Superhero movies rely on strong opening scenes to lure in audiences quickly in the age of streaming.
The best openings use visuals and editing to impress and set the tone, like Watchmen’s timeline intro.
From Batman to Deadpool, iconic superhero movie openings set the stage for memorable moments ahead.

Superhero movies have a brief amount of time to make a strong first impression on their viewers, and the best one manage to craft some incredible opening scenes in order to do so.The best opening scenes are able to instantly hook in an audience and convince them to stick around, particularly important in the modern age of streaming. That goes double for superhero movies, whose relatively similar narrative beats and premises mean that they have to stand out even further in a short amount of time.

Several comic book movies from DC, Marvel, and beyond have strong opening salvos that reel in their audiences right away. Usually, these moments are light on dialogue, relying on strong visual storytelling and creative editing choices to keep things interesting. As a matter of fact, many of the best superhero movie scenes with no dialogue are opening scenes, taking the time to impress potential watchers by putting their best foot forward. At the end of the day, some movies are able to accomplish this better than others.

10 The Watchmen’s Alternate History

Watchmen (2009)

Though technically a DC property, Watchmen takes place in a timeline removed from the antics of Superman and Batman, starring in its own Earth with a unique alternate history. That being the case, Zack Snyder had precious little time to get audiences familiar with the world building of the original story without the benefit of lengthy dialogue boxes or thought bubbles. Luckily, the film’s amazing opening credits are there to set the scene.

Set to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are-A Changin’,” the wordless scene quietly guides the viewer through the eras of the film’s world, showing the dauntless influence of superheroes on the alternate history. The scene effectively gets across Watchmen‘s starting exposition while doing a great job of showing rather than telling. That being said, it’s not the most innovative sequence in the world, as plenty of films before and since have used similar montages to great effect. While great for the movie, it doesn’t stand out compared to other opening scenes in comic book movies.

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Few series can boast a legacy in the superhero genre like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. Of the films, Spider-Man 2 is widely considered to be the best, and it’s easy to tell why right from the first few minutes. As Peter Parker struggles to hold on to his job as a pizza delivery guy, he’s forced to resort to drastic measures to get food delivered on time — Suiting up and swinging across the city as Spider-Man.

This scene does a great job to illustrate the relatable everyday struggles of Peter Parker, still a broke student just trying to make ends meet with a dead-end job. It’s also a clever way to start off the film with one of Raimi’s incredible signature swinging sequences. For as effective as the earnest charm of Peter slapping the boxes of pizza on the counter while declaring “Pizza time!“, it’s hard not to feel like this scene utterly undermines the lesson of power and responsibility he learned in the previous film, using his powers for a very selfish and juvenile purpose.

8 The Supers Get Interviewed

The Incredibles (2004)

Despite being an animated Pixar film, The Incredibles remains one of the best movies in the superhero space ever created, even 20 years later. Brad Bird’s visionary direction lets the viewer know they’re about to see something special from the earliest moments of the film, in which Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone are interviewed one-on-one. Though brief, this scene does a lot to quickly establish the world of The Incredibles and its main characters.

For one, the quirks of the awkward interviews, from the lav mics to the laughter of the crew, immediately sell the film as very grounded, making things already feel very “real” despite being a cartoon of superheroes. Secondly, the scene sets up the characterization of the main trio of adult heroes by showing their younger selves — Frozone and Elastigirl don’t want to settle down, but are married in the future. Mr. Incredible talks about retiring, but longs for his old life as a super in the present. If it weren’t so short, this sequence would be a lot more memorable.

7 Thor Escapes Surtur

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Right out the gate, director Taika Waititi informs returning Thor fans that the third film won’t be anything like the other two. Establishing a more comedic tone right off the bat, Thor: Ragnarok begins with the God of Thunder imprisoned in a cage, telling his story to a non-responsive skeleton cellmate. Stopping just short of looking at the camera and saying “Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation,” Thor quickly sells the more lighthearted vibe of his third solo film.

Thor’s one-sided conversation and the resulting confrontation with Surtur sets up the ending of Thor: Ragnarok while remaining hilariously entertaining the entire time, punctuated by a phenomenal action sequence right after. This re-introduction to the character might be one of the better opening scenes in the MCU, but it has something of a tainted legacy. It’s easy to also see this scene as the beginning of Thor’s comedy problems in the MCU, essentially undoing two films’ worth of tone.

6 The Riddler’s First Victim

The Batman (2022)

If Thor: Ragnarok‘s opening scene is a masterclass in selling a comedic tone, the first few moments of The Batman do the opposite. Most Batman movies are relatively dark, but Matt Reeves’ take on Gotham City is quickly shown to be a dangerous place with the Riddler’s opening actions. The eerie breathing of Edward Nygma is the first chilling noise that greets new viewers going on, slowly gaining the horrifying realization that the Riddler is claiming his first victim.

The intense point-of-view of the killer’s perspective immediately puts The Batman on par with horror movies like Black Christmas, which levy a similar trick to illicit screams. The Riddler’s presence behind Gotham’s unsuspecting mayor is a jump-scare that continues to build the visceral tension, culminating in the terrifying howl of duct tape being unraveled. As atmospheric as this scene is, it can quite claim the same legacy as other, more iconic superhero movie openings. It’s possible The Batman‘s first scene will weather the sands of time better, however.

5 Batman Stops Muggers

Batman (1989)

It’s easy to forget in the modern age, but Tim Burton’s Batman had a long, uphill battle to fight the public’s perception of Batman at the time of its release. With Adam West’s hilarious romp of the same name being the last Batman movie to premiere in theaters, Batman had precious few seconds to re-establish the hero as a Dark Knight over a campy goofball. Luckily, the first scene of the movie is able to instantly set the gloomy atmosphere of Burton’s vision for Gotham.

First and foremost, the dazzling set design of the city takes center stage, immediately establishing the credibility of the film’s world. The rumors swapped between the pair of muggers before meeting Batman face-to-face only make his now-iconic line, “I’m Batman,” all the more hard-hitting. If only the stiff rubber neck of Michael Keaton’s Batsuit hadn’t aged so poorly, this scene would be the most ideal introduction of a superhero in cinema history.

4 The Failed Flying Hero

Kick-Ass (2010)

Compared to most comic book films, Kick-Ass did everything it could to highlight the inherent absurdity of the very concept of superheroes. Opening with a triumphant brass score, Kick-Ass, a.k.a. Dave Lizewski, narrates as an aspiring hero spreads his wings for the first time, taking to a perfect blue sky and leaping off a building. Then, reality comes crashing down quite literally, as the unnamed superhero unceremoniously falls to his death after his homemade wings fail to defy gravity.

Regardless of one’s expectations going into Kick-Ass, the subversion of superhero tropes is sure to be appreciated. It also quickly lets the audience know the cheap value of human life in the series, being but a mere sampling of the violence and bloodshed to come from the R-rated film. This scene is funny enough to be one of the most memorable things about the movie in general, but is let down by the lack of legacy the duology has had since the 2010s, as well as the utter lack of context given for the falling red hero.

3 Deadpool’s Opening Credits

Deadpool (2016)

One of the best opening credits sequences ever made, Deadpool set the tone perfectly in just a few short minutes. As Wade Wilson falls into an SUV loaded with bad guys, the car quickly tumbles out of control, resulting in a violent car crash that is frozen in time to allow the credits to materialize one word at a time. The camera gently guides the viewer through the carnage to the tune of Juice Newton’s “Just Call Me Angel,” making for the perfect storm of humor, action, and impressive framing and blocking.

The lack of context actually works for the movie in this case, heightening the comedy by letting the viewer slowly piece together what’s even happening one detail at a time. From the song choice to the tongue-in-cheek captions, the scene makes no reservations about what kind of movie Deadpool is going to be, all the while hearkening back to the film’s origin as a CGI-only proof-of-concept with lovingly-rendered SFX. It’s hard to imagine a better introduction to a superhero movie than this, but a rare few manage to outdo it.

2 The Blood Rave

Blade (1998)

The first real Marvel movie to be rated R and feature an Black protagonist, Blade doesn’t get enough credit for breaking the mold of the comic book movie formula. The film knew how to appeal to 90s sensibilities and let audiences know what it was all about at the same time with it’s incredibly creative opening scene. An attractive group of girls lures a witless clubgoer into a secret underground rave, where the sprinklers in the ceiling begin to rain blood down upon the crowd. It’s up to Blade to show up and carve through the crowd of undead monsters.

The mere concept of a blood-soaked rave fits so perfectly into the techno-goth late 90s world of Blade that it’s astounding another film, perhaps in one of the Underworld movies, never directly copied it. The victim’s slow realization of what is actually happening is so iconic that the blood rave has actually been parodied in other media, being referenced in Rick and Morty. Of course, it’s all the more gratifying when Blade shows up to show the vampires who’s boss.

1 Joker’s Bank Heist

The Dark Knight (2008)

As great as scenes like Blade’s blood rave and Deadpool‘s opening credits are, they don’t hold a candle to the first few minutes of one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. The Dark Knight‘s opening bank heist starts in traditional Nolan fashion, with well-executed stunts and an exciting soundtrack driving the action. As events unfold, the hushed rumors of the Joker’s M.O. and constant betrayals that pervade the crew of the clown-themed heist work as the perfect opening act to one of the most iconic villain performances of all time.

The heist is incredibly satisfying to watch unfold, as the criminals aren’t the average Batman thugs — They’re smart, well-orchestrated, and utterly devoid of morals or loyalty. The frantic pace of the action and clean camera work are all the better to appreciate in a modern cinematic landscape full of shaky cam, and the scene even manages to drop a few hints as to the state of Nolan’s Gotham. Finally, the reveal of Joker himself as one of the masked men forever cements the scene as the gold standard for opening sequences for a superhero movie.

“}]] Superhero movies have some impressive openers.  Read More