The opening credits can give viewers an insight into the theme and style of a movie or TV show in a variety of ways. In the best instances, it’s the subtle use of a certain typeface or colours and shapes, which set the tone for the following frames. The following list is comprised of various genre types that display how such use of typography and graphic design conveys a certain feeling. From the early works of Saul Bass, who’s synonymous with the Beatnick style intros to films like ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’ and ‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World‘; to more modern and slicker uses of After Effects in films like ‘Catch Me If You Can’ and TV shows such as ‘Mad Men’.
For all fans of typography in motion, look no further for inspiration than the history of cinema. The design experts at PrinterInks have lovingly combined their passion for typography and cinema history to produce this rundown of 45+ incredible movie and TV title sequences.
Dr No (1962)
The bold large almost cartoon like letters enhanced the suspense to this supreme classic.
Catch me if You Can (2002)
The titles for Catch me if Can are a brilliant homage to the work of Saul Bass with a 21st century tinge of After Effects wizardry.
Mad Men (2007)
The letters come on the screen are in harmony with the characters descent. The opening titles pay homage to Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ and the simple typography using two bold colours typifies the heart of Mad Men, the loss of control and identity.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
The simple but elegant typography reflects the nature of the film.
Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)
The very upright and formal font of ‘Ernst Lubitsch’ is contrasted with the flowing more feminine font introducing the title of the film.
Red River (1948)
The typography used in the opening credits of this western movie become embedded within the background image.
The Addams Family (1964)
The typography is the perfect kooky introduction to the Addams Family.
The Third Man (1949)
The typography used in the opening scenes is simple, using clean lines that stand out from the musical strings in the background.
Here, the lettering is incorporated into Batman’s infamous logo immediately paralleling the two.
The typography immediately creates a sense of menace, perfectly fitting with the theme of Dexter.
Tron: Legacy (2011)
The opening titles are a play and modernisation of the film’s original and the piercing blue colour remains.
Six Feet Under (2001)
The opening typography is bleak and crisp and very much reiterates the sentiment of the program and the dark, sombre world of death that it revolves around.
The Sopranos (1999)
The Typography used in the opening credits is very simple and clean. This culminates in the final typography, The Sopranos which is much larger and more detailed. The “R” is replaced with a gun in keeping with the show’s running theme.
The typography is eerie and emerges mysteriously on to the screen in this horror film.
The Man With The Golden Arm (1955)
The typography is eclectic and disjointed, not flowing on a straight level but slightly crooked.
Panic Room (1980)
The typography reads like the cover of a best selling book. The words are cleverly pasted into the make up of the buildings.
Dorian Gray (2009)
The titles fade in and out on screen creating a mysterious effect as in the movie.
True Blood (2008)
The typeography is simple, white and almost childlike and pops up sporadically on the screen. This culminates in ‘True Blood’ in the same bold white lettering but distorted as it seemingly floats on blood. The opening titles make the play of contrasting innocence and menace, much like the show.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Not opening titles, as such, but the end credits to Lemony Snicket deserve to be included for its brilliant use of papercraft-style motion graphics.
Enter The Void (2009)
Gaspar Noe’s film uses intricate eye catching typography in its opening sequence.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
This title sequence from Shane Black cleverly mixes the style of Saul Bass with more modern styles of minialism (the latter of which is evident at the beginning of the credits).
The Terminator (1984)
The opening title tells you the story so far much like the first cover of a book. We then get interlocking typography and text pops up like a computer program echoing the content of the film.
The typeface here flies through the screen much like Superman.
Black Sunday (1960)
The typography used here sets an eerie tone for the movie.
The typography used here typifies director Alfred Hitchcock’s style; sharp, dark and experimental. It is both simple and in your face.
Super Fly (1972)
The typography here is typical of 70’s blaxploitation. The red titles move as the car heads to its destination.
The typography used in Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ is striking. The outline is simple but the lines are crisp.
Knight Rider (1983)
The typography here is classical medieval in keeping with the idea of the ‘knight’, although a modern take on the knight theme. The large writing comes up in time with the appearance of the characters.
Star Wars (1977)
This famous opening is simple but effective; the bold yellow rounded font jumps out of the screen.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
Using a variety of texts reiterates the three sentiments within the title; good, bad and ugly.
The cartoon nature and colour of the typeface works in sync with the cartoon version of Olivia Newton-John.
Almost Famous (2000)
This hand written opening title is simple and effective and mirrors the nature of the film which centres around a young journalist.
The typography here works with the photo behind it; neither one is more over facing that the other and the simple blue text in capital letters spaced out allows the viewer to read the text and then be directed to the Polaroid photo.
O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)
The typography here is reminiscent of the silent movie era and is a modern take on that.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
The paper cut effect that presents Matt Damon is a subtle homage to ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’, and the movie’s title uses a clever variety of words and typography to emphasize the themes of identity that are prevalent through the movie.
Blood For Dracula (1974)
The thin red typography here is reminiscent of art deco style typography and, most importantly, blood; in perfect keeping with the Dracula theme.
The Artist (2011)
Here, the opening credits mimic the look and feel of a late 1920s silent film.
The typography of the film Drive is reminiscent of 1980s style with the neon pink colour and flowing letters.
Play Misty For Me (1971)
The bright green typeface and the fact that it does not read as one single line disconcerts the reader and is the very nature of the film; a psychological thriller.
The Godfather (1972)
The typography used here, set in the centre of the screen is powerful and direct much like the film.
Black Widow (1954)
The typography here is black and winding much like the legs of a spider spinning its web.
The bold typography leaps off the screen amongst the black and white background.
The Blob (1958)
The red images enclose the titles creating a scary image and a fear of what’s lurking behind the typography.
Cannon Ball Run (1981)
Fast cars go with fast typography. The titles don’t stay on too long as the car in the picture speeds across the desert. The red, bold text emphasises the thrills and spills of the action in the film.
Lion King (1994)
The orange typography against the black background is striking and mirrors the glow of the sunrise in the opening sequence.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Like most of Tarantino’s title sequences, the typography consists of very bold lettering, reminiscent of early blaxploitation films and Spaghetti Westerns.
The typography reflects the nature of the film set in the military: it is regimented, grey and harsh in colour and plays on typography typically used within the army.
Whether you’re a fan of kinetic typography, or some other type of trickery with After Effects, this roundup of classic examples should provide some great food for thought. Cinema is probably the earliest example of motion graphics, especially the animated sequences of Saul Bass and Maurice Binder that featured in many sixties movies, and therefore makes for a notable resource of inspiration in modern design.
Due to requests from the production companies, many movie title sequences have their embedding functionality disabled, and therefore some couldn’t make it onto this list.