There have been some fantastic opening themes in TV history, so much so that a top 20 seems too short! I’ll try my best regardless to pick my favourites.
Quick disclaimer – I don’t actually need to have seen the show itself to include its opening theme in my list.
Here are a few honourable mentions that would have probably made an unbiased list:
- Happy Days
- Batman / Spider-Man Animated Series
- Hawaii Five-O
- Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
- Spongebob Squarepants
So, what are my picks for the top 20 TV openings of all time? You can check out some of my related blog posts below:
20 – Rick and Morty
“Rick and Morty” doesn’t have the most ground-breaking or show-stopping theme, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in any way.
The spacey synths are great, and it has a certain low-budget appeal that lets you know not to take the proceeding show too seriously.
19 – Curb Your Enthusiasm
One of the most iconic comedy themes of all time, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” has taken on a fresh role in modern meme culture.
The whimsical strings and brass are what make this for me – you could almost start laughing before the comedy even begins.
18 – The Walking Dead
“The Walking Dead” is a show I could never really get into, but the opening credits always got me in the mood for the zombie action.
The unsettling intensity of the opening score perfectly matches the uncertain tone of the pilot episode … and then the rest of the show didn’t feel as good. I’m not ranking individual shows, though, and the credits never ceased to amaze.
17 – Pokémon
One of the most hype openings of all time, there’s way too much energy and bravado for a simple kids show.
I know “Pokémon” wants to be the very best, but it’ll have to settle for 17th place.
16 – Seinfeld
One of the most unique and recognisable themes on this list, there aren’t many songs that sound like the “Seinfeld” theme.
The slap bass is infectious, and the heavy breaths and artificial horn sounds give it its charm
15 – The Office US
As off-beat as the show itself, it’s the unusual instrument choice that I love most about “The Office U.S.” theme.
14 – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Temptation Sensation)
It feels like cheating to have the Always Sunny theme in this list, as it’s actually just a piece of cheap stock music called “Temptation Sensation”.
Still, it became one of the most iconic opening themes of all time, so I feel I have to include it.
13 – The Sopranos (Woke Up This Morning)
I’m yet to watch “The Sopranos” (but I really want to get to it eventually!), but even so the opening theme is one of the best I’ve heard.
Alabama 3’s “Woke Up This Morning” is as cool as songs come, and it lets you know that Tony Soprano ain’t worth messing with.
12 – Sherlock
“Sherlock” has a great theme that puts a modern spin on a Victorian premise. Hey, that’s just like the show itself!
11 – The X-Files
More known for the memes nowadays, but “The X-Files” opening theme is a great, surreal piece of music to get you in the mood for the off-world.
10 – Neon Genesis Evangelion (A Cruel Angel’s Thesis)
Despite never seeing “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, its opening theme is so legendary that I had to include it on this list.
The energetic vocals and trumpet interjections are what make “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” so fun, and I’ve been tempted time and time again to give this show a try because of it.
9 – Game of Thrones
A show as grand and awe-inspiring as “Game of Thrones” needed an equally magnificent theme, and the composer delivered on all fronts.
I know I’m not ranking the opening visuals in this list, but the sweeping camera work around the map of Westeros is one of my favourites.
8 – The Mandalorian
Ludwig Gorannson did such a fantastic job with “The Mandalorian” soundtrack – it sounds like nothing else from the Star Wars universe, and yet it fits the Space Western style perfectly.
I love how there are multiple memorable parts to the track, each of which were used to great effect in the show itself.
7 – Breaking Bad
My favourite show of all time, but even I have to admit that the opening theme to “Breaking Bad” isn’t necessarily the best of them all.
It still goes hard, though, and the extended version especially is super slick and suave.
6 – The Simpsons
Everyone on planet earth knows “The Simpsons” theme. It is the dictionary definition of iconic, and the full orchestra sound adds to the fun of it all.
5 – Better Call Saul
A better version of the Breaking Bad Theme, the opening credits of “Better Call Saul” are just as sleazy as Saul Goodman himself.
The old-school guitar tones are smooth and wonderful, performed excellently by Little Barrie.
4 – Stranger Things
“Strangers Things” took the world by storm back in 2016, blending modern visuals with an 80’s nostalgia – and the theme music did the same.
The dark, spacey synths are as recognisable as any other instrumentation on this list, and it builds up to a spine-chilling climax.
3 – Cowboy Bebop (Tank!)
Yoko Kanno was tasked with creating a Bebop song to open “Cowboy Bebop”, and she managed to make one of the greatest Bebop grooves of all time.
SEATBELTS do such a wonderful job on all of their instruments, and the energy has never been higher. It’s slick, it’s cool, and it’s a good indication that the following show will be both of those things.
2 – Friends (I’ll Be There For You)
Wherever you are in the world, it’s impossible to sing the opening line of “I’ll Be There For You” without people clapping along.
“Friends” was a lightning in a bottle type of show, and its theme song is no different. It’s light-hearted and uplifting, and serves as the ultimate soundtrack to eternal friendship bonds.
1 – Doctor Who
Doctor Who’s theme has changed a lot since the 60’s, but the core concepts of wonder and exploration remain. It’s the most iconic piece of sci-fi music of all time, and I love how it has evolved over the decades.
My favourite iteration of the theme was for the 2009 Specials, where the horns and drums kick into overdrive straight from the get go. It’s the theme song of my childhood, and I don’t think any other opening will ever get close.
Aaaand that’s my list! You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:
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