I love me a good cartoon theme song and collect about all I can find. The idea’s been brewing in my head to make a list of what I consider to be the all-time best themes — personal favorites rather than popular ones (you won’t see Simpsons on here, for example, because I find it shrill and annoying even though it is well-known). Indulge me and enjoy some awesome tunes!
90. Transformers — There’s a difference between how identifiable a theme is and how actually good it is. I think the separation is really wide on this one. Barely made the list, but it is here.
89. Sealab 2021 — Short and weird. Just how I like it.
88. Malo Korrigan and the Space Tracers — New discovery, including it because the drums and weird robotic repetition drive it over the line.
87. Wallace and Gromit — So very old-timey and British, but this is a classic that I actually enjoy. Wish they had made more of these shorts!
86. Chalkzone — There’s like three wildly different elements coming together for this theme, and darn it if it doesn’t work.
85. Challenge of the Superfriends — So cheesy. So badly animated. And yet it’s hard not to love the enthusiasm that’s clearly behind this theme. I actually like it for about two seconds.
84. Captain Planet — Let me be honest: Every time I hear “he’s a HERO gonna take pollution down to ZERO,” I want the evil polluters to win. I never liked this show. But… yeah… it’s not a terrible theme song, even if it was lazily written.
83. The Mighty Ducks — Ducks rock? Yes they do.
82. Clone High — This kind of gives me a headache but it’s one of those weirdly crazy concepts that makes for a strong pitch via theme song.
81. Ulysses 31 — Anytime someone asks me why the ’80s were so rad, I’ll point to theme songs like this.
80. King of the Hill — Sometimes all you need is a triangle, a few guitars, and a very excited drummer.
79. Tales from the Crypt Keeper — If it’s Halloweeny and even slightly appealing, I’m there.
78. Hammer Man — As you can deduce from much of this list, the goofier and dorkier the track, the more I might find myself attracted to it. Basically, it’s MC Hammer rapping to himself about himself.
77. Fanboy and Chum Chum — The little kid in me piped up to say that this is exactly the sort of tune that makes him absurdly happy.
76. The Lion Guard — It’s faintly reminiscent of one of Disney’s greatest animated films, so yes, I have to like it.
75. Extreme Ghostbusters — Oh, everyone HATES this theme. It’s the worst of the 90s style. Yet… I kind of dig it. A bit.
74. Ruby Gloom — The bah-bah-bah-bright side of the dark side. It’s happy goth!
73. Kim Possible — I think it’s important for us as a society to remember that there was a time when teenagers were beeped when someone wanted to reach them.
72. Pokemon — My kids would disown me if I left this off the list. Also, it’s not a half-bad theme even if it is about animal slavery.
71. Scooby Doo — I’m really not a fan of most cartoon themes pre-1980, but I’ll let this one pass because I watched it a lot back as a kid and find the music mellowly enjoyable today.
70. The Magic School Bus — Please let this be a normal theme song (NO WAY!).
69. Astro Boy (2003) — I have no connection with this anime series, but the guitar riff and heavy synth is hard to ignore. I felt it had to be on this list.
68. ATOM — If you’re making some sort of superhero teen cartoon show, you might as well go big or go home with the theme. This goes really big.
67. Donkey Kong Country — Horrible animation. Silly lyrics. Banana-slamma!
66. Super Chicken — I need to memorize these lyrics and perform it at a talent show.
65. Justice League — Never watched this, but I’ll give this some kudos for a stirring superhero theme.
64. Wunschpunsch — What is this I don’t even… hate it. I like it. I just wish I knew more about it.
63. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe — Dorky narration and sound effects… and yet the music is wildly fun. It’s the kind of music that should play any time I do something awesome, which is often.
62. Samurai Pizza Cats — At this point, television creators were just throwing darts at a board full of random words. It’s still a toetapping ditty.
61. Flying Rhino Junior High — Got to say this: They really pack in a whole lot of exposition into about a minute. And they make it fun.
60. Ben 10 — It took about one listen for this song to get etched onto my memory. I like the slightly older punk sound of its singers.
59. Phineas and Ferb — I’m all about theme songs that enthusiastically embrace an imaginative summer vacation.
58. Octonauts — Normally very little kid theme show songs are forgettable, but this one has a great energy to it that I never got tired of hearing.
57. Krypto the Superdog — The actual lyrics are beyond dumb. And yet they won’t leave my head. Why is that so?
56. The Legend of Prince Valiant — Back when they used to pour just so much effort into making super-epic cartoon theme songs.
55. Talespin — This one gets overlooked in comparison to Disney’s other classic afternoon cartoon themes, but I find it ridiculously fun. Should get more press.
54. Milo Murphy’s Law — Weird Al Yankovic did a cartoon theme song? I am so there!
53. G.I. Joe — It’s a very iconic theme, but it’s got a muffled, older sound to it that sounds a smidge like something you’d hear in the ’70s rather than the ’80s. Still does the job of getting you pumped up for the action to come. Definitely liked the movie version better.
52. Silverhawks — That hawk screech is distinctive but kind of pierces the eardrum. Still, this track and the animation has some serious style.
51. Pinky and the Brain — “What do you want to do tonight, Brain?” How fun is this to sing?
50. Heathcliff — Way, way better than Garfield. They did a good job with the lyrics. I mean, when you rhyme with “superiority” you’re on fire.
49. Spider-Man — Admit it, you watched this 1967 cartoon and know this theme by heart. It might sound old, but it’s got a zippy set of lyrics that keeps it moving quickly.
48. The Snorks — A far superior theme song than The Smurfs. When this comes on my MP3 player, I will sing along with it as loudly as I can. You should too.
47. Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors — I’m not a big fan of the heavy narration that precedes a lot of these themes, but I do like how some of these ’80s cartoons have a rock theme. That’s just not something we have today.
46. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic — Great energy to this one while casting off the syrupy thickness that ’80s girl cartoons tended to have for their themes.
45. Animaniacs — I have a love/hate relationship with this theme. It’s kind of annoying but… it’s also a lot of fun to sing at full speed. And it’s stuck in my head forever. I feel much the same way about Tiny Toon Adventures.
44. Bucky O’Hare — It’s a funky fresh rabbit!
43. Dave the Barbarian — I think the Conan parody schtick is really really old at this point, but I’ll forgive what seems like a fun and irreverent TV show. “Buh-buh-barbarian!”
42. Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends — I like how this track slowly spins up into this out-of-tune piany theme. Fast and frantic, that’s the idea!
41. M.A.S.K. — It doesn’t get more ’80s than this! That singer really is going all-out, and I respect that. I’m always on the fence as to how much I like it, but I do like it.
40. Castlevania — This is way darker than anything I remember from the Castlevania games (or Captain N), but it’s got some real style.
39. Captain N — OK, this isn’t so much of a theme song as… I don’t know. A weird commercial? But I always got pumped up watching it. A cartoon about video games in the 1980s felt cutting edge.
38. Alvin and the Chipmunks — They got a lot of mileage out of “high pitched talking,” didn’t they? It’s a much better theme song than they deserve with a heavy ’80s pop bent.
37. Widget the World Watcher — Watching this makes me feel like I’m trying to explain a dream… but my dreams never are this melodical.
36. The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest — Just a lot of epic adventure music… but sometimes that’s more than enough.
35. Galaxy High — Why not just pipe a whole bunch of vaguely sung exposition through a voice synthesizer? It’s a silly premise but, c’mon, what wasn’t in the ’80s?
34. Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers — Disney had some sort of black magic in creating a seemingly endless streak of poppy, catchy theme songs.
33. The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers — “No Guts No Glory” by John Van Tongeren and Phil Galdston takes center stage with this wonderfully animated intro. It’s definitely growing on me.
32. We Bare Bears — This is a favorite in our house, and the groovy theme helps get us in the mood for another great episode.
31. BraveStarr — I’m not that keen on the narration here, but the animation and pounding tempo has me hooked even so. Love the “dum dum dum” bit right at the beginning. Gets you so psyched. Here’s a pretty awesome fan remake of it.
30. WildC.A.T.S. — A surprisingly decent (if overly ’90s) superhero theme. Could have done without that mid-theme rap though.
29. CatDog — This is insane. Insanely MARVELOUS. I want this to be sung at my funeral for some reason.
28. Lilo and Stitch: The Series — How is Disney STILL making such amazing theme songs? I thought I had a crush on Stitch before, but after this, he might be my favorite Disney princess.
27. Batman the Animated Series — This hews very close to the 1989 movie theme but somehow makes it tighter and even better for television. Love that driving beat.
26. Bob’s Burgers — I watch this show religiously, and the opening strains of that ukulele does something wonderful to my brain.
25. The Adventures of the Gummi Bears — This is another cartoon theme that I know word-for-word and will sing it for any reason in any situation. Maybe not funerals.
24. Futurama — I rewound and watched this intro on VHS when Futurama first aired, just because I thought it was one of the best themes I ever heard. Still do.
23. Darkwing Duck — Another terrific Disney theme. It was a pretty terrific show, too — I’m glad it got a shout-out on the modern DuckTales.
22. Dinosaucers — The first time I watched this, I became an ardent fan of what was a mash-up of every ’80s trope ever. Can’t deny how incredible the synth theme is, though!
21. Star vs. the Forces of Evil — It’s just a goofy, upbeat song that has a great hook. I’m getting really tired of the CalArts style being in all of these new shows, though.
20. The Real Ghostbusters — Hey, it’s the Ghostbusters theme. That’s going to ensure a spot on this list, even if the sound effects keep intruding. Great animation, too.
19. Gravity Falls — Another seductive ear worm, this one uses whistling and what sounds like banging on those baby xylophones to establish its very strange setting.
18. C.O.W.boys of Moo Mesa — There just aren’t enough western theme songs about cow sheriffs taming the west (and presumably doing human cattle drives). I only found this one recently and felt like I had missed out on something I would have liked back as a kid.
17. Beverly Hills Teens — I kind of feel like I have to defend liking this as much as I do… but I don’t have to explain myself to you. This is why the ’80s ruled.
16. Bots Master — Remember when people used to rap like this? For like sixteen minutes in the early 1990s? I’m so glad this show was made then, because this song is pure nostalgia fuel for that era even if you never saw this show.
15. Inspector Gadget — Forget the horrible theme from the newer version, the original had a powerful hook and one of the best openings to a theme song ever.
14. Denver the Last Dinosaur — There is nothing cool about this intro. There is EVERYTHING cool about this intro. And you’ll never unhear these lyrics.
13. Invader Zim — A crazy alien martial march… and one that used to be my all-time favorite TV show intro. Those opening notes still give me goosebumps.
12. C.O.P.S. — Every cartoon intro in the ’80s looked so amazing… and then the animation quality took a severe dip with the actual show. Still, I never got tired of seeing these oddball police carve up a city for supervillains. “It’s crime fighting time!”
11. Beetlejuice — Such a zany and utterly Halloween/gothic-soaked intro… all with one of Danny Elfman’s best film themes. I actually like this better than his film version.
10. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes — For a while there they made every movie into a cartoon, no matter how obscure. And I *loved* this one, especially with the repurposed theme from the second film. It’s so dorky and I am proud to say that I tape recorded it off the TV so I could relisten to it.
9. Pole Position — Amazingly underrated cartoon theme from the ’80s. The cartoon itself looks kind of lame, but… man, that theme. Also, check out this theme cover.
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — The original. The best. A perfect marriage of lyrics, good animation, and a catchy riff. Honorable mention for the “Rise of” theme song version.
7. Amphibia — A newer discovery but an instant hit with me (just ask my kids how often I play this and do a little dance to it while they groan). There’s a great energy to this track.
6. X-Men — In my opinion, this is the best animated superhero theme song of all time. Fight me.
5. Saber Rider — Listen to this once and you’ll be singing it FOREVER. It will convert you. Just give it a chance. Also, how many cartoon theme songs get a genuine guitar solo right in the middle?
4. Huntik — I’ve had a serious man crush on this Italian cartoon theme ever since I first heard it. It is so. Freaking. Epic. I think the visual editing does a disservice to the final product, but the music? The music is perfection.
3. DuckTales (original or new version) — Ridiculously catchy and easy to sing along with. It’s also indicative of an era where the cartoon theme songs were a lot longer than they are now. Woo-hoo!
2. Thundercats — This theme simply has to be played at the loudest volume on your TV, and even then it’s NOT LOUD ENOUGH. Feel the magic! Hear the roar! Ugh this is awesome.
1. Jem — As if there would be another number one on this list! It’s outrageous! Contagious! Excitement! Glamour and glitter! It’s always been one of my all-time favorite TV intros, and I’m cementing it as the best cartoon theme of all time right here.