I had been thinking of making this for a while now and Alex's fantastic list provided me with the impetus that I needed. Some characters just blow you away from their introduction themselves. Brilliant intros often leave an indelible mark in our minds and here are ten such picks that did so for me.
Honourable mentions- Everyone in Alex's list, Marla Singer in Fight Club, Earnest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris, Gilda in Gilda and Isabelle in The Dreamers.
Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs
After having been warned by her superior Jack Crawford and the director of the Baltimore sanitarium about Lecter, the latter describing him as a monster and a pure psychopath, Clarice Starling goes to meet this man in his cell. She walks past the other inmates there, especially the loathsome Multiple Miggs, and finally comes Lecter who is just standing there in his glass cell, and we know, just know, that he is the craziest and most dangerous of them all. The music, Anthony Hopkins's eerie-tastic smile, Jodie Foster's subtle fear, everything just sets this scene to be one of the most memorable introductions and first meetings in cinematic history.
The Plastics in Mean Girls
I would call this scene a piece of pop culture history. Here we see for the first time, the Plastics, the reigning queens of a high school, the mean girls of all time. Also how they are described to new student Cady by the dry-witted duo of Janice and Damian is priceless. Karen Smith- "She asked me how to spell orange", Gretchen Wieners- "That's why her hair is so big, it's full of secrets" and finally, "Evil takes a human form in Regina George. Don't be fooled because she may seem like your typical selfish, back-stabbing slut faced ho-bag, but in reality, she's so much more than that."
If this scene isn't the best way for a director to set up his villain, I don't know what is. I have often said that I watch the Batman films for the villains, and the moment Heath Ledger's unparalleled incarnation of the Joker took off his joker mask, I just knew that I will love this film forever. A bank heist that keeps you at the edge of your seat, followed by that face- ah, Christmas.
Marie Antoinette in Marie Antoinette
Love Sofia Coppola's cheek in this scene. With Gang of Four's "Natural's Not In" blaring, our first look at Marie Antoinette is exactly how we have always imagined it would be. Grand clothes, excessive feathers, servants, boredom, and obviously cake! It is a perfect set-up for this movie and character, because it is unconventional as hell, yet an honest look at this young, naive, fashionable girl who just happens to be the queen of France.
The Tenenbaums in The Royal Tenenbaums
Even though I am not the biggest fan of this film, I just adore its opening that introduces us to Royal and Etheline Tenenbaum and their three gifted children. It sets the film up excellently as we already know what kind of people they are, especially the kids, and then we can understand them better as their grown-up troubled selves. Plus the tune of "Hey Jude" and Wes Anderson's unique quirks make this scene quite unforgettable.
Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange
The first shot we see is of Malcolm MacDowell's face, with his trademark eye-makeup, bowler hat, and an expression that is both disturbing and enthralling. Then the camera starts to zoom out and his narration begins and we see him with his droogs, his drencrom, the impossible Korova milkbar- this whole world where ultraviolence is the way, and no one revels in it more than Alex.
Romeo Montague in Romeo + Juliet
Wasn't Leonardo DiCaprio the prettiest thing ever? I say this because this scene does owe a lot to that. This brooding, lonely, beautiful Romeo, writing down his thoughts, "Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate, O anything of nothing first create. Heavy lightness. Serious vanity. Misshapen chaos of well seeming forms" with the music from possibly Radiohead's sexiest song, "Talk Show Host" playing in the background. And then he turns and looks, and my heart swoons every time. How can it not? He is Romeo.
Eve Harrington in All About Eve
If you are like me and did not know a thing about this film before watching it except that it stars Bette Davis and has the line "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!" the introduction of Eve Harrington, as the film is all about her, was quite interesting. We see how all the other characters react to her name, how her happiness brings joy to few yet she is said to be a great star and we already want to know all about this woman.
Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction
Just like quite a few entries in this list, by the time we actually do meet Mia Wallace, we have formed an opinion of hers in our head. She's the mob boss's wife because of whom a man got thrown down four stories onto a glasshouse, just for giving her a foot massage. And then she is introduced. I love the way she talks to her date Vincent over the intercom, her voice, her cocaine snorting and the way she says "Disco", Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man", and this first meeting of theirs that ends with a shot of those very feet. What's amazing is that don't actually see Mia Wallace during her introduction, but we have already been put under her spell.
Trip Fontaine in The Virgin Suicides
This is one of my favourite scenes period. Why? Because there is a Trip Fontaine in every school, and there always will be- that one guy who is dreamier than the rest, who makes the hearts of his female peers flutter and who all the girls gush over, and this scene captures all of that. So he isn't a big character in the film, but he is a character that has been there in every girl's life. This intro makes me giddy with an odd sense of nostalgia, especially with Heart's ever appropriate "Magic Man" accompanying it. Love Josh Hartnett's 70s hair and swag.
So there you have it. Disco!