The best theme songs/music in tv/movies

by dfle3 | created - 21 Oct 2013 | updated - 12 Feb 2014 | Public

[Work in progress]

My pick of the best songs/instrumentals etc. used in tv shows or movies. Might try and rank them according to original instrumental (tv)/original song (tv)/etc.

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1. Rush (1974–1976)

50 min | Adventure, Drama, History

Stories of the lives of people living in and around the goldfields in the Australian bush during the 1850's.

Stars: John Waters, Max Meldrum, Alain Doutey, Vincent Ball

Votes: 49

#1 Original instrumental (tv)

Composed by George Dreyfus, played by...

Brian May and the A.B.C. Showband - Rush

Extract from Brian May's Wikipedia page:

"The theme was composed by Australian George Dreyfus, but May's arrangement of the theme was recorded by the Show Band and quickly reached the top of the Australian charts, selling more than 100,000 copies. This type of success was usually reserved for pop groups such as Sherbert and Skyhooks."

2. Van der Valk (1972–1992)

120 min | Action, Drama

Gritty British-made Police drama series set in the beautiful location of Amsterdam, Netherlands. Cynical Dutch Detective Commissaris "Piet" Van der Valk (Barry Foster) and his colleagues investigate murders, kidnappings, and political corruption.

Stars: Barry Foster, Michael Latimer, Joanna Dunham, Susan Travers

Votes: 219

#2 Original instrumental (tv)

Composed by Jan Stoeckart (using the pseudonym Jan Trombey) accourding to Wikipedia. Peformed by...

The Simon Park Orchestra - Eye level

Hopefully this entry is valid as Wikipedia mentions that the original music was created in 1971 by De Wolfe Music, which made music for use in tv shows etc.

An excerpt from the Wikipedia page for the composer:

"ITV had picked the tune, which Stoeckart had written a few years earlier, from the De Wolfe catalogue. The tune, loosely based on a German/Dutch nursery rhyme from the 18th century, became an instant hit with viewers and record buyers, as the recording - made by the Simon Park Orchestra - climbed to number one on the UK singles chart in 1973."

3. Hawaii Five-O (1968–1980)

60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

The investigations of Hawaii Five-0, an elite branch of the Hawaii State Police answerable only to the governor and headed by stalwart Steve McGarrett.

Stars: Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong, Herman Wedemeyer

Votes: 5,197

#3 Original instrumental (tv)

Morton Stevens

4. Who Pays the Ferryman? (1977– )

50 min | Drama

Alan Haldane returns to Crete where he fought in the second world war. Only to find out that his former girlfriend died, but had a daughter. He decides to stay.

Stars: Jack Hedley, Betty Arvaniti, Takis Emmanuel, Patience Collier

Votes: 138

#4 Original instrumental (tv)

Yannis Markopoulos

5. Doctor Who (1963–1989)

TV-PG | 45 min | Adventure, Drama, Family

The adventures in time and space of the Doctor, a Time Lord who changes appearance and personality by regenerating when near death, and is joined by companions in battles against aliens and other megalomaniacs.

Stars: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker

Votes: 33,550

#5 Original instrumental (tv)

Composed by Australian Ron Grainer, performed by...

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop

This has the great middle eighth of the theme which you'd sometimes here during the end credits (here it starts at 0:34 seconds).

An extract from the Wikipedia entry for the theme tune states:

"On hearing the finished result, Grainer was amazed, and famously asked, "Did I write that?"."


"The original theme was composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, with assistance from Dick Mills. The various parts were built up using musique concrète techniques....It is widely regarded as a significant and innovative piece of electronic music, recorded well before the availability of commercial synthesisers or multitrack mixers."

6. The Rockford Files (1974–1980)

TV-PG | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

The cases of an easy going ex-convict turned private investigator.

Stars: James Garner, Noah Beery Jr., Joe Santos, Luis Delgado

Votes: 6,180

#6 Original instrumental (tv)

Mike Post

7. Catweazle (1970–1971)

30 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family

Catweazle is a magician from the time of the Normans who is cast into the future by magic. With the help of two boys he uses magic in an attempt to return to his own time.

Stars: Geoffrey Bayldon, Robin Davies, Gary Warren, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell

Votes: 696

#7 Original instrumental (tv)


8. Man About the House (1973–1976)

30 min | Comedy

One morning after a particularly wild party, Chrissy and Jo wake up to find Robin sleeping in their bath. He needs a place to live, they need a flatmate that can cook, so they decide to let... See full summary »

Stars: Richard O'Sullivan, Paula Wilcox, Sally Thomsett, Yootha Joyce

Votes: 1,003

#8 Original instrumental (tv)

Johnny Hawksworth - Up to date *

* Wikipedia states something similar for this as for "Van der Valk":

"it was not specially commissioned for the show, rather provided via the Production music company De Wolfe Music and most recently, made available in 1996 by independent record company Studio2Stereo on their CD "The sound gallery – Volume two". (Matrix number 7243 8 52990 2 5)."

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003)

TV-14 | 44 min | Action, Drama, Fantasy

A young woman, destined to slay vampires, demons and other infernal creatures, deals with her life fighting evil, with the help of her friends.

Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Head

Votes: 120,236

#9 Original instrumental (tv)

Nerf Herder

Wikipedia notes that:

"The song sounds similar to a section of a German pop song from the Eighties called "Codo" by "Deutsch-Österreichisches Feingefühl" (DÖF), but in 2006 Nerf Herder said that they had "never heard of DÖF," and the similarity was coincidental."

From memory, that German song's similarity seemed hard to view as merely 'coincidental' on the part of this tv show.

10. Dave Allen at Large (1971–1979)

30 min | Comedy

Comedy show by Irish comedian

Stars: Dave Allen, Michael Sharvell-Martin, Jacqueline Clarke, Ronnie Brody

Votes: 298

#10 Original instrumental (tv)

Alan Hawkshaw - Blarney Stoned

11. Country (1984)

PG | 105 min | Drama

Gilbert Ivy and his wife Jewell are farmers. They seem to be working against the odds, producing no financial surplus. Gilbert has lost hope of ever becoming prosperous, but his wife ... See full summary »

Director: Richard Pearce | Stars: Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Wilford Brimley, Matt Clark

Votes: 1,667 | Gross: $9.64M

There is no entry at this site for the rural affairs programme "Countrywide" on ABC TV this will have to make do.

#11 Original instrumental (tv)

Tommy Emmanuel

12. Number 96 (1972–1977)

25 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

Drama examining the lives of residents of a Sydney apartment block. Initial storylines focused on adultery, drug use, frigidity, rape, gossip, homosexuality, marriage problems, racism. The ... See full summary »

Stars: Pat McDonald, Jeff Kevin, Joe Hasham, Elaine Lee

Votes: 72

#12 Original instrumental (tv)


13. The Sweeney (1974–1978)

60 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

Jack Regan is a hard edged detective in the Flying Squad of London's Metropolitan Police. He pursues villains by methods which are underhanded and often illegal, frequently violent, and more often than not, successful.

Stars: John Thaw, Dennis Waterman, Garfield Morgan, John Alkin

Votes: 1,557

14. Bless This House (1971–1976)

30 min | Comedy

Bless This House centres on life in Birch Avenue, Putney, where travelling stationery salesman Sid Abbott (Sidney James) and his wife Jean (Diana Coupland) live with their teenagers: Mike (... See full summary »

Stars: Sidney James, Diana Coupland, Robin Stewart, Sally Geeson

Votes: 676

#14 Original instrumental (tv)

Geoff Love

15. Homicide (1964–1977)

50 min | Action, Crime, Drama

The cases and crimes actioned by the Victoria (Australia) homicide squad, with many cases based of true events.

Stars: Leonard Teale, George Mallaby, John Fegan, Alwyn Kurts

Votes: 78

#15 Original instrumental (tv)


16. The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (1968–1970)

30 min | Comedy, Fantasy

Lovely young widow Carolyn Muir, her two young children, and the maid discover that the New England seaside house they've moved into is haunted by the former owner -- an old salt named ... See full summary »

Stars: Hope Lange, Edward Mulhare, Reta Shaw, Harlen Carraher

Votes: 974

#16 Original instrumental (tv)

Dave Grusin

17. The Adventures of Black Beauty (1972–1974)

Not Rated | 55 min | Adventure, Family

Black Beauty is a pure black, thoroughbred horse in late nineteenth century rural England, who is adopted into the household of James Gordon, a local doctor and widower, and befriended by ... See full summary »

Stars: William Lucas, Charlotte Mitchell, Roderick Shaw, Michael Culver

Votes: 306

#17 Original instrumental (tv)

Denis King - Galloping home

18. Get Smart (1965–1970)

TV-G | 25 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

Maxwell Smart, a highly intellectual but bumbling spy working for the CONTROL agency, battles the evil forces of rival spy agency KAOS with the help of his competent partner Agent 99.

Stars: Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, Edward Platt, Robert Karvelas

Votes: 10,043

#18 Original instrumental (tv)

Irving Szathmary

19. Peter Gunn (1958–1961)

30 min | Action, Crime, Drama

The cases of a stylishly cool private detective.

Stars: Craig Stevens, Herschel Bernardi, Lola Albright, Bill Chadney

Votes: 939

#19 Original instrumental (tv)

Henry Mancini

20. Four Corners (1961– )

45 min | News

An Australian current affairs documentary television programme, the longest running of its kind nationally, produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Stars: Sarah Ferguson, Kerry O'Brien, Andrew Olle, Tony Abbott

Votes: 76

#xx Use of pre-existing or adapted music for instrumental theme (tv)

This isn't the version that I remember...edit in...found the original tune...details here:

John Keating and The Z Men - Lost patrol *

* The tune is the B side to the theme from the British drama "Z-cars".

Someone comments on the link above that the track is an adaptation of a melody in:

"Tchaikovsky's "Capriccio Italienne".

Due to this new info, I'll have to put this track in a category for non-original themes.

21. Against the Wind (1978)

50 min | Drama, History

Mary Mulvane, an 18 year old Irish girl, is transported to New South Wales for seven years for doing little else than protecting her own property. She must endure the horror of transport to... See full summary »

Stars: Mary Larkin, Kerry McGuire, Jon English, Warwick Sims

Votes: 731

#1 Original song (tv)

Jon English - Six ribbons

22. Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–1979)

TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy

A compassionate teacher returns to his inner city high school of his youth to teach a new generation of trouble making kids.

Stars: Gabe Kaplan, Ron Palillo, John Travolta, Robert Hegyes

Votes: 4,883

#2 Original song (tv)

John Sebastian - Welcome back

23. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977)

TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy

The lives and trials of a young single woman and her friends, both at work and at home.

Stars: Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner, Gavin MacLeod, Valerie Harper

Votes: 6,201

#3 Original song (tv)

Sonny Curtis - Love is all around

Alternative version from 1st series

24. The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1968–1970)

TV-G | 60 min | Adventure, Animation, Family

A pop group consisting of four anthropomorphic animals host a variety of cartoons, songs, and skits.

Stars: The Krofft Puppets, Kim Kahana, Frank Aletter, Rockne Tarkington

Votes: 1,400

#4 Original song (tv)

Mark Barkan and Ritchie Adams - The tra la la song (one banana, two banana)

Wikipedia lists this song as reaching #96 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1969.

25. The Outsiders (1976–1977)

60 min | Adventure

Charlie Cole and his grandson Pete Jarrett travel around outback Australia in a beaten-up ute, finding itinerant work along the way. In each place they befriend locals and become involved ... See full summary »

Stars: Andrew Keir, Sascha Hehn, Herbert Tiede, Vincent Ball

Votes: 24

#5 Original song (tv)

Hopefully this is the right's the Australian ABC TV series...a very good one too...eerie, outback road movie vibe...

sung by...

Doug Parkinson - The outsiders

26. Minder (1979–1994)

60 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

Arthur Daley, a small-time conman, hires former boxer Terry McCann to be his 'minder', so Terry can protect him (Arthur) from other, small-time, crooks. While Terry is trying his hardest to... See full summary »

Stars: George Cole, Glynn Edwards, Dennis Waterman, Gary Webster

Votes: 1,678

#6 Original song (tv)

Dennis Waterman (the star of the show) - I could be so good for you (co-written by his wife of the time, Patricia)

Full, single release version:

27. Good Times (1974–1979)

TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy

A poor family make the best of things in the Chicago housing projects.

Stars: Ja'net DuBois, Ralph Carter, BernNadette Stanis, Jimmie Walker

Votes: 5,251

#7 Original song (tv)

Wikipedia states of this song:

"The theme was composed by Dave Grusin with lyrics written by Alan & Marilyn Bergman. It was sung by Jim Gilstrap and Blinky Williams."

Slower, closing credits theme (with slightly different lyrics at times):

28. One Day at a Time (1975–1984)

TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy

The misadventures of a divorced mother, her family, and their building superintendent in Indianapolis.

Stars: Bonnie Franklin, Valerie Bertinelli, Pat Harrington Jr., Mackenzie Phillips

Votes: 3,267

#8 Original song (tv)

This is it

Wikipedia states:

"Composed by Brill Building songwriter Jeff Barry, and performed by RCA recording artist Polly Cutter."

29. Cheers (1982–1993)

TV-PG | 22 min | Comedy, Drama

The regulars of the Boston bar Cheers share their experiences and lives with each other while drinking or working at the bar where everybody knows your name.

Stars: Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger, George Wendt

Votes: 43,996

#9 Original song (tv)

Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo - Where everybody knows your name

The full version:

30. Growing Pains (1985–1992)

TV-G | 30 min | Comedy, Family

The misadventures of a family with a home business father and a journalist mother.

Stars: Alan Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Kirk Cameron, Jeremy Miller

Votes: 12,458

#10 Original song (tv)

As long as we've got each other

Written and composed by both John Bettis and Steve Dorff. Sung by B.J.Thomas in the first series, then with Thomas and Jennifer Warnes and then Dusty Springfield in later series (see Wikipedia for details).

31. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

PG | 142 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

61 Metascore

James Bond woos a mob boss' daughter and goes undercover to uncover the true reason for Blofeld's allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world.

Director: Peter R. Hunt | Stars: George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti

Votes: 73,230 | Gross: $22.80M

#01 007 James Bond song

Louis Armstrong - We have all the time in the world

32. Moonraker (1979)

PG | 126 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

66 Metascore

James Bond investigates the mid-air theft of a space shuttle, and discovers a plot to commit global genocide.

Director: Lewis Gilbert | Stars: Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel

Votes: 83,582 | Gross: $70.31M

#02 007 James Bond song

Shirley Bassey - Moonraker

33. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

GP | 120 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

59 Metascore

A diamond smuggling investigation leads James Bond to Las Vegas, where he uncovers an evil plot involving a rich business tycoon.

Director: Guy Hamilton | Stars: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood

Votes: 88,196 | Gross: $43.82M

#03 007 James Bond song

Shirley Bassey - Diamonds are forever

The movie was actually based on the song, not vice versa...believe it...or not.

34. You Only Live Twice (1967)

PG | 117 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

61 Metascore

Agent 007 and the Japanese Secret Service ninja force must find and stop the true culprit of a series of spacejackings before nuclear war is provoked.

Director: Lewis Gilbert | Stars: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsurô Tanba

Votes: 89,857 | Gross: $43.08M

#04 007 James Bond song

Nancy Sinatra - You only live twice

This song has really grown on me over the years...wouldn't have ranked it so highly when I first bought "James Bond greatest hits"...on cassette, I think it was! Maybe it could be my #3.

35. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

PG | 125 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

55 Metascore

James Bond investigates the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads, with the help of a K.G.B. Agent, whose lover he killed.

Director: Lewis Gilbert | Stars: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel

Votes: 90,950 | Gross: $46.80M

#05 007 James Bond song

Carly Simon - Nobody does it better

This might have been my #1 when I first heard "James Bond greatest hits" but maybe I just heard it too many times (this is probably the only Bond song that you hear/heard on commercial FM classic hits stations in Australia). Listening to it now on You Tube, you can't doubt its quality. One of the best Bond songs ever.

36. Octopussy (1983)

PG | 131 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

63 Metascore

A fake Fabergé egg, and a fellow Agent's death, lead James Bond to uncover an international jewel-smuggling operation, headed by the mysterious Octopussy, being used to disguise a nuclear attack on N.A.T.O. forces.

Director: John Glen | Stars: Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan, Kristina Wayborn

Votes: 88,168 | Gross: $67.90M

#06 007 James Bond songs

Rita Coolidge - All time high

The last great Bond song.

37. Goldfinger (1964)

PG | 110 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

87 Metascore

While investigating a gold magnate's smuggling, James Bond uncovers a plot to contaminate the Fort Knox gold reserve.

Director: Guy Hamilton | Stars: Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe, Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton

Votes: 160,988 | Gross: $51.08M

#07 007 James Bond songs

Shirley Bassey - Goldfinger

38. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

PG | 125 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

43 Metascore

James Bond is led to believe that he is targeted by the world's most expensive assassin while he attempts to recover sensitive solar cell technology that is being sold to the highest bidder.

Director: Guy Hamilton | Stars: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams

Votes: 88,182 | Gross: $20.97M

#08 007 James Bond song

Lulu - The man with the golden gun

Yes, it's cheesy...but I like it. And this is one of my favourite Bond films too!

39. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

PG | 127 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

54 Metascore

Agent 007 is assigned to hunt for a lost British weapons communication/control device and prevent it from falling into enemy hands.

Director: John Glen | Stars: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol, Lynn-Holly Johnson

Votes: 85,185 | Gross: $62.30M

#09 007 James Bond songs

Sheena Easton - For your eyes only

Used to like this song more years ago.

40. Licence to Kill (1989)

PG-13 | 133 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

58 Metascore

James Bond goes rogue and sets off to unleash vengeance on a drug lord who tortured his best friend, a C.I.A. Agent, and left him for dead and murdered his bride after he helped capture him.

Director: John Glen | Stars: Timothy Dalton, Robert Davi, Carey Lowell, Talisa Soto

Votes: 87,595 | Gross: $34.67M

#10 007 James Bond songs

Patti Labelle - If you asked me to

41. Never Say Never Again (1983)

PG | 134 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

68 Metascore

A S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Agent has stolen two American nuclear warheads, and James Bond must find their targets before they are detonated.

Director: Irvin Kershner | Stars: Sean Connery, Kim Basinger, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max von Sydow

Votes: 56,985 | Gross: $55.50M

#11 007 James Bond songs

Lani Hall - Never say never again

This sounds dated and a bit cliché...yet nice enough.

42. Vision On (1965–1976)

30 min | Family

A show presenting art projects and pantomime performances oriented for a hearing impaired youth audience.

Stars: Pat Keysell, Rex Hays, Ralph Thompson, Robin Pitman

Votes: 60

#1 Use of pre-existing instrumental music for the theme music (tv)

Allen Toussaint - Java (played by Al Hirt/Bert Kaempfert)

This piece of music was used for the closing credits according to Wikipedia.

43. Twin Peaks (1990–1991)

TV-MA | 47 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.

Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook

Votes: 158,638

#2 Use of pre-existing instrumental music for the theme music (tv)

Julee Cruise - Falling*

* This is basically her song minus the vocals, I believe. I could be wrong on this attribution as the show's composers - Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch - were also heavily involved in the music in Cruise's own album as well as her lyrics...according to Wikipedia.

44. Follyfoot (1971–1973)

30 min | Family, Drama

Young Dora is sent to stay with her uncle on his farm in rural England while her parents travel overseas for a year. Seeing as she has a love for horses, her uncle suggests she visit ... See full summary »

Stars: Gillian Blake, Steve Hodson, Arthur English, Christian Rodska

Votes: 101

#1 Use of pre-existing song for the theme music (tv)

The Settlers - The lightning tree

The full song:

45. Kingdom Hospital (2004)

608 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Stephen King's take on the masterpiece series by Lars von Trier. A great disaster threatens a haunted hospital in Lewiston, Maine, built on the site of a Civil War-era mill fire in which many children died.

Stars: Jamie Harrold, Diane Ladd, Bruce Davison, Jack Coleman

Votes: 6,850

#2 Use of pre-existing song for the theme music (tv)

Ivy - Worry about you

This song was also used in "The 4400" but perhaps only incidentally.

46. Prisoner: Cell Block H (1979–1986)

50 min | Crime, Drama

The lives of women behind bars in a female prison.

Stars: Elspeth Ballantyne, Betty Bobbitt, Sheila Florance, Maggie Kirkpatrick

Votes: 1,582

* Perhaps I should have sub-categories for songs/ in perhaps a category for adult shows, a category for children's shows etc. In any case, this is the theme to the Australian soap "Prisoner", which was called something else overseas.

#XX Original song (tv)

Lynne Hamilton - On the inside

47. The Liver Birds (1969–1996)

30 min | Comedy

The lives and loves of Beryl Hennessey and Sandra Hutchinson, two young, single women sharing a flat in Liverpool.

Stars: Nerys Hughes, Polly James, Mollie Sugden, Elizabeth Estensen

Votes: 196

? Check to see if original or pre-existing.

The Scaffold -

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