Brian Lowry on TV’s Best Opening Titles: ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘The Walking Dead’

Walking Dead Game of Thrones Opening

Game of Thrones returns April 6, bringing with it what is arguably TV’s finest current opening-title sequence. What makes a great main title? A topnotch show helps, obviously – or at least, does on this list. Here, aside from Ramin Djawadi’s hummable, stirring and muscular score, there’s that handy visual guide to help put audiences in the mood for another trip to George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world.

As for other contenders for the throne, here are five:

The Big Bang Theory: Yes, it’s over in a flash, but the Barenaked Ladies’ theme song helpfully covers several billion years of history in playfully introducing CBS’ mega-hit comedy. (This video is an illustrated version.)

Downton Abbey: John Lunn’s score coupled with the great estate are integral characters in PBS’ lustrous period melodrama.

Louie: What could be more appropriate than using the song “Brother Louie” to set the tone for Louis C.K.’s melancholy gem? Just don’t try to make sense of the lyrics.

Da Vinci’s Demons: This Starz series not only features a strong Bear McCreary score but cleverly incorporates Da Vinci’s drawings into the animated opening credits.

The Walking Dead: Bear McCreary again, here with a score that perfectly captures the sense of dread and urgency the show seeks to conjure. Indeed, for fans, those few repeated notes are almost like, well, ringing the dinner bell.

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  1. Cyberg00se says:

    To add to the fail, no love for Trevor Morris and Vikings. No music cred for you.

  2. Cyberg00se says:

    You forgot Black Sails. Fail. Game of Thrones is a great show but its score lacks soul.

  3. Chris Perez says:

    Have to agree with GoT as the best, but add a nod to the American Horror Story openers …

  4. No love for True Detective? I would say it ties with GoT for best opening credits.

  5. Jacques Strappe says:

    Time is money, which is why more broadcast network shows devote about 15 seconds or so to their opening credits. Pay cable channel HBO can afford a cinema length opening. I really like to opening music for ER. There used to be wonderful scores for many older television shows but that was a different era and there were far fewer commercial breaks.

  6. John Shea says:

    ‘Game Of Thrones’ is excellent, despite its anachronistic Steampunk flavor.

  7. Brendan says:

    Breaking bad guys, how could he forget that.

  8. titoveli says:

    Dexter
    TBBT
    NCIS
    NCIS LA
    Person Of Interest

  9. In the past fifteen years, HBO has probably the most consistent number of great title sequences for their shows-The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Rome, Deadwood, True Blood, all the way up to True Detective just to name a few.

  10. AdamD says:

    Ummm… True Detective, Six Feet Under, Dexter.

  11. Monika says:

    Vikings also has a really terrific opening credits scene.

  12. Black Sails was pretty awesome

    • Anon says:

      I agree. The Black Sails theme blew me away and just fits so perfectly into the theme. It bests half of this list in my opinion.

  13. Father Time says:

    Days of our Lives has the best opening ever!

  14. Mark says:

    Brooklyn 99’s opening credits/theme song is my favorite. Very retro.

  15. Ameer says:

    Although the show’s quality has declined over time, I would add True Blood to that list in a heartbeat. The opening credits are still a treat.

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