Best TV Show Intros

Fan art of The Walking Dead with large-scale illustrated zombies in the background and man posing with weapon in front.

Image Credit: blitzcadet on Deviant Art.

When setting the scene for TV show intros, producers need to think about more than a catchy theme song.

Visuals and overall tone are just as important, and not just so new viewers know what they’re getting into. A great intro can permanently cement a series in audiences’ minds for decades to follow.

Here are some of the best TV show intros ever made, most of which are guaranteed to get stuck in your head.

 

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014)

 

Genre: Astronomy, Educational
Starring: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

This limited series starring Neil deGrasse Tyson presents fascinating scientific concepts, in ways everyone can appreciate and understand.

Besides being a great show, Cosmos possesses breathtaking visuals and cinematography. There’s no way to describe two stars colliding; you simply have to see it for yourself.

Stream it on Disney+ here.

 

The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019)

 

Genre: Comedy, Sitcom
Starring: Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

While the show’s content may not be everyone’s cup of tea, its theme is irresistibly catchy, and just plain fun.

Visuals quickly flash through history’s most critical moments.  Finally, it lands on the main characters—all set to the Barenaked Ladies’ earworm.

Stream it on HBO Max here.

 

American Horror Story (2011-Present)

 

Genre: Horror
Starring: Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

The series is creepy, but the intro is by far the scariest part of the show.

Ambient noises combine to form a partial melody, which mimics a heartbeat quickening, the buzz of insects, rattling glass, and who knows what else.

The fast-paced visuals are full of menacing symbology, like shattered doll faces and rusty metal implements.

You can stream it on Hulu here.

 

The Walking Dead (2010-Present)

 

Genre: Horror, Zombies
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

Though the theme song is strong on its own, The Walking Dead enhances that by pairing it with strong visuals of the abandoned, post-apocalyptic world in which it takes place.

It’s eerie enough, just looking at cars abandoned in the road. By the time you finally see the zombies in the shadows, the stage is set all too perfectly for horror.

You can stream it on Netflix here, or Amazon Prime here.

 

The X-Files (1993-2018)

 

Genre: Science Fiction
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%

The X-Files has less of a theme song, and more of a memorable whistling tune.

Combined with the imagery, however—paranormal creatures, and psychedelic cells melting—it’s as recognizable today as it was nearly three decades ago.

Stream it on Hulu here.

 

Death Note (2006-2007)

 

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Anime
Starring: Kappei Yamaguchi, Brad Swaile
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

The intro combines a great song with Christian symbolism,which is pervasive throughout the series.

From depicting the main character as a stained glass window, to showing him taking a bite from the proverbial apple, the intro for this show establishes the light and the darkness in each character.

Stream it on Netflix here.

 

Mirai Nikki (2011)

 

Genre: Horror, Anime
Starring: Brina Palencia, Josh Grelle
IMDB: 7.6/10

Also called The Future Diary, this horror anime’s gruesomeness is well established in its bloody opening.

Mirai Nikki’s theme song is simply excellent. Meanwhile, the monochromatic images of the characters —with an emphasis on the brutally red blood—may not tell you much in terms of plot…but you definitely know what kind of show you’re in for.

Stream it on Hulu here.

 

Cowboy Bebop (1998)

 

Genre: Science Fiction, Anime
Starring: Steve Blum, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

The big-band sounds of this theme song pair perfectly with its visuals: the main characters getting their groove on against bold, bright colors.

This intro gets you excited for some serious Old West shenanigans, and never fails to make you smile.

Stream it on Hulu here.

 

The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air (1990-1996)

 

Genre: Comedy, Sitcom
Starring: Will Smith, James Avery
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

Featuring one of the most memorable theme songs of all time, The Fresh Prince intro sets the show up flawlessly.

It’s got that storytelling element popular in many 80s and 90s sitcoms—explaining how, exactly, the main character got into this situation.  Fortunately, however, it lacks the cheesy keyboard or sax solos.

Outlandish neon fashion and Will Smith’s now well-known rap award this intro a spot on every millennial’s nostalgia watchlist.

Stream it on HBO Max here.

 

Game Of Thrones (2011-2019)

 

Genre: Fantasy, Action
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Where To Watch: HBOMax, Hulu, YouTube TV, Amazon Prime

While the final season monumentally disappointed most of its fans, Game of Thrones still deserves praise for its opening.

Watching civilization rise and fall, through computer-generated mechanisms of buildings on a map, is as cool as it is informative.

Each season, the viewpoint focuses on the portion of the map where the episodes will take place. It also reminds the audience of where everyone lives in this sprawling, storied world.

Stream it on HBO Max, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

 

The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

 

Genre: Science Fiction
Starring: Rod Serling
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

This spooky show often featured cautionary tales about misusing science and modern technologies.

However, the most poignant episodes focused on the terrors in the human psyche—which was well reflected in the opening.

The intro sequence shows a door, while Serling narrates, “You’re about to enter a show…a show not only of frights and fears but of the mind…”

Stream it on Hulu here.

 

The Wire (2002- 2008)

Genre: Crime, Drama
Starring: Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

The opening intro of this show features the song “Way down in the Hole” by Compulsive Gamblers.

It cuts to various shots of police work, helicopters, the inner cities and some of the problems it faces when it comes to illicit activities.

One interesting fact about the opening theme is that even though there was only one song used for all the season, they didn’t stick to the same version. Each season used a different version of the song, utilizing the gifting of various artists: Blind Boys of Alabama, Tom Waits, The Neville Brothers, Steve Earle and DoMaJe.

At the end of each opening theme, there is the opening quote to lay the theme for the episode ahead.

Stream it on HBO Max.

 

The Simpsons (1989 – Present)

Genre: Animation, Comedy
Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Sam Simon
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Having first aired since December 17, 1989, little has changed in the opening theme in over 700 episodes the show currently has.

But the old adage rings true, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The only change the Simsons have, and do, make to the opening credits is when the family is on the couch.

There are several hundred different iterations ranging simply from the family doing something a little different, to having completely different cartoons featured within the credits or on the couch.

The show has had somewhat of a cult-like following for the decades that it has aired. If you somehow have avoided this show, it’s worth a watch.

Watch it on FOX NOW.

 

South Park (1997 – Present)

Genre: Animation, Comedy
Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Brian Graden
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

First airing since August 13, 1997, much like The Simpsons, little has changed to the opening them to this intro song in the 300+ episodes that have aired.

Of course, there are theme changes for Halloween or Christmas here and there, or the adjustment to lyrics sung by the boys but the large majority of the song has been led by lead singer of PRIMUS Les Claypool.

If you’d like to check out the lyrics to what the opening songs are, and have been in the past, you can check it out here. Although, do be warned, Kenny’s lyrics can be considered “mature”.

Watch South Park here.

 

Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

Having aired for five seasons and containing over 60 episodes, fans still couldn’t get enough of this award-winning show. Which ultimately led to the prequal titled Better Call Saul and the sequel movie El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. 

With a dark, ominous sounding twangy guitar featuring the stars of the show as well as scenes from episodes, the viewer knows they’re in for a rollercoaster of a ride.

Watch Breaking Bad on Netflix.

 

Scrubs (2001 – 2010)

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Starring: Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%

Scrubs is another award-winning show with a cult-like following that fans couldn’t get enough of either.

Featuring a song title “Superman” by Lazlo Bane, the opening intro features characters from the main cast moving through their daily hospital activities.

A little-known fact, of many, about the opening intro of scrubs is that there was actually an error for about 5 seasons. Only eagle-eyed fans with some medical knowledge would’ve been able to spot that the X-ray was actually backwards.

Watch Scrubs on Prime.

via GIPHY

TV show intros that stick with you are few and far between, especially now that sequences are getting truncated, or skipped altogether.

But when a show gets the visuals, theme, and mood just right, its introduction can do something incredible—indeed, exactly what an intro is meant to: set the stage for the great content to follow.

In other words, music plays a very important role overall in a show. Some of the best TV shows of all time have a theme song. But it’s not always just the intro that music is featured in. The next time you’re watching your favorite Amazon Prime original series, perk those ears up to see how music can play an important role before, during, and even after the show.