Behold the wondrous opening sequence of Spielberg's War of the Worlds. Any movie that starts with Morgan Freeman's cask-aged voice, telling us we're screwed, is off to a great start. Many science-fiction movies open with voiceover narration, which prepares you for greatness... or bombards you with backstory.
Here are more than 50 of the most amazing, thunderous and ridiculous opening voiceovers from science fiction and fantasy films.
Too bad War Of The Worlds goes downhill a bit after that amazingly portentous opening. No movie could live up to the promise of Morgan Freeman reading H.G. Wells, more or less verbatim, but it's still a sad thing.
The greatest voiceovers tell you what kind of movie you're in for, and also give you the information you need to hit the ground running. Take Sean Connery's iconic voiceover from Highlander, which is so awesome, you need it written out for you to appreciate its greatness:
Sadly, most voiceovers that launch movies either try to pack in way, way too much backstory ("And then there was a man named 92ZorkX, who built a mega-cube in his pants") or go way, way overboard with the cheese. Here are 48 more voiceovers that mostly go way over the top, sorted by type:
Perhaps my favorite kind of opening voiceover is the kind where the narrator starts out by intoning, "In the year 2027, we realized we had gone out of the house without any lower garments, and the Earth was reduced to rubble as a result. The survivors lived in caves, eating scraps of jerky. Until one day, a new hope appeared." Here are ten of the most awesome voiceovers that begin with a date and end with a sad recitation.
It's really true. You can narrate anything in a smooth English accent, and it sounds awesome. It's like spreading brie all over your frontal cortex, eliminating all of your B.S.-detectors. Someone with an English accent is saying it, so it must be brilliant. Right?
You know a science fiction movie is going to be totally absurd when it starts off with a voiceover that just throws a giant ball of crazy at your head. Someone who is trying not to giggle gives a little speech about how there was a guy named Zaark 795, and he rose up against his brother, the Bishop of Pluto, because they both wanted the power of the Dodecahedron-o-gram. Yeah. Anyway, here are the nonsensical opening voiceovers that make us happy to be alive.
It's just the law of apocalypses: You can't feature the destruction of all (or most) life on Earth, without throwing in a gloomy monologue explaining exactly how we blew it all to hell. It's the way things work around here. Typically, these monologues include scenes of devastation as well as a droning voice talking about viruses or bombs or people not washing their hands. Here are some of the greatest.
Some science fiction movies start out with a more personal touch — one character giving an internal monologue about their feelings. Either it's a character being introspective, or it's some kind of noir deal, where the person talks about their pain in a hardcore, tough-guy way. Here are some of our faves.
This is sort of a catch-all for two categories that didn't quite deserve their own pages: monologues that start out as a voiceover, and then turn into someone talking to the camera; and voiceovers that are just sort of demented, silly or satirical. They're both a bit different from your standard science fiction voiceover, in any case.
This io9 Flashback originally appeared in June 2009. Additional reporting by Alexis Brown.