Which films have the best opening credits

The film opening credits, an extinct art

Graphic designers like Saul Bass have elevated the film credits to an art form in their own right. Unfortunately, contemporary cinema eschews any form of opening title for inexplicable reasons. And thus lets a wonderful tradition go to the dogs.

"In your films"said a friend of a friend, "Strangely enough, the credits always come at the beginning". The friend's friend had meant it very seriously, and how could anyone blame him for it? Anyone who experiences their cinematic socialization solely through contemporary cinema may have to find that very and utterly strange: the fade-in of the film title right at the beginning, the names of those involved, the main musical themes. Worse still: the beautifully designed title sequence, with abstract animations, weird typographies, the small film that leads to the big film.

In recent years, the cinema has for the most part agreed to abolish the film opening credits as much as possible. Studio logos and titles should suffice, the rolling end takes care of the rest. A cinema with opening credits is a cinema of yesterday. And the title sequences - if they are still needed at all - seem mostly relocated to the end of a film, a bit senselessly clapped between the last image and ticker. The opening credits, however, whether in elaborate motion design or typographically simple design (over black or even moving images), are not an insignificant tradition in cinema. And actually none that can be dispensed with.

The story of the opening credits goes back to the beginnings of cinema, or as the friend of the friend might feel: to the cinematic Stone Age. Cinema that does not even present its feature films has actually not earned any audience interest. This is certainly not an uninteresting side aspect: The opening credits not only as an atmospheric prelude, but also as a gesture of respect. When opening titles form the first communication, their abandonment may be the first indication of disdain on the part of the public.

With simple title cards and prefixed subtitles, the cinema initially presented its opening credits as a pure information service, as it was then contractually negotiated in the studio system (the later battle for top billing, the first, highest, most important well-known mention also refers to the In a bitterly serious manner, opening credits were organized solely out of a necessity for film economics). The more film dared to assert itself as a serious art form, the more conspicuous were the creative efforts of its presentation. With individual decorations and artistic typographies, the opening titles also celebrated their respective films as an event of high importance, not least in the extraordinary nature of beautiful overtures.

At the beginning of the 1950s, the cinema no longer wanted and could no longer be satisfied with immobile opening titles, those still image fades that - with a few exceptions - provided fairly standardized information about the cast and crew. In addition to CinemaScope, 3D and monumental epics, his not a few counter-attempts against the growing broadcasting business (and the increased popularity ratings) of US television also included a further development of the pure opening credits up to the elaborate title sequence. Using various trick and animation techniques, it was supposed to praise the film event for which an audience who succumbed to the attractiveness of the cinema was willing to pay.

Under the direction of the two leading lead designers Saul Bass and Maurice Binder, the title sequence congealed into its own art for creating moving images that preceded the film: a graphical entanglement of what will follow, no mere anticipation of certain motifs, but their complex introduction, no simple tuning on the film, but its abstract interpretation. And especially: an atmospheric tool that tends to adjust us emotionally, for the great expectation, for the big cinema. Title sequences, I am sad to write here, are the moment when not just a film, but cinema finds itself completely.