First Impressions: The Most Impactful Opening Credits in TV

First impressions are a powerful thing. In the world of TV, they set the tone for what you’re about to see and, when well executed, persuade you to invest more of your precious time. What’s more, they vary substantially from show to show.

Today, we explore some of the most impactful opening credits in TV history. Some showcase world-class animation and creativity, some present self-contained stories of their very own, while others still, enjoy a legacy that’s outlasted the very TV show that they once introduced.

Without further ado, here are the most impactful opening credits in TV history. Let’s go!

The X-Files

The X-Files opener is as iconic as it is perfect. This 42-second opening walks the viewer through a series of character shots, UFO footage, and fading phrases like “Paranormal activity,” and “Government denies knowledge.”

But let’s get real, the element that elevates the X-Files opener to an A-plus is its creepy score. The eerie X-Files theme song sets the tone for the eerie story about to be presented. It’s simple, sure. But it’s perfect in it’s simplicity.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus

The intro for Monty Python’s televised cult classic Monty Python’s Flying Circus opens with John Cleese, sitting at a desk that’s situated on a rocky, oceanside expanse. “And now for something completely different,” says John Cleese. What follows is a series of surreal animations that I struggle to describe. There’s a giant foot, farting sound effects, flowers, and a lot more. The credit goes to Terry Gilliam, and his fingerprints are all over this one.

Game of Thrones

I’m not stepping on any toes when I say that HBO’s Game of Thrones elevated the opening credits scene to stratospheric heights when they hit the airwaves back in April of 2011. The intro is a montage of the various cities and towns of the Game of Thrones world, set to a magnificent, booming orchestral score.

Where the Game of Thrones intro sets itself apart are the oh-so-subtle changes that it makes from episode to episode. The introduction’s featured cities vary based upon the content of the episode that follows. For example, if that episode’s introduction features the crown city “King’s Landing,” the viewer knows that to expect a scene featuring that city. It’s subtle and, in practice, simple. But it adds a new dynamic to an oftentimes stagnant TV trope.

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