Five Friday Development Jam: Best Opening Scenes

The editors here at PLL are kicking off a weekly Toolbox series where we’ll share our favorite YouTube clips on a specific topic, ranging from swoon worthy romance to kick butt action sequences. They’re moments we draw inspiration from as we’re developing a project, and we hope you will too!


This Friday’s topic: Best Opening Scenes, from assistant editor Hayley Wagreich.

Up: Grab ’em by the heartstrings
Apparently watching the opening of UP will make me cry every time. Each little visual anecdote could be the beginning of a story–but instead we get a full arc before the plot even begins. It sets up that grumpy old Carl is actually a loving and caring man–and it’s this secret that the audience carries through with them as we watch him open up again to the world and accept the love of others. Go ahead, watch it and cry.

 This is literally my favorite pilot opening of all time. You’re crazy if your curiosity isn’t going to kill you to see what happens next! First, the stillness of nature. Then a pair of pants flying through the air and run over by an RV. Cut to a naked man in a gas mask driving the car–it’s obviously a get away. But to where? There are two passed out men in the back of the truck; we have no idea if they are the heroes or if we should focus on the driver. We have no idea where we are in the story. In 30 seconds, they’ve made us ask five million questions. The opening is great because it immediately drops us straight into the action and it doesn’t let you go.

 With the opening song playing over the credits: wow, it’s the 90’s, and we’re all Clueless. A white jeep drives down a street full of teens having fun. Life is easy–we’re beautiful, rich and young. Even Cher jokes that her life is like an acne commercial. It’s a great introduction to a character, and she’s so completely loveable, even in her extreme shallowness. We want her life, and we therefore want her story. (And I still can’t believe we don’t all have Cher’s clothing-match app!)

 How do you being a story about a young boy and an old woman falling in love? With a fake suicide, of course. The scene opens with no hint at who we’re looking at. Man, woman? Young, old? It’s all a mystery, and slightly ominous. A record goes on, and we have no idea what type of music it is about to play. We’re expecting something intense and operatic–we are not expecting Cat Stevens. Suddenly the mood has entirely shifted. And yet still as the protagonist goes through with very precise actions we have no idea what he’s doing. THEN this kid hangs himself?! WHAT!? The scene continues as his mom walks in, bored at his antics, and says, “I suppose you think this is very funny, Harold.” We’re told that this behavior is something that happens all the time, and we’re drawn in as to why this kid is dying for attention. Plus, what will he think of next?

 I’ll admit that yes, there are two animated films on my list, but oh-em-gee, who doesn’t get chills when the Lion King song begins? Everyone sings along, everyone appreciates that it’s evocative, beautiful and spine-tingling. Don’t lie, you’re going to watch this on repeat at least twice right now. You’ve held up your cat to the sun and pretended it’s Simba. It’s inspiring, it sets up the characters, and it introduces us to talking animals without being super cheesy–because it believes in itself.

Next Friday, PLL co-founder Lexa Hillyer will be talking about love/hate relationships!

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