The Best TV Theme Songs

A theme song can make or break a TV show. Here's our list of the best TV theme songs that made it.

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Earlier this year, Netflix launched a “Skip Intro” feature that allows users to bypass a show’s title sequence. People's reactions have been mixed. Some complain the new feature has effectively killed the title sequence, while others rejoice that they won’t have to sit through annoying theme music while they binge. It’s a big decision to make, whether or not to press that button: Opening credits, and more importantly the theme songs that accompany them, can be powerful. A good theme song primes you for the show that you're about to watch: it can get you in the mood to laugh before your favorite comedy, stir up tension before your favorite crime drama, or bring a familiar comfort before your favorite childhood show.

TV themes come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve got your moody instrumentals, your self-referential narratives, your indie-rock anthems. No matter the genre, the best of them preface their shows by crafting the perfect energy for the journey that follows. Now that bingeing is such common practice, theme songs may have lost some of their luster—after all, hearing the same song every 22 minutes can get irksome. But the best of them are impossible to tire of.

A theme song can make or break a TV show. Sure, there have been some great shows that have some pretty awful theme songs (sorry, The Wire), but overall many of the best shows of all time often boast the best theme songs. That’s why it’s no surprise that many of the shows on this list of the best theme songs are also on our lists of the Best TV dramas and the Funniest TV comedies of all time. So stay tuned, because here’s our definitive list of the Best TV theme songs of all time.

25. Portlandia

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Aired: January 21, 2011 – present (IFC)

Theme Song: Washed Out “Feel It All Around"

Portlandia is wacky, to say the least. So starting each episode off with Washed Out’s smooth, hypnotic “Feel It All Around” is a nice way to center yourself in preparation for the shenanigans that proceed, effectively disarming viewers before Armisen and Brownstein’s antics kick into overdrive. The rich synths and easy melody make the perfect calm before the comedy storm. 

24. Orange Is the New Black

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Aired: July 11, 2013 – present (Netflix)

Theme Song: Regina Spektor “You’ve Got Time”

As Orange Is the New Black is a show by, for, and about women, and singer-songwriter Regina Spektor is an obvious choice for theme-song composer. When creator Jenji Kohan first approached the songstress, she gave Spektor total creative control. Played over shots of real, formerly incarcerated women, “You’ve Got Time” sets a tone that is both sobering and hopeful. These women have got time—time to serve and time to turn their lives around. With an irresistible beat, delicious vocals, and punchy attitude, it’s the perfect fit for a show celebrating female strength.

23. The Twilight Zone

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Aired: October 2, 1959 – June 19, 1964 (CBS)

Theme Song: Marius Constant “Twilight Zone Theme”

There must have been a lot of pressure on Marius Constant to come up with the perfect song to represent the experience of entering the Twilight Zone. Luckily, the resulting composition isn’t just creepy, it’s undeniably iconic. With its ability to provoke unease in just four notes, one can only imagine how the The Twilight Zone intro disrupted viewers’ sensibilities when it first premiered in 1959. Plus, the song has solidified “doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo” as shorthand for describing any eerie or inexplicable coincidence.

22. Happy Days

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Aired: January 15, 1974 – September 24, 1984 (ABC) 

Theme Song: Jimmy Haas “Happy Days” 

Happy Days, that '70s show about the '50s, actually had two iconic theme songs, the first being a re-recorded version of Bill Hailey & His Comets' “Rock Around The Clock,” followed by the more widely known, days-of-the-week number. Both were excellent in transporting viewers back to a time where “greasers” like The Fonz (Henry Winkler) were the coolest cats in the neighborhood. The “Happy Days” doo-wop created by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, complete with hand claps during the break, might be labeled corny today, but imagine what they will say about the Saved By The Bell theme music when you're old and grey.

21. American Horror Story

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Aired: October 5, 2011 - present (FX)

Theme Song: Cesar Davila-Irizarry & Charlie Clouser "American Horror Story"

“Nightmarish” is a nice way to describe the diabolical opening track from hell that chugs along during American Horror Story's morbid title sequence. The evil union of sound designer Cesar Davila-Irizarry and ex-Nine Inch Nails member Charlie Clouser sounds like bones being crushed and souls being sucked from filthy orifices by the Devil's minions. It's that scary.

20. Batman

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Aired: January 12, 1966 - March 14, 1968 (ABC)

Theme Song: Neal Hefti "Batman Theme"

Nowadays, the Dark Knight is no joke—he'll murk any joker who gets in his path. But back in the carefree 1960s, the Caped Crusader was a mellow fellow, as seen in the campy Batman. The show's theme song, a guilty pleasure pop culture artifact if there ever was one, oozes with good-natured appeal, as if a teenaged garage band got together one afternoon after watching their favorite show and banged out a homemade superhero tribute. Who needs words when you can just mumble along with chords? After hearing "Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah BATMAN!" once, you'll never get the jingle out of your head.

19. 30 Rock

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Aired: October 11, 2006 – January 31, 2013 (NBC)

Theme Song: Jeff Richmond “Theme from 30 Rock”

First off, it’s important you know that the 30 Rock theme song was written by Jeff Richmond, aka Tina Fey’s husband; go ahead and take a moment to be thoroughly bowled over by this adorable creative collaboration. Richmond also composed many of 30 Rock’s other great songs, such as “Muffin Top” and “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah,” which is super cool. As for the Emmy-winning theme song itself, it’s a timeless, big-band-style burst of energy that gets you excited for the episode that lies ahead.

18. The Leftovers (Season 2)

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Aired: June 29, 2014 – June 4, 2017 (HBO)

Theme Song: Iris DeMent “Let the Mystery Be”

After its first season, The Leftovers replaced its gloomy and melodramatic (albeit beautiful) intro with Iris DeMent’s cheery “Let the Mystery Be.” This was a pretty great call. Series creator Damon Lindelof praises the song for communicating “basically everything I want people to feel about my writing.” And for good reason—DeMent’s folksy lyrics eerily describe the show’s entire premise. The song’s title can also be taken by fans as wise words of advice, as the show’s central mystery is left largely unanswered. 

17. Community

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Aired: September 17, 2009 – June 2, 2015 (NBC, Yahoo)

Theme Song: The 88 “At Least It Was Here”

Despite the upbeat keys and lax indie vocals, The 88’s “At Least It Was Here” is a pretty dark theme song choice for a show as dizzyingly funny as Community (the lyrics, after all, include the lines “We could be roped up, tied up, dead in a year/I can’t count the reasons I should stay/One by one, they all just fade away). Subject matter aside, the tune infuses each episode with a warm jolt of clean, indie fun that inevitably reminds us of what’s at this hilarious show’s core: Behind the zaniness, there’s a whole lotta heart. 

16. Game of Thrones

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Aired: April 17, 2011 – present (HBO)

Theme Song: Ramin Djawadi “Main Title”

Ramin Djawadi’s instantly iconic anthem is neatly summarized with a single word: epic. And to precede a show as sprawling as Game of Thrones, it better be. Covered by everyone from Michael Bolton to the Queen’s Guards, the composition instantly transports you to Westeros, with powerful drum pounds capturing the grandeur of the storyworld and tour-de-force strings foretelling the deception and intrigue that permeates each episode. Clocking in at an impressive 1 minute and 40 seconds, the theme is able to capture the scale, scope and complexity of the entire show. That accomplishment alone is pretty epic.  

15. I Dream of Jeannie

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Aired: September 18, 1965 – May 26, 1970 (NBC)

Theme Song: Hugo Montenegro, "I Dream of Jeannie"


As Jeannie, the irresistible Barbara Eden enchanted audiences with a simple cross of the arms and blink of the eyes. She effortlessly embodied the campy, colorful fun of the ’60s—as did the show’s hip-shaking samba composed by Hugo Montenegro, which, decades later, still sounds fresh. Just try giving it a listen without doing a full-on Ferris Bueller dance.

14. Mad Men

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Aired: July 19, 2007 – May 17, 2015 (AMC)

Theme Song: RJD2, "A Beautiful Mine"

As smooth and slinky as Mad Men itself, RJD2's sublime “A Beautiful Mine” sounds a bit like Portishead stepped into a time machine and scoring an Alfred Hitchcock picture. With its combination of delicious strings and intricate jazz drums, the concise and stylish orchestration is elegant, mysterious, and instantly paints a sonic portrait of 1960s New York City in all its excess. The pairing of the song’s descending melody and the silhouetted protagonist’s descent from a Madison Avenue skyscraper is nothing short of iconic.


13. The Office

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Aired: March 24, 2005 – Present (NBC)

Theme Song: The Scrantones, "The Office Theme"

Just how irresistible is “The Office Theme,” you ask? A quick check of Google reveals dozens and dozens of ordinary folks doing their take on the ditty on everything from harmonica to violin to marimba. It’s no wonder everyone’s playing it; it’s got a simple tune, a fun build, and a whole lot of heart. When played over shots of Scranton, it comes off like an ode to that Pennsylvania town and all the people (fictional and otherwise) who live in it.  

12. Hawaii Five-O

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Aired: September 20 1968 – April 4 1980; September 20, 2010 – Present (CBS)

Theme Song: Morton Stevens, "Hawaii Five-O"

Rollicking '60s surfer rock meets big-band orchestration in this larger-than-life jam, which feels like the sonic equivalent of riding the ultimate wave. The adventurous theme was famously redone by The Ventures and covered by legends Don Ho and Sammy Davis Jr. But most importantly, the song received an iconic shout-out in School of Rock, which then inspired an equally (if not more) iconic Youtube video of a chinless high schooler doing the theme’s drum fill on, like, a million drums and then confidently tossing his drumsticks in the air (do yourself a favor, and look it up). If anything, let that be the Hawaii Five-O theme song’s legacy.

11. Friends

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Aired: September 22, 1994 – May 6, 2004 (NBC)

Theme Song: The Rembrandts “I’ll Be There for You”

If a theme song is going to be featured in 236 episodes of television, it must toe the fine line between being catchy and fun and downright annoying. So when it came time to pen a theme song for Friends, executive producer Kevin S. Bright asked pop-rock duo The Rembrandts for something with a melody similar to REM’s 1987 hit “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” What they came up with had a similar peppy beat and ridiculously catchy tune, but so much more: tight harmonies, an irresistible guitar intro, and, of course, those iconic claps. Over a decade after the show’s end, any true ’90s kid can recite “I’ll Be There for You” from memory.  

10. Full House

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Aired: September 22, 1987 – May 23, 1995 (ABC)

Theme Song: Jesse Frederick “Everywhere You Look”

This one is like comfort food for your ears. Jesse Frederick’s warm rasp, nostalgic lyrics, and soothing reminder that “When you’re lost out there and you’re all alone/A light is waiting to carry you home” conjure up all sorts of wistful yearnings for the simpler times of the ’90s. And the song has proven its comforting powers to be timeless, with Carly Rae Jepson’s poppy rendition serving as the theme song for the show’s (far inferior) reboot, Fuller House. And in case you’re still wondering what ever did happen to the milkman, the answer is refrigeration

9. The West Wing

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Aired: September 22, 1999 – May 14, 2006 (NBC) 

Theme Song: W. G. Snuffy Walden “The West Wing Opening Theme” 

It is cheesy? Yes. Is it still awesome? Absolutely. The West Wing theme’s soaring strings and majestic horns embody the show’s sincere (but, given today’s political climate, perhaps laughable) idealism. There’s a grandeur and dignity to the song that could ignite a brief flicker of admiration for our federal government in any viewer, regardless of political affiliation. That spark quickly fades once you get a CNN notification on your phone, but it’s a pretty nice feeling while it lasts.

8. Westworld

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Aired: October 2, 2016 – Present (HBO)

Theme Song: Ramin Djawadi “Main Title Theme – Westworld”

Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi triumphed again with his composition for the western sci-fi mystery Westworld. Like the GOT theme, it’s a fairly simple melody — one you can easily hum along to or pluck out on a keyboard — with lush and complex orchestration underneath it. Seamlessly (and gorgeously) combining rich strings, simple piano, and buzzing synths, the theme encapsulates the blend of rugged past and sleek future that Westworld features so effortlessly.

7. Peter Gunn

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Aired: September 22, 1958 – September 18, 1961 (NBC/ABC)

Theme Song: Henry Mancini "The Peter Gunn Theme"

You know a TV show's music is great when people remember the score more than the show itself. Henry Mancini's cold-blooded theme for the short-lived private dick series Peter Gunn, which debuted in 1958, is perhaps the most covered television theme of all time, with everyone from Art Of Noise to the Blues Brothers having had a go at it. It really is addictive. Brass and bass from another dimension conspire together to commit the best jazz composition for detectives to get busy to.

6. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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Aired: August 4, 2005 – Present (FX, FXX)

Theme Song: Heinz Kiessling “Temptation Sensation”

There will literally never be anything funnier than the cut in every episode of It’s Always Sunny from opening teaser to title card to theme song. When slated after titles like “The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby,” “Who Pooped the Bed?” and “Mac Kills His Dad,” the perky Muzak-style composition of Heinz Kiessling’s “Temptation Sensation” creates an unbearably hilarious juxtaposition. This theme’s brilliance lies in just how much it doesn’t relate to the show it represents.

5. The Sopranos

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Aired: January 10, 1999 – June 10, 2007 (HBO)

Theme Song: Alabama 3 "Woke Up This Morning"

Tony Soprano usually woke up in the morning and got himself the newspaper — but that, of course, doesn't sound as provocative as getting himself a gun. Alabama 3's genre bending “Woke Up This Morning” is a little bit Leonard Cohen and a little bit new-age computerized soul. There's an urgency in the rhythm section that mirrors high-stress Mafia living, a vibe that carries all the way to the song's haphazard conclusion (which is why you might not at first realize that Alabama 3 is actually a British group). And all hip-hop followers will recognize how Nas interpolated the gun refrain from the original for his “Got Ur Self A…” single.

4. Twin Peaks

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Aired: April 8, 1990 – June 10, 1991 (ABC); May 21, 2017 – September 3, 2017 (Showtime) 

Theme Song: Angelo Badalamenti “Falling (Twin Peaks Theme)”

Rarely does a theme song so completely capture the essence of a show as well as “Falling” does the brooding complexity of Twin Peaks. With its masterful build-ups and releases of tension, it’s a little bit unsatisfying, a little bit incomplete — much like the open-ended storytelling of the show. In its whopping 2 minute 40 second runtime, “Falling” combines an iconic twangy guitar (actually played on a synthesizer), strings that wash right over you, and a combination of major and minor chords that tugs at just the right places. It’s a marathon of a song, yes, but it’s peak Lynch, and it’s worth the listen every time.

3. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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Aired: September 10, 1990 - May 20, 1996 (NBC)

Theme Song: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince "Yo Home To Bel-Air"

Steeped in the tradition of let-me-tell-you-exactly-what-this-show-is-about introductions, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's well-received theme song was not a far cry from what Will Smith was already doing with DJ Jazzy Jeff before he hit the small screen. Humorous storytelling cuts like “Parents Just Don't Understand” had already garnered nationwide attention for the Philly rapper, so when it came time for him to craft a song to tell the tale of his alter ego's move from East Coast streets to affluent private community living, it was already secondhand to Smith. Thus, he delivered a joint that one imagines could have been his next single had it not been specifically written for the show. The theme's popularity continues to this day in the form of various Internet memes, including users trolling message boards with “confessional” stories that abruptly end with Bel-Air lyrics.

2. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Aired: March 6, 2015 – Present (Netflix)

Theme Song: Jeff Richmond and the Gregory Brothers “Unbreakable”

Taking its cues from Songify the News, “Unbreakable” parodies the 2010 “Bed Intruder” song, using the autotuned interview format to create an infectiously catchy celebration of female resilience. When writing the theme, co-creators Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, and composer Jeff Richmond actually hired the Gregory Brothers, the team behind Songify the News, to help design a song that really could go viral. With great one-liners like “They alive, dammit!” and “Females are strong as hell,” it’s no wonder the song has a combined 7.4 million views on YouTube. Plus, it’s one hell of a hype song for days when you’re feeling beaten down by the patriarchy.

1. Cheers

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Aired: September 30, 1982 – May 20, 1993 (NBC)

Theme Song: Gary Portnoy "Where Everybody Knows Your Name"

Don’t mess with a classic. Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo's soft little number begins with a simply iconic two-chord piano intro, then gently sneaks up on you with the addition of drums, harmonies, and oh-so-much heart. The song’s warm and unforgettable lyrics communicate the universality of the show’s premise. Cheers is indeed a place where “everybody knows your name,” but it’s also a representative of the kind of community we’re all looking for, where we are known, seen, and loved. “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” is much more than a television theme song or drinking anthem — like Cheers itself, it's a tribute to friendship.

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