The Best Opening Scenes in Sci-Fi Movie History (2022)

The opening scene in a movie has a big job. It has to create the tone and feeling of the story, and set the stage for the events that are about to follow. In filmmaking, this is an art form all on its own, but in the sci-fi genre it is especially unique. Opening scenes give an atmosphere to start from, and a kind of undefined promise of what is in store for the audience - action, comedy, drama, and so on.

Many sci-fi stories have complex or intricate settings as well as plots, so the opening scene has the added job of introducing the plot as well as a unique and sometimes alien setting to the audience. When this is done well, it transforms a simple and entertaining movie into a kind of artwork, becoming something that captures the attention of the viewer from the first moment, as the movie unfolds before them.

So what are the best opening scenes in sci-fi movies?

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6/6 Jurassic Park (1993)

The Best Opening Scenes in Sci-Fi Movie History (1)

Jurassic Park was an instant classic. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, it was guaranteed to be a success, with Steven Spielberg at the helm and John Williams working magic on the score.

The opening scene sets the stage, showing a crowd of workers wearing hard hats and worried or scared expressions as they point their guns into the trees, which shake ominously. The scene's feeling is enhanced with Spielberg's signature foggy lights, which shine upon the cage that is being carried by a forklift towards an enclosure. The monster, in this case, a Velociraptor, is never shown. But we hear its snarling and growls, and one shot even looks out of the cage from its point of view, at the humans.

As the cage is pressed flush with the enclosure opening, and the door is finally lifted, the Raptor somehow bucks the cage loose and manages to get a hold of the legs of a poor worker. We see Robert Muldoon, the hunter whose specialty is deadly animals, trying to rescue the worker and yelling for the others to "Shoot her!" None of them do, and we immediately understand that this creature is under protection somehow, and is worth more than the lives of any one worker. This deadly scene is a memorable opening, and adds an underlying ominous tone to the movie that casts a shadow over the more lighthearted events of the beginning, until things begin to go wrong in the park.

5/6 Blade Runner (1982)

The Best Opening Scenes in Sci-Fi Movie History (2)

Blade Runner is a genre-defining movie for science fiction, and especially sci-fi noir. Directed by Ridley Scott and based on the brilliant novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, the movie released in 1982 to mixed reviews, but many critics saw it as inspired and rightly predicted that it would stand the test of time.

The movie is a unique one in sci-fi history, with eight different cuts, more than any other sci-fi movie, though only four are available to the public. But one thing that each cut doesn't change (except for one) is the opening scene.

Text on the screen introduces the audience to the setting, with rebellious self-aware robots called Replicants being hunted by teams of police known as "Blade Runner Units", who have full permission to "retire" them on sight. We then see Los Angeles in 2019, revealed as a kind of industrial hellscape that stretches to the horizon, complete with explosions of fire from large plants and ominous strikes of lightning. Slowly the camera soars over this dystopian city as flying cars zoom past, interspersed with shots of a human eye reflecting the lights of the city and the bursts of fire.

This is an artistic and powerful choice, showing that it's not just a hellish future, but one that is being reflected in humanity, and the way that humans, especially the audience, are seeing it. We begin to see utterly massive pyramids in the distance that reveal their astounding size as they get closer. The scene then shifts into one of the rooms in the giant pyramid, where an interrogation is taking place, seemingly between a human suspect and a human interrogator. The questions are very strange; the suspect is combative, and the interrogation ends violently - a perfect and unsettling introduction to the world of Blade Runner.

Related: These Are the Best Philip K. Dick Adaptations, Ranked

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4/6 Back to the Future (1985)

Back to the Future is, among other great things, absolutely a fun adventure that doesn't take itself too seriously, and that is evident from the very first scene. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the movie opens on a slow pan of many assorted clocks and strange Rube Goldberg machines, each one automated to prepare coffee, toast, and dog food for the morning ritual of a scientist that is notably absent. The toast burns and the dog food piles high, clearly untouched. We get some brief exposition of the scientist, Emmett "Doc" Brown, and his background, before our main character Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, enters and calls out for the Doc or his pet dog, Einstein.

When it becomes clear that neither are there, Marty begins to turn on machines, flipping switches and turning knobs up as high as they will go on the dial. It's unclear what he's doing, only that whatever it is, it's powerful, with an ominous buzzing sound increasing in volume, until we see him holding a yellow guitar and standing in front of a speaker that is bigger than he is. He raises his guitar pick high and slams it down, and the resulting loud noise throws him backwards as the speaker breaks with an impressive shower of sparks. Emerging from a pile of debris, Marty sits up and says, "Woah... rock and roll." This scene with its light-hearted humor, quirky science, and definitely rock and roll, sets the tone that defines the movie and what's to come.

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3/6 Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

The Best Opening Scenes in Sci-Fi Movie History (4)

The behemoth that is the modern Star Wars franchise cannot be overstated. But, when the first movie, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope was released in 1977, sci-fi space movies were not popular at all, and most people who worked on the movie were hoping it would financially break even at best. The movie was, of course, enormously successful, and spawned the beginning of a beautiful and decades-long exploration of the world created.

One of the things that Lucas did best in presenting this film to an audience that wasn't accustomed to such movies was the way it opens. Starting with the signature scrolling text that explains the context of the world, we read about a civil war, and a rebellion that fights against a galactic empire. But in a way, that text was unnecessary. Accompanied by the booming and memorable score done by John Williams, the opening scene shows a planet, a moon, and a small ship that flies into view.

Then a titanic ship is seen pursuing it, and as the size of the ship dominates the screen, we learn in just one shot everything we need to know about the monumental force that is the Galactic Empire, and the desperate underdog position of the Rebel Alliance. This is communicated better with the feeling of seeing that giant ship filling the screen and dwarfing the smaller ship than it could ever be using just text or even dialogue. It's an iconic example of how to show and not tell, and a stroke of genius on Lucas' part.

2/6 The Matrix (1999)

The Best Opening Scenes in Sci-Fi Movie History (5)

The Matrix was an instant hit when it was released in 1999, cementing its position as a defining movie of science fiction and influencing culture for years to come. It was especially noteworthy for the unique filming style that the Wachowskis harnessed, with creative use of wires known now as "wire fu", and inventing the type of slow motion now known as "bullet-time," named after the iconic scene in which the main character Neo (Keanu Reeves) dodges bullets.

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And it was obvious from the very first scene that The Matrix was going to be something special and unique. We start with the dramatic and signature music of Don Davis as we overhear a phone call that sets up an ominous scene. Then the camera pans through computerized text and into a scene of a group of police officers breaking down a door and pointing guns at a woman, Trinity, played by Carrie-Anne Moss. We get an idea of how deadly Trinity is from a scene outside, where the lieutenant tells the three agents on scene, led by Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith, that his men are bringing her down now. "No lieutenant," Smith replies, "your men are already dead."

From there starts the first fight scene of the movie, which is as iconic as it is well-executed. A beautiful 360 shot pans around Trinity as she's frozen in midair, about to ninja-kick the first officer. The choreography that follows doesn't just hold up today; it's some of the best work in action sequences in the last 30 years.

It quickly becomes clear that while the cops are no match for Trinity, she is afraid of these agents. A chase ensues, and after she makes an inhuman leap across two buildings, we get a brilliant shot of Trinity on the floor with guns pointed out, telling herself to get up and get moving. The implication that this supernatural badass woman is not just scared, but actually frozen in fear, lends significance to the agents pursuing her. It is a masterful scene that ends in a powerful way and absolutely sets the tone for the groundbreaking movie that follows.

Related: Star Wars: How Dave Filoni Became George Lucas' Padawan

1/6 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey is considered to be one of the best films of all time, and so its place at the top of this list is fitting. Directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick, the film is an artistic and powerful walk through the history of humanity, starting with the great apes and ending with the next step in evolution. Its ambitious and wide-ranging scope is a testament to the heights that films can reach, and the powerful impact they can have. The film is a work of art as much as it is a movie. And the opening scene prepares you for what is to come in the most pertinent way.

On a black screen, the opening notes of Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” begin, and a dark image of the moon fades into view at the bottom. In time with the powerful music, the Earth and the sun rise above the horizon of the moon simultaneously. The opening credits appear as the sun and Earth come further into view. The title of the movie appears at the same time that the sun comes fully into view above the blue planet. The word "majesty" doesn't even seem to do it justice. The magnitude of what we are looking at is potent, with these slow-moving planetary bodies, and the pounding, overwhelming music. This scene only lasts for about 1 minute 40 seconds before the opening chapter, "The Dawn of Man", begins. But it is enough to communicate in the most clear and direct way that what you are about to see is a masterpiece. The movie also ends with the same song, mirroring its beginning, and closing the experience in a symmetrical and artistic way. It is, without a doubt, the best opening scene of any sci-fi movie.

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FAQs

What is the best opening scene in movie history? ›

The Best Opening Scenes Of All Time, Ranked
  • 8/13 The Dark Knight.
  • 7/13 The Matrix.
  • 6/13 There Will Be Blood.
  • 5/13 Inglourious Basterds.
  • 4/13 The Social Network.
  • 3/13 The Godfather.
  • 2/13 Jaws.
  • 1/13 Saving Private Ryan.
5 Oct 2022

What are the opening scenes of a film called? ›

A title sequence (also called an opening sequence or intro) is the method by which films or television programmes present their title and key production and cast members, utilizing conceptual visuals and sound (often a opening theme song with visuals, akin to a brief music video).

What is the most scientifically correct movie? ›

Sci-Fi Movies That Are Actually Scientifically Accurate
  • 8/8 Blade Runner 2049.
  • 7/8 Arrival.
  • 6/8 The Martian.
  • 5/8 Interstellar.
  • 4/8 Gattaca.
  • 3/8 Contact.
  • 2/8 Her.
  • 1/8 2001: A Space Odyssey.
26 Jan 2022

What was the first major sci-fi movie? ›

Le Voyage dans la Lune, created by Georges Méliès in 1902 is often considered to be the first science fiction film. It drew upon Jules Verne and H. G. Wells in its depiction of a spacecraft being launched to the moon in a large cannon.

What makes a great movie opening? ›

The opening scene should be intriguing and intriguing enough to make someone want to read further. It doesn't have to be a big action scene or full of drama, but it should be interesting enough to grab hold of the reader and make him or her want to keep reading. You want something that will hook them right away.

How does the Dark Knight start? ›

Although The Dark Knight is a Batman movie (and, in many ways, the ultimate Batman movie), its opening scene doesn't involve Batman at all. The Joker and his goons successfully rob a bank and the titular crimefighter never arrives to stop them. The opening scene serves only to introduce the movie's iconic villain.

What is the purpose of an opening scene? ›

Ultimately, the purpose of the opening scene is to attract your reader to the story and compel them to read more. This can be done in several ways and what works for one writer might not be the best course for another.

How do you start an opening scene? ›

Scene. The first scene is the most valuable real estate the film has to offer congratulations you

How do you make a good opening scene? ›

Follow these tips to write a strong scene opener:
  1. Start with the setting. ...
  2. Use visual imagery. ...
  3. Drop the reader into the middle of the action. ...
  4. Write a character-driven scene opener. ...
  5. Summarize past events. ...
  6. Introduce a plot twist. ...
  7. Keep the purpose of the scene in mind. ...
  8. Rewrite until you've found the perfect scene opening.
2 Dec 2021

Which Sci Fi is most realistic? ›

  1. The Martian (2015) The Martian just may be the most scientifically accurate sci-fi movie ever made.
  2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) ...
  3. Apollo 13 (1995) ...
  4. Moon (2009) ...
  5. Her (2013) ...
  6. Contact (1997) ...
  7. Gattaca (1997) ...
  8. The Andromeda Strain (1971) ...
25 May 2018

What is the most realistic movie ever made? ›

Most Realistic Movies
  • Sixteen Candles (1984) ...
  • The Big Chill (1983) ...
  • The Hurt Locker (2008) ...
  • The Ice Storm (1997) ...
  • The Jane Austen Book Club (2007) PG-13 | 106 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance. ...
  • The Story of Us (1999) R | 95 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance. ...
  • Traffic (2000) R | 147 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller. ...
  • Up in the Air (I) (2009)

What is the most scientifically accurate film according to NASA? ›

Most Realistic Sci-Fi Movies
  • Gattaca (1997)
  • Contact (1997)
  • Metropolis (1927)
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  • Woman In the Moon (1929)
  • The Thing from Another World (1951)
  • Jurassic Park (1993)
4 Jan 2011

What's the first part of a movie called? ›

The first act, or opening narration, is usually used for exposition, to establish the main characters, their relationships, and the world they live in. Later in the first act, a dynamic incident occurs, known as the inciting incident, or catalyst, that confronts the main character (the protagonist).

What is the first part of the movie called? ›

The exposition is the beginning of the movie where the main characters of the movie are introduced and the viewer finds out something about the characters.

What is the meaning of first scene? ›

4 the first part or stage of something. a the first performance of something, esp. a theatrical production. b (as modifier) the opening night.

What is a sequence in film? ›

In film, a sequence is a series of scenes that form a distinct narrative unit, which is usually connected either by a unity of location or a unity of time.

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