In real life, we are only given one chance to make the right impression, and this rule of law transfers over to the world of film. When we are watching a skillfully crafted film, we are immersed into a world where we meet characters as if they were being introduced to us in real life. When done well, these moments tell us everything we need to know about these characters.
Over decades of cinema, here are some of the most memorable introductions we’ve experienced.
Ginger – Casino
In the scene where we are introduced to Ginger, she is at the craps tables getting up to no good. The main character, Sam looks on, enamoured with her beauty, grace, and fiery energy. After a dispute with her partner, Ginger goes into a frenzy, throwing thousands of dollars worth of chips into the air. The famous clay-based tokens scatter everywhere as other casino patrons scramble to scoop them up. This introduction is perfect for the multi-layered character and gives the viewer an all-in-one glimpse into her true personality.
As Sam’s character puts it “for a girl like Ginger, love costs money.” Ginger is a hustler, a girl that uses her charm to keep men feeling elated and to keep them at the casino tables, only for them to lose it all in the end. She is a character with immense depth and mystery: later in the film Ginger is revealed to be living a double life, and the audience is left wondering if she ever truly loved Sam at all.
The Joker – The Dark Knight
The introduction of the Joker in the blockbuster film The Dark Knight will live on in cinema history as one of the greatest character introductions ever. Not only was this introduction thoroughly entertaining and surprising, it also completely captured everything that the Joker is and represents.
On the surface, the Joker is a chaotic individual that utilizes distraction and misdirection tactics to get an advantage over his opponent. If you look deeper than that, you will realize the Joker is a cunning, masterful manipulator and strategist who plans elaborate schemes that somehow come together perfectly. The Joker has a perplexing yin and yang personality that is hard to understand because, as he puts it later in the film, “do I really look like a guy with a plan?” The Joker is an enigma and a captivating figure in this film.
The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz is a classic film that is consistently ranked as one of the best of all time. In this story, our cast of comical characters have traversed a magical land in search of the Wizard of Oz. For much of the film he is spoken about almost as if he is a revered demigod, but when we finally meet the Wizard our mental image of him is shattered – although not immediately.
The Wizard appears before Dorothy in a grand show of smoke and fire, like a Las Vegas magician. This facade is later destroyed when he is revealed to be simply a man behind a curtain, utilizing cheap effects and chicanery. It’s a powerful statement, and scholars have enjoyed picking apart the symbolism in this classic film for decades.
Bill the Butcher – Gangs of New York
Daniel Day-Lewis is world renowned for his ability to completely embody a character and the mastery of his craft. It’s unimaginable that any character introduction could be more fitting than the one we witness in Gangs of New York.
Bill the Butcher is a man of great pride that leads to a bloodthirsty rage. The film starts off with Bill facing his most worthy adversary on the battlefield. From the dialogue to Bill’s glass eye, to the stillness and bleak winter atmosphere, everything about this scene is meticulously set for the introduction of one of the most memorable characters in film history.
Pennywise – IT
As far as horror movies are concerned, how could an introduction be better than Pennywise in IT? Many horror films dance around the point until we finally see the monster or the ghost, continuously giving us false buildups and cheap jump scares.
In the film IT, Pennywise is delivered without hesitation in an absolutely terrifying and unnerving fashion. When little Georgie chases after his paper boat sailing down the puddle, he comes face to face with this supernatural monster waiting deviously in the street gutter.