Ranking Bond themes

I think we had this one in the old forums. Updated for 2018, only including songs played during main title sequence (excludes Dr. No).

Honorable mentions: “Surrender” (the true theme song to Tomorrow Never Dies), “If You Asked Me To” (end titles track for Licence to Kill, better than the main title song), “No Good About Goodbye” (Shirley Bassey’s rejected theme for Quantum of Solace), "We Have All the Time In the World (Louis Armstrong’s lyrical theme for OHMSS), “From Russia with Love” (Matt Munro, main theme of FRWL, but played over end credits).

  1. “Skyfall”: Adele’s haunting ballad is the best song in the Bond cannon. The song describes Bond’s mood during the film. Accompanied by the franchise’s greatest MTS, the film screams classic Bond and Adele’s vocals make the haunting song come to life like no other. Simply, an instant classic.

  2. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Main Theme”: To date, the last instrumental main title song. The song does a great job setting the mood for the rest of the film. It is a fun and classic entry.

  3. “Live and Let Die”: Arguably the most famous of the Bond themes, Paul McCartney still plays it regularly at shows. The song matches the voodoo setting of the film and does a great job of getting you into the mood. Even non-Bond fans know this one. It’s that popular.

  4. “You Know My Name”: Chris Cornell lends his iconic voice to Bond’s rebirth. The song accurately describes Bond’s transformation from rookie to secret agent. Its bombastic and raw just as Bond is in Casino Royale.

  5. “A View to a Kill”: The only Bond song to reach number one on the Billboard hot 100, its backstory is legendary. The song doesn’t much describe the film, but that’s probably for the best. The song is very much a Duran Duran song and screams 80s. The song will make anyone want to rock out.

  6. “Nobody Does It Better”: The James Bond theme notwithstanding, this may be the franchise’s unofficial theme song. Carly Simon does a brilliant job gushing praise on James Bond. The song is sung from the perspective of Anya Amasova and contains the perfect mix of 70s pop and ballad. An excellent song to accompany the franchise’s finest entry.

  7. “The World Is Not Enough”: Garbage sings the best of the Brosnan era themes. The song does a great job of describing Bond’s relationship with Elektra. Shirley Manson gives it her all and is able to stand with the best of Bond vocalists. If only the rest of the film were as good as this.

  8. “Goldfinger”: The gold standard (pun intended) for Bond themes, Shirley Bassey defines what a Bond theme should be. Describing the film’s villain, the song foreshadows a sinister character that will go toe-to-toe with Bond. The song is loud and bombastic and gets you pumped for what is to follow. Other songs have done it better, but there is no denying this song’s (and film’s) legacy.

  9. “You Only Live Twice”: Nancy Sinatra gives an excellent performance on the most beautiful song in the Bond cannon. The song has a unique flavor that matches the film’s Japanese setting. The lyrics are decidedly dream-like and paint a picture of Bond’s transformation over time. Sinatra sings them with such grace and sounds as if she could be singing to Bond herself.

  10. “The Living Daylights”: After the success of Duran Duran’s theme, a-Ha were brought in to continue that success and they delivered one of the better themes, that charted high around the world (but not in the US). Whlie not as in your face as “A View to a Kill”, “The Living Daylights” has a distinct flavor not found in other Bond themes. However, it doesn’t really have much to do with Bond or the film it is attached to. As such, it achieves greatness, but falls short of excellence.

  11. “Thunderball”: A loud, bombastic song, for a loud, bombastic film. Its a very good song, however, it only seems to be trying to outdo the superior “Goldfinger.” The film does a great job of describing Bond and Tom Jones gives it his all. However, song of the lyrics just don’t make sense and are only there to include the title of the film. What does “and he strikes like Thunderball” mean exactly?

  12. “DIamonds are Forever”: The second-best of the Bassey themes. The song is upbeat and matches the tone of the film, which may be its biggest flaw. The film shouldn’t have been light-hearted and fun and neither should its theme. That said, Bassey hits the highest of notes as she always does. A classic song, its just wrong as the follow-up theme to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

  13. “For Your Eyes Only”: A good song, but not memorable. The song works to describe the relationship between Bond and Melina, however, nothing about it is particularly great. Sheen Easton gives a passable performance, but the song evokes memories of the awful “Morning Train.”

  14. “Tomorrow Never Dies”: Not a bad song by any stretch, however, it is completely overshadowed by its much better cousin “Surrender”. The song is very slow, but the lyrics do a great job describing Bond. I think this song would be higher if someone other than Sheryl Crow had sung it. I like Sheryl Crow, but here, her voice is just too scratchy. A good song, but it never should have been the main song.

  15. “Goldeneye”: I know this is a popular one, however, I personally don’t like it. The song sounds too much like her song from Thunderdome. The melody is very harsh. Goldeneye needed something more bombastic and this is too grunge-y.

  16. “Licence to Kill”: Gladys Knight does what she can to save the longest of all the Bond themes. It, along with its sister song “If You Asked Me To” both sound very late 80s, which isn’t a bad thing. However, the film doesn’t fit the tone of Licence to Kill. It is too much of a ballad for a very violent movie. Not a bad song, but disappointing.

  17. “Writing’s on the Wall”: Sam Smith delivers a very much vanilla Bond theme. It certainly has certain features of classic Bond themes and the lyrics have grown on me. However, the falsetto just completely ruins this song. If Smith had performed it without that, the song would’ve been higher. Still not sure how this won for best original song.

  18. “The Man with the Golden Gun”: A very provactive and violent song that does describe Scaramanga well, however, doesn’t do much else well. While the song is loud and bombastic, it doesn’t sound like a Bond song. As it is, TMWTGG is one of the series’s weakest soundtracks and it is headlined by this monstrosity.

  19. “Opening Titles: From Russia with Love”: Nothing inherently wrong here, however, nothing inherently great either. The track is an amalgation of different pieces of music and really just comes off as meh. The Matt Munro song would’ve worked much better over the main titles.

  20. “All Time High”: Too jazzy. The song fits the theme of Octopussy, however, the song is decidedly un-Bondlike. I only listen to this one when I watch Octopussy.

  21. “Moonraker”: The worst of the Shirley Bassey Bond themes. Not much good to say about it, even Bassey sounds bored while singing.

  22. “Die Another Day”: This was the worst Bond song until AWTD. The song is way too techno and doesn’t fit with the theme of DAD. The one saving grace is the less-techno and less-harsh version played over the end credits.

  23. “Another Way to Die”: Absolute garbage, can’t believe this song was picked over Shirley Bassey’s song. This is the only MTS that I actively skip when I watch the film. The song sounds very un-Bondian and really I’d rather listen to nails on a chalkboard. bleep this song.

Just to clarify on that one…

“Mr Arnold confirmed to MI6 that the song was not a rejected theme for ‘Quantum of Solace’. Apart from the opening string line, there was no material from the movie soundtrack. Only a few lines of the song had written by the time Jack White and Alicia Keys were chosen to perform ‘Another Way To Die” said Mr Arnold.

When he was asked to produce Shirley Bassey’s new album, Mr Arnold teamed up with Don Black to finish the song specifically for the album.”

Yes, I’ve heard that the song wasn’t finished in time. That said, the song is decidedly Bondian, something AWTD is not. Personally, I just can’t fathom how Another Way to Die was ever chosen. It just reaffirms to me how poor of a job Marc Forster did in directing QoS.

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A ranking thread! Love it!

So here’s mine:

The unbreakable Top Ten

  1. Nobody does it better - it has the laid back, tongue-in-cheek bravado that will always encapsulate Bond for me.

  2. We have all the time in the world - one of the most beautiful songs ever written, for Bond or any other film or by itself.

  3. You only live twice - capturing a dreamy, melancholic eroticism with another haunting Barry melody.

  4. Diamonds are forever - see YOLT

  5. Moonraker - see YOLT and DAF, just mesmerizing how Barry always could write these melodies which could double as themes and songs and work like a powerhouse as both.

  6. For your eyes only - for me, it will always represent sun and fun, coupled with hopefulness, a very Moore-esque feeling saying “everything will be fine”.

  7. All time high - see YOLT, DAF and MR - again, an irresistible (for me) Barry melody that makes me sit back comfortably and get ready to enjoy another fun adventure.

  8. Goldfinger - of course, the classic, different from later Barry songs, darker, more sardonic and dramatic.

  9. Thunderball - the male, more bombastic version of GF, already incorporating a funnier side, featuring a powerful melody that steamrolls everything.

  10. Live and let die - a perfect start for the Moore era: a bluesy, laid-back part, followed by a tough, macho chorus and a high stakes drama instrumental passage, broken up by an ironic bridge; yes, everything Bond can do and switch between.

The successors to the throne

  1. Never say never again - featuring the kind of tongue-in-cheek bravado I love in a Bond song, perfectly in tune with Connery´s one-time comeback.

  2. Licence to kill - I guess I just prefer ballads for Bond, especially if they come with this feeling of “I will prevail” that I associate with Bond.

  3. You know my name - And here’s the exception to my rule: a strong rock song with a wonderful melody that doubles as a great theme for the score, in the best Barry tradition taken over by Arnold.

  4. Tomorrow never dies - sultry, sinister and melodramatic in a great 60´s pastiche. Underrated.

  5. The world is not enough - haunting melody, maybe a bit repetitive.

  6. Writing on the wall - great melodic hook, the falsetto does not ruin it for me but IMO wasn’t necessary.

  7. A view to a kill - good melody, nice chorus, but the production with the horn stings already feels a bit too ironic for my taste

  8. The Living Daylights - I love the melody for the verses, but I think the chorus is lacking - just singing o-o-o-ooooh, the living daylights, and then the horn stings… another idea for the chorus would have made this one much better than it still is.

  9. From Russia with love - a Barry melody is always fantastic, this one pumps up the sadness and lacks the fun element for me.

  10. Skyfall - I like the verses but the chorus, again, makes me think this falls one melodic idea too short; I love the bridge, however. The production, for my taste, is a bit too obviously clinging to Bond clichés.

  11. Goldeneye - here the horn stings sound (and probably are) not real which makes it sound like the equivalent of fan fiction (we´re doing a Bond song… TA-DAAAA… and call it Gold-en-eye… TA-DAAAA). Still nice enough.

Experiments to tolerate

  1. The Man with the golden gun - even the great Barry had not so great ideas. This melody worked much better in the score and not so great as a mid-tempo song with lyrics that felt written as a first draft joke (he has a powerful weapon, he charges a million A SHOT!)

  2. Die another Day - never liked techno or house or the later Madonna songs which all seemed to come out of an algorithm for dance music of the 90´s. The verse melody is fine, the chorus tries too hard to remain minimalistic and rhythmic.

  3. Another Way to Die - whenever I hear it I really strive to like parts of it: the piano line, the dry drums, the changing rhythms. But the lyrics are dreadful (Bang Bang Bang Bang), and there is NO reason why this had to be a duet. Alicia Keys has a wonderful voice, Jack White not at all. Oh, well, there has to be one real failure amidst all these classic songs.

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My top five would be:

You Know My Name: Lyrically, as already noted, this is about Bond.

Live and Let Die: Being a McCartney nut, this is a no-brainer, but it is genuinely exciting.

All Time High! You can see they were going for another ‘Nobody Does It Better’, and 1983 was close enough to 1977 to give it the same synthy feel.

Nobody Does It Better: Obviously.

A View to a Kill: So, soooo '80s, right down to the nonsensical lyrics, but one of the few uptempo
Bond tunes

Plus, an honoury mention to Never Say Never Again. Yes, I do indeed have no taste.