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If you want to get your story's messy background out of the way as fast as possible but don't have the budget to shoot the background scenes for the Opening Monologue, then your next best option is the simple yet elegant Opening Scroll.

As the name implies, this is a text scroll that passes over (or into) the screen, supplying all relevant information with minimal impact on the movie's running time or budget. A variation is to have the text fade up and then fade down, but this is something that shouldn't go on for too long due to being terribly dull to watch.

Expect many examples to be an homage and/or parody of Star Wars, which itself did so as an homage to the Flash Gordon serials.

See also War Was Beginning. Compare Dictionary Opening, Opening Monologue, Title In.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Episode 2 of Excel♡Saga uses one of these when Koshi Rikdo gives permission to turn Excel Saga into a sci-fi anime, obviously as an homage to Star Wars.
  • The DiC dub of Sailor Moon added one of these: "From a far away place and time Earth's greatest adventure is about to begin" at the start of the show up until Jadeite's death in Episode 10 (three episodes in his arc were skipped) and Nephrite replacing him. After that, the scroll was abandoned, probably because Earth's greatest adventure had by then begun.
  • The backstory to Overman King Gainer is shown this way during its opening. Behind various characters (and the titular robot) doing the Monkey.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 

  • The European release of the The Transformers: The Movie has a Star Wars-esque opening scroll after a brief sequence showing Unicron devouring a planet.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • As noted in the trope description, the use of this trope in Star Wars and the other films in the franchise was a Shout-Out to the old Film Serials that served as inspiration to George Lucas. Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe—both dating from 1940—use this trope at the beginning of each episode so the viewing audience can catch up with the plot.
  • The most famous example is undoubtedly Star Wars, whose "into the screen" scroll spawned a thousand spoofs and imitators.note 
    • Rogue One notably averts it, however—which might thematically make sense if only because its events are directly referenced by the very first employment of this, in A New Hope.
    • Solo: A Star Wars Story also averts it, solidifying a precedent for the Anthology films to lack the scroll. The Opening Scroll is apparently only going to be used for the numbered Episodes of the Skywalker Saga. (It does provide written exposition as the movie starts, just not in scroll form or with the bombastic theme.)
  • In the Star Wars spoof Spaceballs, as the expository scroll is disappearing into the distance, a small line of text suddenly appears at the end: "If you can read this, you don't need glasses."
  • In the Thumb Wars parody, the spacecraft involved in the opening battle sequence end up crashing into the text which of course is still floating through space ahead of them.
  • The 1980 sci-fi spoof Galaxina opens like this for exposition rather than gags so it's not particularly funny. Much like the rest of the movie.
  • 1939 film Union Pacific uses this style but only for the opening credits, in a sequence superimposed over railroad tracks going off into the horizon. The exposition that follows the credits is presented as a standard title card.
  • The Phantom Creeps, a serial starring Bela Lugosi as a Mad Scientist used the same fading away from camera opening crawl. Joel Robinson riffed, "You sure Lucas was the first to do this?"
  • Probably the worst filmic offender of all: Uwe Boll's film adaptation of Alone in the Dark delivered its entire backstory in a fade-in-fade-out series of title cards that took almost seven minutes of screen time; as warned above, it's dull enough to kill most viewers' enthusiasm for the film about ninety seconds in. And the worse part? The opening crawl in the final movie was the improved version where they added a narrator to read the text out loud after test audiences complained that the opening was too wordy.
  • The Movie of Ăon Flux inexplicably starts with the scroll, and then still has a monologue after it. We wouldn't get just one of them?
  • Airplane II: The Sequel has one that is slanted "into the screen" like the Star Wars one. However, it tells a story that's completely unrelated to the plot of the movie. It gets to the beginning of a sex scene right when a space shuttle collides with the scrolling text, causing it to disappear with a glass-breaking effect.
  • The Judge Dredd movie begins with a scroll that only adds background information for the setting.
  • The Monster Squad opens with a scroll about how Abraham Van Helsing, a hundred years before the story begins, gathered a band of freedom fighters to rid the world of vampires and monsters and save mankind from the forces of eternal evil. It ends with "They blew it." And then the opening scene shows us just how.
  • Scarface opens with one of these, describing how Fidel Castro sent Cubans who wanted to join their families to the United States in 1980, along with the dregs of his jails.
  • Similar to Alone in the Dark (2005), The Last Airbender has an opening scroll narrated by Katara.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie opens with an expository scroll about the backstory on the source of the Rangers' powers. The text is read by a female voice completely straight, making the whole thing sound even more ridiculous than it is already. Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie has the text recede into the distance like Star Wars, with Zordon providing narration.
  • Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III starts with a lengthy text scroll in an attempt to fill in the gaps between the first movie and the sequel that apparently never happened. The other two preceding movies also have text scrolls, but the fourth one just has a text screen.
  • Blade Runner has this accompanied by a very eerie ambience that makes the viewer feel appropriately uneasy.
    • Blade Runner 2049 swaps out the opening scroll for static text that slowly fades in, like a very creepy PowerPoint presentation.
  • Les MisÚrables (2012) opens with one, to clarify to non-French viewers that this movie is not about THE French Revolution, but a later one.
  • Each chapter of The Green Hornet Serials (after the first) opens with a scrolling summary of what went on in the previous chapter. But it had been a week since the audience saw that chapter.
  • Being a movie about Star Wars fans, Fanboys has two. One standard one in the beginning, the other during a peyote trip that said "You are very, very, very, very high"
  • Dr. Strangelove opens with an opening scroll which was a basic disclaimer telling patrons that the film was a cautionary tale.
  • The Running Man has an opening scroll that explains how exty years after the film's release an economical collapse has lead to the Crapsack World with deadly game shows we're about to see.
  • Warrior of the Lost World actually has been released with at least two versions (in English) of the opening scroll: one that mimics the Star Wars into-the-screen scroll style (poorly) and Emphasizes EVERYTHING!!!; and a straight vertical scroll that actually explains a bit more about the post-apocalyptic setting. The former was used in its Mystery Science Theater 3000 presentation, to great comedic effect due to its marginal legibility:
    Opening scroll: ALL GOVERNMENTS HAVE COLLAPSED!!!
    Joel (reading): The gummy mints have colitis?
  • Johnny Reno begins with an opening scroll about the role of the US Marshals in taming The Wild West, and how one of the greatest marshals was Johnny. It ends by stating this film covers just two days in his eventful career.
  • The Hunger Games has a brief scroll that quickly explains exactly what the Hunger Games are, and why they exist.
  • Man in the Wilderness: "The year is 1820. The Captain Henry expedition has completed two years of fur trapping in the unexplored Northwest territory. Determined to reach the Missouri river before the winter snows, the trappers and their boat, towed by 22 mules, struggle through the wilderness. Once on the Missouri they could sail south to the trading posts and sell their precious cargo. What occurred on this expedition is historically true."
  • The Trip (1967): Thanks to Executive Meddling, the movie opens with a foreword calling it a "shocking commentary on a prevalent concern of our time" and warning that the illegal manufacture and consumption of LSD can have fatal consequences.
  • Max (2002) has one a few minutes into the movie:
    In the summer of 1917 the German Imperial Army lost the disastrous offensive known as The Third Battle of Ypres.
    Germany begged for peace having suffered two million dead and four million wounded in World War One.
    100,000 German Jews served in the Imperial German Army.
    40,000 volunteered.
  • A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die!: Following a scene showing the aftermath of the massacre at Fort Holman, an opening scroll purporting to be an article from the Joplin Gazette several years after the event is used to segue into How We Got Here.
  • Eternals opens with scrolling text explaining how Arishem sent the Eternals from their home planet of Olympia to Earth to fight the Deviants.
  • Satan's Triangle: "Within the last thirty years just off the east coast of the United States more than a thousand men, woman and children have vanished from the face of the earth. No one knows how. Or why. This is one explanation..."

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • An Opening Scroll appeared at the start of Red Dwarf season three explaining a number of things that happened off-camera, including the (male) main character giving birth to twins, a bit character from the second season being recovered and added to the main cast, and Holly having a "head sex change". The bulk of the scroll, however, passes so quickly that it can only be read via freeze-frame. The writers were planning to do an episode before this one tying up all the loose plots but couldn't make it funny enough, so they made do with a parody. The scroll also includes the bizarre phrase "The saga continuums..." which many fans take as an indication that the series from this point on follows an alternative continuity based on the novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, which changes several previous claims about Lister's background.
  • The Pretender opened every episode of its first two seasons with a cross between the Opening Monologue and the fade-up version of the Opening Scroll.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus made a Running Gag of this in episode 25. The scroll would always begin, "In (year), (noun) lay in ruins," to introduce subjects such as Hungarians entering tobacco shops, World War I, or The End of the episode.
    • Episode 15 provides the Spanish Inquisition with one that notes that the "violence, terror and torture" they unleashed make for "a smashing film."
    • Episode 45 has an opening scroll for a Western which has nothing to do with any of the sketches.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine opens with a quick text scroll to refresh people's memories about "The Best of Both Worlds", just before they introduce Captain Sisko in the Battle of Wolf 359.
    • Star Trek: Voyager starts off with a quick description of the Maquis rebellion, providing the necessary groundwork before going off and doing its own thing. (First shot immediately after this: A small rebel ship flying away and trading fire with a much larger vessel. Hmmm...)
  • Doctor Who had one of these at the opening to "The Deadly Assassin".
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): The Cylons were created by man. They rebelled. They evolved. There are many copies. And they have a plan.
  • Andromeda opens with a static text screen giving one or two quotations from fictional literature.
  • Sharpe has short ones at the beginning of every episode introducing the year, the place, and the situation.
  • The Fringe episode "Letters of Transit" (season four, episode nineteen) has a brief opening scroll to explain it's set in a canonical Bad Future where the Observers have invaded the Earth.

    Music 
  • Naturally, the cover of some Star Wars music by Lindsey Stirling and Peter Hollens featured an opening scroll on half the screen, beginning, "Not long ago in a suburb...." It sets the scene for the song as part of YouTube's Geek Week.
  • Ariana Grande's "Break Free" is filmed like a sci-fi B-Movie, including an over-the-top version of this trope.
    WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO WITNESS IS SCIENTIFICALLY AUTHENTIC. IT IS ONE STEP AHEAD OF PRESENT DAY REALITY AND TWO STEPS AHEAD OF PRESENT DAY SEXINESS.

    Video Games 
  • It should be no surprise that the various Star Wars games have opening scrolls.
    • LEGO Star Wars has a "story so far" opening scroll for each level that also serves as a Loading Screen.
    • Averted in Star Wars: Republic Commando. Probably have something to do with Darker and Edgier.
    • TIE Fighter's scroll, set to the Imperial March, makes a rather startling introduction to the game's Perspective Flip.
    • Exaggerated in Star Wars: The Old Republic: not only does each of the game's eight classes have a unique introductory scroll, the loading screen when logging into the game contains a short blurb in the same style (mercifully non-scrolling) that summarizes the player's current class quest.
    • Star Wars: DroidWorks is notable for being narrated, mainly due to the younger target audience as an Edutainment Game which is the same reason that Wimateeka and other Jawas can apparently speak Basic.
    • Rogue Squadron The first game had four chapters, each with their own opening scroll giving you details on that chapter's arc. In Rogue Leader and Rebel Strike, only the very first mission has an Opening Scroll.
  • Mega Man Zero opened with Ciel as the Pursued Protagonist. Future games in the series all started with text scrolls summarizing previous games and the events between games.
  • Star Dust, an obscure 1992 Asteroids clone where you pilot a spaceship shooting assorted onscreen enemies, practically lifts the Star Wars-style scroll in it's opening FMV wholesale, right down to the font and yellow text fading into the distance. And for good measure, some cues from the music of Star Wars as well, though it sounds less like the opening scroll theme and more like a loose remake of the Imperial March. Yes, really.
  • Stargunner, as befits a game where you fly through space blowing things up in your Cool Ship, plays the disappearing-into-the-distance version straight until a small tongue-in-cheek twist at the end.
  • Elite Beat Agents has an opening crawl to kick off a multiplayer match that utilizes the scenario "Battle of the Aces", in which two animal-like alien space aces compete to determine which one's the better starpilot.
  • Escape Velocity has a normal opening scroll, and a couple of humorous Easter Egg alternates. The sequel EV Override also uses one, but the third game EV Nova eschews it in favor of either a non-scrolling text box or up to four splashscreens, depending on the game files used (though there is a way to use the non-scrolling text box option to instead show a short movie, which the unofficial updates to the ports of Classic and Override to Nova use to reintroduce the opening scroll). The open-source EVN clone Naev goes back to the opening scroll.
  • Last Scenario starts with a lengthy text-scroll explaining the backstory. It's all lies.
  • Halo 3: ODST uses one of these. Notable as the only game in the Halo franchise to do so.
  • All of the Mass Effect games use this during the opening. In the first, it explains humanity's entry into the galactic community and segues into a Title Drop, in the second, it summarizes the events and ramifications of what happened at the end of the first, and in the third, it describes the build-up to and beginnings of the Reaper invasion.
  • Deadly Towers has scrolling text at the beginning that details the game's Excuse Plot in a surprisingly verbose and well-written way. The game's ending is similar.
  • The Game Boy version of Kid Icarus has an opening scroll introduction, before the title screen.
  • The Flash game Robot Wants Puppy (a sequel to Robot Wants Kitty) opens with a scroll about rebels in the year 20XX plotting to liberate Zeta Sector from the iron-tentacled rule of the tyrannical Morgox the Unborn, followed by the line "Meanwhile, in a completely different galaxy thousands of light years away, Robot wants puppy," then another message explaining that Morgox the Unborn has literal iron tentacles. Played straight in the third game in the trilogy, Robot Wants Fishy.
  • Commander Keen: Starting from the fourth episode (Secret of the Oracle), it has been a tradition for Keen games to include an opening scroll narrating, in a style similar to that of Star Wars, the prologue of the story. This is carried over to the fanmade episodes based on the never-developed trilogy The Universe Is Toast.
  • Present in some versions of Another World; in particular, the SNES port had a Star Wars-esque "into the screen" opening scroll (probably using Mode 7 graphics).
  • Browning, a PC Engine game by Telenet Japan, has a scroll in Japanese with a voiceover in English, even though the game was released in Japan only.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night puts its scrolling intro text at the end of the Action Prologue.
  • Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse scrolls through a series of prologue cards with sprocket holes down the sides.
  • Air Fortress begins with Engrish text ("On the planet 'Farmel', they had the gloriest days for two centuries, since the stardate had established...") scrolling down over a starfield.
  • The Tower of Druaga: The game itself averts this trope by placing the opening text ("In another time in another world...") on a static screen in Attract Mode. However, The Legend of Namco (a Japanese Strategy Guide video for several Namco arcade games, released on VHD in 1986) gives it the epic scrolling treatment, with a narrator reading the text in English.
  • Every Final Fantasy from I to VI has one. One was written for VII and remains in the demo version, but was excised for the final game, resulting in the notoriously extended blank shot of stars at the beginning of the opening FMV.
  • Body Harvest: The game starts with an opening scroll explaining the Alien Invasion and Time Travel themes.
  • Gamer 2, a sequel to an unfinished short story, has an opening scroll which explains the plot to players who haven't read Gamer.
  • The NES bootleg version of Contra Spirits inexplicably adds to the original opening sequence this scrolling placeholder text:
    WELCOME
    THE WORLD OF GAME
    A GAME
    END
  • Star Fox 64 has a text crawl explaining the backstory of Andross' exile, the end of the original Star Fox team led by James McCloud, and Andross' present-day invasion of the Lylat System.
  • Smash TV does this during its Attract Mode, explaining how, in the then "future" year of 1999note , "television has adapted to the more violent nature of man", and that the titular "Smash TV" is the most popular (and most violent) game show of all time. After explaining how the gamenote  works, it ends thusly:
    Be prepared. The future is now. You are the next lucky contestant!
  • Chantelise: When a new game starts, Elise narrates in Japanese, some exposition that's translated in text, while the background is panning up to a red moon. It starts:
    My memories of that night are foggy... sometimes I think to myself that it must have been a dream. But...
    "Don't go out at night when the moon is red, or the witch will curse you forevermore!"
    They told us that old fairy tale so often...
    And on the night of the red moon, five years ago, we went outside. It felt like we were being called.
  • Survive! Mola mola! opens with a text crawl describing the harsh life of a Mola mola and the many possible ways they can die, with accompanying ASCII Art.
  • The Battle Cats: The game's Excuse Plot is conveyed with scrolling text whenever the game opens up, and at the start of each chapter. It's set to menacing music and a background of shadowed cats with glowing red eyes... which makes for some Mood Whiplash against the brighly-coloured title screen with cheerful music.

    Web Animation 
  • Terrible Writing Advice has "Exposition" episode that begins with an opening where the text slowly moves in front of JP. Meanwhile, JP discusses the Opening Scroll, yearning the old days where it was frequently used by the authors to frontload information to the audience without a care.

    Web Original 
  • Being an Affectionate Parody of Star Wars, every episode of Adventures in Jedi School opens with its own version of its iconic text-scrolls. The first episode has it on a chalk-board, the second episode has Jank going through a Mid-Term Exam, and episode three on Randy's disembodied arm.
  • The Cinema Snob uses these as a Star Wars homage in his reviews of The Man Who Saves the World (also known as Turkish Star Wars) and The Tramps in Planet Wars (Brazilian Star Wars), where he writes up phony backstories to how the movies got made, complains about how much time he spent on finding video editing software that lets him do Star Wars-esque text crawls, and lampshades his own bullshit technobabble, wondering how George Lucas comes up with what to write in these crawls.
  • CinemaSins adds a sin when this occurs, because "reading."
  • Joueur du Grenier: A text scroll opens the Star Wars games review, naturally. With plot points actually calling back to the "Alpha V Gelga Nek" storyline from a previous episode.
  • Discussed in one Achievement Hunter video with Star Wars Battlefront 2 as Gavin Free, who has somehow completely missed seeing these spiels, wishes they put them in the movie, leading to the other hunters to shout "THEY DID!"
  • Star Wars Uncut opens with the same scroll as in the original film, until some blog-type comments pop up after it, such as alderaan_dude saying "Glad I live on a peaceful planet."
  • The Unlucky Tug's Big World! Big Adventures! review starts with a Star Wars-esque text crawl, complete with the music, that says Thomas the Tank Engine was found dead in Miami.

    Western Animation 
  • Ironically averted, of all places, in The Clone Wars pilot movie, where it is instead replaced with an Opening Monologue.
  • The television show Arthur episode "Return of the Snowball" has an opening scroll as a homage to Star Wars. And Arthur and D.W. read it, too.
  • The Family Guy Presents: Laugh It Up, Fuzzball parodies this — the second installment starts off normally, before Breaking the Fourth Wall halfway through.
    "Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have — okay, you know what? I realize space is vast, but this scrolling text is still littering. I mean, somebody's gonna run into this thing eventually. Yeah, it might be a thousand years from now, but does that make it okay?"
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • "Meapless in Seattle" opens with a parody of the Star Wars scroll briefly recapping the events of "The Chronicles of Meap" and explaining how the current episode started as a gag trailer at the end of that episode before viewer demand inspired them to make a real version of the episode.
    • Naturally, the Star Wars Special includes one, which concludes by reminding viewers that it's not part of Star Wars canon.
  • Parodied in one of the Robot Chicken Star Wars specials, where the opening crawl suddenly devolves into Leet Speak.
  • The third chapter of Wishology has Cosmo narrating it. He quickly runs out of things to say.

 
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Alternative Title(s): Opening Crawl

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A New Hope

[Trope Codifier] The film Star Wars (later known as Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope) begins with a text scroll providing background information on the war between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire, as well as the former's theft on the latter's plans to the Death Star.

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