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The Best Cold Opens On The Office Ranked

Ah, The Office. The popular sitcom is a multigenerational comic staple that's entertained for years on end. Comedic moments, dramatic sequences, and a convoluted web of character storylines has kept NBC's crown jewel in fine form ever since it first aired way back in 2005.

While there are countless factors of the show that can be predictably counted on to make us laugh, one of the best parts of the Office experience typically takes place in the first few seconds of each episode. We're talking, of course, about the show's numerous cold opens. From Jim's pranks and Dwight's Communist knock-knock jokes to Michael's talking computer, The Office's opening clips are some of the best parts of the entire series. Even when they focus on important story development, the openers are still full of a wit and zest that never fail to deliver, like when Michael tricks Jim and Pam into attending his dinner party or when Gabe's box of office supplies is accidentally unpacked and then repacked.

But which ones are the best? Well, we've gone through the enormous list of opening scenes that take place over the course of the show's nine-season run — well, eight, really, since the first season doesn't have any — and we've used our research to create Looper's officially ranked list of the best Office cold opens, ranked from pretty good to all-time great. 

The balloon is falling

The season eight episode "Get the Girl" begins with Pam getting an important phone call, after which she informs the office, "The balloon is falling." This leads the entire Dunder Mifflin crew to the warehouse, where they watch a colorful party balloon slowly fall towards the floor.

Gathered round the descending bauble, the group begins to reminisce about what life was like when the balloon had first wafted its way up into the rafters. Amongst other things, Oscar was still with Gil, Kevin apparently had silky, Rapunzel-like locks, and Darryl was still thinking about continuing his education. Oh, and Jim was still a paper salesman, too. As the nostalgic tone of the room shifts towards one of depression, the scene suddenly cuts to Darryl using the forklift to pop the resilient party piece while the onlookers repeatedly chant, "Kill the balloon."

The scene is already very funny. However, the fact that it comes eight seasons into the show makes it that much better, as most of the reminiscences refer to things that the audience has directly witnessed, making it a cleverly humorous trip down memory lane.

A three-ounce fetus calls the shots

Early in season six, Jim and Pam get hitched during the two-part episode "Niagara." The installment is packed with hilarious little moments, one of which takes place right in the intro. While the nuptial celebrations are the obvious focal point, the cold open chooses to address the other major development in the ongoing Jim and Pam saga — the fact that Pam is with child.

The opener shows Pam and Jim humbly yet demandingly requesting their coworkers avoid all remotely intense smells while Pam is pregnant. Everything from perfumes and soaps to pungent lunches make it onto the hit list. The ever-uppity Dwight refuses to bend to their entreaties and proceeds to peel his hard-boiled eggs at his desk. The sight and smell causes Pam to vomit. It's a predictable consequence. However, it leads to an unexpected, disgusting, and downright hilarious chain of regurgitations as the entire office begins upchucking at the sight of each other puking. The uncomfortably incredible scene ends with Dwight looking on in shock as Pam smugly wipes throw-up off of her mouth.

Like clockwork

The cold open for the season five finale "Company Picnic" opens on a quiet, dimly lit office. It's not even 1 PM yet, but to the Dunder Mifflin employees, it's nearly quittin' time. See, as Jim's talking head explains, Michael Scott has just finished a family size chicken pot pie for lunch, and he's promptly fallen asleep at his desk.

Seizing the opportunity with both hands — clock pun intended — the employees band together to reset all of the clocks in the office to show that it's already 5 PM. Even Dwight gets in on the action, as he has a standing appointment with a horse doctor, which, yeah we'll leave that one alone. Dwight and Jim are shown fast-forwarding the various clocks around the office, and Pam even manages to tamper with her boss's timepiece. When Michael wakes up, he takes the ruse hook, line, and sinker, and the entire crew gets the afternoon off.

The brilliant scene stands all on its own, completely disconnected from the rest of the episode. It also shows a rare glimpse into how effective the Dunder Mifflinites can be when they put their mind to something. No wonder Andy ends up with a tattoo on his derriere when he challenges their collective abilities a few seasons later.

The Dunder Mifflin lip dub

There's no doubt that the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch can get the job done when they work together. No, that isn't in reference to expert sales numbers or the fact that they magically remain profitable throughout the ups and downs of the entire show. We're talking about a uniquely impressive form of collaboration that takes place in the first moments of season seven.

As the episode "Nepotism" begins, the office launches into an awe-inspiring lip dub sequence set to the tune of "Nobody but Me" by the Human Beinz. The musical sequence starts with Andy expressively leaving the elevator before it spirals into a ticker-tape affair that showcases, among other things, dancing, confetti, streamers, knives, guitar solos, subpar magic tricks, and uninvited ads for WUPHF.com. Oh, and did we forget to mention that it's filmed to at least look like it's entirely done in a single shot? Yeah, the entire two-and-a-half-minute clip is pretty much the best.

Jim comes into work dressed as Dwight

So many of The Office's cold opens revolve around Jim pulling pranks on Dwight. And one of the best takes place in the season three episode "Product Recall." Here, Jim arrives at work dressed as a carbon copy of his desk clump mate, Dwight. The attention to detail is remarkable, with everything from the mustard yellow shirt to the pager and the glasses. Even the part in his hair is perfectly in place.

As the scene progresses, Jim begins to mimic Dwight, who initially misses the purpose of his antagonist's new ensemble. When Dwight catches onto the mischief that's afoot, he accuses Jim of identity theft. Acting offended, Jim storms off, shouting "Michael" in very Dwight-like fashion, immediately echoed by a sincerely perturbed Mr. Schrute.

The scene is priceless, and it perfectly encapsulates the entire Jim-Dwight relationship — competition, harmless teasing, a bit of cruelty, and a caring professional friendship all rolled into a bundle of laughs, typically purchased at the expense of the poor, gullible beet farmer.

David Brent crosses the pond

In the cold open for season seven's "The Seminar," Michael Scott runs into none other than David Brent, the Dunder Mifflin manager's comedy counterpart from the original British version of the show. Played by Ricky Gervais, Mr. Brent jokes with Michael for a minute or two as the characters exchange similar comedy styles and lament over the fact that certain jokes are no longer in vogue.

The opener takes place mere episodes before Michael's character exits the show, and as the scene ends, Brent asks if there are any open jobs at Dunder Mifflin. Even the slightest possibility of such a crossover infused the scene with untold levels of upcoming potential. But even though Brent fails to impress during his virtual interview later in the season, the opportunity to see the two infamous managers cross paths makes this scene an instant win and an easy one to rank on the list.

Asian Jim

One of the greatest pranks that Jim ever pulls on Dwight takes place during the cold open for the season nine's "Andy's Ancestry" — and Jim isn't even there to see it take place. At this point in the show, Jim is spending a good chunk of time away in Philly, tending to his fledgling startup Athlead, and the Halperts use Jim's planned absence to pull one of the best pranks of all time. The couple recruits their Asian-American actor friend, Steve, to impersonate Jim at work and try to convince Dwight that Jim has always been Asian.

When Steve arrives at the office, he's dressed in Jim's clothes, has his hair done up just right, and has clearly spent time in front of the mirror mimicking Mr. Halpert's facial expressions. A befuddled Dwight immediately lays into the imposter, grilling him about intimate, work-related questions, but Steve is well-prepared with information. The picture on Jim's desk has also been replaced with one with Steve and the rest of the Halperts, and even Pam adds to the chaos by giving Steve/Jim a kiss. The clever scene ends unresolved as Dwight clearly does his level best to process the barrage of new information.

Dwight has a watermelon baby

Many of the best cold opens of the show involve two characters, in particular — Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute. The uniquely antagonistic, brown-nosing, buddy-buddy, father-son relationship between the manager and salesman provides a multitude of laughs over the course of the show. The best of these humorous moments occurs right in the opening seconds of season five's "Baby Shower," where the unlikely pair prepare for the birth of Jan's baby via Dwight's simulated birth of a watermelon.

The scene includes Jim creating a diagram demonstrating the fact that Jan's sperm donor baby is related to Michael through delusion. It also reveals Dwight's expertise in childbirth via his recommendation to mark the baby with a sharpie, as well as the unsolicited fact that he performed his own circumcision as a child. The event ends with Dwight giving "birth" to a butter-covered watermelon in Michael's office. Taken all together, the scene expertly preps Michael for the happiest day of his life ... even though he doesn't even end up attending the birth.

Michael's pyramid scheme

One of the best cold opens of all time introduces the episode "Michael's Birthday" toward the end of season two. Here, the Dunder Mifflin Scranton manager can be seen addressing several of his employees in the conference room. The subject of discussion? Buying into a business run by Michael's "friend," Phil – selling calling cards, which were already dated when the episode aired way back in 2006.

As Michael makes his pitch, it's slowly revealed that the manager has clearly been suckered into a pyramid scheme, with Phil and his Corvette sitting pretty at the top and Michael and some other poor sap left recruiting others for the base of the operation. As the group pushes back against the obvious hustle, it comes out that Michael has also fallen for the classic "send money to a deposed Nigerian prince" email scam. The priceless scene ends with Michael drawing a diagram of who's involved in the business and Jim quietly outlining the obvious pyramid shape that it creates, sending his enlightened boss out of the room to "make a call."

Stanley does push-ups

Season six's "Happy Hour" begins with a bit of an athletic theme — or, more accurately, a lack thereof. The opener starts with Michael breaking his personal record by completing 25 push-ups (and one girl push-up) in a row. Flying high on his own tepid success, the boss announces that anyone who can beat his record can have the rest of the day off. This leads to a flurry of exercise-induced activity as everyone drops to the floor and goes for gold.

The entire office peters out short of the 26 mark ... except for Stanley. By the time everyone is disqualified, Stanley Hudson has just reached his tenth push-up. The stubborn salesman then proceeds to slowly and steadily exert his will in a "mother lifts her car to save her baby" kind of scenario. Like Aesop's tortoise, with his eye fixed on the prize and everyone cheering him on, Mr. Hudson lethargically inches his way to success, eventually breaking Michael's record and calmly walking out of the office to enjoy his day off. The rare glimpse of a competitive Stanley is a treat and makes for one of the best cold openers of the bunch.

Roy attacks Jim

Every once in a while, a cold open is reserved for a crucial plot point, as is the case in the season three's "The Negotiation." The first two seasons of the show revolve around Jim's flirtatious crush on Pam. When season three begins, the salesman attempts to move on with his life by moving away and starting to date Karen. However, the tides of fate eventually suck Jim back into the cauldron of drama that swirls in Scranton.

By the time of this episode, Jim is settled in Scranton again, and Roy has found out that Halpert is a large part of why his wedding with Pam was called off. The cold open starts with Roy pacing outside of the office park late on a Friday evening. As Jim prepares to leave, Roy storms into the office, flashes a glance at Pam, and then goes after Jim. The showdown is cut short, though, when superhero Dwight steps in and blasts Roy with pepper spray, dropping the big fella to the ground in an instant.

While most cold opens focus on extracurricular events, the option to cut straight to the action here was definitely the right choice. The fact that it made the opening scene the place where we finally see Roy go for his revenge instantly makes it one of the best cold opens of them all.

Michael hits Meredith with his car

The premier of season four, "Fun Run," doesn't start off mincing words or distracting the audience with a little fun humor. It cuts right to the chase — albeit cleverly. The sequence picks up in Michael's condo as the manager begins to fill in the camera crew on what happened over the summer, as well as what he's looking forward to in the upcoming year. Remember, this is coming right on the heels of the season three fiasco in which Michael thinks he's going to be promoted to a job at corporate, but Ryan gets the job instead.

As Michael discusses his hopes for the future, he pulls into the Dunder Mifflin parking lot ... and he bowls over Meredith with his car. The event is completely unexpected, and it immediately sets the awkward yet mesmerizing tone for one of The Office's very best episodes.

The bouncing square

Screensavers are magical things. In spite of their pointless existence, they still manage to trap everyone's attention, no matter how many times they've seen them before. This technical phenomenon was brought into the spotlight in one of The Office's best cold opens ever.

In the early moments of season four's "Launch Party," Michael can be seen holding a meeting in the conference room. Behind him, the television has a small, multicolored box slowly bouncing around the screen. Everyone seems intent on their boss, but in reality, they're gazing right past him, waiting for that box to finally, neatly hit the corner of the screen and then bounce back out.

As Michael proceeds to suggest ridiculous "improvements" to quarterly reports, he adjusts his conversations based on everyone's reactions to the bouncing box, thinking they're responding to him. When the box finally does bounce perfectly into the corner of the screen, everyone cheers and jubilantly leaves the conference room — leaving their boss with the impression that he should quit while he's ahead. The scene is pointless, ridiculous, and a perfect summation of everything that The Office is all about.

Kevin's Famous Chili

No one in the office cares more about food than Kevin Malone. Mr. Malone is so into his victuals that, once a year, he even brings in a batch of his "Kevin's Famous Chili." And this annual event is depicted in one of the best cold opens ever to air on the show. Quietly nestled into the opening moments of the fairly inconsequential season five episode "Causal Friday," the installment begins with Kevin providing a string of exposition about his popular dish. He breaks down the ingredients and the history of the recipe, and he even reveals its secret — it's all about undercooking the onions. The narration ends with the line, "It's probably the thing I do best."

Cute. Except for the fact that, while he's talking, the camera crew follows the accountant as he shows up to work early to carry a huge pot of chili into the office. As he does so, he spills it all over the floor and then frantically (and poorly) attempts to shovel it back into its now-empty receptacle. There are few other moments that sum up Kevin Malone so perfectly as this clumsy attempt to please his friends with food.

Dwight's fire drill

Dwight's fire drill is the perfect combination of comedy, tension, and flat-out insanity. Seriously, what other scene could truly hold a candle to Mr. Schrute's pyromania-inspired office training exercise?

The scene comes in season five, ushering in the famous two-part episode "Stress Relief." Here, Dwight convinces the office that they're trapped by an actual fire, complete with real smoke. The drill quickly gets out of hand — thanks to Dwight's firecrackers and blowtorch — as the employees of Dunder Mifflin careen through the office, trying to escape their perceived imminent demise. 

When the scene ends with Dwight revealing that it was a simulation, Stanley literally has a heart attack — even though Barack Obama is president at the time. Not only is the sequence epically entertaining on its own, but Mr. Hudson's health concerns tee up one of the best episodes of The Office to ever air, largely thanks to the momentum provided by its incredible cold open.