- Opening narration / text crawl, often over a map, with drums or other fanfare. (This trope is big on drums.)
- Cut to a quiet scene in Arcadia; the hero will learn of the impending war about to wreck his world by way of a Herald, such as a wounded relative; see Bearer of Bad News, Harbinger of Impending Doom.
- Or the hero may turn out to be tragically related to the prosecution of the war somehow, such as: a family member started it, or got killed in the initial attack.
- Show how the future protagonists react to the start of the war, in a "where were you when"... way.
This is a useful way to introduce the future protagonists to the audience one after the other — a Debut Queue.
- Depict the events leading up to the start of the war, even if it happened years before the main story.
This will be done in an Opening Action Sequence involving Stuff Blowing Up, possibly Earth.
- If it's a war everyone's heard of, the audience viewpoint character is simply informed that a war is on, averting this trope. Not as common as the others, due to Small Reference Pools: World War II movies filmed during the war rarely opened with a War Was Beginning recap.
- Use a newspaper headline. While it obviates the characters from invoking As You Know when it's a war "everyone's heard of",note the headlines themselves are usually anachronistic from an in-universe perspective. e.g. "World War II Begins," or worse, "World War One Begins," as if people back then knew it would be the first of two.
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Anime and Manga
- Howl's Moving Castle may be an example. There is no narration explicitly telling us that war is coming, but soon after the opening of the film we see a big parade of troops, tanks, and flying machines moving through the city to cheering crowds, and we overhear conversations on the street about rising tensions with a neighbouring kingdom over a missing prince.
- Mobile Suit Gundam opens with a description of the events of the One Year War before the series begins.
- The very first thing Neon Genesis Evangelion shows us (after the great intro) is: "In the year 2015 AD". Cue peaceful landscapes full of military hardware. Cue giant monster...
- Code Geass establishes the general rise to power of the Britannian Empire (more specifically their invasion of Japan) in the first episode.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Issue seven of the second volume starts with Starhawk narrating about the original Guardians fighting the Badoon invasion of Earth, giving a summary of their powers. And then they suddenly start dying one by one, because time is falling apart at the seams, explaining why Starhawk has been travelling back to the 21st century.
- Lord of the Rings starts with Galadriel giving us a history lesson about Sauron.
- Casablanca: "With the coming of the Second World War..."
- To Be or Not to Be: "Lubinski... Kubinski... Lominski... Rozanski and Poznanski... we're in Warsaw, the capital of Poland. It's August, 1939. Europe is still at peace..."
- 300 — combination of an Arcadia opening and How We Got Here, with a dark Persian Herald descending on the golden plains of Sparta. Somewhat subverted in that the entire movie is narrated with ominous "and so it begins" intonation by David Wenham.
- Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior: "For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all."
- Serenity plays with this: there are multiple nested opening sequences, and the first is a narrated description of the interplanetary civil war that Mal has still not quite stopped fighting even though his side lost, from the perspective of the Alliance.
- The first Power Rangers movie has a text crawl, which a solemn voice then reads to us, about the villain's backstory.
- Every Star Wars movie.
- The opening of Troy (a particularly wordy example), and...
- Last of the Mohicans. Both with drums. Always with the drums!
America 1757It is the third year of war between France and England for possession of the continent.Three men, the last of a vanishing people, are on the frontier west of the Hudson river...
- The Adventures of Robin Hood:
"In the year of Our Lord 1191, when Richard the Lion-Heart set forth to drive the infidels from the Holy Land..."
- Robin Hood (2010) does it similarly.
- Fire Over England begins with a remarkably pompous and tendentious one:
"In 1587 Spain Powerful in the Old World Master in the New Its King Philip Rules By Force and Fear But Spanish Tyranny is Challenged by the Free People of a Little Island England..."
- Master and Commander:
"April 1805. Napoleon is master of Europe. Only the British fleet stands before him. Oceans are now battlefields."(...)"HMS Surprise. 28 guns, 197 souls, north coast of Brazil. Admiralty orders to cpt. J. Aubrey: 'Intercept French privateer Acheron, en route to Pacific, intent on carrying the war into those waters. Sink, burn or take her a Prize...'"
Live Action TV
- Parodied in the Monty Python's Flying Circus "Ypres 1914" sketch. This was used as a Cold Open in several Monty Python sketches.
In 1914, the balance of power lay in ruins. Europe was plunged into bloody conflict. Nation fought nation. But no nation fought nation morely than the English hip hip hooray! Nice, nice yah boo. Phillips is a German and he have my pen...
- The first Horatio Hornblower TV film took place at the Royal Navy anchorage in Spithead, with the midshipmen discussing the ongoing revolution in France. In particular, the fact that King Louis XVI had just been captured.
What do you think they'll do with him? You can't kill a king!
- Falling Skies just pulled off this trope with a little kid in the role of narrator, recounting what he knows of the alien invasion to date while his crayon drawings are displayed.
- Star Trek: Voyager began with an Opening Scroll briefly detailing the Maquis guerrilla war against the Federation and Cardassians, then cut to Chakotay's ship, involved in a running lightfight with a Cardassian destroyer. The whole sequence looks like a Shout-Out to A New Hope, except Chakotay's ship escapes.
- The Trope Namer is a quote from Zero Wing; that is an example as well.
- Also, Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty. "Vast armies have arrived. Now, three Houses fight for control of Dune. (sic) Only one House will prevail. Your battle for Dune begins... now-ow-ow-ow-ow..."
- Yggdra Union and Yggdra Unison both start with the classic text scroll as Gulcasa's attack on Karona is related to the player.
- The first part from the real time tactical Myth game series also begins like this: "In a time long past, the armies of the Dark came again into the lands of men."
- Super Metroid plays out a double-subversion. It claims "The galaxy is at peace" but you are quickly shown the Living Macguffin both sides are going to fight over and the damage from the opening salvos.
- Every game in the Escape Velocity series starts by explaining the current war. The original and Override had opening scrolls (detailing the Alien War and the start of the Rebellion in the first case, and the United Earth/Voinian War in the second). EV Nova changed it to four splashscreens.
- X3: Terran Conflict explains the roots of the titular Space Cold War in its opening cinematic. X3: Albion Prelude shows us how that cold war turned into a hot war.
- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones starts with this, then segues into The Empire sacking the protagonists' castle.
- Asura's Wrath does this for it's opening level.. It is awesome.
"The foul, impure beasts that roam the land ~ the Gohma.
In order to save civilization from their neverending threat, the demigods who governed the world created an ultimate weapon that would wipe the Gohma of the face of the planet once and for all.
Their legions were led by eight elite demigods ~ the Eight Guardian Generals. One of them, General Asura, was in the thick of battle."
- Mass Effect 3 opens with a text crawl that recaps the events of the first two games and Arrival:
In 2157, humanity discovered that it was not alone in the universe.
Thirty years later, they found a peaceful place among dozens of galactic species.
But this idyllic future is overshadowed by a dark past: Reapers, a sentient race of machines responsible for cleansing the galaxy of all organic life every 50,000 years, are about to return.
The leaders of the galaxy are paralyzed by indecision, unable to accept the legend of the Reapers as fact.
But one soldier has seen the legend come to life.
And now the fate of the galaxy depends on him / her.
- Metal Gear Solid 3
After the end of World War II,
the world was split into two — East and West.
This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.
- Valkyria Chronicles III combines this with And Now for Someone Completely Different. The intro movie (which is actually in the style of a war documentary) tells of the story of Gallian War and the decorated hero that saved the nation, before turning away from them and into the unrecorded chronicles of The Nameless.
- Most of the Fallout games start with Ron Perlman narrating about the war. Even though the war is technically over, its lasting impact colors the setting throughout.
- Warhammer: Mark of Chaos begins with the rolling map illuminated by small explosions and fires, with the narrator describing the state of affairs in the Empire defending from the Chaos invasion. In a bit of a twist the main war is already over, and the game is about a local war with a splinter force.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender's Title Sequence has a Katara voiceover briefly describing the Fire Nation's war and the Avatar's failure to stop it. The first episode goes into greater detail on her people in particular. The first few episodes involve giving Aang a history lesson on the world war he slept through.