November 16, 2010 at 09:35 PM EST

Image Credit: © & TM Lucasfilm, Ltd.

The good folks at have put together a nifty list of great opening sequences in movies. Between Citizen Kane, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Once Upon a Time in the West, they’ve definitely got their bases covered. However, looking at their list made me wonder about a slightly more debased subsection of film history: Movies that start off with a great scene…and then get really bad, really fast. And I’m not just talking, like, a bad Bond movie with a good pre-credits sequence, either. I’m talking about opening scenes that literally seem to come out of a smarter, better movie than the dreck that follows. 

Sometimes, the problem is that the first scene of the movie is actually too energetic. That’s definitely true of Scary Movie 2, which kicks off an extended Exorcist parody featuring cameos by Natasha Lyonne, Andy Richter, and a scenery-devouring James Woods. (It’s a reminder that the Wayans brothers can be pretty funny…when they’re working in eight-minute increments.) It’s also true of Troy, which finds just the right Verhoeven-esque tone of macho imperialism in its first scene (Adorable kid wakes Brad Pitt up from an orgy! Brad Pitt insults the adorable kid!) and then spends the rest of its running time playing the same note over and over again. (Honorable mention goes to The Way of the Gun, which has one of the loudest, funniest opening scenes to ever appear in an otherwise-quiet, mostly-unfunny movie.)

Other times, the problem is that the first scene feels, in a way, like the whole story. The first scene of Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits is simultaneously more subtle and less boring than the colorful claptrap that follows. (And I like Fellini’s colorful claptrap, usually.) And then there’s Alien 3, which has an incredible opening credits sequence that feels thrillingly nihilistic…and once it’s over, the film has nothing to do but mope around for two hours.

Still, if I had to pick the biggest movie-tease ever, I’d go straight to Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. Coming off of one terrible prequel and one terribly mediocre prequel, I had my guard up. And then the first scene of Episode III injected thrill juice right into my eyeballs with a snazzily hyperkinetic space battle followed by a fightin’, decapitatin’, lightsaberin’ fight sequence. It sure wasn’t the Star Wars I grew up with, but it felt utterly alive…and then the plot kicked in, Padme was pregnant/plastic, Anakin was angry/constipated, and snoooooooooze.

PopWatchers, what’s your pick for biggest opening tease followed by a terrible drop-off? I know Avatar isn’t terrible, but am I the only one who feels like the coolest scene in the movie is the opening zero-gravity space scene?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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