They say first impressions are everything. In film, shots must be arranged in a certain order. Thus, it is the responsibility of the opening shot to get the ball rolling in the right direction, so to speak. In order to accomplish this, filmmakers will often choose imagery for the opening shot that they think will put viewers in the proper state of mind in which to experience the work. For example, a film about a character who yearns for freedom might open with a shot of birds flying majestically into the sky.
- The Searchers begins with a shot inside a house, looking out the front door. As someone's silhouette steps out the door, the camera dollies forward, until the sweeping desert vista outside fills the entire screen. The conflict between civilization and the wilderness of the American West (and whether someone at home in that wilderness has a place in civilization) is a major theme of the film.
- Citizen Kane opens on the image of a metal gate with a sign reading "No Trespassing" on it. This symbolizes the title character's emotional isolation and difficulty relating with others.
- The feather blowing in the wind at the beginning of Forrest Gump. It is often thought to represent the randomness and unpredictability of life, as well as the main character's "go with the flow" attitude that becomes one of his keys to success.