Theme songs are equally as vital as the program itself, as everyone knows. Even in a generation criticized for its short attention span, the majority of viewers would joyfully hum and sing along to the theme song and watch it in its entirety before the show begins.
However, not every TV show is wonderful, and not every TV theme tune is as memorable as others.
We’ve compiled The All-Time Greatest TV Theme Songs [Revised in 2021].
1. “Yo Home to Bel-Air”
What better way to begin a list of the greatest TV theme tunes of all time than with the finest of them all?
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was written by Will Smith himself, with music by Quincy Jones, the show’s executive producer. DJ Jazzy Jeff, also known as Jeffrey Townes, the other half of the legendary American hip-hop combo “DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince,” produced the song.
To say the least, it’s remarkable that the song, technically titled “Yo Home to Bel-Air,” has become so well-known.
Will Smith, after all, only agreed to act in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air because he owed the IRS a lot of money.
To think that if The Fresh Prince had paid his taxes on time, we wouldn’t have had this program and this theme tune.
2. “Doctor Who”
Doctor Who is one of the rare series on television right now that was appreciated by both previous generations and current ones.
Doctor Who was a BBC staple for over two decades, from the 1960s to the 1980s, before taking a two-decade vacation until returning full-time in 2005. Despite the fact that the ensemble of characters, including the eponymous protagonist, has changed over time, the Doctor Who theme music, simply titled “Doctor Who,” has stayed constant.
The original theme music, written by Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire, continues to haunt airwaves today, just as it did in the early 1960s.
3. “I’ll Be There For You”
Friends isn’t the same without their theme music, the Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There for You.”
Did you realize, though, that this wasn’t always the case?
Phil Solem and Danny Wilde, the song’s creators, had apparently only recorded the original version as a work for hire. It took only 45 seconds. Instead, they concentrated on their blossoming careers, which included a Top 15 smash song, “Just the Way It Is, Baby,” and two albums, with a third on the way.
With Friends’ popularity skyrocketing almost immediately after its premiere, a Nashville radio station felt it would be a good idea to make their own version of the song and broadcast it on the air, based on looped audio from the series’ opening titles, and it succeeded.
The showrunners were compelled to urge Solem and Wilde to record a “official” version of the song, which they dutifully did.
Unfortunately, this had a negative impact on their third album at the time, and the duo subsequently split up as a result of the incident.
4. “Game of Thrones”
It’s incredible that Game of Thrones has all but vanished from the public awareness.
HBO’s epic fantasy drama was the buzz of the town for the better part of a decade. Every season was highly anticipated by fans. However, following a catastrophic last season, Game of Thrones is seldom spoken anymore.
This is a tremendous disappointment. Because, despite its flaws, the show’s theme tune was flawless.
The primary theme created by Ramin Djawadi established the tone for a full-hour of treachery, love, dragons, and white walkers, while the entrance sequence kept up and evolved to illustrate major features in the landscape that alter within the program from episode to episode.
House of the Dragon, the prequel, is presently under production. It will star Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen and will chronicle the events that led to the Targaryen dynasty’s rise and fall.
It will, of course, remain exclusive to HBO and HBO Max. However, it’s unclear if they’ll keep the same theme music.
They’re unlikely to modify it. Nothing else will likely ever be able to beat the theme tune for Game of Thrones.
5. “Law & Order”
Mike Post is probably unknown to the majority of today’s children. For those of us who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, though, the man was everywhere. He composed one instrumental tune after another for now-iconic TV shows. Shows like Hill Street Blues and Magnum P.I., as well as The Greatest American Hero, are among them.
Even with those amazing theme music, Mike Post is arguably better known for his work on Law & Order.
The renowned program’s theme tune, which has been called “The Clang” by many fans, has become a cornerstone of the iconic brand and has had a significant impact on the TV music scene.
6. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
How can you write an energetic theme song for a program whose premise is a lady who is let free from captivity after 15 years in an underground bunker?
You don’t, do you? You’re not going to be able to accomplish it, are you? If it’s impossible, you might wish to refer to the song’s composer, Jeff Richmond, as a miracle worker.
Jeff Richmond collaborated with the Gregory Brothers, the wacky minds behind “Bed Intruder,” to come up with a tune that, for some reason, makes it feel OK to watch a program with such a dismal premise.
It’s energizing. It’s upbeat. It’s excellent.
It’s one of the all-time great TV theme melodies.
7. “Greenback Boogie”
Some theme songs are written to embody the message of the program; others, like Ima Robot’s “Greenback Boogie,” feel as though the show was written precisely to match the meaning of the song.
Or, at the very least, that was the show’s original premise.
Mike Ross, a Harvard dropout with an eidetic memory, finds himself posing as a lawyer and making a lot of money under the guidance of Harvey Specter, a lawyer at Pearson-Hardman who claims to be the “best damn closer in town” in the city of New York, thanks to a sequence of strange circumstances.
The song’s theme of making more money no matter what is well demonstrated with Mike Ross posing (successfully) as a lawyer until it ultimately catches up with him in subsequent seasons.
If nothing else, the tune gets listeners in the mood for some legal wrangling, which does, admittedly, need some suspension of disbelief.
8. “Where You Lead”
“Where You Lead,” lyrically updated and re-recorded by mother-daughter duo King and Louise Goffin for the dramedy series Gilmore Girls, displays unconditional love at its best and serves as a compliment to the show’s sincere flag, which has become one of the show’s strongest aspects.
Unfortunately, today’s Netflix viewers will not be able to hear it. The song was not included in the Netflix revival.
Even if you don’t watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix, you’ll understand how and why this theme tune made it onto our list.
9. “A Beautiful Mine”
It must have been tough to write a theme tune that reflected the strange mix of fear and optimism that typified the 1960s, but Mad Men creator Matt Winer managed to do it.
Weiner was a one-of-a-kind individual. He wanted everything to be perfect, especially when pitching a TV program about ad execs set in the 1960s. There was a theme to this. However, after hearing it on NPR, he chose something more modern rather than seeking for a song from the 1960s.
The Mad Men creator was hooked on the vocal-less reissue published in the same year, which was originally penned by RJD2 and performed by rapper Aceyalone.
After hearing it, Weiner followed it down, and the rest, as they say, is history.
10. “The History of Everything”
If you didn’t know who the Barenaked Ladies were, we’ll forgive you. They were well-liked. At least for the time being. But it was in the late 1990s, and they were largely popular in Canada at the time.
Back then, the Barenaked Ladies’ biggest claim to fame was their song “One Week,” which included the line “Chickity China, the Chinese chicken.”
In any event, popular or not, we can all agree that the Big Bang Theory theme song, fittingly titled “The History of Everything,” will be a far greater success than they’ve ever had before, and will almost certainly net them a considerably higher salary, even when the show’s 12-season run is through.
The theme music, “The History of Everything,” provides viewers a clear notion of how nerdy the program is, or rather was, since the show has strayed from its scholarly and geeky roots in subsequent seasons, but the song remains memorable and popular anyway.
Is it the TV show that creates the theme tune, or the other way around?
That is a question for which we have no meaningful response. We do know, however, that these are the greatest TV theme music of all time.
These TV theme songs were responsible for encouraging viewers to pay attention to their respective TV series when they initially aired, and they continue to do so now, as they serve as a trigger for fans to reminisce about the good old days when the program was still on the air.