One of my classes this semester is Motion Graphics. A medium I’ve sort of become obsessed with since starting the class. I’ve never thought about motion graphics being a large part of design, thinking of it more as just animation and something that was way way way hard and something I’d probably never be able to do.
But I learned. And now it’s something that I enjoy, both creating and admiring.
Even before taking this class, I’ve loved title sequences. It’s often my favorite part of a film or a television show. (Seriously, just hearing the music and seeing the title sequence of Downton Abbey takes me through time right to 1919. Sometimes I wonder if I love it more than the actual show. Okay, I love the show more. But that opening is the reason I keep hitting ‘next episode’ when binge-watching, just to see it again and then oops a whole episode has started and I have to finish it and now that episode is over and I’m thinking about that title sequence and suddenly my finger is clicking ‘next episode’ again and then that happens over and over until I’m like when does season five start???)
So, inspired by the assignment I had, having to create a title sequence for a film, these are my Top Ten Favorite Title Sequences. Five for film, five for television — in no particular order:
Favorite Television Title Sequences
This show. This show. Orphan Black is on Saturdays on BBC America and is completely 100% my favorite show at the moment. It’s about a young woman who finds out that she’s actually one of several identical clones. Tatiana Maslany stars as ALL of the clones. She’s amazing and the effects (sometimes FOUR clones in one scene, all played by Tatiana) are killer.
The title sequence fits the tone of the show perfectly. The music is almost eerily seductive, drawing you in like a siren. In all honesty, it was the first thing I saw before actually getting into the show well after the first season had already aired. After seeing this title sequence, it sucked me in. I was intrigued. I wanted to see more. The sequence has a fantastic animation that reflects the science and cloning themes throughout the show. The detail and fluidity of the animation is flawless. And the type, first name and last name splitting off from each other at the center, like a mirror image—or a clone. So good.
The Walking Dead
If Orphan Black is my favorite show at the moment, The Walking Dead is a close second. I watched the first two episodes when they aired on AMC, way back in 2010. But then I forgot all about it after missing a few episodes. I would catch a few episodes here and there until I caught up completely a year ago, and now I watch regularly. The show is about zombies by the way, though the title is pretty self-explanatory.
Each season, there is a different title sequence. By far, my favorite is season four’s. Because I can’t find season four’s anywhere online, the video above is season three’s title sequence, which isn’t my favorite one, but it’s still great. The music in the opening, and the score for the entire show, is creepy and eerie. The images shown are gritty and dark. It always gets me excited to watch the show, setting the mood to whatever is coming in the episode.
American Horror Story: Coven
Now, I seem to only watch American Horror Story every other season. I watched season one, but not two, and I watched three but not four. The story doesn’t really matter, because they’re all contained stories within each season. The third season, subtitled Coven, is about witches in New Orleans. It’s creepy, it’s gruesome, it’s iconic. I was obsessed with it.
The title sequence for this season was the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s nightmarish. It’s disturbing. It’s hellish. It’s really really really good. The type and design elements are incredible, but the images that were filmed are by far the best part. The entire sequence sends a shiver down your spine. It makes you uncomfortable. It’s perfect for the show.
I’ve been using the words eerie and creepy for the last three sequences. Mad Men’s title sequence isn’t either of those. Though I’ve only seen a handful of episodes, at least one per season when I remember to watch it, I know it’s an incredible show. Someday, I will catch up and watch all the episodes. Someday will be well after the show ends, as the last season has just started and there’s no way I could catch up by the end.
I love the style of this opening. It’s cool and intriguing and fits with the era of the show. I think anyone could watch the title sequence alone and have a pretty good idea of what the show is about, what the style and tone of the show is. Which is exactly what a title sequence should do.
We’ve had creepy and serious and now we have a little bit of fun. Community is one of the funniest shows that was on television. It’s now on Yahoo Screen after NBC canceled it. The show went up and down with it’s hilarity and sanity and quality, but it’s still a great show.
The opening is fun and the theme song is ridiculously catchy. If you were to marathon this show—like I did—the song will be stuck in your head for days—like it was in mine.
(I wanted to keep this list to five, but I have to mention the title sequence for the AMC show Halt and Catch Fire. Because it’s incredible, even though I don’t watch the show.)
Favorite Film Title Sequences
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of my favorite films. It’s dark and edgy and raw and bad ass. The title sequence is exactly that as well. All computer-generated animation, everything seems to be slicked in black oil. Karen O’s rendition of Immigrant Song takes it one step further. Incredible. Incredible. Incredible. I couldn’t say anything more about it. It’s just so good.
Juno is a great film. It’s original and weird and funny. I first watched Juno in high school and fell in love with Ellen Page’s acting and Diablo Cody’s writing. The entire opening captures exactly what the film is, the setting and tone. The accompanied song works with the quirky style and sketchy, underdone animation. One of a kind opening, one of a kind film.
I am unashamedly a Pixar fanatic. But I am even more a fanatic of The Incredibles. Not only is it my favorite animated film, it’s one of my favorite films ever. If you don’t like this film, watch it again. Still don’t? Something might be wrong with you. It’s the perfect family film. It’s about superheroes. A family of retired superheroes. It’s hilarious. It’s fantastic. It has a 60s style and it has SUPER. HEROES.
The title sequence is actually an ending sequence, rather than an opening. I can’t say enough how much I love this film and this title sequence is one of the best. The animation is spot on. It’s epic. It’s perfect. (This list is not in any particular order, of course, but if it was, The Incredibles would be number one.)
A very good film. Carey Mulligan is extraordinary in it (I mean, duh, she was nominated for an Oscar). The title sequence is just spectacular. It’s one of the first title sequences in a film that made me actually notice title sequences. I’d seen them before, but this one had me like “Oh. That is amazing. Look at that! A little animation and words!! I love this. I. LOVE. TITLE. SEQUENCES.” The other theatergoers were less than pleased about this revelation.
Anyway, I love the animation. It’s sweet and cute and smart. Just like the film.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Last, but not least.
The ending title sequence for A Series of Unfortunate Events is like a short animation film tacked onto the end. The music is joyful in rhythm yet somber in tone. Which, again, echoes the film perfectly. A good title sequence will show you exactly what the film that is about to follow (or that had already been shown) is all about—not necessarily the story of the film, but the mood, setting, tone, theme, look, feel, sound of the film.
The animation does, however, show the basic story of the film. It shows the audience what they’d just seen in different ways. The animation is incredible, too. An amazing style that fits the film so incredibly, the entire film could have been animated in that style and would have been just as good. (Though, I would have missed Jim Carrey’s dinosaur impression if it weren’t live action.)
And that’s it. My top ten favorite title sequences. There are plenty more than just these, but for me, this list is the best of the best.