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Top 10 Greatest James Bond Themes

James Bond has been gracing our movie screens for over forty years, and is about to again this November with “Quantum of Solace.” Integral to the Bond legacy is the music, which has endured with the character, adapting to the times and films as fluidly as the character himself and becoming just as memorable. This was originally a complete ranking of 24 themes, but for the sake of brevity – and the potential for a followup list, this is a list of the top 10. Use the comments to tell us your favorite Bond theme.

10

Moonraker

Shirley Bassey last lent her vocals to a Bond movie with this, the theme to Roger Moore’s sci-fi inspired fourth outing. With melodic instruments and hypnotic vocals, this song is much more pleasant than the movie itself, which was far too outlandish and basically had the same plot as The Spy Who Loved Me. With lyrics that aren’t necessarily sophisticated, but beautiful nonetheless, this song has to really be heard to be appreciated.

9

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

The only other movie to feature an instrumental opening credits theme besides Dr. No, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is frequently berated unjustly by fans and critics, and as a result the theme song is overlooked. The theme is exciting, poppy, reveling in its roots in the 60s as well as giving a fresh and vigorous new approach to James Bond. OHMSS was the first film to give Bond a really emotional story arc, and this theme represents one side of that 007: the dangerous, vengeful one.


8

You Only Live Twice

Sung with phenomenal skill by Nancy Sinatra, this song is just beautiful, and it is named after one of the best films in the James Bond series. “You only live twice, Mr. Bond.” It has all the good qualities of the Moonraker theme and more, with mysterious lyrics and string riffs that nail the tone of the movie perfectly. The title sequence, too, is also one of my favorites, and goes well with the theme.

7

From Russia With Love

An essentially sad song, a forlorn tribute to a forgotten homeland to which the singer returns, Matt Monroe lends his strong and smooth voice to one of the most outstanding themes in the series. I love how he belts out the last word in the song. The vaguely Eastern European motifs in the composition are geographically accurate for the film’s setting, and gives the whole film a very grounded feel, which would sharply contrast to the later themes, which were more robust and cinematic.

6

Live and Let Die

The most successful of the James Bond themes commercially, this little pop ditty by Paul McCartney and Wings is both fun to listen to and adept at capturing the spirit of the film. The zany guitar riffs and lighthearted feel to the song gave it its widespread appeal and set the tone for future films with Roger Moore.

5

Goldeneye

Accompanying Pierce Brosnan’s 007 debut, and his best turn as the character, this dark theme composed by Bono and sung by Tina Turner has the perfect mix of great vocals, lyrics, and music to make it one of the truly great James Bond songs. The title sequence, the first not created by Maurice Binder, only added to the mystique and intensity of the song. The vocals, coming from a woman whose voice I can’t usually stomach, seems to fit perfectly for the movie: sultry, but strong, more of a statement for future Bond girls than 007 himself. Overall, a very good theme song.


4

You Know My Name
Casino Royale

Perhaps the counterpoint to the previous entry, “You Know My Name” is pure grunge rock mixed with motifs of the classic themes, a brutal statement of James Bond’s primary function as a blunt instrument in the world of espionage. The lyrics themselves, stating “you know my name,” suggest some of the suave arrogance of themes like “Nobody Does it Better,” but supplement it with such angry lines as “I’ve seen diamonds cut through harder men” that the tone of the film is set right away with this memorable anthem. This is also reflected in the title sequence, which, instead of traditionally featuring sexually suggestive female silhouettes, feature an animated Bond beating the crap out of animated bad guys. “You Know My Name” is a truly excellent and memorable Bond theme, setting the tone for the Daniel Craig era of Bond the Brutal.

3

Goldfinger

The theme for the granddaddy of all James Bond films, the belting voice of a young Shirley Bassey and the memorable opening notes make the Goldfinger theme iconic and immortal in the minds of anyone who is remotely familiar with James Bond. The lyrics were the first of many to focus on the villain, characterizing him as a sinister womanizer, making the viewer expect a worthy adversary for their hero. The opening credits themselves are a blockbuster, only a prelude to an even grander film. The song is exceptional in every way, announcing the arrival of the world’s most beloved superspy.


2

Thunderball

I may get blasted for this one, but I like the Thunderball theme better than Goldfinger’s. They sound very similar, but I think the lyrics of “Thunderball” are stronger and describe the hypothetical villain more sinisterly. Also, the swelling musical riffs accompanied by the bellowing powerhouse vocals of Tom Jones make this song a force to be reckoned with. But, of course, it could never be number one, which is, indubitably, undeniably…

1

James Bond Theme
Dr No

The original. The eternal. Featured in every single official Bond film, this less-than-two-minute long masterpiece is the perfect mix of jazz lounge pop and cinematic smooth that it could only accompany one man: James Bond, Agent 007. When you hear the jazzy bass riff or the blasting horns of the main refrain, you know immediately who has just entered the room, and what kind of an ass-kicking/woman-seducing is about to go down. The best moment in Casino Royale was at the very end, when this theme snuck onscreen and Craig, asked “Who are you?” responds, no longer Brute Bond but the real 007: “Bond, James Bond.” For over 40 years, this theme has graced our ears and our screens, and while every other song on this list will come and go (some more quickly than others), this original Bond them is forever. Like diamonds.

Contributor: antmansbigxmas



  • somerandomguy

    If only watching the videos was easier, but alas for China internet! Of course, being in China also means I could just get all the movies for dirt cheap…

  • somerandomguy

    BTW, did you guys ever know that when there’s just one comment, on the main page is says 1 comments instead of 1 comment? Not that you see that very often, of course.

  • jajdude

    Boiled guns on the list, g. How about a best Zatoichi films list?

  • jajdude

    Somerandomguy – where in China are you? I’m in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. youku.com has a lot of streaming films that load really fast.

    Guns!

  • somerandomguy

    Cool, cool. I’m in Suzhou right now, which is just a few hours south of there, still in Jiangsu province. I’ve tried youku a bit, I should probably give it a few more looks.

  • Shtin

    Great list! I’ve always loved the Bond themes. I think the OHMSS video is a remix though.

  • ABrutalKind

    whoa! I early on comments…. I guess that is what I get for staying up this late… ah well, great list. I am pretty sure you could create many lists just from the James Bond universe. This is a great inclusion into Listverse. My personal fav is live and let die, just cause that song rocks. Anyway I am rambling because of tiredness. I say again great list.

  • Bob Dowling

    I would have added “Diamonds Are Forever” too but I’m a softy for Shirley Bassey’s voice. The riff behind “You Only Live Twice” was sampled for Robbie Williams’ “Millenium” so that’s another vote for the staying power of that particular song.

    Nothing to do with the music but I was startled to see that the screenplay credit for the film “You Only Live Twice” went to Roald Dahl. I know him more as a writer of children’s stories and the TV series “Tales of the Expected”.

  • somerandomguy: I actually noticed that yesterday – I will make some changes to the code to fix it :)

  • Bob Dowling: I am also a great fan of Shirley Bassey – she is one of Britain’s greatest singers I think. The fact that she has done 3 (is it 3?) Bond themes says a lot about her talent!

  • Somebody

    Where is “Nobody Does It Better”?! That is one of my all time favorite Bond songs!
    Love Bond!

  • BB

    Great list – I totally agree about Thunderball.

    11 (Somebody) – yes, Nobody Does It Better should definitely be on there.

    I also have a fondness for The Living Daylights and View To A Kill, but I know they’re quite subjective.

  • LemonKiwi

    I like all the songs on this list. I would like to add For Your Eyes Only by Sheena Easton. I also liked a View To A Kill by Duran Duran. I’m looking forward to the follow-up list.

  • Maf

    I also wished to see Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better, and also Sheena Easton’s For Your Eyes Only (although I know that’s not to everybody’s taste.)

  • MT

    Creative list Antman, but how could you have possibly left off “Nobody Does It Better”?

    Oh well, if a list doesn’t cause controversy then it’s not as much fun.

  • I love this list! I’m such a fan of the Bond films. I’m of the newer generation though so I’ve always liked “The World is Not Enough” by Garbage even though the movie was kind of blah.

  • Arnaud

    I also like Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Pretty much sums up every Bond movie…

  • B-on

    I think the original version of the James Bond Theme has more power and emotion to it. The guitar sounds more raw and powerful and the horns bring shock and suspense. I love the big cymbal hits at the second part of the song.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ii1tc493bZM

  • B-on

    Its hard to believe, but it seems like they re-recorded the James Bond Theme for each and every movie.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpDLRkf2CD0

  • kbenjy

    I have never seen a James Bond film. Where’s a good place to start?

  • smurff

    Nice list, seen most of them – their was a very early one filmed with Bond being taken captive, and forced into a swimming pool with sharks, if Im not mistaken.
    The films title eludes me.

    The list also brings back memories
    Thanks antmansbigxmas.

  • chris

    The entry for no.9 is wrong, while On Her Majesties Secret Service had instrumental opening titles, the main song featured in the film was Louis Armstrong’s We Have all the Time in the World. Thats my personal favorite Bond song. Also the video for that entry is the Propellerheads remix from the late 90’s and never featured in any Bond film. The real music from the opening credits was by John Barry and is much slower.

  • Ernmas

    Nice list. I’m not a James Bond fan, but I do love music. One comment, though,

    #8 on the list – “Sung with phenomenal by Nancy Sinatra, this song is just beautiful, and it is named after one of the best films in the James Bond series.”

    Sung with phenomenal WHAT? Power, voice, what???? I’m curious to know what you meant!

  • ChrisG

    I totally agree with Maf, Carly Simon and Sheena Easton had awesome theme songs. For Your Eyes Only is one of my three favourite Bond movies and it features (in my opinion) the most beautiful Bond girl of all time (Carole Bouquet) but that is of course debateable since all Bond Girls are beautiful.

  • Maazin

    I’ve always thought that goldfinger and golden eye were the same movie

  • Lizzyxo

    There is no better theme than Dr. No. =) I was very happy to see it at the top of the list. Great list!

  • Jackie

    As a child of the 80s, I am appalled that Duran Duran’s A View to a Kill isn’t on the list! That’s the only James Bond movie I’ve ever watched just because of them.

  • christy
  • Morono

    I’m sorry but i also miss Tomorrow never dies and the world is not enough, i realise these are from the newer films, but they deserve to be on here

  • YogiBarrister

    Two inarguable truths. Sean Connery is the best James Bond and Shirley Bassey is the best theme song singer.

  • Yogi: I agree :)

  • ChuChu

    kbenjy, if you have never seen a Bond film, start with Dr No or Goldfinger

  • good list

  • Emar

    For me, the best is Matt Monroe’s “From Russia with Love”. I believe this is the first, done by Sean Connery though it was preceded by the original Casino Royal by David Niven. I am really impressed by the works of Ian Flemming.

  • Lynn in Oregon

    Was there a bad Bond theme?

    They are all good, and bring different memories/emotions.
    I like the Sheena Easton and Duran Duran ones best because I love the 80’s, but my favorite is Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die.

    Good list :)

  • Catriona

    Jamie, from memory your favourite Shirley Bassey number would be ‘Gold Finger’ …you do it very well! ;)

  • FlockO’Seagulls

    Yogi’s right. But the BEST song/performance, bar none, is “You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra. Rounding out my list is

    2. Moonraker
    3. For Your Eyes Only
    4. View to a Kill
    5. Diamonds Are Forever
    6. Goldfinger
    7. Thunderball
    8. Nobody Does it Better
    9. Live and Let Die

    10.

  • Papavitch

    Great list, made for great listening while I worked on my essay. Have to say I’m not a fan of Thunderball though, neither the song or the movie.

  • gezzanater

    Live & Let Die should be No 2, it;s the one Bond theme song that has been recorded by a number of artist and let’s face it, it was about the only decent song Wings ever recorded.
    Everytime I hear that song, it gives a clear vision to me of James Bond.

  • Marie

    Neat! Good listening while working. Turns out, Jack White (who wrote the most recent James Bond theme “Another Way to Die”) says his favorite Bond theme was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He says it was really powerful and that’s what he wanted to come through his song (and Alicia Keys I guess).
    I like the new song A LOT.

  • cannabiscallan

    diamonds are neat

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  • Hmm

    Lynn: Yes, there have been some grating Bond themes, notably “The Man With The Golden Gun”. Also, I’m no fan of the sappy eighties balladry of “For Your Eyes Only”, “Licence To Kill” and “All Time High” (Octopussy theme). I don’t think “Tomorrow Never Dies” worked particularly well. “Die Another Day” was just annoying to my ears, and as for “Another Way To Die”, it’s a bit of a disappointment following the superb “You Know My Name”, and I think that if Alicia Keys’ vocals were cut out of the song, it would improve tenfold. I just can’t stand her vocal wankery like imitating Jack’s guitar solo, or the “Oooh yeahs”, or the “shoot em up bang bang” bit.

    What I want to know is where “A View To A Kill” and “The Living Daylights” are. Both great Bond themes, and great tunes.

  • debaser

    The Spy Who Loved Me

    for this reason
    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=rnVzwcM6wjI

  • Patrick

    Madonna’s “Die Another Day” is always trashed or ignored, but simply because Madonna is so widely hated despite also having so many fans, not because it’s a bad song.

    In fact it’s the only Bond theme song to go outside the lines and be unique as a piece of music.

    And it’s no coincidence that “Die Another Day” is the only Bond theme song of the last 20+ years to actually be a hit on the charts.

  • krchuk

    Great list and now one of my favourites. Have to say I love ALL the Bond theme songs. Take a look at this parody of Goldfinger by Australian comedienne, Gina Riley. http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=FrPnKI3MLdM

  • jackson parade

    chris cornell rocks

  • corinthian0430

    great list! :) and yeah… nothing but the original bond theme!

    techno bond theme remixes suck booty!

  • ohrmets

    I would have included "Diamonds are Forever" (which got a new lease on life thanks to Kanye West) and "Nobody Does It Better."

    "A View to a Kill" and "The Living Daylights" are guilty pleasures, but not sure if they make the Top 10 in my opinion.

    "Goldfinger" and "Live and Let Die" FTW!

    • Dalek6450

      Diamonds are Forever is my favourite theme. I usually fast-forward the themes. I was also a sucker for the fluffy cat in the Diamonds Are Forever music video.

  • Mav

    Dr. No is and always will be the best 007 Theme song.
    But no Shirley Manson/Garbage “The world is not enough”?

  • Slipstick

    I’d like to vote the British instrumental group “Bond” to get an honorable mention for their take on the Bond theme.

  • k1w1taxi

    Emar (34)

    The first Connery Bond Movie was Dr No. Hence the enduring quality of that theme. From Russia was actually quite late in Connery’s career as Bond.

    Not having watched a great many Bond films I have to say most of these themes were very good. Though my favourite is still Live And Let Die.

    Cheers
    Lee

  • Rafa Garcia

    Where is Duran Duran´s “A view to a kill”?
    Unforgettable miss ;-)

  • Palrão

    Loved the list, and although I’ve not watched many Bond films (only the latest to be honest…something which I have to mend I know) I’ve always had a thing for the theme songs. So I agree with the people saying Living Daylights and A view to a kill should be here, and I also love, and more recently addicted to, “The world is not enough” by Garbage. I think it has that Bond feel to it.
    Congratulations on the list, the site…EVERYTHING. I’m proud to say that I’ve been a visitor since list #1

  • ohrmets

    I also really liked “You Know My Name,” even though most critics seemed to hate it.

  • Simons

    I like “The World is Not Enough”. I thought that opening was pretty damn good imo =D

  • matheus

    You’re a Sean Connery sucker, aren’t ya? I can tell you are.
    I don’t know why people tend to minimize Moore and Dalton’s efforts, they were just as great.

    What about the seventhies music?

    THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUNN PAAAAWWWWWWWWWW
    Or A-ha kicking ass with Living Daylights?
    Duran Duran’s great A View To A Kill? And I mean GREAT. One of their best songs even.
    Nobody Does it Better like everyone is saying…

    AND WHAT ABOUT MADONNA’S DIE ANOTH… just kidding. peace out.

  • Yun

    1. The World is Not Enough
    2. A View to a Kill
    3. Goldfinger
    4. The Living Daylights
    5. For Your Eyes Only

  • ChuChu

    OK, I admit I am a fan of the movie and the theme for “The Man With The Golden Gun.” I saw it as a kid and they both stuck with me :-P

    “An assassin second to none, The Man With The Golden Gun!”

    Besides, it was sung by Lulu!

  • Andy

    I’m disappointed that the theme tune from the original “Casino Royale” – you know the Woody Allen one – isn’t on the list. What a great theme tune that is.

  • clarkekentyboy

    Love the golden gun one myself, the stabs at the start of it are great. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is definitely way ahead of its time.

  • timmy the dying boy

    Dump #10, replace it with “A View to a Kill.”
    Dump #4 (what were you thinking?!?), replace it with “Nobody Does it Better.”

    Poof! Bogus list becomes great list!

  • Rolo Tomasi

    Im sorry but how can you not include A View to a Kill by Duran Duran? That songs is great and It is the only Bond theme song to reach # 1 on the U.S. charts, it was also the highest Bond theme ever on the Brisish Charts at #2.

  • keith

    As you can tell by the screen-name, oldies is my game. “From Russia, With Love” was/is sung by Matt MONRO (mattmonro.com)…please correct the spelling, and IMHO, please place at #2 in the lineup. Who can dought the original, Dr. No… But FRWL was the first w/lyrics, to hit a top-spot on the charts in that regard, and one of the best with composers + lyricists…..ps LOVE the lists. Keep it up! Thanks!!!

  • Sheree

    What an incredible list! I love james bond and hope one day get to play him (or in my case her). Shirley bassey is a topnotch performer and I can only wish to have her pipes! (I’m more eartha kitt/yma sumac). List verse, you’ve done it again!

  • dopetype

    i really liked Jack White /Alicia Keys ‘s theme from QOS, not as much as Tina Turner’s or Shirley Bassey’s themes, but i have to say, the opening theme for QOS was damn enjoyable!
    awesome list!! :)

  • Derrick

    The Thunderball theme you posted is not the actual version.
    The real one sounds 10x better than this one.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luE0c90Cs-U

  • crazyray

    What happened to “Never Say Never Again”?
    by Lani Hall

  • Norman

    Good choice for number one, but Live and Let Die and Goldfinger should take the second and third slot respectively.

  • Christina

    You left out Diamonds Are Forever! That is the best Bond theme!

  • Will Trame

    kbenjy (#20): i second the suggestion to begin with “Dr No” and “Goldfinger” if you haven’t sampled any of the movies. “Goldeneye” is another definite must-see as I think it is the best one with Pierce Brosnan.

    As far as the themes go, I like “Live and Let Die”, “License To Kill”, “Nobody Does It Better”, “For Your Eyes Only” and “A View To A KIll”.

  • WizKid
  • Karen

    The best bond theme and film and bond is License to kill, sung by the great Gladys Knight.

    Timothy Dalton was very very underrated because we were just coming out of the Roger Moore comedy era of bond, Dalton played bond the way fleming wrote him, dark edgy and real, now Daniel craig gets all the credit for playing bond dark when it was Timothy Dalton who played him correctly.

    Dalton was also the best actor to play bond, he is a true Thespian.

    Anyway like i said my favorite Bond theme is License to kill.

  • C. Williams

    Top 10 Bond Songs IMO. (Being an old guy, I figure I got the right)

    10. On Her Majesty's Secret Service – John Barry

    He deserves some credit for writing almost every Bond film ever made, including the original theme.

    9. Tie – Nobody Does it Better – Carly Simon
    9. Tie- For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton

    Both great songs but neither has a beat you can dance to.

    8. Tie – View to A Kill – Duran Duran
    8. Tie- Man With The Golden Gun – Lu-Lu

    Once you hear them, can't get them out of your mind.

    7. Diamonds Are Forever – Shirley Bassey

    Another one of those songs that keeps you humming it over and over.

    6. You Only Live Twice – Nancy Sinatra

    A great surprise from Frankie's daughter. Made the old man proud.

  • C. Williams

    5. Moonraker – Shirley Bassey

    Another surprising and mellow tune. Fit the movie perfectly though the movie itself lacked some.

    4. Thunderball – Tom Jones

    What can one say about this guy's voice? Makes you want to sing like a man.

    3. Live & Let Die – Paul McCartney

    Saw him perform this song at RFK Stadium. A powerful song and tough to beat.

    2. Licence to Kill – Gladys Knight

    Saw her perform this song in Las Vegas. An incredible voice. With a full orchrestra behind her she is near impossible to overcome.

  • C. Williams

    1. Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey

    From the movie that has everything. She is the one singer all other Bond theme singers measure their standards to.. There is a reason why she is the only performer to sing three Bond movie themes. This one has it all:
    Goldfinger – the original man with the golden gun.
    Best catch phrase:
    Bond – "You want me to talk?
    Goldfinger – "No, Mr. Bond. I want you to die!
    Best cars: Q's 1964 Astin Martin and the 1964 black Lincoln Continental.
    The Mafia (gangsters) before anyone even recognized there was a Mafia. Oddjob whacking a Mafia boss.
    Oddjob whacking a woman by painting her in gold.
    Oddjob whacking a woman by slicing her throat with his razor sharp hat.
    Fort Knox and a Nuclear device. The bomb halted with 007 seconds left until detonation.
    First use of a GPS system.
    First and only mention of the Beatles in a Bond film.
    Pussy Galore
    Unexplained unconscious villian on deck of plane. Only other time an unexplained scene was in "Thunderball". Whatever happened to the Professor who jumped ship with Bond and Domino?

  • C. Williams

    1. Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey

    From the movie that has everything. She is the one singer all other Bond theme singers measure their standards to.. There is a reason why she is the only performer to sing three Bond movie themes. This one has it all:
    Goldfinger – the original man with the golden gun.
    Best catch phrase:
    Bond – "You want me to talk?
    Goldfinger – "No, Mr. Bond. I want you to die!
    Best cars: Q's 1964 Astin Martin and the 1964 black Lincoln Continental.
    The Mafia (gangsters) before anyone even recognized there was a Mafia. Oddjob whacking a Mafia boss.
    Oddjob whacking a woman by painting her in gold.
    Oddjob whacking a woman by slicing her throat with his razor sharp hat.
    Fort Knox and a Nuclear device. The bomb halted with 007 seconds left until detonation.
    First use of a GPS system.
    First and only mention of the Beatles in a Bond film.
    Honor Blackmon as Ms. Galore
    Unexplained unconscious villian on deck of plane. Only other time an unexplained scene was in "Thunderball". Whatever happened to the Professor who jumped ship with Bond and Domino?

  • Antoine D

    What!? No "License to Kill"?

  • Bernard

    Yes Chris Cornell!!!

  • Bernard Marx

    Yes Chris Cornell!!! He's my number 1!

  • Flefleflefleflex

    I like your list of finalists. You forgot the winner:

    Duran Duran “A View To A Kill”

  • My list would have included “The World is Not Enough” by Garbage, “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran, and “Surrender (Tomorrow Never Dies)” by k.d. lang.

  • Srinivas indana

    I want jamsebond all movies title songs

  • SJP

    I cannot believe that John Barry’s name is not mentioned in this list!!! He wrote the scores of all but 2 of these, he was the man behind James Bond themes!

  • SJP

    I CANNOT believe that John Barry’s name is not mentioned on this list! He wrote all be 2 of these themes! Crazyyyy.

  • krishna

    in my opinion,” a view to a kill” is too awesome!!!

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