Here’s our top 10 James Bond movie themes celebrating 54 years of the film franchise and its numerous musical hits and misses.
10: Thunderball – Tom Jones
A great theme from an otherwise boring Bond movie. The song is heavily influenced by John Barry’s compositions from the first three films but includes a brilliant silky vocal from Welsh crooner Tom Jones that perfectly alludes to the danger and desperation you’d expect from a Bond movie. Jones’ final note is also hauntingly perfect.
9: The World Is Not Enough – Garbage
The last Bond theme of the 1990s, Garbage’s offering manages to balance the mysterious string arrangements of Bond themes past with a Bjork-esque downbeat electronic drum track and some great chorus vocals from Shirley Manson. Its William Orbit style production makes the song oddly more Madonna than Madonna’s own Bond theme three years later.
8: Skyfall – Adele
Adele became this generation’s Shirley Bassey with her melancholy piano led hit “Skyfall”. The song takes a subtle approach to introducing the classic John Barry Bond theme elements and compliments the darker Daniel Craig Bond whilst remaining a very solid composition in its own right. It would be no small surprise if we see Adele return for another Bond movie in the not so distant future.
7: You Only Live Twice – Nancy Sinatra
Despite being co-written by veteran Bond composer John Barry, this luscious theme has an air of Burt Bacharach about it. “You Only Live Twice” is a very rich very pleasing song with a heartbreaking string arrangement that breezes over the listener and represents the film’s Japanese setting without being too obvious. It was almost made famous as a sample in Robbie William’s 1998 hit “Millenium”.
6: Goldeneye – Tina Turner
There is a recurring theme where the introduction of a new actor playing the lead role is often coupled with a great song. 1995 gave us Pierce Brosnan, Tina Turner, and one of the sexiest Bond themes to date. “GoldenEye” was written by U2’s Bono and The Edge and really set the scene for arguably the suavest, cheekiest Bond since Sean Connery.
5: You Know My Name – Chris Cornell
Some may be surprised to find this one so far up the list, but despite it being a very untraditional Bond theme, this alt-rock screamer has plenty of redeeming features. Chris Cornell’s vocal is fantastic and the lyrics are as confident and slick as Bond himself. There are numerous opinions of Daniel Craig’s later Bond movies, but Casino Royale was unquestionably cool and exciting at the time and this theme was perfect in introducing the new no nonsense tougher James Bond.
4: Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey
Goldfinger is often called the quintessential Bond movie and Shirley Bassey’s grand theme song has one of the most memorable choruses in movie history. The song was composed by John Barry and produced by the legendary George Martin. Musically, the Goldfinger theme IS James Bond and represents the character perfectly (even if the lyrics focus more on the villain of the film). This one would probably be our number one choice if it wasn’t for the slightly wishy-washy verses.
3: Live and Let Die – Paul McCartney
When you hire a Beatle to write a song for you, you’re always going to be on to a winner. “Live and Let Die” was the first Bond movie to feature Roger Moore and also the first to feature a rock song for its theme. The song is an absolute rollercoaster of emotions and has that perfect balance of kicking rock song / show tune we’ve come to expect from Mr. McCartney.
2: Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon
A classic 1970s love song, “Nobody Does It Better” can be accused of being slightly gushy at times, but all in all is an incredibly well written song and stands up with or without Bond. Radiohead’s Thom Yorke once called it “the sexiest song that was ever written.”
1: Diamonds are Forever – Shirley Bassey
Of all the theme songs written over the decades “Diamonds Are Forever” is perhaps the most powerful and emotive of the bunch. An incredibly well balanced composition, the song smoothly transitions from an almost creepy 1960s ballad to a 1970s funk track that would be just as at home in Shaft as it would in a Bond film. It is also the best example of a Bond theme that is just as good as a single piece of music as it is as an accompaniment to a film.
We Have All The Time in The World – Louis Armstrong
Would have made it in but for the fact it was not an official theme song.
Licence To Kill – Gladys Knight
A great song, but borrows heavily from “Goldfinger”.