There’s always a lot of buzz whenever a new James Bond film comes out – “Will there be a new Bond? Is the villain any good? Where’s the trailer, I want to see Bond kick some ass!”
I think, above all else, the Bond theme is what gets the most attention in the months before the films themselves release. There’s always a decent amount of time where they get the spotlight before we even get to see the film (over a year in the case of “No Time To Die”!), and I consider them to always be an integral part of the cinema experience as a whole.
We’ve had a bit of a mixed bag of Bond themes over the years – it’s been over 50 years for crying out loud, there’s bound to be some that don’t live up to the hype. However, that also means the sounds can evolve as the musical landscape changes, and as a result I think the Bond themes are a fantastic time capsule for the history of music.
With all that out of the way, how would I rank all of the Bond songs? You can also check out some of my related lists below:
25 – Die Another Day
I’m just going to say it – I’ve never liked Madonna. I think she’s unbelievably overrated, and the only songs of hers I’ve ever come close to liking are “La Isla Bonita” and “Vogue” maybe.
She didn’t even bring her A game either; this is a sub-par Madonna song by her low standards, and the incredibly annoying industrial tech beats don’t work at all with some of the more serious themes in the movie – especially the opening credits where Bond gets tortured while Madonna shrieks in the background.
24 – All Time High (Octopussy)
If this wasn’t a Bond song “All Time High” would have been forgotten instantly, and even when it’s associated with the franchise I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about it. Utterly skippable.
23 – Writings On The Wall (Spectre)
There seems to be a bit of a trend nowadays for Bond themes to be slower and more introspective, and I don’t really think that’s the direction they should be taking it in.
This felt like “Skyfall 2.0”, and I’ve always loathed “Writings On The Wall” as a lacklustre and unimaginative ripoff of the previous theme. Sam Smith does a fine job on vocals to keep it from falling any lower, but still not my cup of tea.
22 – Tomorrow Never Dies
A product of its time, as it doesn’t get more 90s then having Sheryl Crow sing over this forgettable rock track.
It’s not bad by any means, as the chorus is fairly catchy with its guitar riffs and melancholic string arrangements – but I’ve never felt the urge to listen to it.
21 – Moonraker
Shirley Bassey has an unbelievable hit rate with her Bond themes – two out of three of them are undisputed classics … but “Moonraker” is a bit bland compared to the other two.
Bassey still kills it on the vocals – as always – but the initial musical ideas and melodies aren’t the most interesting in the series. Fair play for making it sound quite spacey without delving into clichéd synths, so bonus points for that.
20 – Licence To Kill
Gladys Knight isn’t exactly my first choice to perform a Bond song, but in fairness she does an excellent job on vocals – and the melody is admittedly quite catchy.
“Licence To Kill” would have ranked higher if it wasn’t for the huge disconnect it has from its associated film. The movie itself is gritty, hard-hitting and serious, and unfortunately this song doesn’t reflect that at all.
19 – For Your Eyes Only
This might just be a spur of the moment thing, but as of now I actually don’t mind this slow ballad.
It’s not exactly the most interesting track, and these types of slower Bond songs have never really been my favourite, but there’s a certain emotion and oomph in Sheena Easton’s voice that take it up a level.
18 – The World Is Not Enough
Another classic example of 90s rock, except I think Garbage lends her vocals to the style much better than Sheryl Crow did.
The Bond strings (I don’t know what else to call them) in the background are always a welcome addition, even if they’re a little overdone in the series. Also, bonus points for having lyrics from the Bond villain perspective – that’s a nice added dimension to mix things up a bit.
“The World Is Not Enough” actually had a cool music video that goes with it that isn’t just re-used clips from the film, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
17 – Thunderball
Tom Jones is always a win, and even if the track itself is nothing to write home about, the Welsh Wizard gives it his all and takes it up a notch.
That huge, sustained note he hits in the climax is absolutely euphoric, and if the rest of the song wasn’t so by-the-book then it could have ranked way higher.
16 – The Man With The Golden Gun
Nobody in their right mind would rank “The Man With The Golden Gun” so highly, but for some reason it always stuck out to me with it’s swing feel and powerful vocal performance by Lulu.
Again, if I was being objective then this isn’t really a stand-out song at all, but I just find the whole off-beat vibe to match Bond’s (especially Moore’s incarnation) personality so well.
15 – No Time To Die
I wasn’t a fan of this one at all when it came out. I remember thinking “oh here we go, yet another “Skyfall” clone that I’m going to hate!”.
When I actually went to go and see “No Time To Die” in cinemas, I was admittedly quite impressed by the visuals of the opening credits and the sincerity of the lyrics and vocals. Pretty good, but I don’t think I’ll remember it in a few months time.
14 – The Living Daylights
Interestingly, A-Ha and John Barry had a bit of a disagreement over this one, as Barry felt that they weren’t up to the task of making a Bond theme. As a result of these creative differences, the song is never quite as good as it could have been.
I still really like it though, and the pre-chorus / chorus combo hits hella hard. It doesn’t quite pop as much as it maybe could have done, but the musical ideas are fantastic.
13 – From Russia With Love
A lot of credit has to be given to Matt Monroe and his fantastic rendition of “From Russia With Love” – it was the very first Bond “song” rather than just an instrumental theme, and his silky smooth vocals perfectly parallel the seductive spy.
The opening credits of the film don’t actually use the vocal version, and Monroe’s part can only be heard during the outro to the film. Bit of a strange creative choice, and I’m glad they changed that moving forwards.
12 – GoldenEye
Tina Turner certainly has her detractors, but I’ve always loved her harsh, raspy vocals, and they work ever so well on a Bond track.
I believe Bono and The Edge (of “U2” fame) wrote this one, and I think they did a fantastic job capturing the slick, suave tone of the Bond themes of old whilst still bringing new and exciting ideas to the table.
11 – You Only Live Twice
“You Only Live Twice” is probably more known nowadays for being sampled in a Robbie Williams song, but I still probably prefer the Nancy Sinatra original if I had to pick.
That descending string (and eventually guitar) part is easily the most iconic aspect of the song, and Sinatra’s angelic vocals accompany the beautiful backdrop perfectly.
10 – Another Way To Die (Quantum Of Solace)
I’m pretty sure I’m the only person on planet Earth that likes this song, but I’ve always loved how heavy-hitting it is.
Sure, the pairing of Alicia Keys and Jack White is a very odd one that might be distracting to some, but that contrast of beautiful vocals followed by harsh singing fits the tone of Craig’s Bond era perfectly (and especially “Quantum Of Solace”, one of the most brutal films in the franchise).
9 – Skyfall
I don’t think a Bond song has ever quite taken off quite like “Skyfall” did. It seemed to capture an entire nation’s – and even the entire world’s – heart at the time, and that is purely down to Adele’s star-power and career-defining performance.
While I’m not a huge fan of the slower Bond ballads, Skyfall is still an exceptionally powerful song that still gives me chills to this day. Considering this was meant to summarise and celebrate 50 years of Bond themes, I think Adele knocked it out of the park.
8 – A View To A Kill
Other than McCartney, Duran Duran are the only artists in Bond theme history that I actively like and listen to outside of their contribution to the franchise, and once again they proved to us all why they were one of the powerhouse bands of the 80’s.
I love how first and foremost this is a Duran Duran song, with amazing bassline and all, whilst still simultaneously being a fantastic Bond theme. This chorus hits harder than most of the other ones, and it’s no wonder this is one of the few Bond songs to find radio time years after its release.
7 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service / We Have All The Time In The World
I’ve decided to include both of the songs associated with “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” together, ’cause its my list and that’s final.
Luckily, they’re both amazing tracks in their own right. The John Barry official instrumentation that plays during the opening credits rivals the original theme in terms of coolness, but it’s the Louis Armstrong part of the soundtrack that most people are going to remember.
“We Have All The Time In The World” is such a gorgeous ballad that has no place in a serious Bond film, and yet it works wonderfully as the credits roll. That climactic scene would be nowhere near as powerful without this classic playing.
6 – Nobody Does It Better (The Spy Who Loved Me)
As you may have figured out from my rankings, I don’t like the slower Bond songs. The only true exception to that, however, is the beautiful “Nobody Does It Better”, a sincere track that will never be topped (as far as Bond ballads go).
Set from the perspective of Bond’s romantic interest, the lyrics and sweeping melodies are so touching. Bond can be a killer, but this track proved that Moore’s incarnation was more of a lover than a fighter.
5 – Goldfinger
The first truly great Bond song, and it set an extremely high bar for all the artists that dared to follow in Bassey’s great footsteps.
There’s something so suave and sexy about Bassey’s vocals and lyrics, and the blaring horns add to the whole appeal. There have been a few better ones since, but Bassey nailed it on the first attempt.
4 – You Know My Name (Casino Royale)
I much prefer the hard-hitting romps to the slower songs, and “You Know My Name” is the ultimate hype song if I’ve ever heard one.
Chris Cornell does an exemplary job on vocals, and he belts out the badass lyrics with such bravado that you can’t help but be pumped for the movie to come. “Casino Royale” was the best Bond film, and it has one of the best opening credits I’ve ever seen.
3 – James Bond Theme (Dr. No)
The ultimate spy theme, it’s no wonder this track has been so iconic for so long and has featured in every film – it’s a fundamental part of British and film history, and you don’t get many better “call to adventure” songs than this.
There’s so many musical ideas crammed into this three minute extravaganza: blaring horns and sweeping strings, a killer guitar riff, and an explosive finale packed full of swing and swagger. Every riff and motif works on their own, but together they form one of the greatest pieces of cinematic music ever written.
2 – Live and Let Die
Apparently when Paul McCartney showed the final recording of “Live and Let Die” to the producers, they said “Cool … when’s the finished version coming?”. Ouch.
Luckily they chose to stick with it, and I’m so glad they did. McCartney made sure to bring his A game, as the vocals and songwriting are sublime. The contrast of soft ballad to George Martin penned orchestral parts are sensational, and the little Caribbean flavour in the middle is perfect for the location of the film.
1 – Diamonds Are Forever
It’s amazing that such a naff film has such a great song associated with it, and Shirley Bassey’s expert rendition of “Diamonds Are Forever” will be etched into pop culture history far more than the film it accompanies.
I believe this is the Bond track that most encapsulates what makes the franchise so great – it hits hard, whilst still having an air of mystery and intrigue that mirrors the enigmatic protagonist wonderfully. Also, those little bass riffs are to die for.
Aaaaaaaand that’s my list. You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:
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