Distinctive Theme Songs

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These are the songs that defined our lives... Rather, these are the songs that defined the televison shows and movies who, in turn, defined our lives.

There is only one quality which epitomizes a great theme song. The instant you hear it, you should immediately see the credits or the scene in which the song is played in your mind's eye. It should capture the "vibe" of the t.v. show or movie it comes from so well that it simply wouldn't be the same without it. And, without further ado and in no particular order, here are the most distinctive theme songs of all time and quotes from the Researchers who picked them on why they are so great!


The absolute best superhero theme song ever. The song even "sounds" like what I imagine it must feel like to fly.

Speed Racer

The quickness of this song is what makes it so perfect and the horn blast at the beginning makes it immediately recognizable.

Star Trek

Twilight Zone

Star Wars

This is classic John Williams. Trumpets blaring, sounding all heroic. Even more impressive is the number of musical themes from the movies that are familiar. The Imperial March. . .The cantina song. They are all classics, but one's blood really gets going when the main theme plays as Luke swings with Leia across the chasm.

The Simpsons

It's not just the catchy tune or the fact that the only lyric of the song is in fact the title of the show... I've seen people identify this theme song hearing only the first chord sung by the chorus on multiple occasions.

Chariots of Fire

Two figures running towards one another on a beach in slow-motion, arms outstretched... You can hear this song in your mind right now, can't you?

Magnificent Seven


Happy Trigger

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Pink Panther

The Great Escape

Twin Peaks

Dr. Who



The brass chords at the start then the coutry music-esque theme called the whole household in for more of JR's dirty dealings.

The BBC Football Match of the Day

A theme that was heard every Saturday night for years and instantly summed up memoried of Bovril and Meat. The BBC sadly now use different music every time they seem to cover football.

Peter Gunn Theme

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer

The band that does the theme for Buffy is called the Nerf Herders1.The light-punk meets guitar rock is a great sound for high school kids from California. The quick pace of the song has been used very well by the show in its various opening credits, as they change frequently. The show has had some good and some very bad music come around in its run, but the theme song definately rocks.

Gilligan's Island

It's hard not to remember a song if it recaps the plot of the entire show everytime you hear it.


The eerie twinkle of bass. The main theme sounds as if something is lurking in the water. In the movie the theme is always there, like the shark. Sometimes it will crescendo with the action, but more often it's just out there. . .lurking. Still very creepy.


That repetitive piano theme. Very haunting, but it keeps driving, really picking up the tension in the movie.


Who could forget the somber "Suicide is Painless"? This song does a good job of capturing the more serious side of war that M*A*S*H portrayed, while the images that went along with the tune on the opening credits (I can still picture them to this day...) showed off the funny side.

The X-Files

Marc Snow had a tough job coming up with a supernatural theme that was still modern enough. The theme is pretty inderstated, but sounds so unlike anything else on television that it is still refreshing to hear.

The Prisoner

Eleven words: "I am not a number! I am a free man!"

Starsky and Hutch

"Duel of the Fates"

This chorus is synonamous in my head with the one redeeming feature of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The voices and the twirling lightsabers and the tragedy and the drama... This 5 or so minutes was worth the $6 admission price several times over.

Monty Python's Flying Circus Theme

Blue Peter

Barnacle Bill is an essential tune in the childhood for every child growing up in the UK. It has gone through a few changes down the years but is still the same tune underneath it all.

The Avengers

Though the series actually had two themes (with a third composed for the 1970s revival The New Avengers), it's the one composed by Laurie Johnson for the Diana Rigg / Linda Thorson episodes that is best remembered. It begins and ends with a pair of bold, brassy fanfares. At the beginning, the fanfares give way to tinkly piano and a swooning string section that, combined, offer a sense of British sophistication and a little bit of patriotic flourish too. Throw in a few brass stabs to hint at the action sequences that will follow and you have a theme that truly defines the quirky charm of the programme it introduces.

The A-Team

Saturday mornings in the 1980s just would not have been the same without:

"... and IF you can find them - maybe you can hire... THE A TEAM"



It'll turn any thirty something male into a twelve year old with an invisible machine gun in five seconds flat.

Hawaii 5-0

Has anyone, anywhere in the WORLD, ever even ONCE surfed a longboard, sat in a Canadian canoe or paddled a dragon boat, and NOT sung the theme tune to Hawaii 5-0? It's practically a legal requirement!

1Han Solo was called a "scruffy looking nerf herder" by Leia in the early part of Empire Strikes Back

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