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The best film titles ever made

Music Video / Film

Posted by Mark Sinclair, 23 July 2009, 11:00    Permalink    Comments (53)

From Stephen Frankfurt's beautiful title sequence for To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

In our August issue, Adam Lee Davies looks at the continuing rise of the film title sequence since its artistic resurgence in the 1990s. In his article, Better Than the Film?, he talks to many of the genre's leading practioners such as Kyle Cooper and Garson Yu. For CR Blog, Davies has selected 30 of the best title sequences ever made...

  • The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

    Dizzying, expressionist intro to overstuffed MGM musical

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    Show Boat (1936)

    Quaint but effective opening for the 1936 incarnation of the am-dram staple

     

     

  • The Man With the Golden Arm (1955) 

    Saul Bass's stark opening sequence for Preminger's clammy heroin fable

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  • To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) 

    Simply perfect intro to Robert Mulligan's fine adaptation of the straight-arrow classic

     

     

     

  • Walk on the Wild Side (1962)

    Sexy feline insouciance is at the very heart of this Nelson Algren adaptation

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  • Dr. No (1962)

    The future is here

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  • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

    A glimpse into Saul Bass's playful side

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    Dr. Strangelove (1964)

    Pablo Ferro's classic sequence for Kubrick's cold war satire

     

  • The Pink Panther (1964)

    The only credit sequence to be afforded it's own freaky-deaky Saturday morning cartoon series?

     

     

  • Bonnie and Clyde (1967) 

    Stark, uncompromising and indelible

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  • Soylent Green (1973)

    Weird and wonderful backstory to the excellent sci-fi chiller (embedding has been disabled on this clip; click the film title for YouTube link)

     

     

  • Dawn of the Dead (2004) 

    Soylent Green's jerky-cam offspring (embedding disabled)

     

     

  • Delicatessen (1991)

    Effortlessly French and utterly sumptuous (embedding disabled)

     

     

     

  • Goldeneye (1995)

    The first of Daniel Kleinman's hugely evocative Bond sequences is all political instability and icy glamour

     

     

     

    Casino Royale (2006)

    His sequence for the recent 007 outing, with Chris Cornell giving it his all, is equally eye-popping, but looks like a very expensive car ad - much like the film

     

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    Casino (1995)

    Saul Bass's shimmering swansong

     

     

    Seven (1995)

    Kyle Cooper and Nine Inch Nails prepare you for the mental squalor of Fincher's Bible-inflected thriller

     

     

    The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) 

    Shame about the film...

     

     

    Run Lola Run (1998)

    Breathless German indie-crossover hit favours hand-drawn spikiness

     

     

    Panic Room (2002)

    Ominous and stately, the opening of Fincher’s taught thriller recalls...

     

     

    North by Northwest (1959)

    ...Saul Bass’s titles for ‘North By Northwest

     

     

    Hulk (2003)

    Clammy and clamorous, Garson Yu prepares us for the big green guy’s cellular meltdown

     

     

     

  • Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

    Pablo Ferro again, this time opening a window on dopey slacker/irony godhead, Napoleon Dynamite

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  • Lord of War (2005) 

    Andrew Niccol manages to usurp his own film with this jaw-dropping montage (embedding disabled)

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  • Hostage (2005)

    Laurent Brett similarly outshines the middling Bruce Willis workout that followed his elegant opening sequence

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    OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)

    Brett again, with a spot-on pastiche of swinging 50s spy malarkey

     

     

  • Down With Love (2003)

    The same approach, but applied to the Doris Day/Rock Hudson rom-com (embedding disabled)

     

     

  • Catch Me If You Can (2002)

    ...and the caper flick

     

     

     

    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

    A touch of noir for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang from Danny Yount

     

     

    Juno (2007)

    Light as a summer breeze and aided no end by the lo-fi song

     

     

     

  • Mr Margorium's Wonder Emporium (2007)

    Totally outshining the subsequent film in every way is the loopy intro to this woeful kiddie flick (embedding disabled)

     

     

  • The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

    What Tarantino was trying to do with Kill Bill compressed into two fantastic minutes (embedding disabled)

  • Adam Lee Davies writes about film for Time Out London and Little White Lies

     

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    53 Comments

    North by Northwest tops it, i am missing Vertigo.
    Jay
    2009-07-23 12:43:18


    http://www.artofthetitle.com/

    - cracking website for further reading/watching
    Ed
    2009-07-23 12:51:11


    You've missed off se7en by kyle cooper!!!
    Luke
    2009-07-23 12:52:38


    @Luke

    Er, no we didn't. It's between Casino and the Island of Doctor Moreau above (admittedly as "Seven").

    I'll add Dr Strangelove now, before anyone notices (it is in Adam's article though).
    CR Mark Sinclair
    2009-07-23 13:04:00


    Yes, there is much goodness on this list, to be sure. Of course everything about Soylent Green is full of WIN. People, people. Soylent green is people. (And also fab openingness full of dystopian discordance.)
    Katy McDevitt
    2009-07-23 14:34:59


    Very glad to see 'Lord of War' in there. A story in itself and an incredible exposition for a film.

    I'd add Fight Club in a blink.
    Simon Coxon
    2009-07-23 15:27:03


    2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
    simon owen
    2009-07-23 15:52:02


    Watchmen had a truly spectacular opening credit sequence.
    Mark McAllister
    2009-07-23 15:58:23


    I know not strictly a title sequence...more a credit sequence I suppose...but anyway I digress - I thought the end credit sequence to the new Star Trek film was fantastic.

    Also the Bourne Trilogy's ins and outs are slick.

    And Mk12 for the Quantum of Solace titles... It might just be me, but I didn't really like the Casino Royale titles, not enough boob for a Bond title sequence :-)
    SP
    2009-07-23 17:10:11


    what about Gattaca (1997)? surely it should be on the list!
    Gregorcic
    2009-07-23 17:21:10


    what about Gattaca (1997)? surely it should be on the list!
    Gregorcic
    2009-07-23 17:25:19


    I would say Fahrenheit 451 is the best I've ever seen. Perfect, simple.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwaYrejCTZ0

    You have to have the sound up when you watch it. If you haven't seen the film or read the book, it's set in a future where literature is banned.
    Patrick Duffy
    2009-07-23 17:28:33


    I heard from somebody that the title sequence to The Kite Runner is amazing, i can't find it online though
    The Pig Faced Lady
    2009-07-23 17:59:42


    I was about to add Farenheit 451, but Patrick has beaten me to it (good call Patrick), the Youtube clip does it no justice, you really need to see it on a proper old telly to be stopped in your tracks.

    Mark - glad to see you put Dr. Strangelove in.
    Ben Stott
    2009-07-23 19:23:07


    i liked the watchmen-intro
    Han
    2009-07-23 19:32:48


    I have been inspired by Bullitt, created by Pablo Ferro.
    http://www.artofthetitle.com/2008/04/04/bullitt/
    dorelvis
    2009-07-24 00:55:39


    No Rushmore? :(
    J
    2009-07-24 01:48:48


    I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK - best Asian movie opening credits, perhaps?
    m
    2009-07-24 02:48:50


    Hey -- that's the wrong score for the opening sequence of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD !!! How'd that happen?
    Renata Jackson
    2009-07-24 04:57:14


    The Italian Job. Lamborghini Miura, cigarette, no seatbelt, Matt Monro...
    Macdo
    2009-07-24 05:40:56


    From what I remember Fight Club had a clever opening sequence and also a low budget movie called Right At Your Door which came out a few years back
    Sojo
    2009-07-24 10:34:50


    Great list. Ironman is definitely worth a mention though.

    Check out this years Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Design here.

    http://sellsellblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/2009-emmy-title-design-nominees.html
    Ryan
    2009-07-24 11:14:20


    It's a rather narrow Anlgo-American list isn't it?
    RichardA
    2009-07-24 13:47:59


    Runaway Train is also a classic
    Peter Southworth
    2009-07-24 14:22:13


    Fantastic stuff. Saul Bass wins for me. The homages to him, particularly Kiss Kiss Bang Bang are very good too.
    Philster
    2009-07-24 14:23:29


    For elegant simplicity look at BBLOOD SIMPLE or the original GET CARTER
    RR
    2009-07-24 14:36:29


    Thank you for DELICATESSEN - my personal favourite. This trailer had me gasping & out of my seat at the showing of the film - best ever?


    Jeane
    Jeane Grogan
    2009-07-24 15:03:18


    The Kite Runner - its got to be on there - so beautiful.
    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2itQ5U5XcHM)
    Hannah Beatrice
    2009-07-24 15:15:58


    Absolute joke - accepted that a list of this nature is always going to be passionately debated but where the hell is Steve McQueen's Bullitt with Lalo Schifrin's score? Way ahead of its time.
    Nathan Savage
    2009-07-24 15:19:37


    i didnt see cowboy-beebop titles on here.... tsk tsk
    jordan rutherford
    2009-07-24 16:16:52


    @Nathan Savage
    You're right, and Adam included Bullitt in his actual article, so we've embedded it there.

    Here's the link to it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ko3s4j8HD6o
    CR Mark Sinclair
    2009-07-24 17:04:49


    \My choice of opening credits would be Once Upon a Time in the West with Sergio Leone music. I don't remember how long the credits took, but they were a ways into the story before they completed with hinged credit dropping across the track with a train arriving at a depot.
    Gary Smyth
    2009-07-24 17:45:02


    Correction to Gary Smyth "Once Upon a Time in the West" comment. The movie was a Sergio Leone film but the music was, of course, Ennio Morricone.
    Gary Smyth
    2009-07-24 18:23:11


    You've misattributed the Napoleon Dynamite titles to Ferro. They were actually created by Aaron Ruell, who plays Kip Dynamite in the film and is also a talented photographer and director. (http://www.aruell.com/ and http://www.biscuitfilmworks.com) Ferro actually served as a visual consultant and contributed to other parts of the film. The ed. note here clears it all up: http://www.designobserver.com/archives/entry.html?id=175
    Ann
    2009-07-24 20:49:46


    What the hell is Casino Royale doing here?
    colonel
    2009-07-25 01:28:52


    I was going to mention Fight Club should have been on there, but someone got there before me!
    Chris Gillespie
    2009-07-26 12:56:07


    I was going to mention Fight Club should have been on there, but someone got there before me!
    Chris Gillespie
    2009-07-26 13:02:02


    @Ann

    Thanks for that; much appreciated.
    CR Mark Sinclair
    2009-07-26 16:47:26


    I want to sit back and watch a film now :( Scarface is one of my favorites. I went to see the D&AD lecture by Kyle Cooper last year which was really inspiring.

    This is a great book on titles if anyone is interested: The Art of the Title Sequence: Film Graphics in Motion - by Gemma Solana & Antonio Boneu
    Alexa
    2009-07-27 13:44:17


    This list misses Trainspotting and Thanks for Smoking.
    mistymountain
    2009-07-27 15:38:49


    For anyone interested in a big collection of old and new title sequences visit :

    http://www.watchthetitles.com
    tom
    2009-07-28 16:06:56


    Pssst! It's 'Ziegfeld' ;)
    Llywarch
    2009-07-28 19:34:57


    @Llywarch

    Thanks! Consider it amended ; )
    CR Mark Sinclair
    2009-07-28 22:15:09


    The intro to Batman (1989) is incredible. The camera swoops and turns through the logo to reveal it in the final shot, Danny Elfman with the score I believe.
    Daniel Bower
    2009-07-29 16:44:52


    Thank you very much for this information.
    film
    2009-08-01 11:32:16


    What ever happened to "The 6 O'clok News"?
    Tlo Torfoot
    2009-08-03 16:35:29


    More of an intro than a credit sequence, but I really enjoy the intro to "The Royal Tannenbaum's"
    PhineusQButterfat
    2009-08-04 12:32:54


    The Ipcress File is a glaring omission as is Golfinger, to a lesser degree.
    Both films created by the same people yet poles apart.

    Brownjohn's sequence to Goldfinger was the first film to "flash-forward", showing you actual scenes of the movie.

    However, The Ipcress File's opening sequence is a masterpiece. Perfectly setting up the mood, the character, props and era.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kolQVDMW1IE
    _SiD_
    2009-08-20 12:04:13


    What about West Side Story?
    Ed Gutentag
    2009-09-06 09:06:30


    the Married Life titles are so great!!! Ilya Abulhanov did it..
    Anselm
    2009-11-30 17:57:36


    I can't believe you don't have the correct soundtrack for To Kill a Mockingbird. Soemone else made that comment earlier. The real one has a child humming, giggling, saying "boon, boom." Also, you hear the sounds of her rumaging through the box, the marbles knocking into each other. And the music, which is absolutely beautiful and lilting doesn't even start until part way through the credits. I agree that the To Kill a Mockingbird credits are one of the best every made, but please fix the soundtrack!!! It's a travesty to the film and whoever wrote the original score that you've don't have the right one.
    And I also agree with another person's comment that the opening sequence to Westside Story should be on your list.
    Margo Taylor
    2009-12-12 22:09:51


    A pretty good top 30, but shame that the Yanks got so many credits at the expense of brilliant Brit talent. The big notable omission is Richard Morrison, whose 25 year career includes over 100 film titles, including the relatively recent 'classic' Sweeney Todd and the iconic Batman titles. http://www.richard-morrison.co.uk
    Tintin67
    2010-01-17 16:10:49


    You missed The Thomas Crown Affair (the original Norman Jewison one, not the crap remake).
    hans
    2010-04-26 14:08:47


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