is done. Nothing is further from the truth, as the whole temple starts crumbling. Poison-tipped darts, impaled spikes, and, especially, an incredibly big boulder are the things that try to kill him on his way out.
This scene not only works to show the audience how fun and thrilling this movie is going to be, but it’s also a great character presentation for Indiana Jones, as we see he’s resourceful, smart, adventurous, a problem solver, but also can panic when things don’t go his way (Harrison Ford’s facial expressions once the temple starts going down are priceless).
This movie changed adventure films forever, starting with this over-the-top opening scene that proved Steven Spielberg had a lot of fun directing it, and that Harrison Ford had just created another iconic character.