You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make your opening scene memorable.
In the first few minutes of your screenplay, you have to grab the audience’s attention. That can be something as simple as seeing the hero for the first time like Bruce Willis in “Die Hard,” or it can be more dramatic like seeing Bruce Willis get shot in “The Sixth Sense.”
However you open your screenplay, it has to show the villain in action, either starting the story or simply demonstrating the threat posed to the hero.
In the 1983 movie “Wargames,” the movie opens with two ICBM missile silo operators ordered to launch the missiles. One man can’t do it so the other threatens to shoot him with a gun to make him do it. Here the villain is simply nuclear destruction itself and these two missile operators are never seen again, but the opening scene is interesting and focuses our attention on the threat of the villain.
“Star Wars” is another movie that opens with the villain initiating the story. In this case, it’s Darth Vader capturing Princess Leia. The opening always grabs our attention and shows us who the villain is.
A less dramatic opening is Bruce Willis in “Die Hard.” Here we just see the hero being nervous in flying. However, this initial scene shows us Bruce Willis’s greatest obstacle, and that’s fear. Fear of flying, which implies death and that\’s the villain that will haunt him through the rest of the story.
Of course, the real villains in “Die Hard” are the terrorists, but in this opening scene, the terrorists are nowhere to be seen, so their implicit threat is introduced instead.
In “Jurassic Park,” the dinosaurs are shown attacking a man. In “WALL-E,” the corporation that trashed the Earth is shown through still-running video billboards. In “Up,” the explorer villain is shown in a newsreel.
The opening of every movie must grab the audience’s attention, lay the foundation for the story, and introduce the villain directly or indirectly. Of course, once you get the opening down right, you just have to worry about the rest of your movie.