Paul Ferry’s Top 10 Movie Title Sequences

Credits

I’ve always loved a good movie title sequence. In the old days of VHS, I often used to watch just the titles of some movies because I loved them so much. Occasionally, they’re better than the film! Here (in no particular order) are some of my favourites:

MAGNUM FORCE (1973)
The Dirty Harry movies manage to maintain a pretty high standard throughout their run (apart from the last one, which was a bit pants) and this second entry into the series kicks off with one of 70s cinemas greatest opening credits sequences. I don’t know if it’s the stark iconography of the hand holding a gun, the blood red background or Lalo Schifrin’s distinctive score, but I’ve always loved this.

MAD MAX – BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985)
I’m not quite sure what it is about this that I love; I’m not especially a fan of Tina Turner and the font is simple black-on-white, but there’s something about the way the credits move slowly forward and fade out and the layout which has all of the major actors and their amazing character names up to three at a time that really appeals to me. Shows that credits don’t need to be fancy to be memorable.

SOYLENT GREEN (1973)
I love this! In a movie that has very little actual music, this amazing Jerry Goldsmith piece moves from old-timey music to jazz to a wailing electric guitar accompanied by a documentary photo-montage showing how the world is going to hell via pollution and overpopulation. If anything, it’s more relevant today than it was in 1973.

2010 (1984)
Making a follow-up to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was a brave move. Opening it with a long, dialogue-free sequence explaining what happened in the first movie was an even braver one! But somehow it works. I’ve always loved the computer read-out sequence followed by that haunting voice clip of Dave Bowman saying, “My God, it’s full of stars.”

ROMEO + JULIET (1996)
I always imagine that director Baz Luhrmann didn’t know whether to open his film version of the Shakespeare tragedy with the prologue spoken by a news reporter or conveyed like a movie trailer – so he used both! Fantastic opening – such a pity that the rest of the movie fails to keep up this same level of energy.

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)
It’s a mixture of different things that make this work; the primary coloured backgrounds, the simple white lettering and the amazing electronic music of Walter (later Wendy) Carlos. But it’s when the titles cut to that iconic close-up of Malcolm McDowell and you get that slow dolly back that it becomes truly magnificent.

BARBARELLA (1968)
No, I’m not being a dirty old man. In fact, for a title sequence famed for its zero-gravity striptease, it’s remarkably tame. The strategically placed credits stop you from seeing any naughty bits so, like the film itself, it’s more Carry On than Emmanuelle. The weightless effect was done by having Jane Fonda roll around naked on an enormous glass sheet (they didn’t go big on health and safety in those days).

FLASH GORDON (1980)
Max von Sydow and Peter Wyngarde camp it up big-style in a vocal precursor to the main event; Queen’s pounding rock operatic score! The animated title sequence embraces the movie’s comic strip roots in all their brightly coloured glory. At the time, Flash Gordon was regarded as a bit silly in the shadow of Star Wars, but has since quite rightly garnered a massive cult following.

TIME BANDITS (1981)
Mike Moran’s score for Time Bandits is often overlooked, but it’s a big part of the film’s success. His baroque theme for the opening credits rumbles past you, almost as if it’s disappearing into the echoing void of space, then you get an almighty CLANG as the map grid crashes into view. Simple but incredibly effective melding of music and graphics.

TANK GIRL (1995)
I’ve always been a sucker for comic book title sequences; one of my saddest moments of recent years was when Marvel Studios stopped using actual comic book images in their ‘flick book’ logo and replaced them with images from the movies. Tank Girl takes the spirit of the Flash Gordon titles and drags it screaming into the 90s with a montage of Jamie Hewlett artwork and a song from Devo.

 

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