100 Greatest Scenes Number 10: The Circle of Life

Views from the Sofa’s 100 Greatest Scenes is a list of the 100 greatest moments in the movies. This could be long introductions, moments of action or great dialogue between characters. The scenes are in no particular order and come from many different types of movies.

There are few movies that open with goosebumps. The first scene of The Lion King is one of them though. The scene is effective and clear, telling a small story in of itself as well as setting the tone and foundation for the rest of the movie. It also has one of the best songs used in any Disney movie.

Greatest Scene Number 10: The Lion King – The Circle of Life

One of the biggest triumphs of the opening for The Lion King is that no words are actually spoken. Aside from the singing, which I’ll get to in a second, it is a three minute tale that plays out with no dialogue. That is part of the scenes charm as it is up to the audience to slowly realise what is happening.

It is a slow start but an effective one. The sun rising and the first few animals appearing into shot. Each one of a different size, speed and species. Each one moving towards an unseen location. All this is being accompanied by a rising crescendo of African chorus, one that slowly builds and then lowers again for the words of the song to blend through.

The song accompanies the scene perfectly

Those words are nicely in-tune with the events on-screen. As the words “blinking into the sun” are sang, the young giraffe emerges from out of the shadows. It is a small touch but one with that resonates over the scene. The real build is when the chorus kicks-in and we see exactly what all the animals have been running too and how impressive it is.

All this has happened and we haven’t even seen the lions yet. Still with no dialogue, the scene manages to convey how important Mufasa is and how much he is respected by the other animals. It is also here that we get to first see Rafiki and eventually what all the fuss is about.

This moment will be copied by new fathers for the rest of time

The greatest scenes in cinema history transcend their movie. People recognise a moment coming from a movie without having actually seen the film itself. This scene ends with that. When Rafiki lifts Simba, he sparks a trend that all new fathers and their unsuspecting newborns will copy for the rest of time. This is also the second time that the song, The Circle of Life, really reaches it’s climax. The way the camera circles around Simba and his completely confused expression as all the animals bow at their new prince is an effective way to represent the “circle of life.”

All this and not a single word is spoken. The scene manages to introduce at least two main characters, establish their importance and set the foundation for the coming movie. To finish it off we get that sharp-cut to the title and the movie truly begins.

Overall, the Circle of Life is one of the best possible openings for a movie. It has a fast tempo, establishes some of the characters and sets an overall tone for the film. It also gives us one of cinema’s greatest moments and instant goosebumps as that classic song echoes from the screen.

Instant goosebumps….

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