The Film Before the Film, a video essay on the history of movie opening credits: watch. (VIDEO)

Watch a Video Essay on the History of Title Sequences

Watch a Video Essay on the History of Title Sequences

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Slate's Culture Blog
March 25 2013 2:05 PM

The History of Title Sequences

What is your favorite movie opening credits sequence? Over the years, it’s become common for cinephiles to compile lists of the best, most distinct title sequences, and praise such innovative designers as the renowned Saul Bass (the man behind the opening of Vertigo and Goodfellas) and Pablo Ferro (Dr. Strangelove, Beetlejuice). In the short video “The Film Before the Film,” Berlin students Nora Thoes and Damian Pérez recall all of those iconic cinematic aspects and more, chronicling the evolution of the opening credits from the simple to the technically complex, and back again.

Featuring side-by-side comparisons of designs, a brief account of the impact made by computer technology, and easy-to-understand explanations of the various ways in which titles function as a part of the film experience, “The Film Before the Film” is visually arresting as well as informative. Featured films run the gamut from a 19th-century Thomas Edison short to The Avengers.


The essay also touches on the ways in which today’s title sequences have blended the old with new technology, as with Catch Me if You Can. Though not mentioned in the essay, the credits for the just-released Oz the Great and Powerful offer further proof of Thoes’ and Pérez’s observations.

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture writer and host of the Slate podcast Represent.