The 8 Best James Bond Movie Theme Songs of All Time

The James Bond films have gone from long-running spy franchise to cultural institution at this point, and one of the most enduring pieces of this cultural legacy is the Bond song. Almost every film in the long-running series boasts a theme song performed by a contemporary artist using the format to inject their own style and idiosyncrasies. Sometimes, this makes for painfully-dated pop relics (see Madonna’s “Die Another Day” or A-ha’s “The Living Daylights”), and sometimes it makes for enduring classics. Let’s focus on the latter for now and count down our eight best Bond movie songs.

8. “Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon

In my humble opinion, the theme song from the 1977 Roger Moore Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me works better as a song of its own than a Bond song, which explains its somewhat low placement on this list. Simon’s voice is a thing of pure beauty, and she does indeed sing of a spy who loved her, though the sweet strings and gentle melody evoke a more straightforward love song than a tale of international espionage. Nonetheless, the song oozes sensuality and is probably the best distillation of James Bond as a sex symbol.

7. “We Have All the Time in the World” by Louis Armstrong

Here’s another entry that achieves greatness even if it doesn’t quite feel like a standard Bond song. “We Have All the Time in the World” appeared in the credits of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), the only Bond film starring George Lazenby, which features a downbeat romantic subplot that suits the slow, sad tune of Armstrong’s track. It’s a thing of beauty, featuring some of the dramatic strings unique to Bond tunes, but it strikes a more downcast, contemplative note that might sound strange to most Bond fans.

6. “You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra

As the Sean Connery Bond films grew campier in the latter half of the ’60s, the songs continued to impress, including this 1967 Nancy Sinatra track from the film of same name. The song is obviously a product of the ’60s, featuring delicate strings alongside fuzzy psychedelic guitars, but the creative songwriting and Sinatra’s sultry singing make it a timeless track that balances mood between lovely, sinister, and just flat-out cool — the perfect tone to strike when it comes to 007.

5. “Thunderball” by Tom Jones

Bond was on a roll when it came to music throughout the ’60s, and lounge crooner Tom Jones helped to continue the streak for the 1965 film Thunderball. The track was rushed to completion to replace a Shirley Bassey track (and even beat out a Johnny Cash song as the film’s theme), but it sounds anything but rushed. This is the Bond song in a nutshell, the grand scale of the horns and strings only outmatched by Jones’s showy singing, culminating in a fantastic, belted final note.

4. “Skyfall” by Adele

Is it too soon to proclaim Adele’s epic “Skyfall” theme among the historic greats? I don’t think so. The track’s downbeat opening and minor key are the perfect complement to the film’s portrait of Bond as an aging secret agent struggling to stay relevant, while the earth-shattering chorus oozes a profound sense of menace, dispelled only by Adele’s insistence that “We will stand tall, face it all together.” Adele’s powerful wail and formidable range recall some of the singers who made the Bond songs such a beloved fixture of the films, making for an instant classic.

3. “Diamonds Are Forever” by Shirley Bassey

Shirley Bassey solidified her place as the queen of the Bond song with this theme song for Connery’s final Bond film, 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. Many Bond songs skew too modern, while others stay firmly rooted in an old-fashioned sense of classy orchestral melodrama. With “Diamonds Are Forever,” Bassey managed to have it both ways with those classy strings intermingling with decidedly ’70s funk guitar providing shades of modernity without dating the track. Of course, Bassey’s legendary voice is the song’s greatest asset.

2. “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney

It should come as no surprise that Paul McCartney, one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, managed to produce one of the greatest Bond songs. McCartney’s song is among the most creative and distinct Bond songs ever written, beginning like a ballad before transforming into a rollicking chase scene score and then to a bouncy keyboard sequence before doubling back again. Each melody is engrossing, and the changes McCartney inserts into his song makes for one hell of an experience — as if he squeezed an entire movie into his three-minute song.

1. “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey

You knew this was coming. This is what we all think of when we think of Bond, a tune as ubiquitous as the old “shaken, not stirred” catchphrase. Still, Bassey’s song impresses with each new listen, all the moreso since it essentially invented the gold standard (pun intended) for Bond themes, combining out-sized vocal chops with lushly sinister horn and string arrangement, all of it coming to a spectacular climax as she belts about the villainous Goldfinger‘s love for gold. This film defined the early Bond aesthetic, and it couldn’t have done it without a theme as perfect as this one.

Follow Jeff Rindskopf on Twitter @jrindskopf

More from Entertainment Cheat Sheet: