James Bond would be nothing without the smooth music that goes with each film. While all the songs might not stand the test of time, their placement in each film, either in the opening sequence or over the end credits, is legendary. Dive head-first into Bond as we rank all 25 themes to determine the best one.
To rank these songs, instead of looking at general popularity or chart positions, we ranked them on the merits of the songs themselves, asking the following questions: Is this a good theme? Is this a good song? Most importantly, does this song define Bond? To us, these are the questions that determine what songs are the best Bond themes. Our list is by no means definitive and is sure to spark controversy, but it's all in the name of good fun. Read on, and then head on over to Spotify to jam out to our playlist with all 25 tunes.
25"Die Another Day" (from 'Die Another Day') - Sung by Madonna
We don't know what's worse. Madonna's techno theme featuring cheesy gun sound effects, or her cringeworthy cameo in the same film. Maybe they are both equally bad?
24"The Man with the Golden Gun" (from 'The Man With the Golden Gun') - Sung by Lulu
Famed Bond composer John Barry would admit this "pornified" theme is the one he hates the most. The lyrics lay on the double entendres way too thick, which is something to say for a franchise that features a character named Pussy Galore and a movie titled...well, see below...
23"All Time High" (from 'Octopussy') - Sung by Rita Coolidge
Our first hot take. It may work in the context of the movie and we don't deny its popularity (especially with all of Moore's Bond flicks), but those soft jazz vibes just don't do it any favors in 2021. It's just a bad '80s TV theme.
22"Another Way to Die" (from 'Quantum of Solace') - Sung by Alicia Keys & Jack White
Would the other way to die be listening to this tune? It's the franchise's only duet, but there's got to be another way to make this work. The back and forth pseudo-spoken verse is not it.
21"Writing's on the Wall" (from 'Spectre') - Sung by Sam Smith
Sam Smith is a no-brainer for a Bond theme. He just deserves a more compelling one. Yeah, this song won an Oscar, but it also put us to sleep. Like the film itself, the song just never lives up to the hype.
20"Licence to Kill" (from 'Licence to Kill') - Sung by Gladys Knight
The horns scream Bond, and Gladys Knight (sans the Pips) sure knows how to send a song into the stratosphere. But, musically, listen to this back-to-back with "Goldfinger" and tell us they did not rip off their own song (although maybe it was on purpose).
19"GoldenEye" (from 'GoldenEye') - Sung by Tina Turner
How did it take until 1995 for Bond producers to get Tina Turner to record a theme? This one is not particularly memorable, but Turner's soaring vocals give this a pass.
18"A View to a Kill" (from 'A View to a Kill') - Sung by Duran Duran
Duran Duran really wants this song to be the next "Live and Let Die." It slaps, and we do get some chills from Simon Le Bon's vocals, but its '80s production holds it back from being truly timeless. Or maybe it's '80s cheese is what makes it work? Kinda like Christopher Walken's Max Zorin. And Grace Jones' May Day.
17"For Your Eyes Only" (from 'For Your Eyes Only') - Sung by Sheena Easton
Controversial placement, but considering Easton's poppy vocals, is James Bond going to the prom? We do give Easton credit though for being one of the few title song singers to actually appear on-screen in the opening sequence.
16"The Living Daylights" (from 'The Living Daylights') - Sung by A-ha
It might not be memorable, but damn if this ain't catchy with that Bond vibe. Still though -- A-ha? It sounds as if they wanted to get David Bowie, but ran out of budget.
15"Kingston Calypso (Three Blind Mice)" (from 'Dr. No') - Sung by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires
It took three movies before all the Bond tropes were set up. So, back in 1962, there wasn't anything to build on, but everything to build up. There is no theme, per se, for "Dr. No," but the film does open with this calypso number. It's funky, jazzy, and sets the mood perfectly for some Jamaican-based espionage.
14"From Russia With Love" (from 'From Russia With Love') - Sung by Matt Monro
Matt Monro sings over the end credits and you'll be forgiven if you mistake his silky voice for that of Frank Sinatra. He is unofficially considered the British Chairman, after all. We would kill, though, to hear a version of this sung by ol' blue-eyes...if it existed.
13"Moonraker" (from 'Moonraker') - Sung by Shirley Bassey
James Bond heads to space, and Shirley Bassey does what she does best. She sends this song ad astra and beyond.
12"Tomorrow Never Dies" (from 'Tomorrow Never Dies') - Sung by Sheryl Crow
Sheryl Crow is not an obvious choice to record a Bond theme, especially considering her output and where she was in her career at the time of the movie's release. Surprisingly, the theme works pretty well. Married with the opening sequence, the song establishes Bond for modern times while prepping you for the kung-fu-meets-tech inspired adventure ahead.
11"You Know My Name" (from 'Casino Royale') - Sung by Chris Cornell
Another theme saved for the end credits. After all that jazz it's great to hear a Bond theme with some heavy guitar. The late former Soundgarden frontman, Chris Cornell, brings his grungy vocals to a theme that works as a good re-introduction of Bond for a new age.
10"The World Is Not Enough" (from 'The World Is Not Enough') - Sung by Garbage
You might say to yourself, "wait -- Garbage did a Bond theme?!" But, listening to the song in a vacuum, you’d be surprised at how well it sounds. It works as a good theme, a good song, and a good way to define Bond in that era of the '90s.
9"Nobody Does It Better" (from 'The Spy Who Loved Me') - Sung by Carly Simon
We may not know who exactly was so vain, but there's no question here of whom couldn't do it better. A lot of the themes at this time leaned on AM Gold, but Simon's theme still holds up today.
8"Thunderball" (from 'Thunderball') - Sung by Tom Jones
Charming and suave, one could consider Tom Jones the "James Bond" of the music world. As such he is, no doubt, the perfect pick for a 1960's Bond theme. The song and the opening sequence would later be perfectly sent up by "Weird Al" Yankovic in the spy spoof "Spy Hard" (the only good thing about that movie).
7"Diamonds Are Forever" (from 'Diamonds Are Forever') - Sung by Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey's themes are iconic, and this one will hold up...forever. Just as Sean Connery came back to Bond in this outing, and so too did Bassey - back from "Goldfinger" - to record this theme.
6"No Time to Die" (from 'No Time to Die') - Sung by Billie Eilish
For Bond's 25th outing, there is no one better from the music world than current pop-rock star Billie Eilish. Her tune recalls the best of Bassey, and it just hits as the perfect final theme for the Daniel Craig era. Grab those headphones and take in the song's layers and textures.
5"Skyfall" (from 'Skyfall') - Sung by Adele
"Skyfall" and "Writing's on the Wall" were the only Bond songs (so far) to win Oscar gold. Adele handily takes her song to levels that hadn't been heard in Bond songs since Shirley Bassey.
4"We Have All the Time in the World" (from 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service') - Sung by Louis Armstrong
Who would think that one of the most unremembered Bond films has one of the most unforgettable theme songs? Louis Armstrong's beautiful love song works not just as a Bond theme for a movie where Bond actually gets hitched, but also as a standalone song that can work at anyone's wedding.
3"You Only Live Twice" (from 'You Only Live Twice') - Sung by Nancy Sinatra
We mentioned Sinatra when highlighting the theme to "From Russia with Love." Bond producers wanted to get Sinatra to croon this theme. When they couldn't, they got the next best thing. Sinatra's daughter Nancy took the job, and in spite of some initial cold feet, ended up turning in an all-time classic theme.
2"Live and Let Die" (Live and Let Die) - Paul McCartney & Wings
For the eighth Bond outing, producers landed a Beatle and his new backup band to write and record its theme. Very fab. Paul McCartney & Wings turned "Live and Let Die" into a hit in its own right that still gets plenty of classic rock airplay. It was also the first Bond theme to get nominated for an Oscar but lost to Barbra Streisand's "The Way We Were" from the movie of the same name.
1"Goldfinger" (from 'Goldfinger') - Sung by Shirley Bassey
Composed by John Barry and sung by Shirley Bassey, "Goldfinger" is an iconic tune for an iconic Bond flick. It gave Bassey her only Top 40 hit and has gone on to be covered at least 16 times and famously parodied in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."
About the Author
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.