The ultimate ranking of every iconic James Bond theme song
24 bangers with a license to THRILL!
No Time To Die is a bit good, isn’t it? After a million and one years worth of delay, Daniel Craig’s swan song as 007 is finally in cinemas and it’s hard to find anyone with much bad to say about it. After the yawn of Spectre, Craig’s James Bond has gone out on a high. But what’s just as important as the film? The iconic BOP that soundtracks it. Here are all 24 James Bond theme songs ranked from worst to best:
24. All Time High by Rita Coolidge
It would have been way more interesting if the song created to theme Octopussy was actually called Octopussy. I will leave it up to your own imagination on how that might sound in comparison to this tepid 80s power ballad that sounds like it could be for anything and by literally anyone.
23. Moonraker by Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey has three Bond theme songs to her name, which is pretty good going. Alas, Moonraker doesn’t hit the heights of her other two that are more famous for good reason. Not a particularly bad song, but nothing you’re going to have stuck in your head after the credits stop rolling.
22. Writing’s On The Wall
Only bit of note is the “how do I live, how do I breathe” falsetto moment. Truly, truly bored shitless.
21. The Living Daylights by a-ha
Clearly after the success of A View To A Kill Bond, creators were hoping for a similar trajectory with a-ha as they got with Duran Duran. But somehow, even though it kind of does very similar things sonically, it just never gets there? It’s bland. Where’s the flavour!
20. Another Way To Die by Jack White and Alicia Keys
Jack White and Alicia Keys are the most random duo on earth to put together for a Bond theme but here we are I guess! I’m not sure what it is about Another Way To Die that makes it not quite hit like it should. Their contrasting vocals work cool, the instrumentation is interesting. A lack of a good chorus? Unsure. Something’s off with it.
19. The Man With The Golden Gun by Lulu
They chose chaos with this one. It’s so frenetic and raunchy, it’s like the audio equivalent of a Carry On film. But I still kind of have a place for its busty and curvaceous nature. It’s got a bit of a theatrical cabaret feel to it, with this allegedly reflecting the depiction of women in the film. It’s famously Bond theme composer John Barry’s worst song, but it won’t be ranked as mine so, what now John?
18. No Time To Die by Billie Eilish
As a huge fan of Billie’s and of James Bond theme songs, it’s a pity this can’t be ranked higher. But No Time To Die neither stands out as a Billie Eilish song or as a Bond theme. Which is a slight issue. No Time To Die isn’t a bad track, it’s suitably ominous and swirling but never really gets going the way you always yearn it to. Billie’s big note she belts, though? A wow.
17. For Your Eyes Only by Sheena Easton
Sheena Easton doing the most 80s Bond theme song ever humanly conceived. It’s almost comical, but still so bloody great. Her vocals are so fun and the pastiche of it all is a little bit delicious. I love when James Bond theme songs lean into their camp but this one is a bit too West End musical to be ranked much higher.
16. License To Kill by Gladys Knight
License To Kill is so smooth and delicious. It’s sensual. I LOVE the lyric “I’ve got a license to kill, and you know I’m going straight for your heart!” It’s all very late 80s and extra, Gladys Knight of course sounds amazing and it’s just got a different kind of breezy energy to it that makes it stand out amongst James Bond theme songs even if it’s only getting ranked this high.
15. Thunderball by Tom Jones
It’s just classic after classic from here on out. God, Tom Jones’ pipes are phenomenal. The recurring motif of the famous John Barry theme is spectacular, but we’re here to praise THAT note that Tom does at the end that leaves everyone who attempts to recreate it close to fainting.
14. You Know My Name by Chris Cornell
I think it’s amusing that after the camp farce of Madonna’s Die Another Day song and naff cameo and Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike having a sword fight on a falling plane that literallt ends with Berry exclaiming “bitch!”, producers of Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond in Casino Royale made damn sure we’d be having no fun or hijinks. Ever again. A serious gritty film, no laughs! And to go with it, an overtly heterosexual rock song by Chris Cornell. The dictionary definition of “not camp”. You Know My Name is a good track though, but I do think it takes itself a bit too seriously.
Every second of Goldfinger is camp as tits. The way Shirley Bassey sings this song is hypnotic. It’s ominous and almost humorous in equal measure. The way the instrumentation feels like it BURSTS out of her vocals is phenomenal, and then when it starts to swirl into the famous James Bond title theme? That’s history.
12. We Have All The Time In The World by Louis Armstrong
Because of this song’s legacy outside of James Bond theme songs, I always forget that it actually is one. But it is, of course, spectacular. Louis Armstrong’s distinct vocals give it such richness. Everything feels okay when you hear this song – and I think maybe that’s my reason for it not making the top 10. I think Bond themes should have a bit more menace. No question about this being a spectacular song though.
11. Tomorrow Never Dies by Sheryl Crow
This late 90s sound for James Bond theme songs is my weakness, and Sheryl’s valiantly sang, epic Tomorrow Never Dies is worthy of a high spot. It’s old meets new in the best way, her vocals are stunning and it’s a great tune often overlooked in favour of more well known ones.
10. Goldeneye by Tina Turner
There’s such cinematic tension to Goldeneye. It uses silence so well, a proper creeping-down-a-guarded-corridor anthem. Tina’s vocals are so atmospheric, and that’s before we get to the “you’ll never know how I watched you from the shadows as a child” – one of the most ominous lyrics in the Bond canon. A huge wow, and a massive way to kick the top 10 off.
9. From Russia With Love by Matt Monro
The first Bond theme with lyrics is Matt Monro’s theme for Dr No, and it’s a classic. Every second of it is pure cinema. You close your eyes and the visuals are practically done for you – it should be preserved and put in a museum as a matter of urgency.
Adele’s approach to her Bond theme is immaculately traditional, perhaps to what some would regard as a fault. But it’s Skyfall’s tradition and trope that make it such a classic. It suits Adele’s style perfectly, and she’s the most suited Bond singer the music world has had for years. Skyfall is a song as good as the film it titles, and that’s high praise indeed.
7. You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra
The strings! THE STRINGS! Absolute bliss. What more can be said? THE STRINGS!
6. Diamonds Are Forever by Shirley Bassey
Hold one up and then caress it, stroke it and then undress it… Wow. The personification of the titular diamond is classic, the vocals are timeless and the whole thing feels as James Bond as a James Bond theme possibly could. It’s swooning and soaring, but there’s such a corrupted feel to it too. A dark power! And I’m under its spell!
5. Die Another Day by Madonna
You will find Die Another Day at the rock bottom of a lot of ranked James Bond theme songs, but they would all be wrong. Madonna and Mirwais made magic here with their electroclash weirdness, and the reason for it rotting at the bottom of a lot of lists is that it’s adventurous, weird, campy and way more electronic than people anticipated. The robotic vocals are perfect, and it was extremely ahead of its time. As Madonna always is. “Sigmund Freud, analyse THIS!”
4. The World Is Not Enough by Garbage
Very much fuming this is currently not on Spotify, because Garbage’s James Bond theme is spectacular. It’s perfectly grunge-y 90s and traditional at the same time – a near impossible scale to balance and get so right. Shirley Manson’s choice to write this from the villainous perspective of the film’s antagonist Elektra King was a wise one. The whole thing is menacing, femme fatale excellence and you can’t help but be lured into its dark depths. The lyric “if I can’t have it all, then nobody will” is so apocalyptically great!
3. Live And Let Die by Paul McCartney
Live And Let Die is one of those songs so massive sounding its hard to comprehend a world without it. A world without its instrumental breakdown not being used on The X Factor for about a million years whenever they needed to build tension. Paul and Linda Mac smashed it so hard out of the park the ball still hasn’t come down. 10/10.
2. A View To A Kill by Duran Duran
80s excellence of THEE highest order. Not a second of A View To A Kill is a wasted opportunity. It’s euphoric. “Dance! Into the fire!” is so bloody good it’s hard to even type the words out without singing it. It doesn’t matter that the film was daft, A View To A Kill is one of the most anthemic Bond songs in the canon and a certified floor filler. I could listen to it on loop and die happy.
1. Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon
Nobody Does It Better gives me goosebumps just thinking about it to be honest. It’s spectacularly sung and spectacularly written, and even though I previously said I think Bond songs are best when they’re a bit more foreboding, I think the love song vibe feels actually very melancholic. There’s a darkness to the besotted nature of Nobody Does It Better, and I think it’s intoxicating.
When I listen to it I visualise that cobalt blue soundtrack album and how perfectly illustrated the poster it – so dreamy and everything you think of when you think of Bond and cinema. When Carly says the film’s title in the lyrics, it’s one of the finest music moments of all time. There’s a reason it’s always sitting comfortably in rankings of the best movie music ever – because baby, it’s the best.