Like most people, I grew up watching movies and falling in love with characters and their depictions on the big screen. There is something about the ingenuity of directors and how their vision comes to life on camera that always inspires me to create. But before the film, we have a perfectly curated title sequence and there’s nothing like a good title sequence to set you up for the film to come. Here are my top 5 (in no particular order, I really couldn’t choose my absolute favourite and definitely love more than 5!) opening title sequences that utilize type.
Directed by Lotte Reiniger and Carl Koch (uncredited)
Released in 1926
Touted as the first ever animated film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed tells an adventurous tale of supposed romance between Achmed and Peri Banu. Hand cut from cardboard and thin sheets of lead, Reiniger pioneered this method of animation while drawing from traditional Wayang puppet theatre. Like most of the films released pre 1960’s, The Adventures of Prince Achmed’s title sequence is composed of a still image with overlaid text to introduce the makers of the film. This gorgeous type draws heavily from traditional Arabic calligraphy, adding in stylistic elements, extending the letters and having sharp terminuses. Because of the age of the film, it would originally have been screened with the accompaniment of a live orchestra. There have since been contemporary scores created to accompany the film. Above are the opening credits with my favourite contemporary score.
Directed by Gaspar Noe
Released in 2009
Title Sequence designed by Tom Kan
This is the only title sequence that will come with a warning. A film about a drug dealer living in Tokyo, you follow the journey of Oscar. All out this title sequence is maximalism at its absolute finest. Flashing lights, mixing of languages and genres, each title card is bigger than the last. To an untrained eye this sequence is nothing but noise, but for the type lover, each card is perfectly chosen, well-kerned and introduces each character before we see them. The sequence as a whole can be overwhelming, but it’s a perfect primer for the film to come. Find a fully comprehensive article and interview with the creator of this sequence here; I definitely recommend it as they go into detail on the curation and creation of the type.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Released in 2002
Title Sequence designed by Florence Deygas and Olivier Kuntzel
Encompassing the feel of an entire era, this title sequence builds heavily on the work of Saul Bass and Paul Rand in the 60’s and 70's. A collection of rubber stamp people on paper and handmade elements are blended perfectly with animation. Introducing us to Frank and Carl, the film's main characters, we enjoy a cat and mouse chase through a world created with type roadblocks. Elongating ascenders and descenders become doors, walls and ladders, allowing our protagonist to escape, with Carl hot on his trail. The rounded san serif typeface captures the slick, mod feel of the era and the interactions between the characters and their environment pull you in immediately.
Directed by Sergio Leone
Released in 1966
Title Sequence Designed by Iginio Lardani
A Magnum Opus of his previous work in the Dollars Trilogy, Lardani captures the essence of “Blondie”, Angel Eyes and Tuco perfectly. His mismatched pairing of type and duotone photo manipulation throughout the intro sets the viewer up for arguably the best Spaghetti Western ever made. Mixing typefaces in a way not previously done and adding the kinetic movement builds a world for our characters to inhabit. Whenever I think of a Western font, these always come to mind first; I think viewing this film as a child solidified that for me. From the blood red background of the opening shot to the dust blowing over the images and the final title card revealing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Lardani shows the dangers of the West during this era beautifully.
Directed by Mary Harron
Released in 2000
Title Sequence Designed by Marlene McCarty
The epitome of 80’s excess, American Psycho’s title sequence shows how subtle attention to detail is just as impactful. Copperplate Gothic on an off-white background, the exact same font and colour as Paul Allan’s business card that we are introduced to later in the film. A common font used for banks and other big businesses, it evokes the power of capitalism that boomed on 1980’s Wall Street. Beyond the font, raspberry coulis is dripped carefully on top of a plate, introducing us to small portions, plated with tweezers. Careful, calculated and obsessive, this title sequence created by Marlene McCarty echoes an era of detail and excess.