Some of my previous James Bond rankings have stirred up a bit of debate and this one is likely to as well: my ranking of James Bond theme songs! As with my other rankings, there are broadly three categories: great songs that are still memorable and good today, songs that aren’t so great/memorable but are at least coherent with what makes a Bond song a Bond song to me, and then songs that are just straight up bad.
1. James Bond Theme (Monty Norman / John Barry) – There are few more enduring and recognizable riffs than the James Bond theme. Originally the title piece for Dr. No and From Russia With Love, it then took more of a thematic role in subsequent films while individualized songs played during the title sequences.
2. Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey) – the most iconic Bond theme song of all time, this one also set the precedent for a title sequence that features moving female outlines – a hallmark of almost every Bond movie to come.
3. Skyfall (Adele) – My #1 and #2 were the first Bond songs, but my #3 is the most recent. I just love the sound of it – classic Bond style in a modern voice.
4. For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton) – So representative of the ’80s Bond.
5. Nobody Does It Better (Carly Simon) – This one went along with The Spy Who Loved Me and was the first not to share the same name as the film.
6. Diamonds Are Forever (Shirley Bassey) – Bassey’s second Bond song was almost as good/recognizable as her first.
7. Die Another Day (Madonna) – The title song was one of the only good things about this Bond movie.
8. The Man With The Golden Gun (Lulu) – Like Goldfinger on steroids, this song goes even further over the top – but loses points for originality.
9. All Time High (Rita Coolidge) – I don’t love this song (Octopussy) but it gets points for being enduringly recognizable.
10. You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra) – Not a great song per se but one that definitely fits the Bond theme.
11. Thunderball (Tom Jones) – Tom Jones being Tom Jones, which makes for a good theme song style.
12. A View To A Kill (Duran Duran) – I imagine that this song was actually awesome in the mid ’80s but its style isn’t terribly timeless for me.
13. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (John Barry) – I’m not sure why they moved away from vocal theme songs to this purely orchestral piece – possibly to provide a clearer break from the Sean Connery era. That would certainly explain why they went running back to the vocal style (and even re-used Goldfinger’s Shirley Bassey) when they brought Connery back for Diamonds Are Forever.
14. Tomorrow Never Dies (Sheryl Crow) – I love Sheryl Crow and stylistically this is right on, but somehow it just doesn’t work for me. Her voice sounds weak in the high parts.
15. The World Is Not Enough (Garbage) – This was forgettable enough that I had to refresh my memory about how it sounded on YouTube.
16. Moonraker (Shirley Bassey) – Bassey’s third and final Bond song is just kind of slow and blah.
17. Goldeneye (Tina Turner) – They used a Tina Turner Bond song about 10 years too late.
18. Live And Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings) – I know many people will disagree with this, but I really loathe just about everything that came out of Paul McCartney after the Beatles – including this song. Now the Guns N Roses version is another story . . .
19. The Living Daylights (A-ha) – Again, this might have fit better in the mid ’80s when it came out but today it’s just not very good.
20. You Know My Name (Chris Cornell) – Casino Royale’s theme song is one of the only underwhelming aspects of an otherwise great film.
21. Another Way To Die (Alicia Keys) – Don’t feel bad if you don’t remember the Quantum of Solace theme song; you’re probably just repressing your memory of it because it isn’t very good.
22. License To Kill (Gladys Knight) – If Tina Turner was 10 years too late, Gladys Knight was 20. This song is terrible; they should have just covered Midnight Train to Georgia instead!
23. Never Say Never Again (Lani Hall) – I’ve been harsh on some of the other ’80s songs as having been good but not having endured. Never Say Never Again doesn’t have that problem because it was horrible from the very beginning!