The first half-hour of Back to the Future is all about this. The opening scene tells us about a mad scientist with his Rube Goldberg machines, a dog, stolen plutonium, Libyan terrorists and a fascination with clocks. Then we see a young friend with his skateboard who plays guitar, has a girlfriend and is regularly late for school. Then the young friend skateboards through town, wants to be a rock star and has a miserable home life. Then we see how George is bullied by Biff, Lorraine takes comfort in alcohol, Dave and Linda live quiet lives of desperation, and Uncle Joey has no hope of parole. Eventually we meet Doc who deals with terrorists and can tell us we're going to see some serious shit, and the plot of the movie is finally started.
10 Things I Hate About You: The movie opens with perky pop song playing over fun, bouncing credits, as four perky pretty girls roll up to a stop sign in a brightly-coloured sports car...then the pop music is rapidly drowned out by Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation", as a lone, sour-faced young woman rolls up next to them in a beat-up Ford, glaring. Six minutes before we learn her name, five minutes before she ever speaks, and we already know Kat's basic character.
Also captured in that wonderful exchange with Miss Perky:
Ms. Perky: People perceive you as somewhat... Kat: Tempestuous? Ms. Perky: "Heinous bitch" is the term used most often.
West Side Story: No scene identifies the Jets better than the first few minutes where they tersely walk across the playground, snapping in rhythm, but walk around a small girl making a chalk drawing on the asphalt...taking care not to step on her art! Unity! Toughness! Tension! Anger! All revealed in seconds...as well as a core sense of propriety and human decency.
After the very first scene in Batman Begins which has young Bruce Wayne falling into a cave and being swarmed by bats (which as a kid, he was terrified of), we're treated to a prison scene which establishes the older Bruce Wayne as a badass, which has him taking down both a huge Chinese prisoner and every other prisoner who joins the fight. And then the guards have him dragged away, not to protect Bruce from them, but to protect them from him.
"You're not the Devil. You're practice."
The Joker in The Dark Knight has two of these, the first being the bank robbery when he shows himself ready and willing to betray his teammates for his own ends, and later his "magic trick" involving a pencil and plenty of Eye Scream, which shows his mental instability and viciousness.
Kambei's Batman Cold Open, in which he shaves off his topknot, a symbol of honor for a samurai, in order to trick a kidnapper and rescue a child. Roger Ebert wonders in his review if it's the origin of the practice, now common in action movies, of introducing the main hero with an undertaking unrelated to the main plot.
Good-natured Heihachi is found cutting wood in order to get by. Rather than complain about doing such lowly labor, he accepts it with good cheer and a quip about being from the "Woodcut School."
Kyuzo, the expert swordsman, is first seen engaged in a duel. His opponent refuses to be convinced that he truly lost their non-lethal exchange and insists on repeating it in earnest, whereupon Kyuzo immediately kills him.
Kikuchiyo is first seen front and center while carrying a really long sword.
The Magnificent Seven, a Setting Update of Seven Samurai, features alternate establishing character moments for its versions of the characters. Vin and Chris volunteer to drive a hearse containing an Indian up to Boot Hill despite the protests of the townspeople, which mirror's Kambei's socially dishonorable and morally correct actions. Britt is introduced with a duel, as with Kyuzo in Seven Samurai: he demonstrates non-lethally his ability to win a pistol duel with a knife, and displays complete indifference to being called a liar and a coward, only agreeing to repeat the duel in earnest when his opponent threatens to shoot him where he sits otherwise.
Achilles in Troy waking up from a threesome, several hours late for a battle and after being called up to fight some gigantic champion in a duel, running up and just casually stabbing him in the neck.
In Iron Man, Tony Stark seems to get two moments several scenes apart. In the very first scene, he's drinking, flirting with a female soldier, downplaying yet at the same time bragging about his abilities to nail beautiful women, carousing with a soldier, and making morbid yet situation-appropriate jokes. Then, despite being a businessman who's never seen a real fight, he shows something approximating a cool head by asking for a gun (and, in a deleted scene, actually using one for a few moments), running when there's no other option, calling for help on his phone, and revealing himself to have been wearing a flak jacket.
Pepper Potts's first appearance when she speaks with Christine Everheart, the reporter who Tony sleeps with and then subsequently dumps.
Christine: After all these years, Tony still has you picking up the drycleaning?
Pepper: I do anything and everything Mr. Stark requires. Including, occasionally, taking out the trash.
We first learn that Indiana Jones is no man to be trifled with when he bullwhips a treacherous partner behind his back. The entire Batman Cold Open in the ancient temple and ultimate Indy Escape also establish him as a daring adventurer who's not exactly perfect.
Marion is introduced as a tough chick by outdrinking a sherpa twice her size, then punching our hero in the face.
"Dr. Jones. Again we see there is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away. And you thought I'd given up." Belloq's personality, role and shared history all laid out in three sentences.
The Proposition is really clever about this. The first character we see is Mikey Burns, who is, appropriately enough, confused, hiding, and entirely reliant on the protection of his older brother Charlie. Charlie establishes his character by saying, quietly and calmly, "Touch me brother again, and I'll kill you." Arthur Burns is established through Stanley's recounting of Arthur's Moral Event Horizon, and then introduced as a caring older brother with a poetic soul. Stanley's introduced when he pistol-whips a mentally impaired man, and then turns out to actually be a decent fellow. And then there's Eden Fletcher, who spends most of his first scene looking at a badly wounded Mikey and repeatedly commenting "What a little piece of filth."
The wedding sequence in The Godfather, in which Vito conducts nefarious business in a darkened office alongside the bright festivities of his family.
Also Vito casually playing with a cat on his lap while discussing whether or not to accept a man's request to murder someone. This was a Throw It In moment thanks to Francis Ford Coppola meeting a stray cat in the parking lot, and giving it to Marlon Brando (who happened to be a cat person) just before filming the scene.
Santino smashing a photographer's camera. Also a Throw It In moment.
Fredo gets one some way in when Vito gets shot; he reacts too slowly to the gunshots, then drops his gun while the hitmen make their getaway and then he just sits down and cries pathetically rather than try to help.
Apocalypse Now: Col. Kurtz gets one via audio only via a recording of his descent into insanity being played for Willard as his "termination" mission is assigned to him.
Col. Kurtz "I have seen...a snail...crawl along the edge...of a straight razor. I have seen...a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor...and survive. That's my dream. That's my nightmare."
Willard going crazy in his hotel room shows the inner turmoil he tries to suppress for the rest of the film. As with The Godfather above, this was pretty much a Throw It In moment: Martin Sheen was legitimately drunk, and Francis Ford Coppola was taunting him from off-screen about what a total failure he was as an actor and a human being. Breaking the mirror, and his hands bleeding, wasn't special effects.
The Night Porter establishes his character in his first scene. "I got friends who'd love to meet you. And they will, mate. Believe me. They will."
Mrs. Kendall is established by her line "I should very much like to meet this Mr. Merrick." Not "elephant man", but "Mr. Merrick".
Mothershead's moment would probably be the fear that John is just being stared at all over again. This is quite appropriate, as the characters have seen little of her personality up to now, either.
And Frederick Treves doesn't get one at all. This keeps his fears of being Not So Different from Bytes all the more effective.
The first quarter-hour of Cloverfield establishes the character who will be holding the camera for most of the movie as the kind of person who's just enough of an obsessive nerd to do that. This doubles as justification, since the first question anyone asks is "Who would actually keep the camera running at a time like this?"
The first scene in Swordfish is John Travolta's character Deconstructing Hollywood's traditional portrayal of bank robberies. By itself, it tells a lot about the mindset of his character, but what really makes it an Establishing Character Moment is what happens afterward. He walks out of the café, convince the heavily armed SWAT team to move out of his way by bringing up a detonator and cross the street to where he has a bank robbery in progress, revealing that the people he has been talking to are hostage negotiators.
The first scene of Reservoir Dogs is one huge Seinfeldian Conversation and is seemingly irrelevant to the plot, but gives most characters their establishing moments. Some of these are quite adequate (White is shown as levelheaded and experienced, and his friendship with Mr Orange is evident if you watch close enough; Mr Pink gives the impression of a whiny powerhouse of logic; Mr Brown is talkative and not serious-minded), some are misleading (Psycho for Hire Mr Blond as a jolly Elvis lookalike? Puh-lease!), and there is even a bit of clever Foreshadowing concerning The Mole.
Blue Velvet's villain, Frank Booth, introduces himself in the story by randomly brutalizing and raping a woman, including such sexual perversions as erotic asphyxiation, fisting, dry humping, and sadomasochism, and then taunting her about her mutilated (by him no less) husband. It should be pretty obvious to the audience just what kindof character he is by that point.
In the movie version of Ripley's Game, Ripley starts out by calmly beating a thug to death with a fireplace poker and tricking a couple fellow criminals out of several million dollars worth of forged paintings. That sums up his character.
Detective Mills's establishing moment arguably comes not long after the research montage: after spending most of the night working on the case, he's then sent a package of library books on the Seven Deadly Sins by his partner... whereupon Mills loses his temper, refers to Dante as a "poetry-writing faggot piece of shit," and starts throwing books around the inside of his car. Then, upon being given the cliff-notes versions of the same books, he profusely thanks the officer who delivered them. All of this establishes him as a nice if somewhat uncultured guy who has difficulty controlling his temper when under pressure (which becomes much more relevant later on).
Detective Somerset's establishing moment arrives right at the beginning of the film, in which he goes about his morning routine in a very careful, methodical manner, goes to work and asks questions about a particular crime that none of the other detectives are interested in answering, makes sarcastic comments about the "crime of passion," wonders why his new partner (Detective Mills) would actually want a transfer to thiscity, before going home and lulling himself to sleep with a metronome. All of this sums him up as both intelligent and remarkably cynical.
Barton Keyes' first scene in Double Indemnity, in which he tears apart a guy trying to claim insurance on his truck by revealing that the man had set fire to it himself. The scene is completely irrelevant to the plot, but it serves to thoroughly introduce Keyes, his methods, his quirks, and his relationship to Neff.
In Stargate, Daniel Jackson gives a lecture on the Pyramids where his (correct) conclusions on their age are mocked and everyone abandons the talk before he's done, showing that he's a brilliant but unappreciated scientist. Jack O'Neil is introduced looking moodily at a gun while sitting on his recently dead son's bed. This establishes the pain beneath his gruff exterior and explains why he would take a suicide mission to begin with. Both moments also show that neither man has a lot going for him on Earth.
In Daredevil, Bullseye is first seen landing a series of bulls-eyes into a dartboard without looking and while downing a beer, establishing his superhuman accuracy. He then murders a man in front of a bar full of witnesses over a muttered insult, with a paperclip, establishing that he is Ax-Crazy.
In A Clockwork Orange, the very first shot is Alex leering into the camera while a synthetic funeral march blares on the soundtrack, establishing Alex's strong, hypnotic and thoroughly evil personality before the voice-over even mentions "the old ultraviolence."
The first appearance of the Operative in Serenity, in which he casually kills the head doctor of the Academy and praises him for his good work even as the doctor dies, impaled on the Operative's sword. This establishes him as intelligent, honorable, and completely ruthless.
A desert holiday Let's pack the drag away You pack the lunch and tea I'll pack the ecstasy Fuck off you silly queer I'm getting out of here A desert holiday Hip hip hip hip hooray.
It isn't long into the first appearance of the Twister from Ip Man 2 before he calls Master Hung a "yellow piece of fat", and he only gets worse from there.
In A Hard Day's Night, the ECM for John, George, and Ringo has them running for their lives from the fans. They are further established, along with Paul's grandfather, in the first train scenes.
In Give My Regards to Broad Street, we first see Paul in the back seat of a limo that's stuck in traffic in the rain, dividing his time between writing lyrics and listening to the radio with an air of silent resignation. Even though this is one level of reality up from most of the film, it foreshadows his role in the film surprisingly well.
In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory the first time we see the titular character, he's slowly limping with a cane towards the crowd and appears to suddenly trip just before the end...only to suddenly do a somersault and stand up triumphantly. This scene was Gene Wilder's idea, to convey to the characters and the audience that Wonka is not to be trusted.
Predator 2 opens with Lt. Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) pulling off a move that's completely over-the-top awesome (even for the '80s) to save two police officers pinned down. He stuffs bullet-proof vests in the windows of one side of the car, smashes the driver's-side door off, and drives in while leaning out of the car, shooting at the gang members. He then picks up his shotgun (having dismissed the pistols as "too small"), flanks the gang members, and kills them. This immediately gives us the idea that if anyone can take on an alien hunter with superior technology, it's this man.
In one of the first scenes of The Thing (1982), MacReady is playing chess with a computer. When he loses, he pours his scotch into the CPU and calls the program a cheating bitch. In the long run, the outburst tells a lot about his character; in the end, he'd rather burn down the whole facility than let the Thing win, just as he'd rather fry the computer than admit defeat to it.
Jack Napier in the 1989 Batman. In his introduction scene, he establishes that he's part of the criminal element plaguing Gotham City by his first line (in response to Harvey Dent's speech about making the city safe for decent people), "Decent people shouldn't live here. They'd be happier someplace else." His next line, "If this clown could touch Grissom, I'd have handed him his lungs by now," establishes that he is a psycho. Next, he comments on how his boss is a "tired old man" and how he "can't run the city without me," suggesting that he wants to run the show himself someday (which is expanded upon later in the "think about the future" scene with Eckhardt). He then admires himself in the mirror, and when the attractive woman he's been talking to (his girlfriend, who is also his boss's mistress) approaches him and compliments his looks ("You look fine"), he is insulting ("I didn't ask"), revealing that he is an arrogant jerk with a focus on his looks, which foreshadows his later transformation and the psychological effect it will have on him.
The Batman films used different techniques to introduce Bruce Wayne.
The first Batman - He is fumbling about during a party showing his eccentricity. The fact that he also pretends not to know who Bruce Wayne is to Vicki Vale, only to introduce himself to her and Alexander Knox in a more low-key fashion, also indicates his willingness to and ease at keeping a low profile and slipping into the background when it suits him.
Jigsaw's pre-disfigurement establishing scene in Punisher: War Zone has him look at himself in a mirror and makes an arrogant rebuff when his woman compliments him.
In The Big Lebowski, the first thing we see The Dude doing is shopping for half-and-half in his robe, tasting it in the store, then paying for it by writing a post-dated check for 69 cents. If that's not The Slacker, then nothing is.
Avatar: Sigourney Weaver's character barks, "Where's my goddamn cigarette?" showing that she's tough even though she's a scientist.
In Trainspotting, Francis Begby is shown to be a violent thug when he casually tosses a beer mug off a balcony, hitting a girl in the face with it, then starting a brawl. Just before kicking a guy in the crotch, he roars with an exultant look on his face, showing that violence is a drug to him.
Also, there's a scene at the beginning of the film that introduces the five leads acting out their Establishing Character Moments- as part of a football game: Sick Boy fouls, and shouts "What?" as if trying to look innocent; Begbie dropkicks one of the opposing team-members, wearing a delighted grin as he gets up; Spud acts as goalie, completely misses an incoming ball and gets yelled at by his own team; Tommy gets caught in a corner and tries valiantly to escape without performing a foul; finally, Renton gets hit in the head with the ball and collapses- all the while narrating sarcastically.
The first we see of Jack Sparrow is the man standing proudly atop the mast of his ship staring straight ahead. The ship is almost immediately shown to be a small, sinking, flooding dinghy, and Sparrow is the only crew. Sparrow drops down, bails some of the water out, and then resumes standing proudly atop the mast. Sparrow loses his ship and crew numerous times throughout the franchise, but if nothing else, he always has his pride.
Ghostbusters. Venkman is first shown giving an ESP test to two students in which a wrong answer is followed by an electric shock. Because one of his test subjects is an attractive female student, Venkman keeps zapping the other (male) subject regardless of who gets the right answer. This reveals Venkman as a Jerk Ass, a scientific fraud, and a man who thinks with his groin.
The opening scene of Top Gun. Maverick and another Navy fighter encounters enemy MiGs. Maverick manages to fly right above and upside down one MiG so close his RIO (Radio Intercept Officer), Goose, takes a Polaroid of the surprised pilot. This establishes Maverick as a skilled flyer and he and Goose as best friends who like to clown around. When the encounter causes his fellow pilot has a Heroic BSOD in mid-air, Maverick defies orders to stay with him to help guide him back to their aircraft carrier safely. This establishes Maverick as a rebel and heroic.
The opening scene of Patton does a very good job of establishing the title character, with all his medals, and pearl handled revolvers giving a Rousing Speech to his army offscreen in front of a giant American Flag.
Tuco: Is eating in a bar. A group of gunmen come in to kill him and he shoots them all before crashing out of a window, still eating his dinner. "The Ugly."
Angel Eyes: Has been hired to get information from a man. He enters his house, talks with him, refuses the man's counteroffer of more money if Angel Eyes leaves him alone and instead kills his boss, then shoots the man dead. His son comes downstairs with a gun and Angel Eyes kills him too. He then goes back to his boss, giving him the information, and then kills him — he took the first victim's money, and he always finishes the job once he's been paid. "The Bad."
Blondie: Tracks down Tuco, kills several rival bounty hunters, and turns him in for a reward, then frees him so they can repeat the process several more times. When the jig is up he abandons Tuco in the desert and rides off with the money. "The Good."
The eponymous Mystery Team has two: the harassment of Old Man McGinty for absolutely no reason, and the investigation and interrogation of Eric; these two scenes set up their childlike attitude, Jason's paper thin disguises and their tendency to overreact to the smallest thing.
Superman establishes the famed Man of Steel three separate times; each time is awesome.
The first time is when the baby Kal-El reaches Earth. The baby crawls up out of the wrecked spacecraft and raises his arms to the stunned Ma and Pa Kent (whose characters are established here as well). Moments later as Pa Kent is changing the tires the jack goes loose and the truck nearly crushes him. But it doesn't...because the little baby caught the thing and is holding it over his head, smiling sweetly at the awed humans. The kid can't read a nursery rhyme, and already he's starting his superhero career.
In an Establishing Character Moment that's also a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, Ma Kent gushes about how she's begged and begged all her life for the Good Lord to give them a child as she looks at the infant from Krypton. As if on cue, the baby, who's never seen her a day in his life, spins around and hugs Ma Kent. Establishing Family Moment?
We flash to a teenage Clark Kent, whose acting as a waterboy for the football team. He's painfully shy around Lana Lang, his crush and can't even talk to her unless she talks to him. And rather than beat the snot out of her smug jerkass boyfriend, he grudgingly gets back to work. In a fit of rage he kicks the football when no one's looking, seemingly into orbit. Already Clark is learning how to hide his true nature, how to control the urge to simply overpower his foes, and we see his famous awkwardness around women.
Lastly, the Fortress of Solitude scene climaxes his training and his lessons from Jor-El with the first appearance of the adult Clark Kent/Kal-El, dressed in the classic blue suit and flowing red cape. As the Rousing Music blasts away in the background, he flies away from the Fortress of Solitude, the first demonstration of his greatest known ability. (This leads directly to the first appearance of adult Clark Kent in alter-ego form as he arrives for his first day of work at the Daily Planet. This establishes the classic Kent bumbling and aloof disguise.)
The Nazi scientist, Dr. Klaus Schmidt, tries to get the young Erik to use his powers to move a coin, first by using a chocolate bar and when that doesn't work... he then shoots Erik's mother in the face. And when the kid has a BSOD and tears the place up with his metal powers, the guy laughs with satisfaction. The funny thing is, the Nazi scientist persona was a cover for his true identity, but that moment told you precisely the kind of a son of a bitch from hell you were dealing with.
The following scene shows an adult Erik sitting silently in a hotel room, fiddling with the same coin using his powers. He stares at a wall papered with pictures of notable Nazis, including a hand drawing of Dr. Schmidt. He looks at it for a moment before spearing the picture of Schmidt with the coin. Everything we need to know about how this man becomes Magneto is right in that scene.
When we first see Charles as a kid, the framed photos on his night table are of Charles Darwin, Hedy Lamarr (who was both a Hollywood sex symbol and the co-inventor of a radio-guided torpedo system) and Albert Einstein. He would later grow up to be a scientist with an appreciation for both brains and beauty.
The first meeting between a young Charles Francis Xavier and Raven Darkholme. It established her isolation due to her appearance, and the fact that she is willing to latch on to anyone who accepts her, and it showed his kindness and delight at finding other people who were different.
In The Wolverine, Yukio walks in a bar, quips on the idiocy of Wolverine's foes (and that they'll be dead soon, as per her seer powers), then proceeds to effortlessly puts them on their place. Yukio then walks away unfazed as if she does that on a daily basis.
Die Hard's Big Bad Hans Gruber showed his refined taste when he complimented Takagi's suit.
Gruber already established the Magnificent Bastard, Smug Snake type of criminal he is when he's directing his goons to prep before taking the Nakatomi Christmas Party hostage. And then, after they burst in and spray the place with bullets, he gently chides the screaming, terrified, hostages to please, please be quiet and allow him to speak.
Detective McClane's Anti-Hero tendencies start to peek through as he's talking to the doctor on the flight to LA.
The coffee shop meeting of Detective Alonzo Harris and Officer Jake Hoyt in Training Day.
The opening voiceover of his letter to his mother establishes the mindset and character of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw in Glory.
Morpheus's first phone call to Neo in The Matrix. Apparently all-knowing, a disembodied voice of wisdom, and bad things happen when his orders aren't followed — but also completely dogmatic, trying to steer Neo's every action.
Neo's comes between his introductory scene and his interrogation with Smith. In the first he's a loner, living in an empty apartment surrounded by computers, looking for answers to mysterious, elusive questions. In the interrogation he demands the rights he is entitled to, shows disrespect for authority, and by all accounts he helps his landlady carry out her garbage.
The scenes of the young James T. Kirk and young Spock near the beginning of Star Trek.
To clarify, said pull ups are being done on the leg of a bed she has flipped over, her options being somewhat limited as she's currently a mental patient in a loony bin.
Men In Black contrasts Jay and Kay's ways of catching aliens. Kay tricks a disguised alien into exposing himself by calmly chatting with him in Spanish (which the alien pretends to speak), and Jay chases another disguised alien through a busy Manhattan street, ultimately getting the drop on him by jumping onto a moving bus from a bridge.
Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger has quite a few. All these moments occurred before his transformation into Captain America. One was where he dove for a grenade and cradled it despite not knowing it was a dud. Also the scene when the sergeant tells the recruits to get a flag off a pole. Everyone fails to climb it but Steve casually takes the screws off the pole, causing the pole to fall and retrieved the flag that way. And this line:
Steve Rogers: I don't want to kill anybody; I don't like bullies. I don't care where they're from.
Earlier than that, you find out he's tried to enlist in the army multiple times, he calls out a guy for being rude in a movie theater, later is fighting said guy even when it's obvious who has the upper hand and doesn't run away no matter how much he gets beaten.
Steve (still obviously in agony): NO! DON'T! I CAN DO THIS!
Peggy Carter's first scene is dealing with someone who was mocking her for being English and making several rude and sexist comments towards her. She knocks him down with one punch.
The Professional. The first scenes show Leon as a badass hitman with almost supernatural skills due to years of training. He spends the rest of his day as mundanely as possible- going to the store, watering his plants and cleaning his guns.
Norman Stansfield gets two establishing moments: he's introduced standing in the background, listening to classical music on his headphones and completely disconnected from the rest of the world. Then, when his second-in-command informs him of a problem (a drug holder apparently cut some of the dope he was supposed to be keeping safe), he removes the headphones, and sniffs the holder for a few seconds, before declaring him innocent. Stansfield's next scene shows him leading a gang of thugs towards the holder's apartment: he takes a moment to down a pill and muse on how much he likes "these calm little moments before the storm," before charging into the apartment with a shotgun, killing the holder's wife, the holder's teenage daughter, then finally cornering the holder himself... so he can chat about classical music while the rest of his gang search the apartment for drugs.
In Audition, The Protagonist, a grieving widower has met a beautiful woman named Asami through the ruse of a movie audition. Over the objections of his friend, he calls her back, and we see her sitting on the floor in a largely unfurnished apartment, near the only two other things there: the ringing phone, and a lump burlap sack whose contents lurch over with an incoherent groan. And she's staring at the phone.
In Green Lantern, Hal Jordan is first seen late to work, jumping out of bed with a woman in it, rushing to a test flight against two AI fighters and while outmatched in almost every way he manages to outwit the drones by doing a stunt that almost got him killed. As he learns how to control the ring, Hal demonstrates the tendency to act intuitively (the Racetrack) and thinking outside of the box.
In The Prestige, Nikola Tesla walks casually out of a cloud of plasma arcs and shows Angier how to power a light bulb with the electrical currents in the human body, demonstrating one thing: Tesla is a goddamned wizard.
Jumper: Roland is introduced telling a Jumper at his mercy that only God should have this power, then shanking the man in the gutnote instead of, say, a relatively painless and quick bullet to the head, establishing his religious extremism and viciousness.
Mark has a conversation with his girlfriend where it's established that he's very intelligent but almost completely anti-social; he's arrogant, condescending and overly sensitive, which results in him getting dumped at the end of the conversation.
Eduardo shows up in Mark's apartment after reading his blog, ready to give Mark emotional support, but all Mark wants is a formula he invented. Combined with the dialogue about Eduardo in the opening conversation, it's established that Eduardo is also very intelligent but much more personable about it. Eduardo also tries to ground Mark while he creates Facemash, which foreshadows his role in Facebook later.
The Winklevoss twins get a very streamlined ECM - we see them effortlessly winning a boat race, while talking about the lack of opposition and making reference to the laws of motion. This shows them as very good sportsmen and intelligent, but arrogant and completely unaccustomed to losing.
Sean makes witty banter with a college girl he's just slept with.
While his siblings are suckling on a milking machine, Babe is the only one who shows sadness that his mother was taken away.
Labyrinth: Jareth's first scene can be boiled down to his response when Sarah rejects his offer of a dream-viewing crystal if she'll forget about the baby brother she's just wished away: He turns the crystal into a snake and tosses it at her. The snake just as quickly turns into a harmless scarf, and then into a goblin when she drops it. "You're no match for me, Sarah" indeed! (His Circling Monologue in the climax adds a wrinkle to this when he suggests that his intimidation of her is born of mutual genre savviness — namely, he is aware of what she expects someone like him will act like, so he's been acting accordingly.)
Act of Valor: Shabal's willingness to let children be collateral damage in his assassination of the US ambassador firmly shows that he's a nasty piece of work, while Christo's Psychotic Smirk when he hears Morales get punched by the torturer earns him no sympathy either.
Professor Moriarty's first on-screen appearance in the new Holmes films: He confronts Irene Adler at her favorite restaurant, then just as she thinks she's safe in public, he empties the restaurant with a tap of a spoon on a teacup. And then, kills her by letting her drink a cup of tea laced with an untraceable poison. The man used his substantial resources to demonstrate to Ms. Adler that at no point was she untouchable, moments before killing her anyway. Why? Because.
In The Avengers, virtually all the major characters get defining moments:
Agent Maria Hill is first shown walking quickly alongside Nick Fury, questioning one of his orders. Later, she hops into an armored vehicle in solo pursuit of Loki and his minions, showing that she's strong-willed and highly trained.
Loki appears out of the Tesseract in a crackle of blue energy, with a fancy new spear and a really creepy grin on his face, attacks before speaking a word, and when told by Fury that Earth has no quarrel with him, he replies that "An ant has no quarrel with a boot." He's changed since we last saw him in Thor.
Bruce Banner gets a subtly brilliant one - the very first thing we see of him is his inability to refuse a vulnerable child begging for his help, even when Banner (correctly) suspects he's being baited into a trap. In other words, his basic humanity is the first thing established, which sets up a tragic juxtaposition with how most of the other characters tiptoe around him as a monster.
Hawkeye is the only character to suspect that other people could manipulate the Tesseract from a distance, showing his incredible powers of observation.
Nick Fury tries to escape with the Tesseract, and when that doesn't work he attempts to stall Loki long enough that the building collapses, showing that he's willing to do whatever it takes to protect the earth.
Steve Rogers is working off his frustration at the gym, showing how he feels he has no place in this new world.
Even more so in a deleted scene (which would have extended his introduction): he is shown watching old footage of him and him comrades in the war, he looks through some files finding out that all of his friends have died of old age - with Peggy being retired in the UK, as he ponders whether to call her or not. He then wanders through the streets of New York, surrounded by all this new technology, and ends up at a café, drawing a detailed sketch of the skyline on a napkin. This exchange follows between him and a waitress (before Stan Lee tells him to ask for her number):
Waitress: Also, we have free wireless.
Tony Stark is enjoying a moment with Pepper, showing how far he's progressed from his devil-may-care playboy personality.
Agent Coulson interrupts and barks down a Russian mafia boss: "You're at 114 Solinski Plaza, third floor. We have an F-22 exactly eight miles out. Put the woman on the phone or I will blow up the block before you can make the lobby."
Peter Parker's first scene in The Amazing Spider-Man after a flashback to his childhood show him as a loner at his school. The real establishing moment comes when he stands up to Flash when he's bullying another student and refusing to take part even when getting beaten up.
Buddy cop films often begin with a comparison between the by the book cop and the Cowboy Cop.
The first time we see the titular monster in Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster, he bursts out of a meteor that has crashed onto earth in a blazing inferno before letting out his three-pitched shriek and attacking Japan.
After The Pink Panther (1963) establishes the jewel thieves' methods and wiliness, the scene switches to a police office. The very serious man seated at the desk gets up, dramatically spins a large standing globe, and declares to an associate "We must find that woman!" He makes to rest his hand on the framework holding the globe, but lands it on the still-spinning globe instead, sending him tumbling to the floor. He gets up and acts as if nothing happened, and so the world is introduced to Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the movie's Breakout Character.
In The Hobbit, when Thorin first enters Bilbo's house, he doesn't introduce himself, bow or offer his services to Bilbo, unlike the other dwarves, showing how proud and dignified he is.
Dwalin is surly and rudely takes Bilbo's supper without a word. Balin is more friendly and guides the other dwarves in organizing the table. Fíli and Kíli, the youngest dwarves and the most insecure, noticeably panic when Bilbo denies the existence of a meeting.
The Sword Of Doom's very first scene has Ryunosuke quietly show up behind a Buddhist pilgrim praying for death, walk up to him, and kill him with a single blow, wearing a blank, intense stare all the while.
Rear Window introduces LB Jeffries through one long, silent pan through his apartment. It shows, among other things, Jeff sleeping in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast, his shattered camera sitting on a table, a first-person view of a car crash captured in a photograph displayed near it, and photos Jeff took while visiting several other far-off places hanging on his walls.
Lisa Fremont makes her first appearance when she awakens Jeff from another nap that night, gets a few dreamy close-ups from Jeff's POV, and kisses him in slow-motion. The movie proceeds to highlight the differences between her lifestyle and Jeff's when she shows him her newest Pimped-Out Dress, then brings in a waiter from The 21 Club to prepare them dinner.
Mary Poppins gets at least two. The first shows her sitting on a cloud, applying her makeup, and calmly keeping her carpetbag and parrot-handled umbrella from falling out. Later, after the wind blows away the other candidates for the Banks family's nanny, Mary Poppins descends on said umbrella. When getting interviewed by Mr. Banks, she reveals to him that she got ahold of the want ad the children wrote. He becomes so confused as to how she found the ad after he tore it up, he doesn't object to her confirming that she meets each qualification listed.
The first shot we see of Corrine in Flowers in the Attic involves her looking at herself in the mirror, instead of her daughter who is right next to her.
Each of the 4 Horsemen get a scene at the beginning of Now You See Me showing their solo acts:
Daniel does a simple card trick on a large scale with a lot of planning ahead.
Henley does an underwater escape routine and dies... only to emerge from the crowd a few seconds later.
Merritt does a hypnotist act on a couple and uses his mentalist skills to extort some money from the husband.
Jack offers $100 to anyone who can see how he does his spoon trick, pays up... then makes off with the guy's wallet.
In Pacific Rim, one of the first things we see of Stacker is him ordering Gipsy Danger to guard Anchorage and ignore a fishing boat in the Kaiju's path. When the Becketts go to save the boat anyway, and he realizes the crap's about to hit the fan, he tells them to take the boat and leave. He's ostensibly concerned with the bigger picture, but clearly doesn't like anyone being sacrificed or hurt if he can help it.
Striker Eureka finishes off a Kaiju in less than a minute, to show just how powerful this Jaeger is.
Chuck Hansen is seen talking about how Striker Eureka broke the new record with 10 Kaiju kills, establishing himself as a cocky hotshot.
Elle: It's impossible to to use a half-loop top stitching on a low-viscosity rayon. It would snag the fabric. And you didn't just get it in. I saw it in Teen Vogue a year ago. So if you are trying to sell it to me for full price, you've picked the wrong girl.
The Way Way Back starts off with the much-quoted-by-reviewers scene where Steve Carell's character asks the 14-year-old protagonist how he rates himself on a scale of 1 to 10; upon hearing a 6, he tells the kid he's a 3.
In La Ley De Herodes, a Mexican film, at the beginning when the protagonist is taken to his empty boss' office, the first thing he does is sitting in his boss' desk and imagining himself in his position, showing how despite his incompetence he is very ambitious.
Into The Storm: Neville Chamberlain is announcing his reisgnation to Churchill and Halifax. Churchill simply glares in the horizon without saying a word and ignoring Chamberlain like a stubborn ox until Chamberlain and Halifax catch the drift of what he means, signaling perfectly what Churchill is.
During the dildo creation scheme in Neighbors, Pete uses a scanner from one of his architecture classes to expedite the process. He mentions casually off hand that the others should go to class since the school has great resources.
Will building a Faraday cage as a "private place" in his and Evelyn's garden in Transcendence. She said they needed a "place to be alone together", and he made sure that no-one could disturb them there. Ergo, he is Proud to Be a Geek and they are Happily Married - but he is so bashful and awkward he can only really say it with odd gestures like this. Once he is uploaded, he has godlike power and is able to do far, far more for her - so much more that she has difficulty comparing those godlike actions with his previous gestures.
Hocus Pocus: Sarah's first appearance after being resurrected:
Sarah: My lucky rat tail! Just where I left it!
Guardians of the Galaxy packs a whole bunch into the first few minutes after the flashback. We have Ronan ranting about how he will "rain Kree justice" upon his enemies, showing his zealotry, followed by crushing the skull of a captured Nova Corpsman with his hammer. Shortly afterward, we have Rocket snarking at the people of Xandar and their stupid haircuts, showing off his antisocial attitude, then he berates Groot for drinking fountain water, showing his care for Groot and Groot's own Gentle Giant nature. Of course, this all pales in comparison to Star-Lord, who, after a lengthy Badass Walk through rainy, deserted ruins, finally gets indoors; takes off his helmet, puts on a Walkman, and starts dancing to "Come and Get Your Love", firmly establishing him as a Bunny-Ears Lawyer.
Drax the Destroyer's establishing moment can be found right here.