Opening Monologue

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Sometimes you just don't have the time, budget or energy to show the nuclear war that destroyed your main city, or the orc invasion that lead to the heroic elves being enslaved.

Now ordinarily you could turn to Mr. Exposition, or rely on As You Know dialogue, but this is the kind of stuff that the audience needs to know from the very start in order to put things in context. And since the other options aren't practical, you'll have to rely on the Opening Monologue.

Just show a montage of a few small-scale scenes of whatever dramatic event you're talking about, with the hero (or possibly the film's mentor) explaining everything before the film proper begins.

Sometimes this can be used in an interesting way, by revealing that the narrator is actually someone the audience does not expect (e.g., Mad Max 2). The Opening Monologue may be paired with a closing monologue, or continued through the rest of the film as an Inner Monologue or narration.

Compare Opening Scroll. Not to be confused with Opening Narration.

Examples of Opening Monologue include:


Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Hentai OVA Urotsukidouji opens with a narrator summarizing the Legend of the Overfiend, over images of a fiery hell where demons are having sex.
  • Gundam Wing begins with a narrator explaining that the year is After Colony 195 and humans now live both on the Earth and in Outer Space. He also summarizes the causes of the ongoing war at the beginning of the series and occasionally provides in-episode explanation of terms the viewer might not be aware of.
    • This narrator has a tendency to repeat himself, and may go on for several minutes before allowing the plot to start.
  • A few Code Geass intros describe how Britannia took over Japan, among other tidbits.
  • For a number of years now, the Pokémon movies have started with an opening monologue explaining what Pokémon are and how they co-exist with humans, along with introducing us to Satoshi/Ash and pals.
  • The first few Wandering Son episodes end and begin with monologues.
  • Between the manga, the anime, and the anime's various openings, One Piece has used different styles to describe Gold Roger's final words and his execution. The manga starts off with it, where as the first opening in the anime begins with the "Wealth. Fame. Power." speech. It seems the anime has now settled into using a longer opening, and then cutting to a "gritty old film" scene of Gold Roger being executed before the footage burns away.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Creepy Sci-Fi/paranoia movie Dark City had an opening monologue clumsily tacked on at the command of the producers, which is a Spoiler Opening for the film's central mystery. Happily, it's been removed from the recent Director's Cut.
  • Underworld begins with Kate Beckinsale's character expositing about the war between the vampires and the werewolves.
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas memorably begins: "We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold..."
  • In Mad Max 2, the elderly man delivering the Opening Monologue is revealed to be the mute savage child all grown up.
  • Equilibrium starts with a short Opening Monologue vaguely explaining the events that caused The End of the World as We Know It, and the start of the world "not as we know it", coupled with some historical documentary footage and reused footage from the film itself.
  • Serenity starts with an Opening Monologue in the form of a class history lesson.
    • This marvelously catches up to the movie's "here-and-now" events in a nested Russian Doll fashion.
      • To elaborate, the actual first scene (the Universal logo) is nested in a class video in River's class, which is all part of a dream sequence when she's actually being broken out of the Academy, but then that's all actually a recording being watched by the Operative.
  • The prologue to Disney's Beauty and the Beast establishes the Beast's situation.
  • "A beginning is a very delicate time. Know then that it is the year ten-thousand, one-ninety-one..." Narration was used to insane levels in the 1980s Dune movie, in order to condense the plot of a six hundred page book down to two hours without confusing anyone. It didn't really help.
  • Lady Galadriel's opening monologue from the first The Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, which lays down the creation of the Rings of Power, the One Ring, the war against Sauron, and the fates of the One Ring's previous bearers before Bilbo got hold of it. Plus, we don't actually meet Galadriel until almost the end of the movie. A good portion of this speech was cribbed from a speech by Treebeard in the book, but having a sentient tree-shaped being explain the plot in a very slow voice is possibly not the best way to pull your audience in. This monologue actually went through several narrators, including Frodo (rejected because doing so would reveal he had survived) and Gandalf. Galadriel was eventually selected as the person most suitable to giving out such information.
  • James Earl Jones picked up a paycheck to apply his distinctive voice to explaining the setting for the Judge Dredd movie.
  • Kevin Costner's version of The Postman began with exposition by a female, who at the end is revealed to be his daughter, giving the story of his life.
  • The movie version of The Golden Compass Northern Lights does this.
  • As does the movie of Eragon.
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day opens with a monologue delivered by Sarah Connor. The third film, with one by John Connor.
  • Sky Blue begins with Jay meditating on how the world got so crap.
  • The Departed: "I don't wanna be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me." Hearing that in Jack Nicholson's gruff yet acidic voice sends chills up one's spine.
  • "Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Conan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure..."
  • The Agony Booth recaps describe some as "Obnoxious Patronizing/Shouting Narrator".
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs opens with a bit of Fauxlosophic Narration that leads into A Minor Kidroduction, and finishes with a straightforward Opening Monologue that establishes the whole "Flint wants to invent stuff/Swallow Falls is in a depression" plot point.
  • Lampshaded/subverted in |Disney's Hercules when Charlton Heston is interrupted in his opening narration by the Muses:

Narrator: Long ago, in the faraway land of ancient Greece, there was a golden age of powerful gods and extraordinary heroes. And the greatest and strongest of all these heroes was the mighty Hercules. But what is the measure of a true hero? Ah, that is what our story is...
Thalia: Will you listen to him? He's makin' the story sound like some Greek tragedy.
Terpsichore: Lighten up, dude.
Calliope: We'll take it from here, darling.
Narrator: You go, girl.

  • There's one in Transformers, where Optimus Prime explains about the Allspark. Somewhat unnecessary, since he explains again to Sam and Sam explains to the government agents and Optimus explains again to the other Autobots.
  • The intro to Wing Commander pans over space charts while playing a recording of JFK giving a speech about the Space Race, which segues into other radio broadcasts delivering exposition about the Pilgrams, mankind's invention of Faster-Than-Light Travel, and the disasterous First Contact with the Kilrathi.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Burn Notice, In Plain Sight and Royal Pains all have opening narrations. In fact, including Law and Order: Criminal Intent, though it's not really a USA original show, a lot of USA Network's shows have opening monologues.
  • Babylon 5 has a different one every season for the first 3 seasons (and the Pilot Movie). However seasons 4 and 5 started using multiple different characters contributing lines of dialog one at a time to create the effect of an monologue.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is very fond of this. Every episode, except for the pilot, start with one by Sarah that frames what happens during the episode. Sometimes it's done well, others not so much.
  • The Doctor Who story "The Deadly Assassin" begins with the Fourth Doctor doing a short monologue.
    • The Eighth Doctor does a longer one in the The Movie.
    • Rose gets one at the beginning of "Doomsday".
    • ""The Last Of The Time Lords" opens with a warning to interstellar traffic that the Earth, conquered by the Master and the Toclafane, has been declared a no-go area.
  • Heroes, oh so very much. In the first season it was with Mohinder's incredibly bad biology regarding evolution; fortunately they moved to poetry later.
  • In The Invisible Man, the main character, Darian Fawkes, starts and ends each episode with a famous quote, bringing forward the basic theme of the episode.
  • Cade Foster, the main character of First Wave, begins each episode (except for the pilot) with a quatrain from the "hidden chapters" of the prophecies of Nostradamus and spends the episode trying to interpret the archaic wording into the show's reality.
  • Power Rangers RPM opens every episode with Dr. K explaining about the Venjix Virus and the domed city or Corinth which leads into the theme song.
  • Shameless did this with its title sequence, introducing the characters.
  • In the Supernatural episode Swan Song, there is an opening monologue given by Chuck.

Chuck: On April 21, 1967, the 100 millionth GM vehicle rolled off the line at the plant in Janesville -- a blue two-door caprice. There was a big ceremony, speeches. The lieutenant governor even showed up. Three days later, another car rolled off that same line. No one gave two craps about her. But they should have, because this 1967 Chevrolet Impala would turn out to be the most important car -- no, the most important object -- in pretty much the whole universe. She was first owned by Sal Moriarty, an alcoholic with two ex-wives and three blocked arteries. On weekends, he'd drive around giving bibles to the poor "gettin' folks right for judgment day". That's what he said. Sam and Dean don't know any of this, but if they did, I bet they'd smile. After Sal died, she ended up at Rainbow Motors, a used-car lot in Lawrence, where a young marine bought her on impulse. That is, after a little advice from a friend. I guess that's where this story begins. And here's where it ends.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • When A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was in touring before the Broadway opening, the audience was not sure how to take it. So a monologue and opening number was added to tell the audience that this was a comedy and not to be taken seriously. The monologue was:

Playgoers, I bid you welcome. The theater is a temple, and we are here tonight to worship the gods of comedy and tragedy. Tonight, I am pleased to announce, a comedy. We shall employ every device we know in our desire to divert you.

    • The opening number is: A Comedy Tonight - recommended listening.

Video Games[edit | hide]