The Problem with Closing Credits

Fahrenheit 451 closing credits

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Just once in my life, I’d like to see a movie where the closing credits appear in the middle of the picture.

Not that such a move would make them more interesting. But at least the placement would be novelty enough.

As you can see, I’m not a big fan of closing credits—at least, not the ones so often disseminated today. More frequently than not, they roll on a black screen, with small white letters in a font so condensed it takes a careful eye to distinguish them. Songs sometimes play in the background … forgettable, uninteresting songs. Maybe selections from the music by the movies’ composers hit the air, too.

The problem is, this industry standard isn’t very imaginative or intriguing—yet it’s an integral part of the cinematic process. If that’s the case, then, why can’t it be done in a more creative way?

Oh, sure—in superhero, fantasy, cartoon, and science fiction pictures, you’ll often see the closing credits highlighted by motifs from the films, whether they’re characters or designs. Usually, however, these motifs stop appearing after a while, despite the fact that the credits continue to troll. Of course, we’re then treated, oftentimes, to some awful rock “song”—a tune that, presumably, is relegated to the end of a movie, when everyone’s getting up and leaving their seats, because it’s so good.

Yeah. Something to improve this industry practice needs to be done … and soon.

In the first paragraph, I wondered, half-jokingly, if putting the closing credits in the middle of a movie might be a possibility, yet it’s not such a ridiculous notion. I expect there’s no law requiring credits be placed at the beginnings and ends of movies; the opening ones these days are delayed once in a while until viewers get into the meat of the pictures. As long as the folks who worked on the films are acknowledged correctly, that’s fine. So why not get creative and acknowledge them in ways audiences don’t expect? Roll them around a bit as the action is still going on. Jumble them all in the front of the picture rather than the back but intersperse them judiciously while the flick is starting to rumble.

Just do something. Because right now, the closing credits, in general, are a bore.

Once upon a time, François Truffaut had the opening credits spoken in his movie Fahrenheit 451 (1966). It was an audacious move, especially considering the fact that the picture concerned a ban on reading … so speaking the words was in the right context. Why can’t such a context be expressed in the credits of more films today, hm? It makes sense. If the credits are part of the movies, they should be considered part of the movies. There’s no better way around this.

An irrelevant song isn’t going to change someone’s mind about a film. An inventive touch with the closing credits, however, might.

Do it, Hollywood. Make this change. The history of cinema is still developing. Now is the time to put another stamp on that history.

And if that means placing the closing credits in the middle of a picture, so be it. After all, you’ve got to innovate somewhere.

Might as well, in my humble opinion, start at the beginning.

Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and operates a restaurant-focused blog called Critical Mousse (criticalmousse.com) that showcases his opinions on the culinary arena. He also blogs about anti-Semitism for the Times of Israel. His views and opinions are his own.

12 thoughts on “The Problem with Closing Credits

  1. @beetleypete You posit the question: “But does anyone care?” My answer: Perhaps they should. People often “don’t care” because there are no “bonuses” often at the end of films–the norm is just a simple titles roll. I care, however, and folks might care more if the material during these titles is must-see rather than must-avoid. If filmmakers want to keep people in their seats longer, they might want to consider adding extra content to their titles or at least livening them a bit. And having credits tailored to the context of the films would make for more cohesive entertainment. People should care, IMHO. There’s no reason for them not to.

  2. I believe the Airplane! and Naked Gun films had humorous credits that featured text such as “What’s a gaffer?” interspersed among the titles. But it’s interesting: The Incredibles and other Pixar films did feature some of the motifs used in the films, like many cartoons. But oftentimes, that blank screen with the credits becomes dominant, and my feeling is, too overbearing. There needs to be more innovation in this area, more change, methinks.

  3. Some opening credits are quite memorable. King of Hearts is one, where the credits drop at the tolling of a bell. Another is After Hours, which showed the credits zooming in like a whizzing camera. They can be great tools used to capture audiences’ attention.

  4. It’s possible that more inventive closing credits would up the costs of producing a film significantly … especially if the alternative is a plain screen with credits rolling very simply. Perhaps that’s one of the factors, because it’s certainly not owing to a lack of creativity. A prolonged closing credits scene with inventive text and other design would be welcome … and help retain eyeballs, IMHO.

  5. I’m surprised the industry itself isn’t calling for this. It is, after all, a CREDIT to the filmmakers (all of them) and as is, no one could care less. Drawing attention to the people who worked to bring to life a film in an interesting way would do all of them a service.

  6. After the post-credit shot started getting popular, end credits HAVE started coming earlier–I know I’ve seen at least a couple of movies where they show up 5-6 minutes before the end, though I’ll be damned if any are coming to mind now, of course. (For some reason Bellflower and Resolution are sticking in my head, but I’m not home to verify either). There’s also the stuttering end credits, something main titles have been doing for a long time–you get two or three names, there’s another scene, you get another two or three names. But it’s only a matter of time before they pop up in the middle.

    You’re absolutely right, though. One of my favorite things the first time I saw the restored 104-minute Wicker Man twenty years ago was “where’s the main titles? Okay, no… no… [ten minutes later] oh, THERE they are!”. Okay, so maybe most people wouldn’t be tickled by that.

    ooh, we could make a game of it. Credits that show up in the same way product placement does! The cinematographer’s name on a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or something.

  7. If the soundtrack is good enough, I’d stick around for the song titles and artists, but you know what would more often than not be a good end credit? “The End and if you want to see who the gaffer was on this movie got [insert title of movie].com to see the full credits.”

    But I miss opening credits in setting the mood of a movie. David Cronenberg used to be amazing at that. Just look at the start of Dead Ringers and even eXistenZ.

  8. There are a few movies with good, entering end credits. I’m thinking of Tropic Thunder with Ben Stiller, The Heat with Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, and The Incredibles.

  9. I used to sit through the end credits to catch the names of some bit-part actors who had interested me, but I confess that I have never seen the point of knowing who was the ‘Transportation Captain’, ‘Second Carpenter’, or ‘Snake Wrangler’. They need to be completely revised, I agree. But does anyone care? Most people are on their way out of the cinema as soon as the films ends, after all.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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