We recognize a James Bond movie for its thrilling action, gripping storyline and of course, the charisma of the man with a license to kill. James Bond movies have always enjoyed commercial success at the box office. Surprisingly, however, the James Bond theme songs have also enjoyed equal commercial and critical success and have at times become the most iconic feature of the movie.
In fact, over the decades, the James Bond theme has garnered such importance that now it is an honor to be asked to deliver the music and vocals for an upcoming James Bond movie. Check out our countdown for the top 10 James Bond theme ever below:
10. “GOLDFINGER” 1964 Shirley Bassey
The title song for the 1964 James Bond movie with the same name, the song was composed by John Barry and performed by Shirley Bassey. Shirley Bassey was not a very popular name at the time, but this iconic song catapulted her into fame and earned her the only top 40 hit at the Billboard Hot 100.
It was also Bassey’s only single to reach the No. 8 spot at the Adult Contemporary Chart. The song was composed with a brassy aesthetic which was enhanced by Bassey’s soulful voice and given a touch of grandeur that is deserving of a James Bond theme.
9. “NOBODY DOES IT BETTER” Carly Simon, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Nobody Does It Better was a song which became an instant chart-topper on its release and continued to dominate the charts for a long time after that. Composed by Pulitzer Prize winner Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics from Carole Bayer Sager who had her name in the Songwriter Hall of Fame, there was no doubt that this theme song for the blockbuster 1977 James Bond movie was going to be a hit on all counts.
What makes this song even more mesmerizing to hear is the gentle piano intro that subtly builds into the powerful ballad.
8. “A VIEW TO A KILL” (1985) Duran Duran
A View to Kill is one of those rare James Bond movies that did not go down well with the audience and is considered to be one of the weakest in the franchise.
However, the only takeaway from this lackluster movie was the title song from Duran Duran which is still a permanent fixture in Duran Duran’s setlist even after more than 30 years of the movie’s release. Co-composed by John Barry, the song is the perfect blend of 80s rock and the brassy hits that Barry is famous for.
7. “YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE” (1967) Nancy Sinatra
Nancy Sinatra who is the daughter of the legendary Frank Sinatra apparently had this song passed on to her by her father after she had claimed her first international hit with the popular “These Boots Are Made For Walkin.”
Composed by John Barry, the song is one of the more subdued James Bond themes but is unique in its lovely composition of spiraling spring motifs over French horns. Did you know that this was also the first James Bond movie to feature him in his official Royal Navy uniform?
6. “THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” (1999) Garbage
One of the most iconic features of this song is how it perfectly mixes the orchestral elements of music with the more modern electronic rock n roll elements. David Arnold composes the song and have lyrics from the famed James Bond lyricist Don Black.
This made this song a breath-taking blend of lush strings and brassy strains of music with keyboard loops and filtered house drums. Garbage has done a beautiful job in performing the song too with the band’s frontwoman Shirley Manson stealing the spotlight with her stunning voice.
5. “DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER” (1971) Shirley Bassey
Bassey has delivered another legendary James Bond theme with Diamonds Are Forever, a song that was known for its funky up-tempo ballad with a unique beat that reminded you of Serge Gainsbourg melody.
In fact, with this song, Bassey become the only singer to have had the honor of having a James Bond theme credited to her name not once but twice. The theme song for Moonraker in 1979 was also sung by Bassey making her the only singer to have sung three James Bond theme songs.
4. “DIE ANOTHER DAY” (2002) Madonna
Madonna’s “Die Another Day” was sung when she was at the peak of her stardom and fans were just lapping up whatever she was churning out. Known to be a marked trendsetter, Madonna was probably experimenting with this song which turns out to be quite interesting when you consider lyrics like “Sigmund Freud, analyze this.”
However, in spite of the reduced quality of vocals, the song is still one of our favorites purely because its music and the overall theme fits in so well with the natural charm of this dashing Pierce Brosnan movie.
3. “LIVE AND LET DIE” (1973) Paul McCartney & Wings
Paul McCartney, the Beatle who has given us the iconic “Let It Be” that has gone down in history as one of those rare songs that come along maybe once in a century, was behind the Live and Let Die theme song too.
The song was originally supposed to be performed by another band, but Paul McCartney insisted that he would write the song only if his band Wings could perform it. Later on, Guns n Roses also made a cover for this song in 1991 which went on to be almost as popular as the original one.
2. “SKYFALL” (2012) Adele
Skyfall by Adele is a song that has everything that we have come to expect from a James Bond theme. Supported by a stellar performance by Adele who has given her heart and soul in singing this song, it is J.A.C Redford’s orchestral music that makes you reminisce of those dulcet John Barry compositions.
It is no surprise that Skyfall received the Academy Award for the Best Original Song along with a Grammy and a slew of other well-deserved awards.
1. “THE JAMES BOND THEME” – Monty Norman/arr. John Barry, Dr. No (1962)
Monty Norman is the man responsible for writing the signature theme for the James Bond franchise starting with Dr. No in 1962. The iconic tune has since been associated with James Bond and regularly features in every James Bond movie in some way or the other. Though Norman remains the original composer of the theme, it was later given to John Barry for the arrangement.
In any case, the James Bond theme takes the top spot on our list just because it is impossible to imagine James Bond without this extremely hummable tune that can easily be belted out whenever someone says or does anything even vaguely resembling a move worthy of a secret agent.