The lush, detailed opening credits contain information about the cast or plot that nullifies surprises later in the series. Thus, it's pretty obvious that when someone apparently important shows up who isn't in the opening credits, they aren't going to be around for very long. Similarly, the series tries to pretend that someone isn't very important, but they're featured prominently in the credits.
Series that rely on Previously On in order to keep viewers up to speed are especially prone to this. Because only the parts of the story arc relevant to the current episode get recapped, the viewer is tipped off that those parts of the story arc are about to show up.
This is also particularly common in adaptations, because the producers often assume that many viewers will already be familiar with at least the basic outline plot, because many viewers are only there because they want to see spoilery stuff from far ahead in the plot, and because adaptations of Long-Runners naturally have more they can spoil. In cases like those, it can also qualify as a Late-Arrival Spoiler.
A series can get around this by:
- Bait-and-Switch Credits: having the opening have little to do with the actual plot.
- Evolving Credits: updating the opening as events transpire in-series.
- Shaping their opening credits to merely have depictions which foreshadow upcoming events.
A variation is where an unseen character or actor is kept hidden until the next installment, yet credited in the Closing Credits. Another variation is where vaguely famous names appear in the opening credits, so you can guess automatically that they're going to be fairly prominent in the episode before they even show up. In series with recurring characters that are not normally in the credits or a cameo from someone who left the show this can indicate their eventual presence in an episode ruining their unexpected entrance. These variants are often Enforced by the certain rules of Actor Unions,note as noted by J. Michael Straczynski. Dead Star Walking can be either a straight-playing or an aversion of this subtrope, depending on how it's presented.
Overlaps with Foregone Conclusion. Compare Trailers Always Spoil. Contrast Not Named in Opening Credits, when the credits omit an actor's name and maintain the surprise. See also First-Episode Twist, which can often fall prey to this, though that can be averted with any of the above methods or just using a Title-Only Opening for that episode.
Since this is a spoiler trope, there will be unmarked spoilers below.
- Tangled: Flynn Rider announces he will die as the first line in the movie. He gets better.
- Subverted in Rango. The owls say he'll die, implicitly at some point during the storyline. At the end, when it hasn't happened, one owl suggests he might die from a household accident. At some point after the timeframe of the movie.
- Disney's Robin Hood did this by showing detached scenes from the movie's plot points in the opening credits. Every relevant character in the movie is shown with an animation of them solo from various important parts of the movie, and the animations for the rest of the credits is from the climax.
- The Ontological Mystery of Dark City is spoiled by the Opening Monologue, which is taken from a scene halfway through the movie. (Executive Meddling mandated the addition of the voiceover.) Future viewers: Do yourself a favour and watch the directors cut, which omits the monologue.
- Subverted in Sleuth, which deliberately features an opening cast list which proves to be wildly inaccurate.
- Saving Private Ryan's opening subverts the trope, with the prologue of the old man concluding with a graphic match cut to...John Miller. (The old man later turns out to actually be Ryan.) Played straight if you're a bit more knowledgable about the American Army: the old man is wearing a pin of the 101st Airborne (Screaming Eagles), and Ryan is the only principal character in the film in that division.
- Averted in Se7en: the actor playing John Doe is missing from the opening credits instead receiving the first credit at the ending.
- The Mockbuster Paranormal Entity takes this to extremes. Three minutes into the film, it is revealed that the protagonist's sister is dead, he went to jail for her murder, he hung himself, and then his mother (who got possessed) hung herself too. The remaining 87 minutes of the film are pointless.
- The opening credits of GoldenEye make it fairly plain that we haven't seen the last of Sean Bean, despite his character being "killed" before the credits even rolled.
- This is avoided in the opening of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock...but there is an extra long pause between William Shatner's credit and DeForest Kelley's where Nimoy's name would normally appear. In fact, the name would appear during a moment when the screen goes white, and one could imagine Nimoy's name "appearing" in white-on-white.
- Want to watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks and not know the ending? Stop watching the opening credits when Donald McKayle is credited for the choreography!
- In the film adaptation of Eragon, along with being almost nothing like the book, the audience is informed of the fact that Arya is a princess during the opening narration and plot set up. A fact that readers didn't find out about until halfway through the second book.
- In the film Horsemen (starring Dennis Quaid), Ziyi Zhang has second billing in the opening credits. Even if you didn't recognize the name, the fact that she's the only Asian actor in the movie gives away the fact that her character is more than she seems to be when she is first introduced.
- The opening narration of Moulin Rouge! by Christian clearly states "the woman I loved is dead."
- The opening narration of Hop spoils the fact that the main human character becomes the first human Easter Bunny. This concept isn't introduced until a little before the climax, after a movie of basically nothing happening.
- The German version of The Who's Tommy has an opening narration that states "Tommy can not be dubbed!" in this exact words. The narrator then proceeds to give an overview of the film's plot which means he gives away every plot twist until the very last moment of the film as if he was reading the synopsis off of Wikipedia. The narration also plays over the first two minutes of the film where Tommy's parents meet until the start of the war and cancels out any music. Then the movie proceeds with subtitles, making the inclusion of the narrator completely pointless.
- The opening several minutes of Melancholia play out the entire plot in a series of stylized images.
- In the opening credits to George of the Jungle 2, the song gives away several plot points. The first movie's opening song cut off before it got to the extended cut's plot summary.
- Fathom Events, a company that distributes special event filmsnote to cinemas such as AMC, often likes to put in making of featurettes before the movie, which often contain clips or information that can blow certain plot details for people seeing the films for the first time. This video mentions the following three examples:
- During the making of featurette for Death Note: The Last Name, key scenes from the film were shown and it was revealed that the film was a two-parter.
- When Rambo was shown in 2008, Sylvester Stallone showed the alternate ending of the first movie where Rambo died during the making-of documentary. The Rambo sequels were also mentioned in the preshow.
- The 2009 hi-definition event of The Wizard of Oz spoiled many of the scenes from the film during the documentary shown before it, including the ending.
- An interview that played before the Insider Access to Inside Out event spoiled Bing Bong's death when talking about how his voice actor (Richard Kind) cried while recording the character's Famous Last Words: "Take her to the moon for me...okay?". What's even worse is that the trailers for the event spoiled some parts of the movie's climax, including the scene where Joy runs through Imagination Land, the scene where Anger gives Riley the idea to run away and the scene where Joy and Sadness splat onto the window of Headquarters after Fear says "I wish Joy was here!"note
- The 2018 "Jim Henson Holiday Special" screening of Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas and The Bells of Fraggle Rock has a 5-minute documentary hosted by Amy Poehler that has a few spoilers for the former special.
- Thankfully, this has gotten less frequent, possibly due to the complaints they've received. Many events nowadays either put the bonus content after the movie (such as the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special and The Iron Giant), use clips that don't spoil much of the movie (such as Team Hot Wheels: The Origin Of Awesome, which used clips from the first 20 minutes, which were already available for free on YouTube), use no clips at all (Some examples include the 2015 showings of The Wizard of Oz and Grease, or for that matter anything else screened under the "TCM Big Screen Classics" banner, which have introductions by Turner Classic Movies hosts that don't spoil anything, but instead reveal tidbits about the movie you are about to watch - such as how Oz was not very successful in its initial run, but was Vindicated by History many years later when it was first shown on TV) or interview the cast (such as One Direction: Where We Are and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection Fnote ).
- If you're reading one of Edward Rutherford's multi-generation historical novels (Sarum, London, etc), don't even glance at the family tree at the front of the book until you've read the whole thing: it'll spoil who has kids with whom, etc.
- Artemis Fowl: The first page of The Last Guardian says (at the bottom, in Gnommish): The Last Will and Testament of Artemis Fowl.
- In an in-Verse example, the elaborate LARP Games of the Dream Park series are nearly always preceded by a formal recitation of the rules of play. One such rule commonly stipulates how many lost points a player can reclaim if, having been "killed out", they return "from the grave" as a zombie, tornrait, or other undead. Which, naturally, prematurely reveals that there are undead as part of the Game's internal mythos and plotline.
- The cover of the third book of The Icewind Dale Trilogy shows the heroes fighting demons in Tartarus, which only happens at the very end of the book. Also, Bruenor is shown on the cover, who was thought dead in the previous book and makes a surprising return in this book.
- My Brother Sam Is Dead. Guess who dies at the very end of the book.
- From the introduction of Slaughterhouse-Five:
I've finished my war book now... It begins like this:
Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.
It ends like this:
- They Both Die at the End. And they do.
- Stephenie Meyer managed to spoil Twilight's plot twist on the back of the book. Then again, Edward being a vampire is the entire premise, so it's not like anyone picked the book up without already knowing the twist.
- Many Shakespeare plays spoil the ending in the prologue, which was basically their point. The enjoyment of the story wasn't to be surprised by the outcome, but to see how it gets there. For example, Romeo and Juliet states that Romeo and Juliet die. In fact, many plays are referred to as tragedies right on the title pages of printed editions, so you know that things turn out poorly before you've read a word.
- The 2005 stage musical Willy Wonka is a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adaptation that's Truer to the Text than the 1971 film version but uses its songs. The opening scene takes place in the factory, with Willy Wonka the first character the audience meets, and he goes on to reveal that he's planning to retire, but not before he finds an heir. In the book and most adaptations, he does not appear until the other characters arrive at the factory for the Golden Ticket tour and The Reveal that he's been seeking an heir all along is the climax of the story (he does appear in a few flashbacks in the first half of the 2005 film in order to explain the backstory, but his face is usually obscured and by the time he appears in the second half, he's...changed a bit). While the story is well-known and parodied enough to qualify as It Was His Sled, and Mr. Wonka is the most memorable character in it, this opening not only spoils the whole show, but negates the attempts in subsequent scenes to build up any mystery surrounding Mr. Wonka.
- The third chapter intro for GastroPhobia spoils both Mania's introduction, and the appearance of her human form.
- Grim Trigger: Volume one's opening sequence spoils Tage and Hunter working together. The first two credits also spoil Lodin and Proxy joining them.
- The opening pages of Reversed Star show Icaruss and Evangeline fighting together in a war, which makes the fact that he will eventually reach her a Foregone Conclusion. Most of the dramatic tension instead comes from how he does it, and how he and Evangeline become the people that they are by that point.
- The fourth season of Flander's Company has Clara appearing in the credits along the other employees, completely spoiling both her return and her HeelFace Turn.
- The first season of Red vs. Blue had Tex appearing in the credits... along with her voice actor. There goes the plot twist that Tex Is a Girl. Has since fallen into It Was His Sled territory.
- It takes several episodes before the titular team is formed, and there is much angst on the protagonist's part as she wonders who she will be partnered with... which is all well and good, except for the part where three other girls are prominently depicted in the intro for that first season, even fighting alongside her in one scene.
- The Darker and Edgier turn Volume 3 takes halfway through is foreshadowed by the opening credits theme.
- The Volume 4 opening spoils the fact that Sun is the hooded figure stalking Blake on the ship in "Of Runaways And Stowaways", the fact that Qrow has been watching over Team RNJR/JNNR in "Family", and the fact that the two faunus, Corsac and Fennec, that debut in "Menagerie" are in league with Adam.
- Eventually Averted with the Volume 6 opening, where plenty of new characters and story arcs are foreshadowed but kept vague enough to not spoil anything.
- Played straight again with the Volume 7 opening which strongly hints at Iron Wood's FaceHeel Turn.
- Splinter Cell: Extinction: the shot with Julian Hunter reaching out to Corbin from the helicopter, spoiling the penultimate episode and finale.
- Video Game High School: Inverted in Season 3. The closing credits don't change between episodes, so attentive viewers will notice that Nathan Kress plays "New Law" as early as Season 3 Episode 1.
- An animated Funny Animal version of Adventures of Oliver Twist features a montage of all the plot points from an episode, from beginning to ending, put just before the episode begins.
- Adventure Time. Just pay attention to the first 5 seconds of the opening, and you will get spoiled with one of the biggest plot twist in the whole series: the fact that Ooo is actually the remains of Earth after a giant nuclear war.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Episodes will often open with a recap of anything from an earlier episode that is related to the current one in any way. As such, if scenes from the episode "Jet" shows up in the recap, don't be surprised about the character Jet suddenly showing up. A bigger example is The Order of the White Lotus, whose importance to the plot was hinted at extremely early because of this.
- The opening to the season 2 finale "Crossroads of Destiny" ends with a flashback to Roku ominously telling Aang "If you are killed in the Avatar State, the reincarnation cycle will be broken, and the Avatar will cease to exist." No points for guessing what very nearly happens at the climax of the episode.
- An alternate opening narration for the first episode averts this trope, as Katara gives more information on the war and the Avatar but doesn't mention Aang because she hasn't met him yet.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! shows in its original intro that Captain America survived getting thrown into an icy sea, negating the attempts that Cap's debut episode made to make his fate seem ambiguous. It also shows Hank Pym becoming Giant-Man, an ability he doesn't demonstrate until his second appearance (chronologically speaking) Additionally, episodes set before the founding of the Avengers show eight members in the intro's Team Shot, revealing that Hawkeye won't remain an enemy of the heroes for long. The recaps attached to season two episodes also spoil the returns of certain antagonists by showing their previous appearances.
- The opening of season 2 of Big Hero 6: The Series has a quick shot of Liv Amara with the other villains, who was only revealed to be villainous in the second episode of the season, though there were hints in the first season.
- Elena of Avalor: The Season 3 intro removes Esteban from the "With her family by her side" scene and the group shot at the end, hinting that something happens that causes Esteban to be absent. This intro debuts the same episode where we learn why he's missing from the intro (he has been disowned and is now a wanted fugitive). A big glaringly, Isabel also has an updated animation model in this episode, but the scenes retained from the previous intros still feature her in her original animation model, so this new intro variant was clearly meant to foreshadow Esteban's fate.
- Exo Squad: The opening narration talks about a war between the Neo-Sapiens and the Humans... a war which only STARTS in the sixth episode. This is made all the more confusing by the fact that that a Human/Neo-Sapien war took place in the show's backstory (but not the war the opening narration shows clips of).
- The Boomerang description for the Garfield and Friends episode "The Worm Turns" spoils the reason Booker stopped chasing worms: his life was saved by one.
- The intro for Gargoyles is comprised of scenes from the show's Pilot Movie, which causes problems when you're watching it as a five-part episode.
- In Gravity Falls, the intro features a few blink-and-you'll-miss-it spoilers, such as Li'l Gideon Gleeful and two separate appearances by Bill Cipher. One of the latter, at least, is a brief sketch of him on paper covered in cryptic gibberish that's easy to write off unless you know what's going on, but the second is a full-screen image that shows up in a momentary but jarring fashion just as the show's name is onscreen, making it fairly noticeable and creepy.
- Hilda: The season 1 opening sequence features multiple characters that would not make their debut 'til later (sometimes even as late as the second last episode). Jorgen, the Great Raven, the Vittra, a ghost, the Black Hound, Tontu; they're all there from episode 1.
- Jackie Chan Adventures
- The intro for season 2 showed that Valmont would be possessed by Shendu for season 2.
- Even before Valmont and his three last Enforcers (Finn, Ratso and Chow) met Daolon Wong, the Season 3 intro revealed the Enforcers becoming Wong's Dark Chi Warriors and it did not feature Valmont, revealing the latter wouldn't appear as often as he did the previous story arcs.
- Season 4's first episode started with a Previously On showing scenes from when people other than Shendu controlled Shadowkhan and scenes from when Daolon Wong was depowered. Before the intro, Wong tried to regain control of Shadowkhan to make them break him out of prison but he instead awakens Tarakudo. Then the intro shows Tarakudo as that season's Big Bad, the Enforcers working for him and Wong not being featured.
- Season 5's intro doesn't feature the Enforcers and, while Drago becoming the major antagonist was probably expected by the time the intro first started, his featured henchmen wouldn't appear before his third episode.
- The opening credits for Justice League, and later Justice League Unlimited, would show (sometimes spoileriffic) scenes from that particular episode.
- Taken Up to Eleven with the series pilot of Kaeloo, which gave away the entire episode plot.
- Kim Possible
- Lord Monty a.k.a. Monkey Fist appears in the opening theme from the very first episode onwards, however his first appearance was not until episode 13, where it was written as if Monty turning out to be the bad guy was a big twist.
- This happened again in the last season when the opening changed, spoiling Warmonga well before her episode appearance. Once again, her episode is written as if we're not supposed to have any idea who this other green-skinned lady who's helping Drakken who isn't Shego is.
- The Legion Of Superheroes pilot "Man Of Tomorrow" had spoilers in the opening credits, showing Timber Wolf, who wouldn't be making an appearance until the next episode.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has the Japanese dub opening sequences, the 3rd opening being the biggest example, as it spoils the ending for the season two finale A Canterlot Wedding.
- Princess Natasha: Oleg doesn't appear before the third episode but the intro reveals his role in the cartoon ever since the first episode.
- In ReBoot, every four episodes of seasons 3 and 4 had an opening sequence using clips from those four episodes. Naturally plot developments like Enzo's Time Skip, the Saucy Mare's web armor, and Mainframe in ruins are spoiled. Averted with the Toonami broadcast, which replaced those openings with customized ones.
- The opening credits for The Secret Saturdays feature the Saturdays being charged by a quartet of villains. While one of them, Piecemeal, shows up relatively early in episode 4, the others are Eterno, a one-shot villain who doesn't show up for several more episodes, Rani Naga, who also doesn't appear until almost the end of the season, and Shoji Fuzen, who appears in episode 3, but is wearing blue samurai armor he won't don until many episodes later.
- Steven Universe
- The second intro shows Connie carrying Rose's sword, spoiling that she'd be trained as a swordfighter (which happens in the intro's debut episode) and that it would become her usual weapon (which happens ten episodes later).
- Nine episodes into Steven Universe: Future, Steven is shocked to discover Sadie and Lars never got together and are moving on romantically. However, the opening already showed Sadie separate from Lars and hanging out with a new character (who turns out to be Sadie's new significant other).
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- The opening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) season 5: Fast Forward, spoils that Darius Dun, initially a minor supporting character, is the Big Bad (he is seen looming over all the other villains).
- Despite being introduced as Shredder's lieutenants, Chris Bradford and Xever are strangely absent from the intro of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012). Instead, Shredder is shown standing with the mutants Dogpound and Fishface. No prizes for guessing what's going to happen to Bradford and Xever.
- Total Drama
- The theme song of Action featured Courtney, who came back halfway through to the surprise of the castmates and (maybe) Chris. However, the flipbook itself had no intention of this ever being a spoiler.
- The leaked theme song for World Tour confirmed Ezekiel's participation in the season.
- The Japanese opening of Transformers Animated spoils Longarm being a Decepticon, Blackarachnia commanding the Dinobots, Starscream's Allspark fragment and clones. However, there's also so much stuff that simply doesn't happen that it's hard for a new viewer to tell what's important and what isn't.
- Megatron is presumed dead at the end of the five-episode opening arc for Transformers: Prime. While the odds of a Transformers outing killing off Megatron that early were already low, the opening credits then bump them down to nonexistent by prominently featuring Megatron.
- The opening of Trollhunters spoils the fact that Jim's love interest Claire is going to join the team while she spends the first half of the first season clueless about Jim and Toby's adventures.
- The opening of X-Men does not include Morph listed among the team's roster, making it fairly easy to guess that he won't be lasing all the way through the opening two-parter. Even after he comes back from the dead, he never rejoins the team full time.
- The intro to X-Men: Evolution shows all of the X-Men gathered together and shows them off by name, despite the fact that half of them don't show up for several episodes. The most notable case is Rogue, who is introduced early on as a character, but keeps her allegiance uncertain until halfway through the season.
- Young Justice
- One episode has the team helped out by an arrow fired from the shadows. When they confront Green Arrow and accuse him of babysitting them and he proves it wasn't his arrow, they assume his sidekick, Speedy, is ready to join the team after storming out in the pilot. Yeah ... or maybe it's the female archer who appears in the opening credits of the show as a team member despite having not appeared in the actual show yet at that point.
- The team isn't completely assembled in story before episode 6, but the intro shows the whole team since episode 1.
- Right before the show's logo is viewed, each Young Justice episode's opening contains a quick display of clips which previews events that occur later in whichever episode is airing at the moment which is at least less spoilery because of the rapid speed the images flash on the screen.