Here are a few of our favourite film title sequences, including some of the most influential and iconic, that play with audience expectation and memory through style, execution, timing and placement.
Under the Skin (2013)
Look out for the unbearable pause during the title sequence of this film by Jonathan Glazer, leading to a sense of ongoing descent into an abyss from which one never emerges.
It’s film title sequence design at its best: arresting, hypnotising, fixating the viewer and demanding their full attention.
I am Love (2009)
Recalling film title design from the ’30s and ’40s, with snowy shots of Milan almost completely devoid of colour, this feels like film noir. The assumed setting highlights the film’s occupation with time, even as it moves towards the present.
Alfred Hitchcock, director, without Saul Bass, designer? Hard to imagine. Bass’s distinctive work was central in marketing, and immortalising, Psycho, Vertigo and North by Northwest.
Dr No (1962)
The Bond title sequence that started them all. The visual indicators – like that gun barrel circle – are to this day a key part of marketing the James Bond franchise. Shaken and stirred by Maurice Binder.
Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
This book-burning dystopia gives us no written credits – they are entirely narrated. As well as mirroring the destruction of the written word, denying us the act of reading, this creates a direct relationship with the audience – an alternative and powerful participation.
Designed by Pablo Ferro, who also designed the title sequence for Dr. Strangelove –a beautiful intersection and harmony of type, movement and image. Compare with the title sequence for Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro (2009).
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
An unapologetic sweep through the history of title design ending with a nod to Saul Bass’s typography for Nine Hours to Rama and credits to the on-set llamas. (And then apologising for it. Twice).
Cryptic markings slowly emerge on the screen leading to the awful realisation of what the Nostromo crew, and we, will confront. Designed by Richard Greenberg.
The Shining (1980)
The sublime landscape overlaid with the reverse scrolling credits makes for a truly disconcerting effect. Created by Chapman Beauvais & National Screen Service with helicopter photography by MacGillivray Freeman Films.
The sequence credited with inspiring the resurgence of film title design in the 1990s. The close-ups of John Doe’s materials are an unsettling glimpse into the mind of the methodical, relentless, meticulous serial killer. Designed by Kyle Cooper.
The Matrix (1999)
The power of a single colour – oily green – to define a film.
Enter the Void (2009)
What David Fincher wished for Fight Club – typography that burns onto the retina. Directed by Tom Kan.
The typeface Mistral – used by Sandals Resorts and Only Fools and Horses – is given a whole new persona in the title sequence and marketing for this Nicolas Winding Refn directed feature.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Wes Anderson – a director as devoted to typography as centred composition. Jessica Hische designed the typeface that appears in the opening title sequence and end credits.
As shown by recent films, the creation of distinctive, beautiful opening title sequences is in no danger of waning.