The Most Memorable TV Show Opening Credits

By Erin Caine
Elm Staff Writer

The title sequence of a television show is often an important part of drawing in potential viewers, and it involves a balancing-act of artistic decisions. It has to be visually eye-catching and original without being gaudy or off-putting, and it has to somehow convince viewers to listen to it every week without boring them. An opening credit sequence isn’t just a clever way to present the cast of the show, but is an art form in itself, setting the tone for the rest of the series and engaging fans in teasing out hidden clues and meanings in the visuals. Below are some of the most memorable opening credits, from iconic modern sequences to well-known classics:
1. “American Horror Story”: As an anthology horror series, naturally each of its season openings have a distinct aesthetic. The first season, “Murder House,” for example, is introduced by a dimly-lit opening credit sequence, as if we’re being taken through a haunted house, and these scenes are accentuated by creepy vintage photographs, cluing us into the house’s long, troubled history. The most memorable opening by far, however, is season four’s (“Freak Show”), which uses unnerving and grotesque stop-motion animation; the jarring soundtrack from the past three seasons is combined with a frighteningly innocent calliope melody.
2. “Game of Thrones”: Perhaps one of the most visually engaging openings on television, the sequence for “Game of Thrones” takes us through a roving shot through an intricate three-dimensional map of the series’ setting. No scene of the opening is static; like the gears of a clock, each part of every shot is constantly in motion, and the heroic-sounding soundtrack adds an even greater sense of urgency. As the handiwork of about two dozen designers, the opening sequence is so detailed you can’t look away for an instant without missing something.
3. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”: The opening itself is pretty straightforward—some shots of the city, an idyllic soundtrack—but what really makes it unforgettable is its spot-on comedic timing. A running gag in the series is for the title of the show to be a hilariously direct follow-up to what a character has just said, via a ridiculous title (such as “Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire”) is contrasted to Heinz Leissling’s blithely orchestral “Temptation Sensation” playing in the background. One of the best openings is when Mac declares to the rest of the gang, “I’m gonna save my dad’s life,” followed by the subsequent: “Mac Kills His Dad.”
4. “The Simpsons”: Perhaps amongst the most instantly-recognizable opening sequences, “The Simpsons” credits pans through the town of Springfield to the tune of an iconic Danny Elfman composition, giving us a glimpse into the everyday antics of each member of the Simpsons family before they reconvene on the living room sofa. The opening is creative and dynamic, cluing us into the personalities of the show’s characters before they even appear in the episode. Not only are there a number of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details, but the show’s opening frequently changes slightly to incorporate new visual gags. The famous couch scene at the end is the most noticeable of these changes; in one, for example, they play a game of musical chairs, and in another the words “Ceci n’est pas une couch gag” are scrawled beneath them.

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