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Dramatic Chase Opening
As easy as 1-2-3!

Frank Pollard wakes up in an alley at night, filled with confusion and fear. He knows nothing but his name, and that he must escape fast, or else he will be killed. Pursued by a mysterious assailant, Frank barely escapes with his life.

It's dark, and possibly rainy. The faint streetlights get reflected on the small puddles on the street. A shadow appears on the brick wall, and a foot disturbs the reflections: Someone's running, possibly wounded but always unarmed, and he's desperate to find somewhere to hide. The same puddle is stepped on by two or more armed agents, or perhaps an unseen terror. A few moments later, the scene comes to a conclusion, and the Opening Credits roll.

The Dramatic Chase Opening is more than just a Chase Scene: It's specifically Played for Drama, and designed to introduce the good guy and/or the bad guy(s). The circumstances strongly favor the pursuers: The pursued person has no vehicle; the illumination is poor; the weather can be foggy, snowy or raining. If the chase is in the streets, it's often played in a ghetto filled with dark alleys (bonus points if the chase continues in the sewers). The person being chased could be a civilian with an average or bad physical condition. Since it's the beginning of the movie/series and Anyone Can Die, a Broken Heel has a stronger effect on the viewer. Visual effects can include Chiaroscuro to evoke a Film Noir look and feel.

To take the drama Up to Eleven, the victim often looks vulnerable: Scared to death; always underpowered and outnumbered; little or no experience in hand-to-hand combat, or otherwise at great disadvantage (i.e. wounded or with just a few bullets left); and very probably the last survivor of an evil experiment Tested On Humans, an ethnic cleansing, or the witness to a crime. Frequently it's a child, a Damsel in Distress, or someone carrying a young child. In a school setting, expect The Woobie to be chased by a Gang Of Bullies. It could also be a common burglar fleeing justice or something worse.

The Dramatic Chase Opening doesn't necessarily need to the the first scene in a movie or series. It can be delayed a couple of scenes so we get a brief intro on the victim or hero.

Possible scene endings include, but are not limited to:

  • He is shot and killed (common in Crime and Punishment Series)
  • He is shot and survived
  • He found somewhere to hide
  • He gets rescued by a partner
  • He gets rescued by someone else (common in martial arts movies)
  • He gets rescued by something else
  • He gets killed by something else (common in horror movies)
  • He gets captured
  • He falls off a cliff and dies
  • He is thrown off a cliff and dies
  • He falls off a cliff and the bad guys think him dead
  • He finds a vehicle, turning this into a high speed chase.
  • He finds a weapon or mysterious device to survive
  • He is the weapon (see Mugging the Monster)
  • and so on...

(Note that this trope does not apply when the chase is a vehicle pursuit, i.e. the Star Wars: A New Hope beginning pursuit. That belongs to a different category.)

Subtrope of Action Prologue (itself a subtrope of Cold Open) and Chase Scene. Can lead into Pursued Protagonist (a Chase Scene where the protagonist gives an item or message to the real Hero), but not always. Can overlap with Broken Heel and Blind Alley.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • AKIRA has a mutant child running away from the military until he has a high speed collision with Tetsuo.
  • The Birdy the Mighty OVA starts with an evil alien running away (and taking Tsutomu as hostage) before being confronted by Birdy.
  • Bleach anime
    • The little ghost girl in episode 1 is running from a giant Hollow. Just when she trips and falls, Rukia appears and vanquishes the monster.
    • Episode 260. The episode starts with Shuhei Hisagi running through a forest being pursued and attacked by his rogue zanpakuto spirit Kazeshini.
  • Tower of God egins with main character Baam chasing his childhood friend Rachel and stops her by roughly pinning her to the floor. When she manages to escape the world they live in by entering the Tower, he vows to follow her till he dies. Actually pretty creepy in hindsight.
  • In Blood: The Last Vampire, an old man in a subway is pursued by a mysterious girl holding a Katana, just as the subway lights begin to flicker. He runs wagon after wagon until he's cornered and finally killed. Turns out he was a vampire in disguise and the girl's a vampire hunter.
  • Darker Than Black opens up with a Contractor (a superpowered human) being chased by a bunch of cops. This being the first time the officers had seen a Contractor, they are no match for him.
  • Innocent Venus is such a textbook example that it was used for the trope image. Venus and her older companion are running away from a totalitarian government, first in street alleys, and then in subway tunnels. They're about to get killed until a mysterious hero comes to the rescue. The scene includes puddle splashing, Twisted Ankle, Convenient Decoy Cat, and underground chase.
  • Mnemosyne opens with Rin, wearing nothing but an unbuttoned dress shirt (and glasses), being chased over the streets, a stairwell, and a rooftop before finally getting killed by Laura. This is used to establish both Rin's immortality and the gory and sexy style of the series.
  • Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin begins with an agent being chased by a monster in the middle of the forest under a full moon. The flying monster is about to catch him when he gets to a teleport gate he just requested via cellphone. The teleporter receives... his right arm.
  • A Certain Magical Index has several examples of this.
    • The first scene of episode 1 shows Touma being chased by a gang of crooks, before he narrates a brief summary of his unfortunate life.
    • In episode 10, we see Misaka well, one of her clones trying to snipe a level 5 criminal. When she fails miserably, she panics and runs away a few blocks, but he's already blocking her exit, and he's got an evil grin on his face.
  • In episode 1 of Season 2 of A Certain Scientific Railgun, we have a crook running away from Kuroko (a Judgment officer agent) right before he's captured.
  • The Durarara!! anime episode "Anarchy" starts with Anri desperately running away from members of the Yellow Scarves gang and trying to hide in an alley.
  • The Big O episode "Hydra" begins with a female agent of the Union being pursued through the streets of Paradigm City by members of the Military Police.

Comic Book
  • The entire Sin City series opens with a dramatic chase as a SWAT team tries to bring Marv in for a murder he didn't commit.

Film
  • The opening chase with Trinity and the agents in The Matrix.
  • The movie The Neverending Story has a brief intro before this. Then the chase scene ends up with Bastian seeking refuge in a bookstore and finding the Neverending Story book.
  • In the 2009 film State of Play, a thief is fleeing through Washington, D.C. and is shot by a man carrying a briefcase. A pizza delivery man who witnesses the incident is also shot by the killer and is left in a coma.
  • Common for James Bond movies, as seen in Octopussy (where an 00-agent is on the run from the knife-throwing twins) and Quantum of Solace (Bond tries to outrun QUANTUM agents on his heels).
  • In the Italian movie Padre Pio, an agonizing Pio starts narrating his life. The first scene in the flashback shows him as a child running away from the devil - who took form of a Hellhound - and taking refuge in a church.
  • Hard Target opens with a homeless veteran being persued by a group who offers wealthy men the chance of Hunting the Most Dangerous Game.
    • One of the main characters in The Terminator has to evade police almost as soon as he appears in the picture.
  • The opening of "Trainspotting" shows a later scene with two of the characters, Renton and Spud, running down the street dropping the items they've stolen.

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • CSI, quite often.
  • Subverted in the 1985 series The Equalizer: The intro is a collection of dramatic chase openings, but they're so many that they get switched before the actual chases begin.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Return of The Archons". It starts with Lieutenant Sulu and another crewman running from some pursuers in a city street. Sulu contacts the Enterprise for an emergency beam-up but the Enterprise crew takes too long and Sulu is affected by one of the aliens' weapons. The other crewman gets away, but is later caught and affected as well.
  • Subverted with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: It has been known to open with Buffy running away from vamps, but it's always to get somewhere private so she can stake them without an audience. Subverted in that we already know who's going to get killed.
  • The Torchwood episode "Ghost Machine", starts with a running chase across Cardiff.
  • The opening of the first episode of the BBC Mini Series Neverwhere has Door badly injured and running from Those Two Bad Guys Mr Croup and Mr Vandamar.
  • In Helix, the opening scene of the pilot takes place in a Research, Inc.. It intercuts the slow, walking pursuit of Hazmat Suit-clad lead scientist Dr. Hatake and head of security Daniel Aerov with the panicked running of research scientist Dr. Peter Farragut, infected with The Virus and presumably escaped from isolation, barreling down hallways and trying to hide in a lab, only to be dragged off screen by a fellow infected. Hatake and Aerov eventually discover a prone, exhausted Peter a short distance away from two infected human corpses.

Video Games

Web Animation
  • The beginning of Monty Oum's Dead Fantasy has Yuna being pursued by Kasumi and Ayane.

Western Animation
  • Disney's The Fox and the Hound opens with a mother fox and her kit being chased by hunters. The mother hides her child (our hero, Tod) and leads the hunters away, eventually being shot dead.
  • Another Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, opens with a band of gypsies being led into a trap and Quasimodo's mother being pursued on horseback by Judge Claude Frollo. She is killed by a concussion and her baby, Quasimodo, is about to be killed too when the Archdeacon convinces him to raise the little boy as his own.
  • Jonny Quest
    • "Dragons of Ashida". Starts with a native running away from the title monsters.
    • "The Fraudulent Volcano". Starts with a man escaping from an underground installation and being pursued by armed guards in hovercraft.
  • The Secret Saturdays episode "Guess Who's Going to be Dinner?" starts with Fiskerton running through a forest while being threatened by dangerous plants. It turns out to be just a game he's playing with Zak Saturday.
  • Pluto's Judgement Day begins with Pluto chasing a cat into Mickey Mouse's house and making his floor dirty, causing Mickey to scold the dog for being mean to the cat, and therefore prompting Pluto to have a nightmare about him going to Hell.
  • The first season finale of Young Justice opens with Red Arrow on the run in the subway from The mind controlled Green Arrow, Flash and Aquaman despite getting a brutal beating, he is able to use a passing train as cover to escape.

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