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Ranking Every Bond Opening From Worst To Best

A look into a franchise that has spawned memorable music from generations of artists.

By Isa NanPublished 7 months ago 28 min read
Image: Eon Productions

Spanning over half a century, the James Bond franchise has produced a number of enduring tropes that remain in popular culture to this very day. One of the most recognisable features of Bond movies are the theme songs.

Played in its entirety as part of the movie’s opening credits, the franchise has enjoyed an eclectic selection of songs, to say the least. Ranging from hard-hitting rock songs to soothing, sensual love songs, we’ve also seen our share of powerful ballads, punk, and a fair deal of 80s synth music along the way as well.

In this list, we shall look into each Bond opening and rank them based on the song’s individual success, how well the song tied into the movie or the franchise as a whole, and the legacy of the movie the song was written for.

Two short disclaimers here before we start. Firstly, this list will cover songs from the mainline Bond films only. Secondly, lists like this will always be influenced by a bit of personal preference so please feel free to voice out any disagreements with any of the entries in this list.

That being said, let’s begin.

Die Another Day: Madonna

The cover for the single version of Madonna’s Die Another Day An electropop song, it is often criticised for straying too far from the confines of a Bond theme. Image: Warner Bros.

The theme song for the first Bond film of the 21st century, Die Another Day was written and performed by Madonna for the 2002 film of the same name. An electro pop dance song, it is easily the least “Bond-like” of all the themes in this list.

Critically, reception to the song was mixed. As a standalone song, there was not much wrong with it but as a Bond theme song, it was criticized for being too far removed from the series’ formula, with critics deeming the song more appropriate for a club rather than a Bond film.

Despite that, the song was recognisable enough to have been nominated for a Golden Globe and two Grammys although it did not win any of these awards. Commercially, the song fared quite well peaking at number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and being the best selling dance song of 2002 and 2003

The reason this song is at the bottom of this list is not that it is a bad song. In fact, I personally find it quite enjoyable. However, even the song’s staunchest defenders cannot deny the fact that it did not belong in a Bond movie. The fact that Die Another Day was also considered the weakest of Pierce Brosnan’s four outings as 007 did not do much to help either.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: John Barry

The only Bond theme not performed by a mainstream artist, the theme for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was instead composed by the movie’s composer. Image: EMI

The only purely instrumental Bond opening since incorporating distinct songs for each movie, the theme song for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was written by the franchise’s longtime composer, John Barry.

Written as the equivalent of the famous Bond theme that played throughout Sean Connery’s tenure as 007, the theme of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was meant to signify George Lazenby’s ascension to the role and to set him apart from his famous predecessor.

It was as faithful to the Bond series as it could have been and by all means it could have easily taken a higher spot on this list had it not been for other outside factors. Firstly, Lazenby’s Bond only lasted one movie and Connery was brought back to the role. Since the franchise quickly returned to its earlier formula, this song was quickly forgotten.

On top of that, the main theme of On Her Majesty’s Secret ended up also being overshadowed by another song in the movie. Louis Armstrong’s poignant song, We Have All The Time in The World which played during the movie’s closing is often recognised as one of the franchise’s most iconic songs.

Sometimes mistaken as the movie’s opening theme and being the only song to have been featured in more than one Bond film, it could have overshadowed almost any other song on this list and unfortunately the theme of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service suffered this fate and consequently finds itself this low on the list.

The Man With The Golden Gun Lulu:

Released as part of the movie’s soundtrack album, Lulu’s The Man With The Golden Gun was also known as the raunchiest Bond theme. Image: EMI

Released as part of the movie’s soundtrack album, Lulu’s The Man With The Golden Gun was also known as the raunchiest Bond theme. Image: EMI

The theme song of Roger Moore’s second film as 007, The Man With The Golden Gun was composed by John Barry and performed by Lulu for the 1974 film of the same name. Being the second woman to perform a Bond theme song after Shirley Bassey who at that point already performed two openings, Lulu certainly had big shoes to fill.

Known for its suggestive lyrics and Lulu’s distinctive vocals, this theme song was memorable for departing from the grandiose, horn-oriented style of earlier opening songs in favor of a more contemporary, higher action and faster-paced theme. Although the change was later successful, this song has fallen quite under the radar.

As the only Bond theme to have not made the charts, John Barry himself had expressed his disdain for the song. That being said, The Man With the Golden Gun marked a successful turning point for the franchise musically and served as a good opening for an excellent film. However, as a standalone song it probably would have been met with even less acclaim than it already has.

Another Way To Die: Jack White and Alicia Keys

The only Bond theme to be performed by a Duo, Another Way To Die was heavily promoted and was quite anticipated. Unfortunately, fans and critics alike were disappointed by the song’s inability to properly incorporate the traditional Bond sound with a more contemporary song. Image: XL

The only Bond opening theme to be performed by a duo, Another Way To Die was written and performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys for 2008’s Quantum of Solace. A modern take on Daniel Craig’s grittier version of James Bond, the song was marketed significantly to build hype for the movie.

Featured in advertisements for the film and even in a Guitar Hero video game, the song looked to be poised for big things. It was met with a respectable degree of success in various European Countries and in Canada but did not chart very high in the US or UK. Another Way To Die was also nominated for a Grammy but did not win.

From a critic’s standpoint, it suffers from the same faults as Die Another Day. It is a good standalone song but does not fit at all as a Bond opening. The reason I put it a bit higher on the list is that it did try to attempt to be a faithful Bond opening than Die Another Day but could not really fit its harder rock sound with the typical Bond motifs found in other openings.

Moonraker: Shirley Bassey

A rather rushed recording, Shirley Bassey never considered Moonraker her song and rarely performs it live. Being the opening to one of the worst Bond movies of all time doesn’t help either. Image: United Artists Records

Being the only artist to have performed more than one Bond theme song, Moonraker was Shirley Bassey’s third and to date last performance of a Bond opening. A last-minute decision after being rejected by Frank Sinatra and Kate Bush among others, John Barry decided to offer Bassey the song based on her successful record of Bond themes.

A very rushed recording done mere weeks before the release of Moonraker, Bassey herself did not think much of the song. Unlike her other two Bond themes which we will explore a bit later, Bassey does not perform Moonraker live as often as she does the other two which has caused it to fall very much under the radar.

The song also has the dubious distinction of being the opening to one of the worst Bond films and felt just very slightly out of place with Moonraker’s attempt to incorporate more sci-fi elements into the story. It’s softer, more romantic ballad style is also quite a stark departure from Bassey’s more powerful and iconic Bond tunes and could also be seen as Bassey setting the bar way too high for herself with her earlier openings.

In short, Moonraker does the bare minimum of being a serviceable Bond opening with a good choice of singer and a somewhat standard piece of music. However, it’s sparse publicity and the unfavourable legacy of its respective movie has not done it any favors at all.

From Russia With Love: Matt Monro/John Barry

The first unique Bond opening, From Russia With Love featured both a vocal and instrumental version. Although not the greatest opening, it opened the door for future generations of iconic songs. Image: United Artists

Known to Bond fans as the first unique Bond opening theme, From Russia With Love was also John Barry’s first outing as the franchise’s composer. The 1963 movie of the same name really marked the point where the Bond franchise began finding its feet.

From Russia With Love featured two versions of it’s signature song. Firstly, an instrumental version played in the song’s opening credits and the version sung by Monro played in parts of the movie and during the credits.

Monro’s version was a slower, more elegant Bond opening made all the more better by his crooning voice while Barry’s composition was faster paced and a good way to set the movie up in its opening minutes. While Monro’s version in particular may have in hindsight appeared far less fitting to the franchise than most of its successors it deserves to be recognised as being the song that opened the doors to one of the most interesting tropes in both film and music history.

With just one listen, you will know from the get go that neither version of From Russia With Love is by any means a bad song. In fact, it is quite the brilliant opening for an equally brilliant film. Although when compared to most of the songs that came after it, it does somewhat pale in comparison.

All Time High: Rita Coolidge

With the wise decision to not have a song called Octopussy, All Time High was an effective song to help the transition back to the more lighthearted Bond that Roger Moore excelled at playing. A serviceable song, it is still outdone by the other slower, more romantic Bond themes. Image:EMI

Written for the 1983 Bond film Octopussy, All-Time High was only the second Bond theme song to not share its name with the film it was written for (thankfully!). Composed by John Barry after a one movie hiatus, Rita Coolidge was chosen as singer; as the assistant director, Barbara Broccoli was a fan of Coolidge.

Octopussy not only marked the return of John Barry as the film’s composer but also the return of Roger Moore’s more colorful and lighthearted take on James Bond after the grittier For Your Eyes Only. All-Time High with its soothing and loving tone was the perfect complement to this tonal shift and was smartly enough written to adapt a line from the movie in its lyrics as opposed to its suggestive title.

Unfortunately, All-Time High did not fare extremely well on the charts and is in fact one of the lowest charting Bond themes of all time. Unlike other Bond themes that often break into the mainstream fairly quickly, All Time High was restricted to the Adult Contemporary niche and never broke through. It is because of this inability to break out further that All Time High does not place higher on this list.

Writing’s On The Wall: Sam Smith

On the surface, Sam Smith would be the perfect singer for a Bond theme but therein lies the problem. Writing’s On The Wall, although a good song, was too much like the average Sam Smith tune to stand out as an iconic Bond theme. Image: Capitol

Written and performed by Sam Smith for 2015’s Spectre, Writing’s On The Wall is a somewhat polarizing Bond theme. Picked over a song written by Radiohead, Writing’s On The Wall has attracted both its share of praise and a noticeable amount of criticism.

On the one hand, the song was a commercial success becoming the first Bond song to climb to the very top of the UK charts. It also won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe as well. On the other hand, critics have panned the song as being inferior to the song before it with some even preferring the unused Radiohead composition instead. A common theme with these criticisms was that the song just did not stand out.

Personally, I feel like Sam Smith is one of the best choices to be tasked. Smith’s powerful vocals and emotive singing really capture the gravitas of a Bond movie, especially one with the storyline of Spectre. However, even I have to admit that Writing’s On The Wall is a bit too much like the typical Sam Smith song as opposed to a Bond theme and that is where it falls short for me.

The World Is Not Enough: Garbage

Suffering from the exact opposite problem as Writing’s On The Wall, The World Is Not Enough was as faithful a Bond theme as you could ask for. However, Garbage was forced to depart too much from their own style and instead stick very firmly to more formulaic Bond theme approach. Image: Radioactive

Written for the 1999 movie of the same, The World Is Not Enough was written by David Arnold and it’s lyrics were written by Don Black who had been the lyricist for many earlier Bond themes in decades past. Arnold was looking to create a perfect balance between a more modern tune and the traditional formula of Bond themes.

That contemporary voice was found in the rock band, Garbage who happily accepted the honor of performing the opening for that particular Bond film. With lyrics written from the perspective of the film’s villain, Garbage fully immersed themselves in the Bond music approach. Abandoning their usual style for the heavily orchestral sound reminiscent of earlier Bond themes, this formula proved to be quite successful.

Critics praised the song for it’s faithfulness to the Bond franchise and many considered it a fitting opening for the movie accompanying it. Garbage was also praised for their ability to adapt their performance into the traditional Bond movie style but certain critics pointed to one particular issue.

Unlike Writing’s On The Wall which was too much of a Sam Smith song, The World Is Not Enough was too little of a Garbage song. In trying to find the balance between modern and traditional, Arnold may have limited Garbage’s input a little bit too much and the song at times seemed a bit too formulaic. That one criticism is what stops The World Is Not Enough from going higher on this list as we will soon see other songs that get this balance just right.

Licence To Kill: Gladys Knight

You can always rely on Gladys Knight to make a great song. An added plus would be the Licence To Kill’s homage to the iconic Goldfinger intro. However, the song seems lost between the more romantic and action packed Bond themes and its lyrics did not fit the plot of the movie it was written for. Image: MCA

Performed by the Empress of Soul herself for the 1989 movie of the same name, Gladys Knight’s Licence to Kill can be seen as a throwback to the Bond films of the 60s. With an intro reminiscent of Goldfinger, Licence To Kill was the soulful type of love song that few could do better than Knight.

Unlike most other Bond artists, Knight was considered to be in a much later stage of her career and the decision to use a more seasoned artist only served to highlight the song’s throwback direction. The song was a moderate success, doing well in the UK and Europe but failing to chart in the US.

Personally, License To Kill is one of my favorite Bond themes of all time and if this list was based on preference alone, it would be in the top 5 at least. However, considering the premise of the movie it was written for, the song did not quite fit.

A love song which at times struggles to balance between the horn heavy sound of the earlier Bond themes and the more romantic ones, it would have been a far more effective opening had it not been written for the movie which 007 going rogue to pursue a personal vendetta and getting his licence to kill revoked.

For Your Eyes Only: Shenna Easton

Wanting a newer artist to work alongside Bill Conti, Shenna Easton did not disappoint with her performance of For Your Eyes Only. A good song for a more serious Roger Moore Bond film, the song itself is perhaps overshadowed by Easton’s appearence in the film’s opening credits. Image: Liberty

Written by accomplished movie composer Bill Conti of Rocky fame, For Your Eyes Only was performed by Sheena Easton for the 1981 movie of the same name. Initially wanting a more established singer, the studio wanted a newer face to sing that movie’s opening tune. Initially reluctant, Conti agreed to work with Easton after meeting her in person.

A slow, chilling intro which builds up to a powerful chorus, the song was perfect to establish a tonal shift in the series. For Your Eyes Only was often considered Roger Moore’s most serious Bond movie and the opening credits which followed a sequence that referenced the Bond movies from Moore’s time was the best way to make this clear from the offset.

The song was met with favorable reviews and performed fairly well on the charts. It was also nominated for an Academy Award and is best known for being the song to the only Bond intro in which it’s singer appeared. Easton’s appearance in the intro sequence was also met with positive reception and For Your Eyes Only serves as a good (albeit not the best) example of one of the slower Bond intros.

No Time To Die: Billie Eilish

The youngest person to ever perform a Bond theme, Eilish and her brother were also given significant control over the song’s creative process. Eilish was greatly praised for her vocals and for her choice to stick faithfully to the franchise’s musical style. Image: Interscope

The most recent Bond theme to date, No Time To Die was co-written and performed by Billie Eilish for the 2021 film of the same name. At the age of 18, Eilish is the youngest person to date to have performed a Bond intro.

Having always wanted to perform a Bond theme but never thinking she would have the opportunity to do so, Eilish was excited by the prospect and embarked on a tedious writing process with her brother. Their efforts were not in vain as they produced a hauntingly somber theme which reflected both the tone of the movie and the departure of Daniel Craig as the franchise’s current leading man.

Eilish departed quite noticeably from her usual style and instead went into a guitar and orchestral heavy direction (thanks to Johnny Marr and Hans Zimmer’s contributions). It was reminiscent of the older Bond themes with its grandiosity turned down to reflect the film but at the same time was unique enough to not appear too formulaic.

No Time To Die was a roaring success. Being Eilish’s first chart topping hit in the UK, the song also went on to win a Grammy and a Golden Globe award too. No Time To Die is a good example of an artist being able to take the reins and produce an excellent piece of music consistent with the series. It is a perfect balance of Eilish’s own creativity and what is expected of a Bond theme. As the song is still recent, we’ve yet to see how well it can stand the test of time. In the years to come, we may very well see No Time To Die move either direction on a list such as this.

The Living Daylights: A-ha

Doing their best to meld their own style with the Bond theme formula, A-ha’s The Living Daylights may not be the greatest theme in terms of it’s faithfulness to the series but it definitely makes for an enjoyable listen especially live. Image: Warner Bros.

Recorded for the 1987 film of the same, A-ha’s The Living Daylights was quite a departure from the themes that came before it. A song truly synonymous with the sound of the 1980s, it could be said that A-ha would be one of the last groups anyone would pick to perform a Bond theme.

The production of the song was also quite a tumultuous affair with the group feuding with longtime composer John Barry over whose version of the titular song to use for the movie. Eventually, the final song used resembled the typical A-ha song with the exception of a few contributions by Barry to give it a more Bond-like flavor.

Although a polarizing song in it’s own right, it certainly is a memorable little earworm with a chorus easy to sing along to. Despite being one of the least traditional Bond openings, many who listen to the song are still able to associate it with the movie it was written for. A staple of A-ha’s live performances to this day, The Living Daylights is at the very least a shining example of an artist’s own vision of a contemporary Bond theme.

Tomorrow Never Dies: Sheryl Crow

A faithful to the Bond franchise, Sheryl Crow’s Tomorrow Never Dies does make for a good listen. Unfortunately, when put up against the series’ more iconic songs, it can appear a bit too formulaic and may not stand out as much. Image: A&M

Written and performed by Sheryl Crow for the 1997 movie of the same name, Tomorrow Never Dies was not originally the movie’s intended opening theme. Initially, kd.Lang’s song Surrender was chosen but was later relegated to the credits of the movie.

Crow’s song seemed to fit the mold of the more dramatic Bond openings with her wailing vocals and the familiar Bond motifs played throughout the course of the song. It could not have been more Bond like if it tried and for all intents and purposes, it was everything you’d expect from a Bond theme.

I personally think it’s a wonderful song and I admire how faithful it is to the franchise. However, as good as the song is, it still pales in comparison to other Bond epics by the likes of Shirley Bassey or Tom Jones. In many ways, Tomorrow Never Dies plays it a little too safe and as a result barely fails to really compete with the more iconic songs of the franchise. That being said, it is still definitely worth a listen.

Nobody Does It Better: Carly Simon

The first Bond love song, Nobody Does It Better remains the best example of a more romantic Bond theme. The song is widely praised and is one of Carly Simon’s most successful hits. Image: Elektra

Beginning our top 10 with the song written by Marvin Hamlisch and Carol Bayer Sager and performed by Carly Simon, Nobody Does It Better is one of the most memorable Bond themes for a couple of reasons.

Written for 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, Nobody Does It Better is the first Bond theme to not share its title with the movie it was written for. Nobody Does It Better is also known as the first love song to be made into a Bond theme.

Unlike previous songs which were either orchestral epics or slower, more enigmatic songs, Nobody Does It Better is a loving requiem of an admirer, marveling at Bond’s seeming perfection. To me, it perfectly encapsulated the nature of Roger Moore’s James Bond and is a prime example of how the traditional Bond theme formula can be diverted from when needed.

Nobody Does It Better was also a critical and commercial success. Being, Simon’s longest charting song, it was also nominated for a Grammy and an Academy Award. Critics often place Nobody Does It Better very high up when ranking Bond themes and most deservedly so.

You Know My Name: Chris Cornell

A necessary departure from formula, Chris Cornell was intrigued by the opportunity to compose a theme for a more inexperienced Bond. To say he succeeded would be an understatement. Image: Interscope

Co-written and performed by Chris Cornell for 2005’s Casino Royale, You Know My Name was a very different Bond theme for all the right reasons. The studio had wanted a strong male lead to perform a song that departed noticeably from the typical Bond formula. Cornell agreed to the project as he too was interested in this new direction.

Meant as a reboot of the series that explored the earlier days of Bond as a 00 agent, Cornell was tasked with writing a song that reflected both the inexperience of Bond the character and the grittier performance of the character by Daniel Craig. Thus, a theme was created which intentionally excluded most of the typical motifs you would expect from a Bond theme. Additionally, this song’s riff was used throughout the movie instead of the classic theme which was saved only for the credits to signify the growth of Bond into a seasoned spy.

Cornell was praised universally for his ability to create a song so different from the franchise as a whole yet so fitting for the one movie it was written for. Many consider it one of the best Bond songs of the 21st century and I strongly agree. Few Bond songs are able to fit as well into the movies it was written for as this one and it will forever remain one of the most memorable Bond themes.

Diamonds Are Forever: Shirley Bassey

Marking both Sean Connery’s return to the franchise and Shirley Bassey’s return to perform the theme song, Diamonds Are Forever helped return the Bond franchise to its roots. Image: EMI

Shirley Bassey’s second performance of a Bond theme, Diamonds Are Forever was written and performed for the 1971 movie of the same name. A collaboration between Don Black, John Barry and Bassey, Diamonds Are Forever signified Sean Connery’s return to the franchise after a one move hiatus.

Diamonds Are Forever is not quite on the level of Bassey’s earlier Bond theme, Goldfinger but is in no way unmemorable. With Black’s clever lyrics and Barry’s masterful instrumental composition only complimented by Bassey’s beautiful vocals, the song slowly builds to an addicting ending.

It seemed quite clear that the studio’s intentions with the whole process of Diamonds Are Forever was to return the franchise to how it was with Connery in the lead and to erase all reference to George Lazenby’s Bond. Arguably, the most recognizable singer of any of Connery’s Bond themes, Bassey was the perfect choice to mark his return and she did not disappoint.

You Only Live Twice: Nancy Sinatra

Chosen at the recommendation of her father Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra’s classy, sensual vocals were the perfect compliment for John Barry’s intricate string arrangements. Image: Reprise

Written by John Barry and performed by Nancy Sinatra for the 1967 film of the same name. Although only the fourth Bond theme ever made, You Only Live Twice has stood out quite significantly and is often regarded as one of the franchise’s best themes.

While many Bond themes are mainly recognisable by their singers’ vocal performances, You Only Live Twice stands out among the pack for its extensive use of string instruments especially in the song’s opening. Complimented by Sinatra’s soft and sensual vocals, You Only Live Twice effectively departs from the belting vocals of Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey from the themes that came before it to create an elegant song equally reflective of the film’s setting.

Even if you have not seen the movie, I personally would recommend anyone reading this to give the song a listen. It is among one of the best Bond themes to have easily found success as a stand-alone song as well.

Goldeneye: Tina Turner

The first Bond theme of the 90s, Tina Turner’s Goldeneye was a perfect blend between the traditional Bond formula and the 90s sound. Turner was also able to seamlessly incorporate elements of the romantic, action packed and enigmatic Bond themes all into one song. Image: Virgin

Written by Bono and The Edge of U2 for the 1995 movie of the same name, the two bandmates had come up with the song for Tina Turner after finding out that she had been chosen to perform the theme of Goldeneye.

Being the theme for Pierce Brosnan’s first movie as 007 and the first Bond movie of the 90s, there was a need to make the song sound both faithful to the franchise’s roots and appealing to newer audiences now that the Bond series was in its third decade. With a “Bond-flavored” riff, catchy lyrics and Turner’s magnificent vocals, Goldeneye was a success.

Favorably praised by critics as being the perfect balance between the traditional Bond formula and the style of Turner while also taking the preferences of the audience into account, Goldeneye deserves nothing short of at least a place in the top 10 when ranking Bond themes.

Personally, I think that Tina Turner is the only singer who has been able to perfectly mix both the more sensual, enigmatic styles of some Bond themes and the powerful, emotional performances of others into one song.

A View To A Kill: Duran Duran

Capitalising on an opportunity awarded to them thanks to a drunken joke, Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill was an instant hit and remains the perfect example of an artist’s ability to fit in their own style with the Bond theme formula. Image: EMI

Written and performed by Duran Duran for the 1985 movie of the same name, A View To A Kill is one of the most memorable and successful Bond theme songs of all time. Unlike most artists who are approached to perform a Bond theme, Duran Duran (albeit not intentionally) made the first move.

At a party, a drunk John Taylor approached producer Cubby Broccoli and jokingly asked for the opportunity to finally perform a “decent” Bond theme. Finding humor in the encounter, Broccoli introduced the band to John Barry and tasked them with performing a theme for the upcoming movie.

Barry and the band worked very well together and were able to come up with a song fairly quickly. Duran Duran wrote the bulk of the song in their usual style while Barry made use of an orchestra to add on the usual Bond-like sound to their song. The melding of the two sounds was nothing short of perfect.

A high-energy song that could have been the intro for any good action movie, A View To A Kill remains the only Bond theme to ever top the Billboard Hot 100 and has become one of Duran Duran’s most successful songs. Barry and the band were also nominated for a Golden Globe for their efforts. To me, A View To A Kill is the best Bond song of the 1980s.

Skyfall: Adele

Bringing back the grandiosity of earlier Bond themes, Adele’s Skyfall is one of the most commercially and critically successful Bond themes of all time. It is also the best Bond song of the 21st century thus far. Image: XL

One of, if not the most successful Bond theme of all time, Adele’s Skyfall was written and performed for the 2012 movie of the same name. Wanting to bring back a more classic sound to the Bond series after the intentionally uncharacteristic You Know My Name and the disappointing Another Way To Die, Adele was the natural choice to replicate the charm of the older songs.

Initially hesitant to take on the job at first, Adele felt that it would be difficult to come up with a song that was not based on her own personal experiences but changed her mind after drawing inspiration from earlier themes and having a set of guidelines to work with.

With a mixture of her powerful vocals and an epic accompanying orchestra, comparisons to earlier Bond singers such as Shirley Bassey were quickly drawn. Skyfall went on to win two Grammys, a Critics Choice Award, a Brit Choice Award and an Academy Award. It has also become one of the best selling digital singles of all time.

I personally would encourage anyone who hasn’t listened to Skyfall to give it a listen regardless of whether they may be a fan of the movies or not.

Thunderball: Tom Jones

Although a last minute decision, Tom Jones’ hastily written Thunderball did not disappoint. Beautifully capturing the essence of Bond’s character, Jones went all out for the song and even fainted from singing the song’s closing note. Image: United Artists

The third unique Bond opening, Thunderball was a rushed masterpiece. After plans with artists such as Johnny Cash, Dionne Warwick and Shirley Bassey fell through, lyricist Don Black was tasked to hurriedly come up with the words for Tom Jones’ song.

Incorporating many of the franchise’s most iconic musical motifs into the song, Jones’ booming vocals really set the tone of the movie and in particular the character of Connery’s Bond as a tough, capable and fierce fighter of a man.

Jones was sure to put his all into the song and was said to have fainted after delivering Thunderball’s powerful final note. In many ways, Thunderball was the first of the Bond epics and has set the tone for songs like Tomorrow Never Dies and Skyfall. Having stood the test time for almost a half century, Thunderball definitely belongs in the top 3 of this list.

Live And Let Die: Wings

Equally iconic as both a Bond theme and a stand-alone single, Live And Let Die was a musical masterpiece and is one of the most commercially and critically successful Bond themes of all time. It is also one of the most performed songs of all time. Image: Apple

Equally iconic as both a Bond theme and a stand-alone single, Live And Let Die was a musical masterpiece and is one of the most commercially and critically successful Bond themes of all time. It is also one of the most performed songs of all time. Image: Apple

The intro theme for Roger Moore’s first Bond film, Live and Let Die was written and performed by Paul McCartney and Wings for the 1973 movie of the same name. Aside from being a notable Bond theme, Live And Let Die also marked the reunion of McCartney and longtime Beatles producer, George Martin.

The producers were so convinced of McCartney’s ability to perform a good Bond song that they gave him the job even before the movie had been written yet. Unlike most artists who write the song after watching a cut of the film, McCarntey requested a copy of the novel the film was to be based on and composed a song within a week.

Starting off with a soft, melodic intro, Live And Let Die soon makes way for an extended, high energy instrumental which was also used in the film’s action sequences and then to a brief reggae interlude. In just an approximately three minute intro, McCartney, Wings and Martin were able to encapsulate the entire overview of the film.

With its eclectic musical shifts and almost rock opera nature, Live And Let Die could be considered the Bohemian Rhapsody of Bond themes and it did not disappoint. Aside from a Grammy nomination, Live And Let Die was the first Bond theme to be nominated for an Academy Award and was the most successful Bond theme at the time of its release. Even if you haven’t watched a single Bond movie I strongly recommend giving this masterpiece a listen.

Goldfinger: Shirley Bassey

A song still synonymous with the Bond franchise after over 60 years, no song has yet to capture the essence of both the film and play to the strengths of it’s performer as Goldfinger. Image: EMI

Topping this list off with an intro that has become synonymous with the Bond franchise, we have Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger. Written by John Barry for the 1964 movie of the same name, Bassey was chosen by Barry as they had previously worked together and had a brief personal relationship as well.

Drawing inspiration from songs such as Mack The Knife, the aim was to create a song that was elegant and refined yet gritty enough to reflect the tone of the film. Thus, the lyrics were cleverly written about the film’s titular villain and his signature killing method.

Bassey’s powerful vocals blended perfectly with Barry’s grand orchestra that belted out it’s iconic intro that found its way into the themes that came after it. Bassey herself was determined to put in a hundred percent during the arduous recording process of the song, needing to remove her bra and almost passing out to properly hit the song’s climatic closing note.

Goldfinger soon became one of Bassey’s most successful songs and almost six decades on, remains one of her most frequently performed songs live. It is often hailed as the greatest Bond theme because it essentially set the formula for the themes to follow. As the one who set the template, nobody (not even Bassey herself in her next two attempts) could outdo the masterpiece that was Goldfinger.

Being awarded a Grammy Lifetime award and continuing to rank among the higher end of all Bond themes despite being only the second one ever recorded, Goldfinger has clearly stood the test of time. It is an excellent song for one of the best Bond movies of all time and I personally consider it to be the most faithful to the franchise yet. Although few themes have come close, I don’t see any theme taking the top spot from Goldfinger any time soon.

That’s the end of a list I personally did not expect to be as long as it ended up being. If you made it this far, I just have to say I appreciate you taking the time to give this a read. Like I said earlier, feel free to disagree with any portion of this list and let me know about it in the comments. I quite enjoy a bit of discussion. Until then, take care!

movie reviewpop culturevintagelist

About the Creator

Isa Nan

Written accounts of life, death and everything in between

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