If you went to the movies during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood during the 1930s or 1940s, there was a good chance that you could show up late and not have missed a thing. That’s because almost all films of this era had lengthy opening credits sequences that could last for several minutes at a time. Back then, it was commonplace to credit the people that worked on the movie upfront before getting into the meat and potatoes of the film.
It was required to have two different sequences, though both didn’t have to be every person that worked in the film. These days, you see the action of a film start right after the studio and distributor are shown. When the movie ends, you now see a quick rundown of some of the biggest stars and key crew members (like the directors, producers and casting crew) followed by the full credit sequence.
For many years, people used to skip these credits because there was nothing in particular that happened afterward and the text is often so small you can’t even tell who worked on the movie. Now, with many films having after-credit sequences, there are more people sticking around. Since you’re sitting through these credits anyway, you might want to know how the order of the names that scroll through the screen are decided.
There are actually rules that go into how the closing credits are supposed to go. The first name that you’ll see is that of the film’s director. This will then be followed by the writers, the producers and then the executive producers. Then the list started to get a little longer as the actors that starred in the film come next. Normally, the biggest name goes first (think Marlon Brando at the time over Al Pacino in “The Godfather”). The list goes on until even the person who was on camera for the blink of an eye gets credited (though not the extras).
The actors are then followed by the director of photography, production designer and editor. Any associate producers are then named, with the list of the VIPs closing with the costume designer, music composer and casting director. From there, you start to have difficulty reading the names because they start all getting jumbled together.
Production managers and assistant directors are named, as well as the entire departments for the stunt, production and post-production people. They tend to work various jobs such as camera work, sound, visual effects and more. Thousands of people can be named for the movies that have the biggest budget.
You know the credits are coming to an end when you start seeing the songs used in the movie’s soundtrack. There might also be some surprises as to who wrote some of these songs you’re familiar with. Catering gets a shoutout, as well as the title designer and whoever else the director wanted to specifically thank. The companies that made the camera equipment are then shown, and the shooting locations before the copyright and disclaimer sends the crowd home…unless there’s an after-credits scene, of course.