Movies & TV Shows

10 HBO Shows With Opening Credits So Good, They Were Nominated For An Emmy

For decades, HBO has held a reputation for making phenomenal opening credits that viewers don’t want to skip over. In fact, their opening sequences are so good, the network (and now its streamer, HBO Max) even snag Emmy nominations, almost annually, in the Outstanding Main Title Design category. Some years, HBO even grabs numerous nominations in that one category alone.

In fact, in 2002, HBO’s first year being nominated for the category, they grabbed three of the four nominations in the category, virtually assuring the networks a win (which, it did). To this day, HBO and HBO Max are known for their fantastic man title sequences.


Carnivale (2003 – 2005)

Set during the Dust Bowl era, Carnivale followed a traveling circus that seems to be gifted (and haunted) by subtle supernatural forces, which might even be alluding to a bigger fight between good and evil. Visually stunning, but unbearably confusing, Carnivale was both loved and hated.

Its opening credit sequence, however, was universally praised and even won the Emmy Award in 2004. The title sequence drifts in and out of tarot cards, bringing them to life and showing the struggles of life during the 1930s. With economic disaster and a looming second World War on the horizon, the title sequence is not only beautiful but also opens a window into America’s history.

Game Of Thrones (2011 – 2019)

It’s the series that has basically become synonymous with HBO itself these days – Game Of Thrones was a runaway success that changed television forever, proving that, if done properly, you really could recreate the movie experience with a TV series. But almost as notable as the Lannisters and Starks was that now-iconic opening credits sequence.

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The theme song alone has been listened to over 100 million times on YouTube and has received ample amounts of covers, with fans recreating the theme in a wide variety of ways. Game Of Thrones actually won the Main Title Emmy twice, once during its first season and again in the final season when the intro was updated.

Westworld (2016 – )

Originally intended to be HBO’s next great epic, trying to piggyback on Game of Throne‘s fame, Westworld ended up becoming a beautifully complicated beast of its own, realizing that instead of being just another grand epic, it had a true story to tell … one that sometimes got complicated and messy.

Its opening credits are a true testament to the amount of time and attention that went into the show and creates a beautiful and haunting scene, depicting the creation of the animatronics within Westworld. It’s worth watching even for those who have never seen the show. The credits have been nominated three times.

True Detective (2014 – )

HBO’s anthology series, True Detective, was a smash hit during its first season and went on to be nominated for 12 Emmys, winning for Main Title Design, among others including Outstanding Directing in 2014.

To fit with the show’s gritty, southern vibes, the opening credits take lots of inspiration from Louisiana, using many images from the state’s “Cancer Alley”, which lines the Mississippi River. Impoverished communities and rundown churches sit next to massive petrochemical plants and polluted skies. The opening credits are atmospheric and set the scene for the show.

True Blood (2008 – 2014)

Another Louisiana-set series from HBO was True Blood. The show’s opening credits also utilized Louisiana as its inspiration, but instead of going for gritty and dirty like True Detective, the show went for a pulpy, southern gothic vibe, showing scenes of gators, snakes, and swamps.

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Plus, True Blood‘s opening credits gave a whole new life to the song “Bad Things” by Jace Everett. Despite the single being released in 2005, it was virtually unknown until True Blood used it as the opening theme, causing the song to chart (for the first time ever) in three countries in 2009. The song has since been listened to over 30 million times on YouTube.

Band Of Brothers (2001)

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks teamed up to create what has become one of HBO’s most iconic limited TV series to date. Based on the book of the same name, Band Of Brothers chronicles the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment during World War II. Upon release, it was hailed for capturing both the brotherhood and bloodshed of war and showing the true human cost of battle.

It was nominated for 20 Emmy Awards, including Main Title Design, at the 2002 Emmys. The opening credits depict the soldiers of WWII, shifting from Scrapbook images to historical photographs, and old black-and-white footage, all set to an orchestral score. It helped prime audiences for the emotional journey they were about to embark on in the series.

Boardwalk Empire (2010 – 2014)

In 2014, for the show’s final season, Boardwalk Empire finally received its first Main Title Design nomination – adding to the many nominations the show received that year. The series was based in Atlantic City during the prohibition era and starred Steve Buscemi as corrupt politician Enoch Thompson.

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The opening credits show Buscemi standing on the beach on a sunny afternoon. Soon, bottles of alcohol begin floating in the waves, bringing with it a massive thunderstorm. The credits were praised not just for their styling, but for also being able to tell a story in under a minute.

Six Feet Under (2001 – 2005)

Before Michael C. Hall made his way over to Showtime for Dexter, he starred in HBO’s Six Feet Under, about a family who owns a funeral home. At the time, the show was a big success for HBO, carrying on the legacy created by The Sopranos that HBO was truly a premium network with groundbreaking programming.

The opening credits for Six Feet Under showcase its dark humor by beginning at the point of death and following a cadaver through the embalming, funeral, wake, and burial process … all to some surprisingly upbeat and quirky music, almost as if the opening credits are trying to desensitize death to the viewers, much like how it would be to the morticians in the show. In 2002, the series was nominated (and won) the Emmy, beating out fellow HBO competitor Band Of Brothers.

Vinyl (2016)

Set around New York’s infamous music scene in the 1970s, Vinyl was all about “sex, drugs, and rock & roll,” and was loaded with an all-star cast like Olivia Wilde, Ray Romano, Jack Quaid, Juno Temple, and more. Its opening credits show an extreme close-up of a vinyl record being played, before cutting to scenes of New York City, all set to “Sugar Daddy” by Sturgill Simpson.

The credits definitely show off the series’ underground rock vibes and earned an Emmy nomination in 2016, but sadly, audiences and critics didn’t seem to enjoy the series as much as the credits, and it was canceled after just one season.

Raised By Wolves (2020 – 2022)

This sci-fi epic from Ridley Scott follows two androids who are tasked with raising human children after the world is destroyed in a violent war. The opening credits do an excellent job at setting the scene and depicting Earth’s destruction, all while giving off some creepy yet blockbuster vibes in the process.

Unfortunately, Raised By Wolves turned into one of the many victims of the Discovery – Warner Bros. merger, as the company decided to take HBO Max in a new direction. In June 2022, it was revealed that after two seasons, the show wouldn’t be returning. It did, however, manage to grab a Main Title Design nomination in 2021.

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