Once upon a time, television was awash in catchy, cool, and substantive title sequences, from Green Acres and The Brady Bunch to The Facts of Life and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These days, though, they’re an increasingly vanishing art on network and even cable channels, where shows are often required to cut to the chase in order to cram in extra minutes and, more importantly, extra ads. But there is one outlet that still gives title sequences the credit that they’re due: Netflix. Each episode of the streaming service’s various original series is preceded by a complete, uncut title sequence that we generally don’t mind watching multiple times during a binge session. We’ve ranked the top 10 Netflix title sequences from the most skippable to the one you’re probably humming right now.
13. Hemlock Grove
Composer: Nathan Barr
Designer: Justin Stephenson
Runtime: 52 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show: Much like the supernatural goings-on that play out in the series, there’s a strong hint of the macabre in Barr’s somber music as well as the occultish symbols that are glimpsed between wisps of colored smoke. As the composer remarked in an interview, “The smoke suggest[s] pipe or cigar smoke in the music room of some 19th century mansion, and perhaps those folks would be listening to a cello sonata.”
Rewatchability: Low. It’s only appropriate that Netflix’s most forgettable series (which will belatedly return for its third and final season at a yet-to-be specified date) has its most forgettable title sequence. The music is droning and the kaleidoscopic effects snooze-inducing rather than trippy. You’ve seen one child-wolf hybrid, you’ve seen them all.
Composer:Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer
Designer:Karin Winslow Wachowski
Runtime:1 minute, 50 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show:If you thought the Wachowskis’ sci-fi series was bursting at the seams with characters and locations, check out how many places and faces are crammed into this nearly two-minute global collage, scored to Klimek and Tykwer’s techno-tune. It’s like traveling the world without leaving your underground dance party.
Rewatchability: Low. As a travelogue, this sequence isn’t bad, but as the introduction to a TV show, it’s just too crowded and busy. On the other hand, the lengthy runtime gives you plenty of freedom to hit the bathroom or grab more caffeine in between episodes.
11. Grace and Frankie
Song:“Stuck in the Middle With You,” covered by Grace Potter
How It Encapsulates the Show: It conveys the history of the retirement-age title characters through wedding cake figures, from their first marriage to their husbands to their husbands’ marriage… to each other. Meanwhile, country artist Potter offers up a twangy version of the Stealers Wheels favorite, made famous by Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.
Rewatchability: Low. Potter’s cover is great, but the wedding cake conceit is only funny once. We’d rather listen to the full song rather than hear a snippet played over this sequence.
10. House of Cards
Composer: Jeff Beal
Designer: Andrew Geraci
Runtime: 1 minute, 31 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show: Beal’s jittery theme song immediately establishes the same tense, urgent menace that underlies all of Frank Underwood’s actions. The atmosphere is further accentuated by Geraci’s time-lapse photography of well-known Washington D.C. locations. Cards executive producer, David Fincher, asked for Geraci specifically. “The first thing he said was, ‘Hey Drew! I’m a big fan of your work.’ I was sort of blown away. He asked me if I would be up for creating a variety of scenes for the intro, all showing D.C. in a dirty, gritty, grungy way. He was very open to the idea of letting me choose, pick, and compose nearly 99 percent of the shots, which left a lot of room for creativity.”
Rewatchability: Moderate. It’s a crisp, beautiful title sequence… the first time you watch it. By the third episode, it grows monotonous and it’s hard to resist the urge to make like the time-lapse photography and zip to the end.
Song: “Tuyo” by Rodrigo Amrante Designer: Digital Kitchen Studios Runtime: 1 minute, 29 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show: The glamorous, cash-rich lifestyle of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar (who appears via newsreel footage) is contrasted with images of the chaos and crackdowns his criminal activities inspired.
Rewatchability: Moderate. The sequence effectively establishes the setting and mood of the series, but the imagery isn’t captivating enough to demand repeat viewings.
8. Marco Polo
Composer: Daniele Luppi
Designer: Ben Smith and Bruce Wymer
Runtime: 1 minute, 37 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show: Fusing 13th century calligraphic imagery with 21st century technology, Smith and Wymer dripped ink onto paintings sketched with water and then photographed the effect with high-speed cameras. (The full process is detailed in this making-of video.) “[We] wanted to visually represent the metaphors of the show with themes of greed, betrayal, sexual intrigue, and rivalry by contrasting them with images of beauty, grace in the authenticity of the time,” Wymer wrote on his blog. The process results in striking imagery that’s nicely complemented by Luppi’s throaty score.
Rewatchability: Moderate. It belongs in a museum, rather than at the top of a mediocre TV show.
Song: “The Water Lets You In,” by Book of Fears
Runtime: 1 minute, 14 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show: This sequence wisely puts Bloodline’s best virtue —the atmospheric Florida Keys setting — on full display.
Rewatchability: Moderate. Sure, this recycles the same time-lapse shtick seen in House of Cards, but that approach actually works better here thanks to the Florida landscape. The Book of Fears track is easy on the ears, too.
6. W/Bob and David
Composer & Designer: Cyriak
Runtime: 22 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show: For their Mr. Show spin-off, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross personally tapped British graphic artist Cyriak to create an opening that matches their surreal, stream-of-consciousness sense of humor. “He’s a real soft-spoken guy who doesn’t promote himself,” Cross told Indiewire, adding that any resemblance to Terry Gilliam’s vintage Monty Python illustrations are entirely coincidental.
Rewatchability: High. Just like each episode, these opening titles are densely structured work of comic art.
Composer: John Paesano
Runtime: 1 minute, 2 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show: It grounds viewers in a blood-drenched version of Daredevil’s New York and saves the reveal of the blind vigilante’s costume for the last frame. “We had multiple companies come in and pitch, and they all had variations of the same idea, where you zoom in on an eye and you see a sonar map of the city,” remembers Daredevil executive producer, Steven S. DeKnight. “Elastic came in and [pitched] this dripping, fluid-like blood dripping over everything. We showed it to Marvel and Netflix, and they loved it. I’ve seen all the episodes, and I’ve watched them back-to-back. Not once have I fast-forwarded through that opening sequence because it’s such a joy to look at.”
Rewatchability: High. We agree with DeKnight. We can’t look away from the Daredevil title sequence either.
4. BoJack Horseman
Composer: Patrick Carney
Designer: Mike Roberts
Runtime: 53 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show: As befits the self-centeredness of the former equine superstar, the BoJack Horseman credits place BoJack front and center, as he moves through his empty Hollywood existence quaffing strong drinks until he’s blotto enough to plunge from his balcony. Carney, best known as the drummer for the Black Keys, adds to the character’s dazed and confusedness with a number that blew away the show’s creator, Raphael Bob-Waksberg. “We got other songs from a few different bands that were fun and light and bouncy, but we just kept going back to the Carney piece,” he told Cartoon Brew. “You kind of watch the intro and you go, ‘Oh wait, there might be something darker going on here.’”
Rewatchability: High. Apart from the clever conceit of watching BoJack getting smashed during the course of his day, there are lots of background jokes to notice and appreciate on each rewatch. It’s kind of like an R-rated version of The Simpsons.
3. Jessica Jones
Composer: Sean Callery
Designer: Imaginary Forces
Runtime: 1 minute, 8 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show: With its jazzy pulp score and seedy animated imagery laced with a strong purple hue—reflecting the preferred color of Jessica’s nemesis, Kilgrave—the Jessica Jones titles place you inside the mind of the titlular private eye.
Rewatchability: High. A fine companion piece to Daredevil’s blood-red drenched titles, Jessica Jones feels like part of the Marvel Universe, while distinctly reflecting the personality of its own hero.
2. Orange is the New Black
Song: “You’ve Got Time,” by Regina Spektor
Designer: Thomas Cobb Group
Runtime: 1 minute, 14 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show: According to Thomas Cobb exec producer, Gary Bryman, their original pitch involved a sequence that unfolded from Piper’s point of view. But OITNB creator Jenji Kohan nixed that in favor of a montage of real-life former female prisoners (including the real Piper, who is seen blinking at the 1:02 mark) that spoke to the diverse world the new fish would encounter behind bars. “Authenticity was the driving force behind showing our subjects as they are,“ Bryman said. “In the end, we are ecstatic with the final results.”
Rewatchability: High. They have good reason to be ecstatic. The OITNB titles are a perfect table setting for the show and Spektor’s soulful tune is the perfect accompaniment.
1. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Composer: Jeff Richmond
Designer: Emily Oberman
Runtime: 30 seconds
How It Encapsulates the Show: What better way to kick off a sitcom about a former cult kidnapping victim than with a healthy dash of auto-tune? That was Jeff Richmond’s driving idea behind the theme song for Netflix’s hit comedy series, co-created by his wife, Tina Fey. “This theme gave the audience a way into her story and set up that it was going to be at least light and fun and at its heart a comedy,” the composer told us.
Rewatchability: To put it in Beatles terms, if Richmond’s 30 Rock theme was his “Meet the Beatles” than Kimmy Schmidt is his White Album — a brilliant embellishment/deconstruction of the traditional sitcom theme song. It’s a miracle, indeed.