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It's dark, and possibly rainy. The faint streetlights get reflected on the small puddles on the street. A shadow appears on the brick wall, and a foot disturbs the reflections: Someone's running, possibly wounded but always unarmed, and he's desperate to find somewhere to hide. The same puddle is stepped on by two or more armed agents, or perhaps an unseen terror. A few moments later, the scene comes to a conclusion, and the Opening Credits roll.
The Dramatic Chase Opening is more than just a Chase Scene: It's specifically Played for Drama, and designed to introduce the good guy and/or the bad guy(s). The circumstances strongly favor the pursuers: The pursued person has no vehicle; the illumination is poor; the weather can be foggy, snowy or raining. If the chase is in the streets, it's often played in a ghetto filled with dark alleys (bonus points if the chase continues in the sewers). The person being chased could be a civilian with an average or bad physical condition. Since it's the beginning of the movie/series and Anyone Can Die, a Broken Heel has a stronger effect on the viewer. Visual effects can include Chiaroscuro to evoke a Film Noir look and feel.
To take the drama Up to Eleven, the victim often looks vulnerable: Scared to death; always underpowered and outnumbered; little or no experience in hand-to-hand combat, or otherwise at great disadvantage (i.e. wounded or with just a few bullets left); and very probably the last survivor of an evil experiment Tested on Humans, an ethnic cleansing, or the witness to a crime. Frequently it's a child, a Damsel in Distress, or someone carrying a young child. In a school setting, expect the Woobie to be chased by a Gang of Bullies. It could also be a common burglar fleeing justice or something worse.
The Dramatic Chase Opening doesn't necessarily need to the the first scene in a movie or series. It can be delayed a couple of scenes so we get a brief intro on the victim or hero.
Possible scene endings include, but are not limited to:
- He is shot and killed (common in Crime and Punishment Series)
- He is shot and survived
- He found somewhere to hide
- He gets rescued by a partner
- He gets rescued by someone else (common in martial arts movies)
- He gets rescued by something else
- He gets killed by something else (common in horror movies)
- He gets captured
- He falls off a cliff and dies
- He is thrown off a cliff and dies
- He falls off a cliff and the bad guys think him dead
- He finds a vehicle, turning this into a high speed chase.
- He finds a weapon or mysterious device to survive
- He is the weapon (see Mugging the Monster)
- and so on...
(Note that this trope does not apply when the chase is a vehicle pursuit, i.e. the Star Wars: A New Hope beginning pursuit. That belongs to a different category.)
Subtrope of Action Prologue (itself a subtrope of Cold Open) and Chase Scene. Can lead into Pursued Protagonist (a Chase Scene where the protagonist gives an item or message to the real Hero), but not always. Can overlap with Broken Heel and Blind Alley.
- Akira has a mutant child running away from the military until he has a high speed collision with Tetsuo.
- The Birdy the Mighty OVA starts with an evil alien running away (and taking Tsutomu as hostage) before being confronted by Birdy.
- The little ghost girl in Bleach episode 1 is running from a giant Hollow. Just when she trips and falls, Rukia appears and vanquishes the monster.
- Tower of God egins with main character Baam chasing his childhood friend Rachel and stops her by roughly pinning her to the floor. When she manages to escape the world they live in by entering the Tower, he vows to follow her till he dies. Actually pretty creepy in hindsight.
- In Blood: The Last Vampire, an old man in a subway is pursued by a mysterious girl holding a Katana, just as the subway lights begin to flicker. He runs wagon after wagon until he's cornered and finally killed. Turns out he was a vampire in disguise and the girl's a vampire hunter.
- Darker Than Black opens up with a Contractor (a superpowered human) being chased by a bunch of cops. This being the first time the officers had seen a Contractor, they are no match for him.
- Innocent Venus is such a textbook example that it was used for the trope image. Venus and her older companion are running away from a totalitarian government, first in street alleys, and then in subway tunnels. They're about to get killed until a mysterious hero comes to the rescue. The scene includes puddle splashing, Twisted Ankle, Convenient Decoy Cat, and underground chase.
- Mnemosyne opens with Rin, wearing nothing but an unbuttoned dress shirt (and glasses), being chased over the streets, a stairwell, and a rooftop before finally getting killed by Laura. This is used to establish both Rin's Immortality and the gory and sexy style of the series.
- Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin begins with an agent being chased by a monster in the middle of the forest under a full moon. The flying monster is about to catch him when he gets to a teleport gate he just requested via cellphone. The teleporter receives... his right arm.
- To Aru Majutsu no Index has several examples of this.
- The first scene of episode 1 shows Touma being chased by a gang of crooks, before he narrates a brief summary of his unfortunate life.
- In episode 10, we see Misaka well, one of her clones trying to snipe a level 5 criminal. When she fails miserably, she panics and runs away a few blocks, but he's already blocking her exit, and he's got an evil grin on his face.
- In episode 1 of Season 2, we have a crook running away from Kuroko (an antiskill agent) right before he's captured.
- The Durarara anime episode "Anarchy" starts with Anri desperately running away from members of the Yellow Scarves gang and trying to hide in an alley.
- The Big O episode "Hydra" begins with a female agent of the Union being pursued through the streets of Paradigm City by members of the Military Police.
- The entire Sin City series opens with a dramatic chase as a SWAT team tries to bring Marv in for a murder he didn't commit.
- The opening chase with Trinity and the agents in The Matrix.
- The movie The Neverending Story has a brief intro before this. Then the chase scene ends up with Bastian seeking refuge in a bookstore and finding the Neverending Story book.
- In the 2009 film State of Play, a thief is fleeing through Washington, D.C. and is shot by a man carrying a briefcase. A pizza delivery man who witnesses the incident is also shot by the killer and is left in a coma.
- Common for James Bond movies, most recently seen in Quantum of Solace.
- In the Italian movie Padre Pio, an agonizing Pio starts narrating his life. The first scene in the flashback shows him as a child running away from the devil - who took form of a Hell Hound - and taking refuge in a church.
- Hard Target opens with a homeless veteran being persued by a group who offers wealthy men the chance of Hunting the Most Dangerous Game.
- One of the main characters in The Terminator has to evade police almost as soon as he appears in the picture.
- The beginning of Dean Koontz' The Bad Place (see page quote).
- Blood Rites of The Dresden Files opens with Harry being chased by demonic chimps that fling incendiary poo.
- The beginning of Stephen King's Firestarter.
- The opening chapter of The Book of the New Sun is one of these.
- The first Maximum Ride book opens this way, with Max getting chased by Erasers (half-wolf, super-strong men). Turns out it's All Just a Dream.
- Subverted in the 1985 series The Equalizer: The intro is a collection of dramatic chase openings, but they're so many that they get switched before the actual chases begin.
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Return of The Archons". It starts with Lieutenant Sulu and another crewman running from some pursuers in a city street. Sulu contacts the Enterprise for an emergency beam-up but the Enterprise crew takes too long and Sulu is affected by one of the aliens' weapons. The other crewman gets away, but is later caught and affected as well.
- Subverted with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: It has been known to open with Buffy running away from vamps, but it's always to get somewhere private so she can stake them without an audience. Subverted in that we already know who's going to get killed.
- The Torchwood episode "Ghost Machine", starts with a running chase across Cardiff.
- The opening of the first episode of the BBC Miniseries Neverwhere has Door badly injured and running from Those Two Bad Guys Mr Croup and Mr Vandamar.
- Delphine Software's Flashback: The Quest for Identity starts with the camera focusing on the feet of the fleeing protagonist and his captors. This is followed by a flying bike chase.
- Mega Man Zero starts with Ciel and her La Résistance running away from the Neo Arcadian troops to a secret lab which contains the sealed Zero.
- Ocarina Of Time starts with Link's Prophetic Dream about Zelda fleeing from Ganondorf.
- Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within starts with the Prince running away from the Dahaka.
- The beginning of Monty Oum's Dead Fantasy has Yuna being pursued by Kasumi and Ayane.
- Disney's The Fox and the Hound opens with a mother fox and her kit being chased by hunters. The mother hides her child (our hero, Tod) and leads the hunters away, eventually being shot dead.
- Another Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, opens with a band of gypsies being led into a trap and Quasimodo's mother being pursued on horseback by Judge Claude Frollo. She is killed by a concussion and her baby, Quasimodo, is about to be killed too when the Archdeacon convinces him to raise the little boy as his own.
- Jonny Quest
- The Secret Saturdays episode "Guess Who's Going to be Dinner?" starts with Fiskerton running through a forest while being threatened by dangerous plants. It turns out to be just a game he's playing with Zak Saturday.
- Plutos Judgement Day begins with Pluto chasing a cat into Mickey Mouse's house and making his floor dirty, causing Mickey to scold the dog for being mean to the cat, and therefore prompting Pluto to have a nightmare about him going to Hell.