The 25 Best TV Theme Songs of the 80s

by Brian Morin on March 5, 2012

in Television, The 80s, Trends

Modern TV shows just don’t put the energy or time into really great theme songs anymore. To me, theme songs are as much a part of a show as the characters and the setting. In fact, when I think about a show from the past, one of the first things that come to my mind is the music that we’d hear at the beginning of every episode.

To honor the lost art of theme songs I’ve created a list of the top TV themes of the best decade in television history. Before we get into it, I did have to set some qualifications: a lot of shows began in the 70s and ended in the 80s, or began in the 80s and ended in the 90s. To be eligible for this list, the majority of the show’s run had to be in the 80s.

Now, the Top 25 TV theme songs of the 80s, and when you’re done, check out

25. The Cosby Show (1984-1992)

Other than Bill Cosby’s sweaters, is there anything more iconic about this show than its theme song? (written by Don’t Worry Be Happy’s Bobby McFerrin) By the way, is that the A-Team van that the Huxtables are getting out of in the opening?

24. Fame (1982-1987)

To be honest, I don’t remember watching this show. Still though, I know the song, which says a lot about the song itself having a life outside of the show.  The song was performed by cast member Erica Gimpel who played Coco.

23. Miami Vice (1984-1989)

The theme to Miami Vice was so popular that it’s the last instrumental to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart. For more information about Miami Vice and Magnum you’ll have to read Jason Gross’s Awesome Instrumentals of the 80s!

22. Facts of Life (1979-1988)

A spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes, Facts of Life introduced us to iconic 80s characters Blair, Tootie, Natalie, and Jo.

21. The Smurfs (1981-1989)

The 80s Saturday morning staple. As much as the lineups changed from year to year, the Smurfs were always there for us.  Never quite understood why Gargamel would want to eat them though.

20. Family Ties (1982-1989)

A really good theme to a really good show stands out to me for one reason.  The last four beats: ” Sha-la-la-la.”

19. Thundercats (1985-1989)

I never had any Thundercats toys as my Christmases and birthdays were devoted exclusively to Nintendo and GI Joe by the time they rolled into stores, but I still enjoyed the cartoon a great deal.  You have to love the awesome 80s guitar in this theme.

18. CHiPs (1977-1983)

I loved CHiPs.  I think the reason I loved it most is because I had a ride-on CHiPs motorcycle that I rode until it was so dangerous that my mom threw it away, something that I still don’t let her forget about.   I remember singing the song as I rode the toy all over my house.  As a parent myself, I imagine it drove my family nuts.

17. The People’s Court (1981-1993)

Gotta watch Wapner.  Rain Man may have brought The People’s Court to the big screen, but this catchy song began many nights watching Judge Wapner dish out his own special brand of justice.  Good thing he had Rusty backing him up.

16. Night Court (1984-1992)

I don’t know how, but Night Court somehow comedically captured the gritty streets of NY in the 80s.  The theme was a bass heavy, jazzy tune that was really catchy.

15. Growing Pains (1985-1992)

The 80s were full of family friendly sitcoms.  While Growing Pains may not be the best of the bunch, in my opinion its theme song is much more memorable.  Perhaps it’s because it was written by pop artists BJ Thomas and Jennifer Warnes.

14. Inspector Gadget (1983-1986)

I always wondered, is Inspector Gadget a robot?  Is he some sort of pre-Terminator?  Either way, I can’t help but sing along with the theme song any time I hear it. By the way, do you know what Dr. Claw looked like?

13. St. Elsewhere (1982-1988)

The show that launched the careers of Denzel Washington and Howie Mandel.  And don’t forget William Daniels, the voice of KITT and Mr. Feeny.  The theme song is very memorable.

12. Fraggle Rock (1983-1987)

The less famous Muppets in Fraggle Rock were no less entertaining and funny than their more popular brethren.  As iconic as the Muppet Show theme is to the 70s, I think the theme to Fraggle Rock is to the 80s.

11. The Fall Guy (1981-1986)

Another theme that could stand alone as a song.  The Unknown Stuntman, which makes reference to a bevy of 80s hotties, was actually sung by Lee Majors.


Jason G February 15, 2012 at 9:16 am

My favorites in this part of the list are Night Court, which had a great intro to go with the music. Loved that show!
I had a 45 record of the GAH theme growing up. That’s song the prime example of a theme song being bigger than the show itself.

Some other honorable mentions for this part of the list. The Airwolf theme is one that always got stuck in my head. They used it during the show too, which made it all the better. The theme to the cartoon M.A.S.K. is also one of my favorites.

Brian Morin February 15, 2012 at 9:21 am

I had a really hard time omitting them both from the list. They were #s 26 and 27.

Howie Decker February 15, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I love it! I whiffed on some of the Honorable Mentions I added at the end to try to appease everyone 🙂
I love that the missed ones are #26 & #27 – like me with the Top 100 Action Figures. Any that we missed were assuredly #s 101 and beyond…

S February 15, 2012 at 9:55 am

memorable songs for me that happened to come from TV shows
Fame #24
Miami Vice theme #23
Greatest American hero #5

missing from the list of TV shows themes (a guess show wasn’t as popular)
Quantum Leap

note: shouldn’t there be a nod to Mike Post creator of many TV scores like CHIPS, Quantum Leap, St Elsewhere, and A-Team.

Nice post.

Howie Decker February 15, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Yes! We fully endorse the RD80s Mike Post column, and Jason has linked to it in the comments – perhaps it was on the Top 10 page –
Quantum Leap will undoubtedly appear on the upcoming 90s version of this list, as most of its run took place in the 90s

Classick Material February 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm

so far… so good!
Yes, that might just be the A-Team van in The Cosby Show, Season 1!

Howie Decker February 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Another “Carl Winslow” Level Conspiracy??

Classick Material February 15, 2012 at 2:52 pm

You mean “Warl Cinslow”? *named changed to protect the innocent– namely me!*

Howie Decker February 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm

whoops! Rookie move. I will try to avoid future unfortunate transgressions.

Classick Material February 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Markie Post starred in two of the 25 shows on this list… coincidence? I think not!

Paul G. March 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Great list! I’d add Street Hawk, but not sure what I’d replace. Thanks for collecting these for us!

Debbi73 October 24, 2018 at 8:50 pm

Awesome list and I loved them all but I would have to tie or replace the theme from Inspector Gadget with the theme from 21 Jump Street, and an honorable mention to Booker….but only because I’m still a huge Billy Idol fan = )))

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