Top Modern Movie Title Sequences.

Posted on October 11, 2010


Movie titles are great, aren’t they? The evolution from a simple playbill through to bona fide art form has given us many memorable cinematic moments. Some compliment the narrative of the film to come, others serve simply to visually delight.

It would be impossible to write about title sequences without mentioning Saul Bass’ iconic openers for The Man With The Golden Arm, Vertigo and North By North West, Iginio Lardani’s Fistful of Dollars, Pablo Ferro’s Dr. Strangelove, or Maurice Binder’s James Bond titles. However, I wanted to look at some of the more recent additions to the ranks of title sequences that have stood out for me. So, here, in no particular order, are some of my favourites.


  • Casino Royale.

A new Bond and what a way to introduce him. Beautiful vector graphics and design that are at once retro and modern. It illustrates the character of Bond in silhouette, unmasking him at the end to give you no doubt that, whilst Daniel Craig might not have been what you thought Bond looked like, he was every inch the new oo7. The casino based motifs are delightful, and the when that first body smashes into a million hearts, you realise you are watching something special.


  • Thank You For Smoking.

Absolutely brilliant use of motion graphics here, reflecting the different designs of cigarette packets over the decades. The music perfectly compliments the images, and sets us up for the black comedy which follows.


  • Catch Me If You Can.

I love these retro titles! There’s certainly a nod to Saul Bass here. Not only do these title perfectly capture a sense of time, but they also reveal the nature of the story, the characters and the lighthearted tone of the film.


  • Lord Of War.

A title sequence that can completely stand alone and tells its own brilliant, compelling and chilling story. One of the best ever made, in my opinion.


  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Another retro, Saul Bass inspired, set of titles that give the viewer an insight to the style of the film.


  • Se7en.

Oft copied, never bettered, these titles take you into the mind and the habits of John Doe, the film’s antagonist serial killer. Dark and disturbing, just like the rest of the film that follows.


  • Watchmen.

If you’ve read the graphic novel, these titles are even better than they are without that knowledge, yet they successfully manage to distill and expand upon the events, enriching the film and developing the characters. They get the viewer up to speed on the world of Watchmen, an alternate take on our own history, and set you up neatly for the film to come.


  • Zombieland.

These titles are effectively a condensed exposition of the events before the movie, letting you know how Zombieland came into being. They show the darkly comic demise of society with style and humour and the Metalica track heightens the action. Insanely cool slow-mo vignettes that firmly give the viewer a sense of setting.


  • The Kingdom.

This is only a taster. The whole title sequence is fantastic.

By now you might have spotted a theme. I’m a fan of motion graphics. These titles are informative and quickly get the viewer up to speed with a brief history lesson on Arab politics. The time and place and emotional tone of the film is set up quickly, effectively and stylishly.


  • Stranger Than Fiction

Intro sequence.

MK12 are responsible for this intro. Not strictly speaking a credit sequence, but effectively taking their place and introducing the protagonist in such detail that we feel we know him before the film even begins.


  • Sahara.

How do you introduce the characters and convey the backstory of the hero in just a few minutes? Well, the titles of Sahara manage to show us how it can be done. In one fluid shot we discover the relationship between the hero and his trusty sidekick, his history and achievements, his passions and his obsession with the Ironclad that is the focus of the plot, as well as giving us a geographical location of where the action is taking place. Neatly done.


  • Iron Man.

(Sadly, the music has been disabled.)

Blocking out Robert Downey Jr.’s face, in a similar way to that of Daniel Craig’s in Casino Royale, and then overlaying it with the Iron Man suit, Tony Stark’s last words of the film “I am Iron Man” are neatly reinforced. The exploded veiw of the Iron Man schematics as the camera swoops around them is decidedly cool, just like the rest of the film.


  • Quantum of Solace.

(Sadly, the music hasn’t been disabled.)

Another entry from MK12. Craig’s Bond is this time lost in the desert, much as his character is emotionally throughout most of the film.


  • 300

End credits.

The comic book brutality is played out in silhouetted  vector graphics, with just the black of the armies and the red of their blood against the simple, foreboding sky. This captures the essence of the film perfectly and the pounding, ethnic soundtrack adds a sense of drama and urgency.


  • Snatch.

Once again, the characters are neatly introduced and the diamond that threads the film together does so in the title also. Ritchie’s Rocknrolla titles are also fantastic, but Snatch did it first.


  • Euro Trip.

Really quite a stupid film, but the titles are a lot of fun. Smartly designed titles based on in flight safety cards and using a French version of The Who’s My Generation, underscoring the youthful exuberance of the film and the European setting.


  • Vacancy.

Really nothing here to further the plot, develop the characters or give you any sense of tone or setting. However, they are a fantastic example of kinetic typography.


  • Heavy Petting.

A lovely bit of design based on instruction manuals, this sequence is irreverent and comedic.


  • Irreversible.

I remember watching these titles for the first time. Not since Se7en had a title sequence been so foreboding. These backward end credits, placed at the start of the film, work perfectly with the disjointed, reversed narrative structure of the film and are absolutely in keeping with the style and tone of the rest of the movie.


  • Sherlock Holmes.

Oh, okay then, here’s another set of Guy Ritchie titles. However, in my defense, they are rather nicely done. The pen and ink renderings of the film scenes give them the quality that they are tales taken from the pages of Watson’s notebooks.

There were so many more I could have included, but I think that’s enough for now. Thanks for watching.