A good theme song is critical for a James Bond movie. You can’t just slap any old tune over the opening sequence and call it good. The theme song needs to be cool, memorable, and most importantly, fit the style of the film you’re advertising – so clear out those Britney Spears and Justin Bieber tracks and make way for some classic Sam Smith tunes or brought-back Adele! (And if you’re looking for an official list of the best Bond theme songs, here’s a great one from Cinemablend.
10. The Living Daylights (1987) – a-Ha
We kick off our list with a bit of Norwegian pop. How can you go wrong with a-Ha? The Living Daylights is an under-appreciated Bond film if you ask us. While it was the first film to use Brosnan’s likeness on the poster instead of Dalton’s, it also introduced KGB agent Kara Milovy. It has a clever plotline, especially with Bond villains. There isn’t one main bad guy, but rather an evil organization pushing the plot forward without focusing on a villain. The a-Ha’s theme song does its job well by not overshadowing the movie itself and putting it in a specific time.
9. License to Kill (1989) – Gladys Knight
Who doesn’t love Gladys Knight? She’s one of those R&B divas who acts in a way that’s just classy enough to fit a Bond theme. She doesn’t overdo it, and she delivers the lyrics in a tone that’s both powerful and melodic. License to Kill is not one of the most muscular Bond movies, but Gladys Knight gives us a fantastic theme song that makes everyone feel like they’ve been given a license to kill.
8. You Know My Name (Casino Royale, 2006) – Chris Cornell
I know, I know – Chris Cornell? Really? From the theme song to the reboot of Bond after over 40 years with no actor playing him? But let me tell you why this is one of our top picks. First off, it’s not your typical spy theme song! Casino Royale was a new approach to telling the original story of Bond, and the music reflects that change. It also uses the villain’s perspective by telling Quantum’s story (Casino Royale is one of few Bond films to focus more on the bad guys than Bond himself).
7. Thunderball (1965) – Tom Jones
You can’t deny Tom Jones’ popularity. And if you can’t sing like Tom, well, you should at least try to sound like him in the movies! Thunderball has one of my favorite Bond theme songs. It’s easy to listen to, and it’s memorable – take “there’s no woman in the world that can’t be catered to” for example. You know what I mean when I say that, right?
6. Goldfinger (1964) – Shirley Bassey
That is one of my favorite Bond theme songs, period, not just because it’s part of Goldfinger, which is arguably the best Bond movie of all time. (What? They need to make another one like that!) It’s Shirley Bassey at her finest. The vocals hit peak performance here, and it’s just hard for any singer to top this one. It’s definitely on the list of songs to sing in the shower, but after you get through Goldfinger, notable for being the first Bond film to have an original theme song, opening up many more opportunities for future films.
5. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) – Lulu
Ah, another Bond girl. And a memorable one at that! The Man with the Golden Gun is a viral Bond film that many people still enjoy watching, primarily because it stars Christopher Lee as Scaramanga and Roger Moore as Bond. And, of course, we can’t forget about Lulu and her theme song. As I said earlier, not all Bond songs should be sung by international pop stars! However, If you’ve watched the film (and I recommend that you do), Lulu’s theme song really adds to its overall charm.
4. You Only Live Twice (1967) – Nancy Sinatra
This Bond girl also delivers one of the most memorable theme songs. Nancy Sinatra’s voice is just so calm and sultry that it’s hard not to want to pay attention to when it starts playing. Nancy Sinatra’s tune is one of the most famous Bond songs. It was so popular that it won a Grammy for “Best Contemporary Single” in 1968, and it hit number 12 on the US Billboard Hot 100. If you haven’t heard this song before, you’ve probably heard someone else sing it. It’s that popular – but only Bond could make Nancy Sinatra that good.
3. Skyfall (2012) – Adele
This Bond girl really hits an amazing high note with this theme song. Skyfall was one of the most anticipated films in recent memory, and Adele didn’t disappoint with her song. It’s one of those songs that touch you on an emotional level (it certainly did to me), making you feel like a million bucks. And who wouldn’t want to feel like a millionaire? The film follow-up, “Spectre,” featured Sam Smith’s Writing On the Wall, a good song in its own right. But you’ll have to forgive me for still being stuck on Adele’s Skyfall.
2. Spectre (2015) – Sam Smith
The follow-up to Skyfall, Sam Smith, brings us his Writing On the Wall. It’s definitely another good theme song for this franchise, but I personally like Adele’s more. Your mileage may vary on this one! The song is also a bit more haunting and low-spirited than Skyfall, which is probably to be expected considering the main plot of this film. Spectre is also notable for introducing Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx, one of the franchise’s most iconic villain henchmen.
1. Nobody Does It Better (1977) – Carly Simon
I’m sure many of you were expecting to see a James Bond theme song from the last few decades, so let me explain my pick. That is undoubtedly one of the most beloved theme songs in this franchise’s history, and it happens to be from the film The Spy Who Loved Me. It is not only one of the best James Bond films ever, but it also features some of the most iconic scenes from the entire franchise. If you’re a fan of this song and have never watched this movie, I highly recommend that you do so immediately. It’s a must-see!