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Top 10 Misleading Movie Opening Scenes

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Telly Vlachakis

Wait…is this the right film? For this list, we’ll be looking at opening scenes that were tonally different from the rest of the film or deliberately subverted the audience’s expectations. Our list includes “Magnolia” (1999), “Friday the 13th” (2009), “Batman” (1989), “Death Proof” (2007), “The Other Guys” (2010), and more! Join WatchMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Misleading Movie Opening Scenes.

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+Ten+Confusing+Movie+Opening+Scenes. Special thanks to our user Norris Vaughn III for suggesting this idea!


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Script written by Telly Vlachakis

Top 10 Misleading Movie Opening Scenes

Wait…is this the right film? Welcome to, and today we will be counting down our picks for the top 10 misleading opening scenes in movies.

For this list, we will be looking at those famously confusing and misleading opening scenes that were either so tonally different from the rest of the film or deliberately subverted the audience’s expectations. We’re not commenting on the quality of the scene or movie, but rather how much it had us scratching our heads.

#10: The Fake Waynes

“Batman” (1989)

Superhero movies may have still been in their infancy in 1989, but we’re betting that even then… audiences were probably expecting an origin story when the famed caped crusader hit the big screen. Director Tim Burton was likely aware of this viewer expectation, but at the same time surely realized that most fans were already well-aware of Bruce Wayne’s tragic story. Seeing a couple and their young boy leaving a Gotham City theatre, and getting mugged in an alley, you’re almost certain that you know where this is going. That is until the parents survive, and Batman shows up to stop the thugs. Classic misdirection.

#9: Legs for Days

“Death Proof” (2007)

For those who were not “in” on Quentin Tarantino’s intentions, this must’ve been seriously confusing. For their “Grindhouse” double-feature, Tarantino and partner Robert Rodriguez did everything in their power to make you feel like you were watching an old-school exploitation film. This included the grainy film effect, fake trailers, frames missing from the reel, and original theatrical pre-movie jingles. As if this wasn’t enough, even when “Death Proof” actually begins, it kicks off with a long and cheery opening shot that that makes it look like a voyeuristic road trip movie with a foot fetish twist. Of course, it was only a matter of time before Tarantino brought in the trademark gore.

#8: No Reason

“Rubber” (2010)

As if “Rubber” wasn’t already weird enough, they went and started things off with this curveball opening. The film is indescribable; is it a horror movie? A parody or meta-genre masterpiece? Impossible to say, but it’s undeniably unique and bizarre. The opening scene has us, the audience, watching an audience prepare themselves to watch the movie play out in front of them. But first, we get a lengthy lecture about what matters in cinematic storytelling. We are led to believe that this will be some deep kind of meta-experiment. Then we realize that this is actually a movie about a killer tire.

#7: Where Is Everyone?

“Friday the 13th” (2009)

Many may have groaned when they rebooted “Friday the 13th”, but at least young fans had Jared Padalecki and Danielle Panabaker to look forward to. Or so they thought, until the film started. As audiences watched in anticipation, we were introduced to our group of kids who, as expected, were killed off. However, we end up a fifth of the way into the film, and still the top-billed stars have yet to be seen. We’re sure many moviegoers started thinking they walked into the wrong slasher movie, or (gasp!) that Jared Padalecki was behind the mask all along. Wrong on both counts… this was just the longest opening ever.

#6: Right Through the Eye

“Seven Psychopaths” (2012)

Leave it to master dialogue writer Martin McDonagh to pull the wool over our eyes. The wordsmith and master genre-bender confuses us off the bat with a shocking scene of violence that nobody saw coming, in what seemed at first to be a smart comedy, albeit a very dark one. The incoming violence was staring us right in the face with all the talk of getting shot and stabbed in the eye. Little did we know that our first two characters would imminently meet just such a fate, and barely lasted two minutes into the film. Confused? Yes, but with McDonagh… always best to expect the unexpected.

#5: Action Superstars

“The Other Guys” (2010)

Dwayne Johnson and Sam Jackson are badass action superstars. We all know that, but what we didn’t expect, was for them to be starring in this film. Knowing this is a Will Ferrell comedy, we took a cautious step backward. Even with our suspicions raised however, the left turn taken by the opening sequence was so hilariously brilliant and shocking, we were stuck between a gasp and a laugh. We are at first thrust into typical blockbuster heroics, explosions, cheesy one-liners, and stunts galore, until reality and logic hits you right in the face. Kersplat in the face.

#4: A Matter of Chance

“Magnolia” (1999)

If you went into“Magnolia” having done your homework and expecting a structure involving intertwining stories, perhaps you were prepared for this sort of odd opening. But even so… this was challenging way to start off a movie - especially the lack of recognizable stars. Director Paul Thomas Anderson started his film with three tales of chance and consequence delivered in roughly 5 minutes with no narrative bearing on the rest of the film - except to subtly introduce us to their connecting theme, which is the connection that runs throughout the movie. Takes the entire movie to really understand this… but hey, at least it was all worth it in the end.

#3: The Littlest Elf

“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” (2004)

Misleading audiences is one thing, but children? That’s truly unfortunate. Lemony Snicket wants to emphasize that the movie we are about to watch is so terrible and disturbing that no children, or adults for that matter, should watch it. Of course... that only makes the film all the more enticing And what better way to hammer home the joylessness of the story of the Baudelaire children than by pretending that you are a cute and cuddly animated movie about an elf and then pulling the plug. We can picture some parents struggling to find their tickets to verify their theatre. We knew you were twisted, Snicket, but this is next level.

#2: Trailers After the Trailers

“Tropic Thunder” (2008)

We all love the trailers before a movie, and most make sure not to miss them. When the first fake trailer before “Tropic Thunder” started, we suspect that there were many in the audience who believed they were watching actual trailers. Hey, we live in dark cinematic times… and these films looked just bad enough to actually get made. We don’t doubt that some were still confused even after Ben Stiller was revealed as action superstar Tugg Speedman. Although the misdirection only worked at the theatre, the trailers are still hilariously brilliant when experienced at home.

#1: My Boring Corporate Job

“The Cabin in the Woods” (2012)

Horror audiences rightfully expected a “cabin-in-the-woods” horror movie when they went to see “The Cabin in the Woods”. Wasn’t that what the trailers promised? What no one expected was a tongue-in-cheek stab at the genre; a perfect meta study at the world of horror tropes. When the movie opens, we see two boring technicians chatting about their job. No Chris Hemsworth, no cabin, no monsters. What seems at first like a completely different movie, turns the tables on us with a sudden title-card jumpscare, as if to tell you... “WAIT- you are watching the right movie!”


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