I initially went for the incredible opening to Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds mainly because it was so fresh in my mind and it’s definitely one of the greatest film opening sequences of all time, but after some deliberation I think I came up with one better.
The film I have chosen is Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. A Western of such epic proportions it just has to be seen to be fully appreciated and then seen again to fully fathom all the gorgeous detail and passion that went into making it. Once Upon A Time In The West opens with what I believe is one of the most incredible scenes of all time and the best thing about it is that nothing really happens, the look and feel is just so incredible as you are drawn in to the scene and hypnotised by what happens.
It lasts for about 7-8 minutes and the basic setup is three incredibly cool/authentic/interesting looking cowboys arrive at a train station in a barren land and await an incoming train. Flies buzz around, the natural sounds of creaking wood and dripping water is heard as they wait and occupy themselves with nothing, it’s just so atmospheric with some wonderful camera angles that show these wonderful looking characters pass the time. One of the guys gets tormented by a fly and captures it in his gun nozzle whilst another stands in the shade under the water tower as it drips onto his hat which he collects to drink later. It’s like a glimpse into the real Wild West and it all looks sensational.
The performances of the three cowboys are so subtle, slightly humorous and perfectly fitting into this world that you begin to really like them, and even begin to root for the. You think they must be an important part of the film, they haven’t said anything but so much attention has been made on them, so they must have a big role in the film right? Nope. Along comes the train and unknown to the three men a man known as Harmonica, played by the awesome Charles Bronson, gets off and faces the three cowboys who appear to have been sent to kill him by someone named Frank.
The musical score of a Harmonica he plays to a distinctive tune (that will haunt the film throughout afterwards) is magnificent and as the four men line up for a stand off, of three versus one we come to the end of the opening scene in a hail of gunfire.
It’s stunning cinema, and for me I doubt anything could come close to beating it.