Movies Where The Title Card Appears Surprisingly Late

You're sitting in a dark theater in that exciting moment between trailers and the movie you're about to see. The typical experience goes something like this ... it's pitch black, no sound. After a few beats, something appears on the screen. It may be an epigraph, an action-packed cold open, or a beautiful landscape (the opening of a film is always an adventure). Then ... the title card, an often stylized representation of the film's own title that's sometimes followed by a full title sequence.

Title cards have their origins in silent film, originally developed for use as intertitles (title cards in the film itself). By 1903, the time of the classic silent film "The Great Train Robbery," placing title cards towards the front of the film (with the film's title and often copyright info) became fairly common. 

But as the decades rolled on and the medium of film evolved, a number of directors have taken that customary intro title card and done surprising things with it — placing it at specific later moments in a film to punctuate important moments, or shifting it entirely to the end as an exclamation point following a cinematic ride. Here are some of our favorite movies with title cards placed far later than expected.

Raising Arizona

The Coen brothers are widely known for directing original, tightly written films that often cross between a variety of genres: comedy, romance, thriller, you name it. 1987's "Raising Arizona" follows perennial prisoner H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) and his guard Edwina "Ed" McDunnough (Holly Hunter), an unlikely duo who meet where you'd expect: with the former in jail and the latter his guard. Over time, the two fall in love and eventually get married as McDunnough leaves his criminal past behind ... sort of. The couple desires a child, yet can't conceive. What to do? Like many Coen brothers films, the answer amounts to 'a goofy, half-baked crime.'

After a tearful consideration of their own reproductive misfortune and the excessive fortune of others, the duo decide on the most rational course forward: they steal a baby from the wealthy quintuplets of furniture magnate Nathan Arizona Jr. (Trey Wilson) in the hopes of raising it as their own. Police, fellow criminals, and relationship tests abound. The title card drops around the 11 minute mark, immediately following the film's breezy beginning (and complete with whimsical music). The use of the title card here is a signpost: the couple's adventure is starting, warts and all. It follows an emphatically energetic set up, and punctuates it with an equally energetic transition into the meat of the film's arc, catapulting the audience forward in the story.

Mission Impossible: Fallout

IMF agent Ethan Hunt and his band of fellow agents have dealt with betrayal, been scapegoated for heinous crimes, fought rogue intelligence agencies, and prevented the spread of a terrible pathogen. In "Mission: Impossible — Fallout," the team has yet another difficult job to do as they struggle to prevent a terrorist group and an old foe from using nuclear devices to trigger global war. 

At the start of the film, Ethan and the team lose nuclear material to a mysterious group called the Apostles in an op gone wrong. They capture one of the terrorists and interrogate the unhinged gentleman in a hospital room. The television plays news revealing that the three weapons have been detonated in the Vatican, Jerusalem, and Mecca, much to said terrorist's growing glee. He makes a deal: he'll give the IMF the information they seek if they air the group's manifesto, a demand to which they yield.

We soon discover the IMF tricked him. No real bombs, no news — they deceived him into getting the information they wanted through an elaborate ruse, and the terrorists haven't used the nuclear materials yet. On that reveal, the title card finally drops at the 17th minute. It's one hell of a cold open, carrying the audience through an entire mission (with its twists and turns) and signaling one of the hallmarks of the franchise: nothing and no one are what they appear.

The Departed

Martin Scorsese's filmmaking career has seen a number of masterful turns, from his early classics on lonely, violent men ("Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull") to his explorations of the worlds of faith (like "Kundun" and "Silence") and more, but he's best known for his examinations of mafia life in films like "Goodfellas" and "Casino." "The Departed," his only best director Oscar win, sees Boston-based Irish Mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) plant Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) within the Special Investigations Unit as the authorities place Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) within the mob. Each infiltrator has to find the other while keeping himself hidden, or else he's going to have a bad time.

The film begins by growing that set up until Sullivan gets established and Costigan gets put in jail as part of the ruse (he has to look like he's fallen out of the sphere of the law and into a life of crime). The jail cell door closes at around the 18 minute mark, a clear signal to the audience that all the pieces are in play and our two moles are in their respective organizations.  The whole film is a complex set of chess maneuvers, and Scorsese's choice to employ the title card to set it all off signals that 18 minutes into the film, all that preceded was nothing in comparison to what's coming.

The Empty Man

"The Empty Man" begins with what is effectively a short film. It follows a group of friends in 1995 travelling deep into the Himalayan mountains, where one of their number stumbles upon an otherworldly skeleton in a cave. They've awakened something, and let's just say they don't all make it. The title card drops at the 22 minute mark, after the doom of these initial adventurers has unfolded. Fast forward to 2018, where detective James Lasombra sets out to investigate the disappearance of his neighbor's daughter, it sets in motion a train of events that vastly changes James' world and which threatens to impact the world as we know it, all for an entity known as the Empty Man.

The title card drop cleanly separates the prologue and the rest of the film (don't worry, they do connect). It sets up what feels like a fresh start for a new story, alongside a mystery: what does it mean, and how does it connect to the rabbit-hole investigation our protagonist goes down in the course of the film? What is this "Empty Man" and does it relate to whatever that was in the film's prologue? It sets the audience up for a dangerous supernatural experience, and one whose connection doesn't become clear until the film's final act.

Friday the 13th (2009)

Horror fans the world over know the story of Jason Voorhees, the (eventually) hockey mask-clad murderer who stalks Camp Crystal Lake to kill unsuspecting teens. 2009's "Friday the 13th" follows dutiful brother Clay as he searches Crystal Lake's woods for his missing sister Whitney, only to find the remains of the infamous camp — and the killer to boot. The long intro builds to a group of friends visiting the camp around 20 years after Jason sees his mother murdered (at the end of the original film). 

Jason here is a lean, mean, murder machine, and he quickly dispatches everyone save Whitney (though her fate is initially unknown). At the 23 minute mark, the title card drops immediately after a brutal spree. The opening is a successful reboot of the prior films, leading to a violent and aggressive reimagining of Jason Voorhees and setting us up for the inevitable conflict between Clay and Jason. Its use here demarcates that all we've seen is mere prologue, while highlighting a villain that will prove violent and formidable. It also adds mystery, as the title drop interrupts the spree before we see how it ends. 


In "Fresh," single lady Noa finally meets the supposedly perfect man in Steve. Long frustrated with the dating scene, she takes a risk and gives Steve her number. They have a great first date, so Noa accepts his sudden invitation to an isolated romantic getaway for a weekend. It's a lovely time ... at least until she finds herself drugged and chained in a concrete room in Steve's fortress-like house. Turns out Steve is an entrepreneur of an eerie sort, providing unconventional meat for an "elite" food delivery service.

In the middle of what seems to be a good date inside Steve's isolated dwelling, he gives Noa a spiked drink. It begins to knock her out and, as she starts to lose consciousness, the title card finally drops at around the 33rd minute. It highlights the dramatic tone shift from where it looked like the film was going into where it does go: a much darker story is in play. It also underscores Steve's betrayal of Noa, and as she goes dark and we pull back to see a standing Steve with the title against the wall it establishes that Steve has all the power ... or at least, he thinks he does.


India's independence movement has had a host of impactful players, inspirational freedom fighters who have sparked serious Oscar-winning biopics across the pond ... or you can mythologize famous Indian freedom fighters in an action epic where they come to embody classic figures in Hindo folklore history. "RRR" showcases Gond tribal leader Komaram Bheem and revolutionary Alluri Sitarama Raju as they wage war against British rule. It's an absolute riot.

The pair meet by coincidence: a fiery train crash puts a small boy in danger below a bridge. With Komaram Bheem on the shore below and Alluri Raju atop the bridge, the pair lock eyes from far away and — in an elaborate bit of choreography involving a horse, a motorcycle, a flag, and a rope — the pair save the boy, meeting as they lock arms under the bridge. At around the 40 minute mark the title credits finally hit. 

At its core, "RRR" is an action-fantasy revolutionary bromance between Raju and Bheem, and the title card drop (after a stunning amount of time and a larger-than-life action sequence) punctuates the importance of their meeting and embrace. It tells you everything you need to know about just how pivotal that moment was.

Drive My Car

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's "Drive My Car" follows widowed director Yusuke Kafuku en route to direct "Uncle Vanya" at a theater festival in Hiroshima. It's his return to directing after the death of his wife rendered him unable to work on a prior iteration of the play two years' prior. He's forced to work through his long-stagnant trauma with the help of his driver, Misaki Watari, in a beautiful and moving adaptation of Murakami's well-regarded short story.

Yusuke sets out on the road to direct "Uncle Vanya," a pivotal moment in both taking agency over his life once again and in his dealing with grief and the complexity of his past. At the 41 minute mark, he starts driving ... roll credit sequence. Interestingly enough, the film's actual title isn't shown until the entirety of the film is concluded; the initial credit sequence simply introduces the film's cast and crew. 

Following the long introduction, the opening credits mark the point where the stagnation of Yusuke's prior two years is finally interrupted, and the separation between the initial credits and the concluding title card adds a further set of book ends to his journey. It screams at the audience that his journey is truly beginning and, stronger still, that his transformative path isn't over until it's truly over.


Red Miller and Mandy Bloom live in an isolated home in the Pacific Northwest. The pair are madly in love, but when the cult of ex-hippie songster Jeremiah Sand set their eyes on Mandy and break into Red's home, it sets in motion a violent and visually stylish campaign of revenge. "Mandy" is a wonderful, thrilling, memorable action-horror epic, and it's also unique for boasting a uniquely late title card placement — a whopping 75 minutes into the film.

After losing Mandy, Red goes to the bathroom, drinks himself silly, and freaks out in a scene you just have to see. Gathering his cool, he returns to a former comrade to retrieve a weapon from his old life. Moments later he's in a forge, pouring metal to create an incredible axe that he finishes and brandishes, the blade shining brightly. Cue the title card. The crux of the film is Red's campaign of bloody revenge against the cult and a set of nigh-demonic bikers, answering the question "what if The Terminator battle-axed his way through the Cenobites?" 

Apocalypse Now

Frances Ford Coppola's Vietnam War epic "Apocalypse Now" follows Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) and a boatful of soldiers as they undergo a dangerous mission: the assassination of Colonel Kurtz, a now renegade officer who has reportedly gone insane. The crew must travel into dangerous territory in a war epic that really captures the psychological toll of the Vietnam War. It's a stylish, visually stunning, intense outing alongside being among the greatest entries on the crowded list of excellent Vietnam War films. Beyond all this, the film also boasts an interesting approach to a title card, and one that comes in at a novel time.

The film itself doesn't have a credits sequence. In a sense, a title card doesn't appear anywhere. The film's title, however, does; as Captain Willard and company finally approach Kurtz' hideout at the 1 hour and 48 minute mark, the audience can see graffiti on a nearby structure: "Our Motto: Apocalypse Now!" It's a great representation of Colonel Kurtz, who had racked up atrocities to the point that high command couldn't have him growing rogue, and one that befits the film's pure cynical tone about war.

Call Me By Your Name

Italy, 1983. Oliver is a doctoral student who comes to work with Mr. Perlman, the father of 17-year-old Elio Perlman in the throes of his self-discovery as a young man. The beautiful Italian villa and the sun-drenched summer surroundings begin to facilitate a burgeoning forbidden romance between Elio and the much older Oliver. Like all forbidden summer flings, it can't last ... much to the passionate young Elio's deep sadness. It's a stunningly poignant coming-of-age drama from director Luca Guadagnino, and it's also one of the finest examples of a heartbreaking final scene punctuated by a smart title card placement.

In the film, Elio and Oliver visit Bergamo together, shortly before Oliver returns to the U.S. Months later, Oliver calls Elio's family to tell them that he's now engaged to marry a woman. A distraught Elio speaks on the phone to Oliver, who refuses to deny what happened between them but who is, for personal reasons, moving on from his authentic feelings. The call concludes, and the audience sees Elio staring into the fire as his heart breaks (away from the prying eyes of his family). After a long, beautiful, poignant take, we see the credits at the 2 hour, 8 minute mark. The title, "Call Me By Your Name," recalls the pair's connection (reflecting a continued romantic signal they'd established), and its presence here amplifies Elio's deep heartbreak.

The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan is a singular filmmaker, whose work spans neo-noir titles such as "Following" and "Memento," science-fiction movies like "Inception" and "Interstellar," superhero epics (the "Dark Knight Trilogy," anyone?) and war dramas like "Dunkirk." As a filmmaker Nolan has a number of characteristic tells, and one of his signature directorial traits is a propensity to put title cards in an unconventional place: the film's end. 

While "Dunkirk" has the title card right up front, "Inception" places the title card at the tail end of 2 hours and 20 minutes, after the infamously mysterious spinning top. "Tenet" rather appropriately places the title card after the rest of the credits, at the 2 hour, 29 minute mark. But for this entry, let's look at Nolan's Oscar-winning superhero entry "The Dark Knight," a film that opens on a dark Batman logo coming through blue-tinted flames.

Following a Batman that has to contend with the Joker's brand of chaos, alongside the transformation of the once bastion of justice Harvey Dent into the scarred criminal Two Face, the film ends on a stark note. Its title card finally comes at the 2 hours and 24 minute mark, following the film's conclusion where Batman accepts the blame for Two Face's crimes in order to preserve the legacy of Harvey Dent. The film closes on Lieutenant James Gordon's monologue about Batman's vigilantism as Gotham's "silent guardian, a watchful protector, a dark knight." Cut to black, roll title card.