My Five Favorite Movie Title Sequences


Though the basic concept is perhaps borrowed from some other places, this sequence does a great job of visually setting up the story and the tone at the same time, while maintaining incredible visual interest.  Why does this man have a cigarette lighter flying out of his mouth?  We have to wait and see.

The Jungle Book (2016)

The recent update to the Jungle Book was visually stunning, but I wasn't expecting this fun mini-telling of the movie at the end.  In addition to summarizing the film, it also places it (literally) in its literary roots.

Thank You for Smoking

I like skeumorphism if it's done well.  And this one is.  I'm not sure if this actually counts as skeumorphism, but I'm going to consider it as one.

Mars Attacks!  

The title sequence is better than the movie in this case.  The titles brilliantly update the 1950s saucerpunk films like Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and It Came from Outer Space!  The color palette and the somewhat ridiculous-looking fleet of flying saucers tells us what kind of movie we're in for (even if the movie itself didn't quite live up to the promise.) 

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

I mean, Saul Bass.  That's all I have to say.  As I noted earlier, the title sequence for the series Feud is fantastic, as is that of Catch Me If You Can, but neither of those would exist without the pioneering design work of Saul Bass.

My Eleven Favorite TV Title Sequences

I love a good title sequence.  

I mean the ones that really set the stage for what you're about to watch (or, in some movies, what you just watched), either realistically or stylistically, and sometimes in a completely abstract way.  Here are eleven of my favorites, in no particular order.

Daredevil on Netflix.  

Visually, it's stunning, which is a good thing for a title sequence to be, but the visuals aren't just pretty pictures.  The dirty and shadowy red background speaks to the gritty tone and red color of Daredevil's costume.  The bloody liquid pouring slowly over various New York City scenes sets not only the stage, but tells us this is going to be a show steeped in violence.  But what I find really cool about it is that these objects are invisible until revealed by the liquid...which suggests how Daredevil, being blind, can "see" the world through the way sounds reflect back to him.

Breaking Bad on AMC.  

This is barely more than an animated logo, only 18 seconds long, and the reason for this is that the creator, Vince Gilligan, wanted to use as much of his allotted 42 minutes to tell a story, rather than re-play a lengthy title sequence.  Short as it is, this sequence captures the essence of the show with its iconic twangy music and the periodic table emerging from a cloudy haze.  It's a modern western, in a sense, with a chemical twist.  The wisp of smoke at the end completes the metaphor.  Simple.  

Feud on FX. 

An homage to the Saul Bass titles of the era, this one cleverly updates the style to present the bitter conflict between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis on all its levels--practical, social, emotional, and dramatized.  The transitions between shots flesh out the idea that these women did not hate each other, but they were drawn to destroy each other through any means necessary.   

Twin Peaks 

This is not a flashy title sequence, and it's quite long.  But that length, underscored with Angelo Badalamenti's haunting theme music is almost trance-inducing, serving to bring the viewer into the altered state necessary to fully appreciate the show.  The slow-moving waterfall, the foggy Pacific Northwest landscapes, and hypnotic imagery of a sawmill at work establish both the setting as well as the melancholic and yet somehow homey tone.

Bojack Horseman on Netflix

From the opening warbly riff, you know that this show has an identity of its own and that you are in good hands.  This sequence is way better than it has any right to be, and the portrayal of a day in the life of Bojack Horseman is also the overall arc of the show.  

Carnivale on HBO.  

In 2003, this sequence impressed me in both the technical skill needed to pull this off, as well as how effectively it established the era. 

Game of Thrones on HBO.  

I mean, there's really no need to go into detail here.  We all know why this is a good one.  Worth noting, however, is the necessity of this sequence.  The show is so grand in scale that we really do need to have a map to show us where the various scenes take place and their relationship to one another.  The customizations from episode to episode speak to that as well.  (We're going to Dorne on this episode, so we better put Dorne on the map.)

True Detective season 1 on HBO.

Much like Twin Peaks, this sequence captures the tone of the show in an elegant way by showing us scenes through the perspective of the two protagonists.

The Leftovers season 1 on HBO

These titles reflect the sense of religious fervor that underpins the core conflicts of the show. It evokes Renaissance-era cathedral frescoes, depicting the lives of flawed, modern humans rather than the lives of the saints.    

Manhattan on AMC

An underappreciated show with a fantastic title sequence.  The unstable and yet regular music sounds like a Geiger counter.  In keeping with the radiation motif, the visuals illustrate the rapid growth of Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, creating a critical mass of people required to create the atomic bomb.  This cluster of people moves together, mirroring the actual uranium nucleus at the heart of the bomb.  I love me some visual puns.  


Is it one of the best?  No.  But I don't know any other title sequence that is so aggressively of its time.  And it's glorious.  

Bonus:  The Simpsons, season 26, episode 1.  Because I think Don Hertzfeldt is an unimitigated genius.