Title sequences are a massively important part of a film or TV show; they can help set the tone, style, and themes of your film or even help with your narrative. The horror genre includes some of the most iconic opening titles, so we’ve compiled a list of our favorite 30 Film & TV Halloween sequences to inspire your next scary project.
Part 1: 20 All-Time Best Horror Film Title Sequences
1. Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott’s original Alien film sets the isolated tone straight away against the backdrop of deep space as the iconic title design is slowly revealed one terrifying line at a time. Hauntingly effective and serving as a foreshadowing for the horrors to come, Alien is a masterclass in less being more.
2. Zombieland (2009)
Zombieland’s incredible title sequence perfectly sets up the macabre comedy with a series of slow-motion zombie attacks as the narrator lays out the rules to follow. The titles sit within the 3D space and are animated to interact with the action in each shot. This irreverent sequence lets the audience know this is a comedy first and foremost.
3. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Tim Burton has had plenty of iconic title sequences, but Edward Scissorhands is the pinnacle of Burton’s live-action work. Evoking boundless imagination tinged with snow-infused melancholy, the audience feels Edward’s loneliness and his wish for companionship in his life, all through the stunning title sequence.
4. Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Nightmare Before Christmas title is a masterpiece in storytelling; before you’ve even got to the film, we’re introduced to Halloween Town, Christmas Town, and several of the main characters. The iconic look of the Tim Burton produced stop motion is clearly on display from the first frame.
5. Se7en (1995)
David Fincher’s neo-noir thriller Seven wastes no time dropping the audience into the deep end of the grim and grimy world of John Doe. From the opening of his diary pages to the jittery credits with damaged film stock, everything about this opening sequence is designed to make the audience feel deeply uncomfortable.
6. The Invisible Man (2020)
How do you create invisible titles? The Invisible Man titles do just that with the fantastic use of purpose shot footage and animated text. Opening on waves crashing on a rock, the titles are only visible when water splashes on them before running back to the ocean like they were never there at all.
7. The Conjuring (2013)
The Conjuring title sequence consisted of simple animated titles laid over the opening shots of the scary doll in the house setting, but as the details build the filmmakers add in chilling elements. Starting with going through a basement door, a vintage movie projector shows the history of the house and events, ending on the full-screen title.
8. Enter the Void (2009)
Enter The Void offers a psychedelic bombardment of titles, each flicking on screen for just a few frames. While different from the other entries on this list, Gaspar Noé’s incredible drug-fuelled out-of-body experience offers equally experimental titles that focus on style over readability.
9. The Thing (1982)
Opening on a simple black screen with fading white titles, The Thing builds suspense and dread through Ennio Morricone’s incredible score. Moving into a star-filled sky, an alien ship crashes to earth before the terrifying movie title shines across the screen; an excellent shorthand for setting up the theme of evil lurking within that runs through the film.
10. Halloween (1978)
Often spoofed, never rivaled, John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween sets its dread-induced tone with its big, bold orange titles, a creepy slow close-up of a Jack o’Lantern, and of course, the iconic music from director John Carpenter. Much like Michael Myers, it’s as relentless as it is powerful.
11. Psycho (1960)
Armed with nothing more than lines and a chilling score, Saul Bass shocked a generation with his title sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Bass invented kinetic typography for Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, but Psycho is the perfect union between audio and visual, creating a nerve-shredding sequence with just lines and sound.
12. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The first entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise introduces us to Freddy making his iconic glove in a basement that belongs in a bad dream. When the credits have rolled by, a full-screen title featuring blood-red bold lettering bursts onto the screen to let you know Freddy’s coming for you.
13. The Forbidden Room (2015)
The Forbidden Room opening breaks every rule in the book when it comes to creating title sequences; the fonts, backgrounds, color schemes, and effects are all different from slide to slide. While it shouldn’t work, the clever use of overlays and title positioning creates a constant and stylish look.
14. Mama (2013)
The titles for Andy Muschietti’s Mama take an exciting and unique approach to introduce the characters through children’s drawings. The creepy depictions of the characters’ lives give the audience context and backstory while keeping with the film’s bleakly beautiful aesthetic.
15. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Saul Bass’ groundbreaking use of cut-out animation for Anatomy of A Murder is a masterclass of simplistic design. Using little more than a chalk outline of a body at a crime scene as inspiration, the title sequence lays out each part of the evidence just like the jury will in this tense courtroom thriller.
16. Saw (2004)
The first Saw uses extreme glitching effects throughout the title sequence to create a feeling of discomfort in the audience. With digital glitch transitions moving us quickly through surreal close-up imagery, the titles also glitch on and off the screen with a scratchy, over-exposed style.
17. Slice (2018)
The 2018 comedy-horror Slice offers a unique, animated opening sequence, highlighting the comedy over the terrifying, depicting hand-drawn characters, locations, and ghouls. The opening sequence tells you precisely what you’re going to get; ghosts, blood, and plenty of pizza.
18. Final Destination (2000)
The Final Destination series each feature a single full-screen title card with purpose shot footage in the background. What is interesting about the Final Destination openers is that each offers clues to the inventive death scenes to come, from the font used to the style of animation.
19. Sinister (2012)
The 2012 movie Sinister focuses on a collection of old home movies found in the lead character’s new home. Pulling on this idea, the opening sequence offers close-up imagery of old spooky objects in a flickering film reel frame. The grungy, vintage look adds a sense of unease from the very start.
20. Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
The third installment in the Annabelle franchise offers two-tone imagery, playing with threshold and isolation effects, creating a heightened sense of unease. The brightly colored graphic elements are perfectly offset by minimal dissolving titles, an effortless but effective look.
Part 2: Top 10 Chilling TV Series Title Sequences
1. True Blood (2008)
HBO’s Southern Gothic series title sequence is almost a short film depicting life, death, lust, salvation, and so much more. While the footage used in the sequence doesn’t refer to the show, the imagery sets up the themes explored in True Blood.
2. American Horror Story (2011)
Each season of this anthology series is different, which requires a new title sequence, but each one remains unmistakably American Horror Story. Using an array of horror title sequence tropes, grainy damaged film effects, flickering creepy imagery, removed frames, and glitchy transitions, each sequence has clues to the story hidden within its nightmarish design.
3. Dexter (2006)
On the surface, the Dexter title sequence is just a man getting up, cooking breakfast, and going about his day. However, when you understand the show’s context, a blood-spatter analyst who is also a serial killer, the extreme close-up shots and jump-cut editing give the opening a sinister, unsettling feeling.
4. Stranger Things (2016)
Heavily inspired by John Carpenter and the 80s in general, from its synth bathed music to the tracking close-ups of the giant neon overlapping lettering to slowly reveal the title. It’s a stunningly effective sequence that’s infused with 80s nostalgia with just a hint of unease while creating its own unique thing.
5. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)
Based on the Archie comic books of the same name, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina nods to its heritage in the opening titles. Featuring full-screen comic book-style panels, the sequence introduces each character while letting the audience know of the supernatural world they will be visiting.
6. Good Omens (2019)
The Good Omens title sequence not only tells an animated story of the budding friendship between the lead characters, but it also adds a distinctive style that fits the Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett built world. The storybook-style cutout characters and the jaunty motion are both whimsical and eerie, just like the series.
7. Lovecraft Country (2020)
Each episode of HBO’s ambitious Lovecraft Country has a different title sequence, with the title font and movement offering consistency. Featuring a slow parallax style zoom, the full-screen background graphics come together to offer clues to the episode’s themes.
8. The Walking Dead (2010)
The 9th season of AMC’s landmark zombie series changed the title sequence for the first time to signify a new chapter in the epic story. The haunting music from composer Bear McCreary remains, but in place of a stark empty world, we now have a beautifully animated comic-book-style sequence showing plant life growing, new homes built, yet the undead remains an ever-present threat.
9. The Twilight Zone (1959)
The Twilight Zone is an excellent example of a title sequence that sets up the audience’s expectations from the get-go. Drifting through a starry sky, strange objects appear across the screen, beginning with the iconic doorway and ending with the Title text scatter-dissolving on screen. The Twilight Zone opening sequence may look dated, but it was cutting edge in 1959.
10. The Terror (2018)
This fictionalized account of a failed expedition to find the North-West Passage is a dread-fueled tale of survival against an unforgiving landscape and the many dangerous mysteries it holds. Using a stunning monochromatic title sequence to highlight the isolation and endless winter with just a hint of the supernatural.
Part 3: Tips & Tricks that Make or Break a Title Sequence
Title sequences come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a few rules that the best ones all stick to, and with good reason. If you’re interested to learn more about creating the perfect title sequence for your movie.
Choose an Iconic Beat and Music
Music ties everything together, and never more so than in a title sequence. The music should do several things; set the tone for the audience, fit the style and beats of the editing, and most importantly, pull your audience through a series of title slides.
Finding the right music can be tricky, but once you’ve got the right track, you’re already halfway there. Choose the wrong track, and your audience might turn off before the ‘Written By’ credits.
Match Your Font to the Film
You may not have the budget for a massive art department to create an iconic font for your sequence, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it thought. There are thousands of fonts available to download online, so you are sure to find something that will suit your film.
Your font can add style to your sequence and inform the audience about the type of film you’re about to see.
Add Effects and Overlays to Footage
Effects and Overlays can help add texture and depth to any title sequence, but they become truly beneficial for horror. Light Leak overlays, Noise & Grain effects, and color LUTs can all be used to create a distinctive look.
As with your music and titles, the effects and overlays you choose to use should fit your film’s tone and themes. Never forget the purpose of your title sequence; don’t overdo the effects, or your audience won’t be able to read the text.
Keep an Eye on Length
There is no exact length your titles should be, as this will depend on your particular film. If your titles are too long, however, you can risk losing your viewer’s attention.
Consider the titles you need to show and the pace of your title sequence; if it feels too long, see where you can cut it back or speed it up. Remember, your audience is there to see your film; the titles should be an added flourish.
Mix and Match Styles
A lot of templates are modular in design, allowing you to mix and match as needed. If you like the text effects from one template and the transitions from another, you can combine them to create a unique sequence of your own.
You should be careful when trying to mix templates, however, as it is still important to offer constancy for the viewer; only mix elements that you can match in tone and pace.
So, that is our list of top film and TV title sequences, with some bonus tips for creating your own. We hope you’re now feeling suitably inspired to get creative with your next project and consider how the titles can help tell your story to your audience. If you’re looking for some incredible horror opening sequences for your project, check out this list of awesome downloadable templates.