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The 20 Best TV Theme Songs of All Time

Many factors make a great theme song, from being irresistibly catchy to having lyrics that set up the premise. The 1960s was the Golden Era of television theme songs, but a few great tunes emerged in the decades beyond, too. Here are the 20 best television theme songs of all time.

20. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001)

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

One of the most gentle, inviting, and friendly tunes ever written is the theme song for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It leaves you a feeling as warm and fuzzy as Rogers’ red cardigan sweater. Fred Rogers wrote the song in 1967, and it opened every episode. This seemingly simple song is surprisingly sophisticated. Rogers sings over Johnny Costa’s soft, loungey piano backing.

19. Barney Miller (1977-1978)

Barney Miller

The funky solo bass riff that kicks off the Barney Miller theme just oozes cool. The tune is a jazz fusion masterpiece that captures the New York groove of the Manhattan-based detective series. Studio musician Chuck Berghofer improvised the distinctive baseline. Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson wrote the theme. Several versions of the theme exist and were swapped out routinely.

18. Twin Peaks (1990-2017)

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks was an eerie and amazing show, especially during the first season. The theme song is simultaneously haunting and beautiful. The signature theme only took composer Angelo Badalamenti and creator David Lynch 20 minutes to create. Lynch told Badalamenti, “You just wrote 75% of the score. It’s the mood of the whole piece. It is Twin Peaks.” Indeed it was.

17. Batman (1966-1968)


People who watched the show couldn’t rid themselves of the ear worm that got embedded from hearing this theme song. People walked around humming Nana-Nana-Nana-Nana-Na-Na. The dissonant horn section perfectly mimicked the on-screen visuals of Sock! Pow! Zok! Whap! Biff! Oooof! The only lyrics amid the boogie-woogie background were a chorus of female voices chanting Batman!

16. Three’s Company (1977-1984)


The catchy theme of this hilarious sitcom punctuated the feel-good vibe that was intrinsic to the show. The “come and knock on our door” lyrics matched the show’s welcoming premise. Joe Raposo, who wrote the Sesame Street theme and the Muppets‘ “Bein’ Green,” composed the song. It was sung by Ray Charles (not the blind R&B musician) and Julia Rinker.

15. The X-Files (1993-2018)

The X-Files

Words cannot properly express how Mark Snow’s instrumental The X-Files delivered an impeccable sonic identity that’s inseparable from the show. This series was wrought with tension, and this theme captured the eerie and paranoid feeling associated with every episode. This music lets viewers know to be afraid because something spooky is coming.

14. The Pink Panther (1964-1980)

The Pink Panther
United Artists | DePatie-Freleng

The theme song came from a jazz composition by Henry Mancini. He’d written the theme for the 1963 film of the same name. The tune earned him a nomination for Best Original Score at the Academy Awards. The cartoon character was developed for the opening credits and later evolved into the animated series. The music had people humming “Da-dunt Da-dunt.”


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13. Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)

Mission Impossible

Masterful Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin wrote a theme that sounded exactly like the “burning fuse” introduction to this TV series that’s now a franchise of blockbuster movies. You can practically feel your pulse increase as you listen. The bongos punctuate like a ticking clock and the flutes lend an airy sense of paranoia. The horns increase the tension.

12. The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

The Twilight Zone

This theme song has become so ingrained into popular culture that people will actually hum its motif as a way of saying something strange or weird is going on. The melody and instrumentation perfectly capture the feeling of uneasiness we feel when we encounter the unknown or inexplicable.

11. The Addams Family (1964-1966)

The Addams Family

Perfectly blending creepy and comic, The Addams Family theme gave viewers a taste of what to expect from this oddball family. Vic Mizzy wrote and arranged the campy music. What makes the tune unique is its instrumentation, dominated by harpsichord and bass clarinet, as well as its prominent finger snaps. Ted Cassidy synchronized lyrics to punctuate “neat,” “sweet.” and “petite.”

10. The Golden Girls (1985-1992)

Golden Girls

The song’s lyrics perfectly summarize the theme of the show. No matter their differing opinions and arguments, they treasured one another’s friendship. “Thank You for Being a Friend” was written by singer-songwriter Andrew Gold and hit #25 on Billboard and #11 on Cash Box in 1978. Singer Cindy Fee rerecorded the song for The Golden Girls theme in 1985. 

9. The Flintstones (1960-1966)

The Flintstones

The first two seasons had a lively instrumental “Rise and Shine” (replaced in syndication). Season three debuted the better-known “Meet the Flintstones” theme song with a 22-piece big band and sung by the Randy Van Horne Singers. Its writing credits list Hoyt Curtin, Joseph Barbera, and William Hanna. But its super-catchy melody is derived from a Beethoven piece.

8. Scooby-Doo: Where Are You! (1969-1970)

Scooby-Doo Where Are You

The original animated TV series ran for three seasons but became a longer-running franchise into the present. Many sequel series followed, as well as live-action films and shows. David Mook and Ben Raleigh wrote the theme. Larry Marks performed the first season version. It was later redone by George A. Robertson, Jr. 

7. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Star Will Smith (Fresh Prince) wrote and performed the theme with DJ Jazzy Jeff. The show’s opening begins with similar visuals to Smith’s hit “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” The theme song is a musical prologue that gives us all the information we need about the premise to jump into any episode. To this day, people still dance to this song!

6. SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-present)

SpongeBob SquarePants

From the opening line, “Are you ready kids?” this fun and wacky theme song introduces the listener to the yellow spongy protagonist, what he looks like, and the fact that he lives in a pineapple under the sea. It ends with the crusty Captain narrator coughing. The lyrics were written by the show’s late creator, Stephen Hillenburg.

5. Cheers (1982-1993)


There’s something about the Cheers theme that seems to go right to your heart. The song was about escaping loneliness. Wouldn’t anyone feel most comfortable going “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” and hanging out for a while? Gary Portnoy co-wrote the song with Judy Hart Angelo and performed it. The song’s melody delivers the perfect nostalgia-tinged vibe and feels timeless.

4. Friends (1994-2004)


“I’ll Be There for You ” is the ideal lyrical slogan for a show named “Friends.” The lyrics and melody perfectly capture the show’s premise. Although a one-hit wonder for pop rock duo The Rembrandts, thanks to ceaseless syndication, the song is ubiquitous. The instantly catchy tune is now an icon of the 90s. Try not to clap along.

3. The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)

The Brady Bunch

Brilliantly written, this theme song introduced viewers to the premise of the show, serving as a musical prologue. It introduced the story of a mother and her children and their dilemma. Then it introduced the father and his. Next, we were told how they got together. The happy vibe of the music hinted fun was coming, not dysfunctional family strife.

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2. The Jeffersons (1975-1985)

The Jeffersons

You can’t help but want to sway and clap along with this song’s infectious gospel groove. Like the best theme songs, the lyrics feed you the premise of the show. But they also give you some insight into the characters’ past struggles and future ambitions. Ja’Net DuBois co-wrote the song with Jeff Barry and performed it with a gospel choir.

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1. Gilligan’s Island (1964-1967)

Gilligan's Island

What made the theme song for Gilligan’s Island brilliant was that it also served as a prologue for the series. Just by hearing the theme song, viewers understood the situation of the castaways on the island and were introduced to each main character. Originally recorded by The Wellingtons and redone by The Eligibles.

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