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Action movies are supposed to thrill, thrill, and captivate. They are a lot like horror movies in that the hit scenes make our hearts pound and our nerves yearn for more.
That’s why it’s especially important for action movies to have good opening scenes. They need to set expectations and convince viewers that the next 90 to 120 minutes will be worth it.
Here are our picks for the best action movie opening scenes of all time and why they’re so thrillingly successful.
Has there ever been a movie star like Tom Cruise? With the leading role in top gun—the quintessential action movie of the 1980s—Cruise established himself as one of the most visible men in Hollywood.
Almost 40 years later, he reminded the world that he still owns that place with expectations that shattered Top Gun: Maverick.
When Maverick arrives at the site to test a new superjet prototype, they realize they only have a limited amount of time to fly the plane before the operation is shut down.
Maverick jumps into the driver’s seat with one goal in mind: reach Mach 10. But once he’s there, his risk-taking attitude takes over and he pushes himself to go even faster, with disastrous results.
It’s an incredibly tense and suspenseful opening to one of the best action movies of recent years.
in search of the lost ark takes place in Peru, 1936. Indiana Jones, a teacher and part-time adventurer, finds himself in the middle of the Peruvian jungle in search of a golden idol. However, it is not as easy as initially thought.
Believing the entire cave is booby-trapped, every step Indy takes is filled with suspense and anticipation.
After he reaches for the idol and shifts it with the weight of a punching bag in one of the most iconic scenes in movie history, we think he’s done it… only the whole cave starts collapsing in on itself.
What follows is a thrilling sequence in which Indiana Jones narrowly avoids being crushed by a large rock, impaled by spikes, or shot by poison-tipped darts. It’s the perfect opening for the entire franchise.
And of course, in typical Steven Spielberg fashion, there are several hilarious laughs along the way. Watch Harrison Ford’s facial expression turn dizzy as he begins to slide down a bottomless pit? Classic!
Irreverent, carefree, and perennially self-referential, Deadpool is the comic book character who’s always been a crowd-pleaser at heart, and that’s certainly true in his first standalone film.
dead pool it’s full of impressive action sequences, but the opening in particular remains a stellar example of introducing a new character to mainstream audiences.
Tasked with finding Francis, Wade Wilson climbs into a Jeep through the sunroof and proceeds to dismantle the entire convoy of vehicles.
Using the kind of violent wisdom only a seasoned mercenary would have, Wilson kicks and punches his way to victory, all the while spouting off risqué one-liners.
Ever since Pierce Brosnan surfed a tidal wave that ended the world in die another day, James Bond had become a laughing stock. If Ian Fleming’s character was going to survive into the 21st century, then the franchise needed to go in a completely different direction.
Enter Daniel Craig and director Martin Campbell.
In the grittiest opening sequence of any James Bond film, we see Bond fight viciously in a public toilet before drowning a subordinate in a filthy sink, all in film noir style.
Given the movies that came before it, some fans found this scene too dark, but we think it worked just fine. Not only was it tense and exciting, but it completely revived the stagnant franchise.
The James Bond franchise wasn’t the only one to be revived with a new take on action movies. With Mad Max: Fury RoadGeorge Miller managed to reinvigorate his Mad Max series with one of the most fascinating opening sequences in the history of cinema.
As we watch the gruff Tom Hardy stare out over a barren desert, he delivers a chilling monologue about where his existence has come to, how it’s been reduced to a single instinct: survival.
After the monologue, he dramatically turns around and collects his things; he must flee, so he drives off, only to be caught by the assailants.
like movie, Mad Max: Fury Road it’s essentially chase scene after chase scene, and this opening sets your expectations for that. What a way to spark new interest in an almost forgotten film series!
Ethan Hunt has been a staple of action movies ever since. Mission Impossible It first came out over 30 years ago. However, the series had its best opening with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
In this one, the IMF crew has to stop a jet plane from taking off. Lucky for them, Tom Cruise can run. Like, really fast.
After running onto the wing of a moving plane, Hunt gets caught on the side of a door. Of course, the plane still takes off, which means Hunt must hold on with his superhuman grip strength.
Filled with cool gadgets, gags and an incredible amount of stunts, which Tom Cruise performed himself without a double, it represents an action-packed prelude to an action-packed movie.
With this coming out around the same time as Mad Max: Fury RoadAction movie fans were foolishly spoiled that year!
What can’t Edgar Wright do? He has shown incredible range, successfully directing films in the action, comedy and horror genres. Also, he has brilliant musical taste.
All of that was put on display with baby driver, a thrilling action comedy that had plenty of captivating car chases. Still, it’s the opening scene that stands out as the best in the film.
With some of the smartest direction we’ve ever seen in a getaway driver, all the action is perfectly timed to “Bellbottoms” from The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
How does Edgar Wright edit so perfectly? beats me! But it’s one of the best action movie releases of all time.
Ridley Scott gave a master class in directing with Gladiator. He not only restored the sword-and-sandals genre to its former glory, but also gave us one of the most immersive action openings of all time.
As the Roman army conquers, General Maximus Decimus Meridius faces a horde of barbarians. Legionnaires march in formation and we witness some of the best sword fighting ever filmed.
On top of all the ax swinging, arrow throwing, and horse riding, we’ve got some amazing one-liners, gorgeous cinematography, and memorable details. Who can forget the headless man tied to a horse running towards the Roman lines?
Along with the haunting score by Hans Zimmer, Gladiator it represents one of the most cinematic openings of any action movie.
Here we have an opening scene that is just as iconic as the movie that follows it. This introduction to the bank heist perfectly establishes the character of the Joker and sets the tone for the best action movie of the decade.
After a group of men wearing clown masks hold up a bank, they start attacking each other one by one. Violent action is interesting, but we are Really hooked on the mystery behind the strange leader of this group.
What kind of chaotic philosophy would lead them to turn against themselves? One that prioritizes confusion, anarchy, and entropy.
Few action movies in movie history have as strong an opening as this, and even fewer have managed to maintain this level of quality for the rest of their runtime. The dark knight it does both successfully.
Steven Spielberg has truly mastered the art of filmmaking in any genre. With Saving Private Ryangives us action that’s considerably darker than his familiar 1980s adventures.
When a transport of soldiers lands on Omaha Beach, we find ourselves caught up in the chaos of bullets, bombs and bodies. The shaky camera and tight shots make our pulses race. It’s an action scene, but full of drama as we see the unsettling effect it has on Captain John H. Miller.
Saving Private Ryan is a film that surprised many with its realistic portrayal of military violence, doubly so for audience members old enough to know people who fought on Omaha Beach.
The opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan it ranks at the top of our list for its authenticity and impact. No other opening has had this kind of effect, making it the best action movie opening of all time.