Breaking Bad doesn’t get enough credit for the little things that make it truly one of the best TV series ever. The crime drama is acclaimed for the acting of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, alongside its incredible moments of thrilling action and violent shock. Its filmmaking techniques, however, set it apart from other series. The use of color, symbolism, camera angles, and cliffhangers stand out as unique. The show also knows how to use a cold open. This scene before the title theme plays artistically hints at something that is very relevant in the episode, or in the season at large. Here are the 22 best Breaking Bad cold opens of all time!
1. Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
There’s no opening scene in TV quite like Breaking Bad’s. When Walter White’s boring khakis go flying through the desert air and the dingy RV is seen being driven by a nerdy middle-aged man in his underwear, we know that there is something weird, but special about to take place on the screen. Without the intriguing way this scene was shot and scripted, such an offbeat series may have never gotten up off the ground.
2. Season 3, Episode 9: “Kafkaesque”
Gus Fring has many talents. Not only does he make the best fast-food chicken in the state of New Mexico, but he also distributes the most methamphetamine this side of the border. The commercial for Los Pollos Hermanos flows right into a montage of Gus’s crew dispersing the drugs throughout the shipments of chicken. It’s truly a dual-threat operation!
3. Season 3, Episode 12: “Half Measures”
Bit characters like the prostitute, Wendy, build up and fill out the world of Breaking Bad. This memorable montage shows just how far drug addicts are willing to go to get some of Walt’s blue sky, even taking an oral trip on a myriad of strange men to get the cash supply for the meth. The song choice is also top-notch, as per usual.
4. Season 5, Episode 2: “Madrigal”
Why does food on TV always make us hungry? Seeing a Madrigal execute try all of Los Pollos Hermanos’ new sauces is sure to create food envy, but it wasn’t good enough to save the man’s life. His decision to suicide in the bathroom right after dipping some potatoes in Franch was a shocking opening that lets us inside the minds of the people being affected by Walt’s meth operation.
5. Season 2, Episodes 1, 4, 10, 13: “Seven Thirty-Seven, Down, Over, Abq”
This four-part cold open spread throughout the second season combines artful symbolism and keen foreshadowing into the plane crash that Walter’s crimes will eventually cause. This set of scenes are experimental and ambitious and introduced the famous pink teddy bear. It was a sign that the show would continue to find new ways to reveal its story.
6. Season 2, Episode 7: “Negro Y Azul”
This random Spanish song about the newly-famous Heisenberg is one of the most creative skits in the show. It takes place right when Walter starts to come into his own as a meth manufacturer, and the contrast between the upbeat tune and the dark concepts being sung about is foreboding and eerie.
7. Season 4, Episode 7: “Problem Dog”
Seeing Jesse’s descent into darkness after killing Gale at the end of season three is emotionally disarming to watch. Aaron Paul displays the character’s raw pain with realistic facial expressions and heavy looks of morbidity. This opening that shows him playing the video game Rage attests to the wear and tear on Jesse’s slowly deteriorating psyche.
8. Season 2, Episode 8: “Better Call Saul”
The episode that introduced audiences to Saul Goodman through a cheeky ad on a bench is a four-minute sequence of Jesse’s friend, Badger, trying to sell meth to a junky. Audience members can most likely predict that the person buying isn’t an addict, but an undercover cop. The scene is a perfect way to let viewers know that only New Mexico’s finest lawyer will be able to handle Badger’s legal troubles after this!
9. Season 5, Episode 14: “Ozymandias”
By the end of the show’s run, Breaking Bad has grown unrelenting and merciless. This third-to-last opening scene harkens back to a simpler time during the pilot episode. Contrasting Walter during his first meth cook talking to his wife about baby names, and then fading out to the present after the credits, where Hank is about to be killed in the same location, gut-punches the viewers who remember how far Walter’s life has fallen.
10. Season 2, Episode 2: “Grilled”
Breaking Bad has an unmatched method to their madness. The show always uses deliberate foreshadowing but in random ways. The bouncing car is so confusing, creepy, and jarring that it makes the audience run through the dozens of potential outcomes that could have occurred to Walter and Jesse during their interactions with Tuco Salamanca.
11. Season 1, Episode 3: “. . . And The Bag’s in The River”
The third cold open in the show combines two different scenes that would seemingly have nothing to do with one another to create something very clever and artistic. This was par for the course during the five seasons of the series. A flashback shows Walter discussing components of the human body with his ex, Gretchen. In the present, he dumps melted human remains out—certainly a grotesque reminder of how Walter decided to use his chemistry knowledge.
12. Season 3, Episode 2: “Caballo Sin Nombre”
Does anyone else find it uncomfortable when the police pull over a criminal in a TV show or movie without the authorities even knowing how dangerous they are? Seeing Walter get ticketed by an ABQ cop for a cracked windshield caused by his own poor decisions is hilarious. Also, Walter singing “A Horse With No Name” while driving down the highway never gets old.
13. Season 2, Episode 6: “Peekaboo”
The first two seasons do a fantastic job of crafting a melancholy reality that Jesse is about to manifest. When Jesse waits for Skinny Pete to come and talk to him about a drug deal gone wrong, he stares at an innocent bug on the sidewalk. Jesse’s humanity is juxtaposed with Pete’s callous decision to stomp on the insect. These fleeting moments of simplicity help to connect Jesse to the audience on a deeper level and make us sympathize with him even when he’s drowning in drugs and criminal acts.
14. Season 3, Episode 1: “No Mas”
Two of the coolest characters in recent TV history are the Salamanca brothers, aka Tuco’s cousins. At the beginning of the third season, the voiceless assassins introduce themselves in a mysterious fashion by walking through the yellow-filtered Mexican wastelands with unclear motives. We can only imagine the havoc they’re about to cause for Walter and Jesse.
15. Season 1, Episode 7: “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal”
Unlike other mature dramas, Breaking Bad uses intimacy in small doses. When characters get busy doing the deed, it always symbolizes a bigger motivation or a reflection of a story arc. Walter initiating naughty time in the car with Skyler after the police discuss his drug crimes underlines how this nerdy science teacher starts to feel alive for all the wrong reasons.
16. Season 2, Episode 3: “Bit by a Dead Bee”
Bryan Cranston is very comfortable in his white underwear. Thank goodness, otherwise, we wouldn’t have gotten this shockingly funny and confusing opening scene where Walt attempts to distract people from the fact he was doing a drug deal with Tuco by acting crazy in a supermarket. The show’s first two seasons don’t get enough credit for moments of black comedy.
17. Season 3, Episode 4: “Green Light”
The aesthetic beauty of Aaron Paul helps make Jesse sympathetic to the audience. The actor leverages his crystal blue eyes and golden locks while flirting with a gas station worker, demonstrating the power of Jesse Pinkman’s street swag when selling meth. It’s also kind of creepy to imagine how many criminals have used their good looks to get what they want in real life.
18. Season 4, Episode 2: “Thirty-Eight Snub”
This opener, in which Walter buys an untraceable handgun in the privacy of a hotel room, is befitting of Walt’s clumsiness with weapons. Watching him practice firing the pistol is amusing, especially when you compare him to the mastermind he’s up against, Gus Fring. The scene paints a great picture of the battle between these two brains on the horizon.
19. Season 5, Episode 4: “Fifty-One”
Walter White takes insecurity to a whole new level, often feeling less worthy than others in his life for the most ridiculous and childish reasons. Once Walt has the money to feel powerful, he buys a sports car for his son and himself. The cheeky music and camera angles help to drive home the point that Walter has started to value frivolous possessions over a more genuine human connection.
20. Season 4, Episode 12: “End Times”
It always feels like Walter’s genius will carry him through to a victory over his competitors and rivals. The end of the fourth season sees Gus with a major upper hand over Walt, and the character’s very human explanation to Skyler of the danger he is in reminds us of everything he destroyed in his life.
21. Season 1, Episode 6: “Crazy Handful of Nothin’”
The show’s first season crafts Walter’s image as a science teacher who might be willing to get way out of his comfort zone for the sake of his family’s financial worth. The cold open here does a fantastic job of foreshadowing the violent lengths Walter could go to, even if it means getting involved with dangerous drug lords. All of this is set to a background of Walter telling Jesse that he won’t ever be at the front of their meth distribution. Uh oh . . .
22. Season 5, Episode 15: “Granite State”
It’s fitting that the penultimate cold open in the series references the premise of the final four episodes of the show’s spinoff Better Call Saul. Walter’s disgraced lawyer tries to erase his name from history and flee to a small town in Nebraska. It’s a harrowing thought to disappear off the grid, something Walter will be doing for the length of the episode.