The most iconic orchestral movie soundtracks take you to the heart of the story in an instant. Here, we explore the best of the last forty years – including Forrest Gump, Lady Bird and Star Wars.
BEST TV SONGS OF ALL TIME
- 31 Mar
The theme song to your favourite television show will stay with you forever. But why do industry insiders make theme tunes so catchy?
Theme songs are a memorable form of marketing. Once an audience member becomes a fan of a TV show, they’ll feel a sense of nostalgia every time they remember the tune – even if it’s been decades since they last watched the show. Often, this can lead to fans streaming, purchasing and downloading episodes, and, on occasion, can lead to new seasons, spin-offs and reboots. Needless to say, this puts more money into the pockets of production companies.
We’ve put together a list of the best TV theme songs of all time - keep reading to find out if your favourite tunes have made the cut…
Best TV Theme Songs: Top 50
Best 60s TV Theme Songs
The Flintstones (1960 – 1966)
Hanna-Barbera’s The Flintstones is a lovable Stone Age-set animated sit-com – appropriate for the whole family – that debuted on ABC in 1960. Familiar with the show? Of course you are! Which also means you’re familiar with the jocund, cheery theme tune that deserves a place on our Best TV theme songs list.
Doctor Who (1963 – Present)
Doctor Who is one of BBC’s biggest success stories. The TV show, which focuses on an alien space and time traveller, has been enjoyed by audiences over the decades, and one reason viewers continuously return to the show is to listen to the iconic theme tune. Sure, it’s been chopped and changed over the years, but the crucial sci-fi elements remain.
The Addams Family (1964-1966)
Everyone knows the gothic-yet-friendly theme song to the original The Addams Family show – you know, the one with the clicking. Not only is it extremely catchy, but it’s also a great track to listen to around October time to get you in the mood for the spooky season.
Scooby-Doo, Where are You! (1969 – 1970)
There’s been more iterations of Hanna-Barbera's Scooby-Doo than we can count on two hands, but what was the original? The first TV show to officially introduce the Mystery Inc gang was titled Scooby-Doo, Where are You! and was released in 1969. Which explains the Woodstock vibe of the OG theme tune.
The Brady Bunch (1969 – 1974)
Just like The Brady Bunch, the theme tune to the late-sixties show is practically perfect. Originally sung by sunshine pop band Peppermint Trolley Company (and later by The Brady Bunch kids), the theme is sweet, mood-boosting and tells a story.
Best 70s TV Theme Songs
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970 – 1977)
In 1970, CBS debuted The Mary Tyler Moore Show, putting Mary Tyler Moore (famous for her role in The Dick Van Dyke Show) front and centre of her own project. The heart-warming theme tune – sung by Country Pop star Sonny Curtis – is titled ‘Love is All Around’. As you may expect, it totally captures the spirit of the Flower Power era.
All in the Family (1971 – 1979)
In case you didn’t know, the Family Guy theme tune is based on the theme song to seventies situation comedy show, All in the Family. Hence, we feel this inspirational tune deserves a place on our Best TV Theme Songs list. Watch the show’s tremendously funny intro if you fancy a chuckle.
Good Times (1974 – 1979)
CBS’ Good Times captures the spirit of the seventies, and so does its soulful theme song. Considering this was the first family sitcom to star two African-American parents, it’s pleasing to hear the voices of two African-American R&B singers, Jim Gilstrap and Blinky, during the intro.
Happy Days (1974 – 1984)
The theme tune to Garry Marshall’s Happy Days features an extremely infectious beat and lyrics that’ll instantly put a smile on anyone's face – even the most melancholic amongst us. Set in Wisconsin in the 1950s-60s, the American sitcom focuses on the Cunningham family and features characters that are just as upbeat as the intro.
The Muppet Show (1976 – 1981)
In 1976, American puppeteer Jim Henson created The Muppet Show for British broadcaster ATV after ABC passed on the pilots. Essentially, The Muppet Show is a variety show featuring recurring Muppets characters (think Kermit and Miss Piggy). But the main thing we remember about the television show is its extremely catchy theme song.
Best 80s TV Theme Songs
Baywatch (1981 – 2001)
The intro to action-drama series Baywatch is renowned for two reasons: 1) its slo-mo running scenes and 2) its eighties rock theme tune. Jimi Jamison, the vocalist behind Baywatch’s ‘I’m Always Here’, was the frontman of rock bands Survivor, Target and Cobra. He also sang the theme song to Columbia Pictures’ The Karate Kid.
Only Fools and Horses (1981 – 2003)
Only Fools and Horses is acknowledged as being one of the best TV shows in history. Naturally, the Only Fools and Horses theme tune is lauded as one of the best TV theme songs ever. What does it sound like? It sounds like South-East London.
The Young Ones (1982 – 1984)
Audiences love watching TV shows that encapsulate the era, which is why BBC’s The Young Ones proved so popular back in the 1980s. The punky British sitcom is eccentric and unconventional, focusing on four students, each with their own idiosyncrasies. Aptly, the theme song is rowdy, boisterous and unlike any other.
The A-Team (1983 – 1987)
No TV Theme Song list is complete without a mention of The A-Team. The eighties action-adventure show features a theme song created by composers Mike Post and Peter Carpenter that’s just as explosive as the show. Heard the song before but never seen the show? Perhaps you're familiar with the 118 ads that famously utilised the theme tune. That or your dad used to watch it on repeat whilst ‘babysitting’.
The Cosby Show (1984 – 1992)
The ground-breaking family sitcom featured a catchy theme tune, ‘Kiss Me’. The Latin jazz track is quirky and buoyant and prepares audiences for a fun-filled episode.
Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends (1984 – Present)
The Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends theme tune is the sound of many people’s childhoods. Inspired by The Railway Series by Rev. W. Andry, the children’s television show focuses on a group of anthropomorphised vehicles, located on the fictional island of Sodor, and its theme tune incorporates the sounds of traditional steam locomotives.
Eastenders (1985 – Present)
British soap operas always open with unforgettable theme tunes – but which is the best? In our opinion, it has to be BBC’s Eastenders theme tune, composed by British musician Simon May. It’s bold, dramatic and grabs our attention – what more could you want from a soap theme song?
21 Jump Street (1987 – 1991)
Younger readers may be surprised to learn that before Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill teamed up for a 21 Jump Street movie, 21 Jump Street was an eighties series starring the-one-and-only Johnny Depp. The theme song is exactly what you would expect from an eighties American drama: it’s led by electric guitars, loud vocals and upbeat percussion.
Saved by the Bell (1989 – 1992)
Saved by the Bell is an American sitcom that focuses on a group of students who attend Bayside High School in Los Angeles. Just like the characters, the TV show’s theme tune gives off a too-cool-for-school vibe that we’ve been obsessed with since day one.
The Simpsons (1989 – Present)
There’s something about The Simpsons theme tune that makes us feel at home – we guess that’s because it’s been in our lives for such a long time. Composed by industry legend Danny Elfman, the theme song to the consistently funny animated sitcom is just what we need to hear after a hard day’s work.
Best 90s TV Theme Songs
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990 – 1996)
There’s so much to love about NBC’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, including the show’s iconic rap theme song (which, FYI, we know every lyric of). Also titled ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’, the rap was created by show stars Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
Rugrats (1990 – 2006)
In 1990, Nickelodeon debuted Rugrats: a kids TV show that revolved around a group of American toddlers. Just like the characters of the show, the Rugrats theme tune is sweet, innocent and youthful. Here’s hoping the theme tune returns for the 2021 Paramount+ reboot.
Barney & Friends (1990 –2010)
Barney & Friends is an educational and entertaining HiT television show, based on the direct-to-video series Barney and the Backyard Gang. The Barney theme song playfully introduces the purple T-Rex to the audience and attracts the attention of little ones.
Sister, Sister (1994 – 1999)
We’re all for hip-hop theme tunes, and one of our favourites comes from nineties sitcom Sister, Sister. The show stars identical twins Tia and Tamera Mowry who unite 14 years after being separated at birth.
Friends (1994 – 2004)
Friends is one of the biggest sitcoms ever created, and its theme tune is nothing short of iconic. ‘I’ll Be There For You’ was written and sung by American Duo The Rembrandts after R.E.M rejected Warner Bros’ offer to use their track ‘Shiny Happy People’.
Arthur (1996 – Present)
There’s one theme song that we find ourselves constantly singing, and that’s the tune to animated TV series Arthur. Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers is the band responsible for the catchy, reggae-inspired track that carries an important message for kids and adults alike: believe in yourself.
Recess (1997 – 2001)
Growing up, Disney’s Recess was one of our favourite animations. Now, we can relive our childhoods by binge-watching episodes on Disney+. Admittedly, the part we’re looking forward to the most is the theme tune created by American composer Denis M. Hannigan.
Sex and the City (1998 – 2004)
When we think of New York City, we think of the Sex and the City theme tune. The theme song – composed by Douglas J. Cuomo – is flirty, jazzy and a little exotic; it brings colour to the greyscale city, just like the show’s main characters.
Spongebob Squarepants (1999 – Present)
It doesn’t matter how old you are, we’d bet our bottom (sand) dollar you’ve heard the Spongebob Squarepants theme song. Sung by Patrick Pinney, the fast-paced tune is a lot of fun, and that’s why it’s one of our all-time favourites.
Family Guy (1999 – Present)
As we mentioned, the Family Guy theme is based loosely on the theme tune to sitcom All in the Family. Sung by the two main characters, Peter and Lois, the nineties TV theme song swiftly transforms from a low-key duet to a big band show song. We mean, what’s not to love?
Best 2000s TV Theme Songs
Big Brother (2000 – 2018)
Big Brother ushered in a new era of reality television for the 2000s that ultimately puts everyday people into social experiments. So, it makes sense that the Big Brother theme tune is inspired by the music of psychological thrillers.
Malcolm In The Middle (2000 – 2006)
Malcolm in the Middle is the archetypal noughties show, and its theme music reminds us that alternative rock was at the height of popularity after the turn of the millennium. Titled ‘Boss of Me’, the song, sung by the band They Might Be Giants, takes us back to better days; thus, it’s one of our favourite TV themes.
Kim Possible (2002 – 2007)
Kim Possible is one of those animated characters that radiates coolness: you either want to be her or be friends with her. So, it makes sense that the theme tune to her show is just as hip as she is. Titled ‘Call Me, Beep Me’, the tune has instant appeal and features the voice of noughties R&B princess Christina Milian.
Little Britain (2003 – 2006)
Little Britain reminds viewers that no humour beats British humour, which is why the theme tune is concurrently patriotic and satirical. Composed by David Arnold, the orchestral track plays as veteran actor Tom Baker (aka Doctor Who) provides a humorous voiceover that differs for each episode.
That’s So Raven (2003 – 2007)
Disney Channel is responsible for some of the greatest TV theme songs of all time, including the That’s So Raven theme tune. The noughties theme tune tells a story, it’s a reflection of its time and it's sung by the three lead stars of the show, Raven Symoné, Orlando Brown and Anneliese van der Pol. In short, it’s faultless (and ever so catchy).
How I Met Your Mother (2005 – 2014)
Since How I Met Your Mother left our screens back in 2014, we’ve felt empty – which is why we regularly re-watch episodes. One thing we’re never tired of hearing is the American sitcom’s theme tune, ‘Hey Beautiful’, by Connecticut-based power pop band The Solids.
The Emperor's New School (2006 – 2008)
If you ask us, The Emperor's New School is one of the most underrated animated TV shows ever. It’s filled with fun, relatable characters; it’s a little historic (emphasis on the ‘little’) and it’s jam-packed with sarcasm. Oh, and as for the theme tune, it’s quite frankly a banger.
Hannah Montana (2006 – 2011)
Magic was made when Disney Channel asked Miley Cyrus to sing the theme song to her Y2K show Hannah Montana. Titled The Best of Both Worlds, the pop theme tune marks the beginning of Cyrus' impressive music career, which makes it a must-have on our Best Theme Songs list.
Mad Men (2007-2015)
From the first episode of Mad Men, we, the audience, know that the main character – Donald Draper (played by John Hamm) – isn’t in for an easy ride. This is thanks to the show’s sombre, foreboding theme tune. The song, produced by musician RJD2, is titled ‘A Beautiful Mine’ and is taken from rapper Aceyalone’s album Magnificent City.
Modern Family (2009-2020)
American mockumentary Modern Family is a contemporary classic; for this reason, its short, repetitive, big-band theme tune is likely to be remembered for years to come. Who’s behind it? Film score composer Gabriel Mann.
Best 2010s TV Theme Songs
Adventure Time (2010 – 2018)
Cartoon Network’s animated fantasy show, Adventure Time, appeals to people from all demographics. Consequently, the show’s folky theme tune – sung and played by series creator Pendleton Ward – is adored by millions worldwide.
The Only Way is Essex (2010 – Present)
When reality series The Only Way is Essex (AKA TOWIE) first hit screens in 2010, it was unlike any other show. Essentially, the show places real Essex personalities in set-up situations and films the results – as you can imagine, things often get heated. To complement the glamorous tone of the show – and to make reference to the song that inspired the show’s title – ITV and Lime Pictures chose Yazz’s eighties hit ‘The Only Way is Up’ for the theme tune. Now, the song and the show are indivisible.
New Girl (2011 – 2018)
Zooey Deschanel seems like the kind of woman who lights up any room she enters. Fittingly, the theme song to her comedy show New Girl is sunny and optimistic. Plus, it makes any viewers unfamiliar with the show want to know more about her character, Jess.
Game of Thrones (2011 – 2019)
Game of Thrones changed the way we think about TV forever by bringing cinematic standards to the small screen. The HBO show’s epic intro had us on the edge of our seat before the beginning of each episode thanks to German score composer Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Thrones theme tune.
Orange Is the New Black (2013 – 2019)
Orange Is the New Black was one of Netflix’s first original series; hence, it had a lot to prove. Fortunately, for all parties involved, the show was a huge success. One of the series’ most beloved elements was its theme song: Regina Spektor’s , 'You’ve Got Time'. We, for one, can certainly see why.
Peaky Blinders (2013 –)
Peaky Blinders is beloved by men and women worldwide, thanks to its stellar cast, 1920s backdrop, semi-fictional narrative and unorthodox theme tune. Created by Australian rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the theme song, ‘Red Right Hand’, represents the gritty tenor of the period drama show.
Check out our article on TV soundtracks for more on Peaky Blinders’ trailblazing music style.
Stranger Things (2016 –)
The reason why Stranger Things has proven so successful is because it makes everyone feel nostalgic for the eighties – even those who weren’t around back then. The theme tune channels the retro vibe of the show by relying on a bass synthesizer, redolent of old sci-fi flicks.
Westworld (2016 – Present)
Just three seasons in and HBO’s Westworld has already had its fair share of highs and lows; and one of the highlights of the show is its intense, brooding theme tune. What probably won’t surprise you is the theme tune comes from the same composer as the Game of Thrones theme, Ramin Djawadi.
The Crown (2016 – Present)
The Crown was set to be Netflix’s biggest TV show ever, and one of the most expensive TV shows ever made; ergo, the streaming-service-cum-production-company had to ensure the show’s theme song was first-class. So, they got in touch with musical legend Hans Zimmer. The result? A beautifully orchestrated composition sure to go down in entertainment history.
Big Little Lies (2017 – 2019)
When we first heard that Reece Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoë Kravitz were starring in a HBO series together, we knew the result would be impressive. However, we never expected Big Little Lies to become one of our favourite TV shows ever. And because we love it so much, we feel a little glimpse of joy every time we hear the show’s theme tune: ‘Cold Little Heart’ by Michael Kiwanuka.
Create Your Own Theme Song
Set to produce your own TV show? Great! Let us provide you with a high-quality base for your theme song.
No matter if you’re looking for a cowboy-inspired composition, a dramatic sting, a comedic beat or something entirely unique for your theme song, you’ve come to the right place. At Audio Network, we’ve got over 175,000 ready-to-license tracks for you. Discover our catalogue by visiting our TV Music/Themes category page or our Discover page.
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