A cold open in a TV show is the scene that happens just before the opening title sequence. Some shows use this time for jokes, some for monologues, but no one uses the space for anything as masterfully as The Office. With enough time for a whole scene, the show slides in something truly excellent. It’s not always related to the plot of the episode to come, yet it still manages to become a scene that people remember – maybe even more so than the ep itself.
There’s nothing specific about The Office’s cold opens that make it great. Everything about the scenes, from their set-ups to its executions, that make for brilliant opening scenes. Cold opens are a staple of a lot of TV shows, but the show has taken it and made it its own unique thing. In order to celebrate the beautiful insanity that is The Office’s cold opens, we’ve decided to rank the best of them in order to help you figure out which ones to watch when you find yourself missing the Dunder-Mifflin crew.
16. Jim Trains Dwight to Crave Altoids
Season 3, Episode 15
One of Jim’s tamer pranks, he decides to implement his knowledge of psychology to train Dwight into wanting Altoids everytime his computer boots up, and science never fails. We get to see the beginnings of the prank, the thinking behind it, and, eventually, we see Dwight involuntarily reach out his hand for an Altoid when Jim’s computer starts up — except, Jim doesn’t offer him one. TBH, this prank coul’ve lasted all episode.
15. Dwight’s Belongings Go in The Vending Machine
Season 2, Episode 11
As soon as the episode starts, Dwight realizes that all of his stuff has somehow been stuffed into the vending machine. He blames Jim (of course), but then Pam enters the scene. Putting money into the vending machine, she buys one of Dwight’s pencils and then claims it’s her property. Dwight then realizes his wallet is in the machine as well, so he can’t even buy all of his things. How’d Jim pull that one off?
14. The KGB Knock-Knock Joke
Season 3, Episode 19
When the KGB knock knock joke cold open airs, we see Michael start the scene off with a basic knock-knock joke about bread and butter that then paves the way for Dwight to tell one of his own about the KGB. The scene basically turns into a slap fight that makes Michael say no more knock-knock jokes. But Jim, ever the prankster, starts his with “ding dong.” More KGB jokes ensue, and this cold open eventually just becomes a lot of yelling about KGB. It’s hilarious and keeps us laughing, but it’s nothing more than a simple knock-knock joke with a well-written punchline.
13. Kevin Spills Chili
Season 5, Episode 6
Some days, it’s just a very Kevin-spilling-chili type of day. The episode starts off with Kevin proudly bringing in a huge pot of his “Kevin’s Famous Chili” for his co-workers. The voice-over sets the scene, letting us know just how hard he worked on it, the secret element to making it taste so good (spoiler: it’s to undercook the onions), and each and every ingredient that goes into his dish. However, the visuals don’t match the audio. While the voice-over cheerfully tells us about the labor of love that Kevin put into the dish, the audience sees him enter the office and immediately spill the entire pot of chili everywhere. Like, everywhere. He tries to use a clipboard to clean it up and ends up falling face first into the puddle of meat and beans on the floor. There’s nothing like some good physical comedy.
12. Dwight Gives Birth
Season 5, Episode 4
There’s a moment of pure confusion when this episode opens to a shot of pregnant Dwight. Then, the scene really starts to unfold. It becomes obvious that Dwight is helping Michael prepare for the forthcoming birth of his baby by simulating a birth. The scene then cuts to Jim to explain the situation, but the audience is left just as weirdly uncertain as before. Eventually, an argument between Dwight and Michael erupts (when doesn’t it?), and then Dwight decides its time to simulate the literal birth. Laying on Michael’s desk and screaming, Dwight pushes a watermelon out of his apron. The scene ends with Michael eating the watermelon that just “passed” out of Dwight. The scene is slightly gross, but the comedy lands in the perfect way.
11. Jim Blames His Murder on Dwight
Season 8, Episode 15
Another one of Jim’s elaborate pranks! It starts out with him explaining that he woke up super early and had a ton of time on his hands, so he came up with something funny to do – prank Dwight. He then hides in a closet as we see Dwight and Ellie enter the room, only to find it trashed with literal writing on the wall. They assume the office has been ransacked, and then they see, in red paint on the wall “Dwight Did It.” Immediately after, Jim falls out of the closet as if he’s a dead body.
10. Jim Shows Up to Work as Dwight
Season 3, Episode 20
Jim confidently strides into the office dressed as Dwight on this episode – even confusing Pam. She usually goes along with his antics! It takes Dwight a second to notice, even after Jim starts talking to him using his own mannerisms. Jim continues to get goofier, even putting things on his desk that Dwight has on his. It begins to infuriate the original Dwight, who starts yelling about how “identity theft is not a joke, Jim!” It’s a great scene that really gets to the heart of the Jim vs. Dwight prank feud, and it’s a total classic.
9. Michael hits Meredith with his car
Season 4, Episode 1
Now we can all say confidently Michael behind the wheel is a scary concept – even in a parking lot. The episode starts with Michael in his car talking about just how good the year is going to be. The camera is focused on him as he drives into work, and the audience gets to hear about what exactly in the man’s life makes everything so great. But as soon as we start believing that the year ahead will be the best ever, the scene takes a turn. Michael looks over his shoulder as he makes a turn into the parking lot and he winds up hitting Meredith with his car.
8. Everyone is Obsessed With Planking
Season 8, Episode 1
Yeah, remember when planking was totally a thing? Ellie is the star of the cold open on the season eight premiere as the audience sees her planking — aka lying stagnant face down — around the office. She then talks to the camera about it, telling the audience that she doesn’t really understand planking, but that she’s just happy to be a part of it. It’s a quick opening scene, but the line delivery from Ellie really sums up her character, and it brings even more humor to the already ridiculous trend of planking.
7. The DVD Screen
Season 4, Episode 3
People tend to prefer cold opens from the later seasons of the show, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some gems hidden in the older episodes. During this one, Michael can be seen holding a meeting in the conference room – typical – with everyone gathered to hear him talk. Except, they’re not really listening to him. Instead, the office is focused on the DVD logo bouncing on the screen behind their boss, hoping it’ll finally hit the corner. It’s the age-old pastime of watching a logo bounce around a screen in the hopes that it will perfectly and evenly fit into the corner. The group starts yelling when it doesn’t actually do what they want it to, but Michael remains completely oblivious. It finally hits the corner, and everyone cheers and then immediately leaves, feeling satisfied with their “meeting.” .
6. The Lip Dub
Season 7, Episode 1
The Office did many scenes that required a lot of work and effort, but few are more hilarious and well-done than the season 7 premiere cold open. The employees decide to do a lip dub to “Nobody But Me” by Human Beinz. It takes the audience through the entirety of the office, and we get to see all of the characters in their own ridonkulous moments. Andy tries to do a cartwheel and fails, Stanley lets everyone know they’re falling behind, and Ryan tries to promote his new business venture. Of course, just like everything the office does, the lip dub kind of becomes a mess by the end, but at least it’s a hysterical mess.
5. Andy, Dwight, and Micheal Are Really Into Parkour
Season 6, Episode 1
Michael is the first one to enter the office in this season premiere episode (noticing a trend?!). He definitely makes an entrance, as he attempts a somersault on a couch that ends with him breaking a lamp and messing up a painting. Michael stands up confidently afterward, though, announcing the now-famous words “hardcore parkour!” Dwight and Andy then burst into the office, and the three start climbing on furniture and attempting stunts that absolutely none of them can do. The scene ends with Andy jumping off the top of a truck onto a box – which turns out to be empty – and he falls through. The follow-through and absurdity of the men’s parkour obsession makes this rank high on our list of best cold opens.
4. Stanley Doesn’t Notice Anything
Season 7, Episode 6
Who doesn’t love Stanley? This episode opens with him taking a drink of orange juice out of Jim’s mug and not realizing it’s not his hot coffee. As soon as Jim notices, he and Andy decide to see what the limit is to what Stanley doesn’t notice. The employees then all trade clothes, and we see Kevin dressed up as Phyllis talking to Stanley – and the guy doesn’t even notice anything’s different! The crew puts a cardboard box over Stanley’s computer, but, still, clueless. In classic Stanley fashion, as soon as the clock hits five, Stanley notices and is up to get out the door. He still doesn’t notice a dang thing.
3. Michael Goes All Devil Wears Prada
Season 4, Episode 4
Michael got hit by the Devil Wears Prada wave and it’s hilarious to see him embracing his inner Meryl Streep. He struts into the office and throws his coat at Pam. Although she’s caught off-guard, Pam explains that he had just watched the Meryl/Anne Hathaway movie and was a big fan. We then get to see Michael shouting hilarious things at Pam from his office in a very Miranda Priestly-esque way, like “Steak!” and “Get me Armani!” Of course, Pam doesn’t do any of that, and Michael apologizes at the end, explaining that he finally finished the movie and realized Meryl was the bad guy. LOL.
2. The Asian Jim Prank
Season 9, Episode 3
Jim sometimes really went there with his pranks and this is one of the best examples of that. Dwight realizes that the person sitting across from him is not Jim – obviously – mostly because Jim is white and the man across from him is Asian. He asks who the man is, and the man just laughs, says he’s Jim and asks if Dwight really never noticed his race. Dwight is immediately confused and tries to catch “Jim” in the lie, making him describe his past sales and even watching him enter in his phone password. Dwight continues to get more and more aggressive, even holding up the picture of Jim’s family on his desk and realizing the man in it is Asian, too. Would you hire an actor for a joke?
1. The Fire Drill
Season 5, Episode 14
The cold open to season 5 episode 14 puts Dwight’s genuinely absurd antics front and center with his fire drill – which happens to be a real fire he set to test his co-workers. Apparently, Dwight’s fire safety talk didn’t exactly go as he’s wanted, so, in order to force them to learn, Dwight starts a fire in the office. Pam then sees the smoke, causing everyone to start yelling and panicking. Hilarity ensues in the scene, with Michael incessantly yelling, Oscar trying to crawl out through the ceiling, and Angela literally throwing her cat up there as well… only to have it come right back down.