10 Best Opening Scenes In Martin Scorsese Films

From troubled boxers to vicious mobsters, here are the best opening scenes in Martin Scorsese films.

Goodfellas Opening Scene Ray Liotta
Warner Bros.

Opening scenes are critical to setting the tone and direction of any film. Whether it be a drama, action or comedy, a movie’s opening sequence demands quality due to the importance of first impressions and value of immersion when it comes to any cinematic experience.

Often, the greatest of films begin with scenes that stick in the mind of audiences. ;just look at the incredible film compositions of Orson Welles in Citizen Kane (1942) and Touch of Evil (1958). Elsewhere, Stephen Spielberg opened Saving Private Ryan (1998) by revolutionising the war genre forever, and in Inglorious Basterds (2009), Quentin Tarantino’s alternate history film commences with one of the most tense scenes in film history.

Legendary director Martin Scorsese understands the importance of an opening scene and, as such, his pictures have provided some of the most memorable opening sequences in film history.

The filmmaker’s ability to capture atmosphere and grip audiences with mesmerising character development has ensured that he is today recognised as one of the most influential directors of all time.

This article will look at the ten best opening sequences of Scorsese’s filmography. Spoilers ahead!

10. Arriving At The Island - Shutter Island (2010)

Goodfellas Opening Scene Ray Liotta
Paramount Pictures

Following the commercial and critical success of Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake of the thriller Cape Fear, the director would eventually revisit the genre with the critically acclaimed Shutter Island.

Starring frequent collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio as the troubled “U.S. Marshal” Teddy Daniels, the psychological thriller is a clever and distorted analysis of the damage that a traumatic experience can have on the human mind.

In the film’s opening sequence, Scorsese attempts to trick the audience into thinking that Teddy and his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are visiting the institution to investigate the whereabouts of a missing patient.

Struggling with the grief of losing his wife, Teddy appears to be disorientated, a characteristic that persisted for the entirely of the film. Building suspense and delusion, Scorsese sets the tone for the entire film and even drops subtle hints that everything is not what it seems.

For instance, upon reaching the asylum’s entrance, Chuck struggles to disarm his firearm, a detail that can easily be discarded when watching the movie for the first time.

The arrival at the island is a perfectly crafted opening sequence by Scorsese, who successfully is able to create an atmosphere of illusion and uncertainty without spoiling the big twist.


Film and history enthusiast, writing articles about some of cinema's best from both the past and present. Find me on Twitter @JThurstance