The best James Bond theme songs, ranked

Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig and George Lazenby as James Bond
Image via Eon Productions

James Bond is one of the last remaining great movie franchises. Since 007 arrived on screens in 1962’s Dr. No, the character has been a Hollywood staple. In fact, since 1962, the character has appeared in 25 films. However, one of the most famous things about the James Bond movies is their opening themes. Starting in 1964, when Shirley Bassey provided the opening theme to Goldfinger, it has become a tradition for a big-name pop artist to supply a bombastic song for each movie. But which of these themes is the best? 

10. “Writing’s on the Wall” – Sam Smith 

When Sam Smith was announced as the performer supplying the theme for 2015’s Spectre, heated debates kicked up on the internet. These arguments were made worse because this song was picked over the song “Spectre” by Radiohead, which is a much more interesting song, putting an alt-rock twist on the classic James Bond theme format. 

It’s easy to see why fans were unhappy. Smith doesn’t fit the Bond theme singer stereotype, feeling out of place in both the classic and modern ages. However, the song “Writing’s on the Wall” is surprisingly good, supplying a heavy and atmospheric ballad that does fit with the general tone of Spectre. 

The song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart, the first Bond theme song to hold this honor. However, while the track is fine on its own, it simply isn’t as memorable as other James Bond theme songs, lacking a hook that viewers can hum as they leave the theater. 

9. “The World Is Not Enough” – Garbage 

Continuing the trend of acts that don’t fit the James Bond theme mold. This song was the theme to 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, and while they might seem an odd choice at first, if any band encapsulates the late-90s, then it’s Garbage. 

“The World Is Not Enough” is an alt-pop twist on the classic Bond formula. Combining Garbage’s grungier production and crunchy guitars with heavily layered brass and lush strings leads to a satisfying oral tapestry. Also, Shirley Manson’s sultry vocals give the track a fun sense of danger. 

However, unlike most Bond themes, this song is written from the villain’s perspective, and this twist works really well. It makes you wonder why other Bond films have not done the same. Giving the villain a showstopping number is a Broadway tradition, so why not do it for Bond

8. “For Your Eyes Only” – Sheena Easton

In James Bond history, no one is as unfairly criticized as Sheena Easton. “For Your Eyes Only” is the theme of the 1981 film of the same name. The use of synths and electronic instruments is pretty trailblazing for the time. In fact, if you go in without knowing, you would presume this song came from way later in the decade. 

Though, it is easy to see why this song often gets overlooked. It is a massive departure from what viewers expected. Having to follow Shirley Bassey’s “Moonraker,” which is pretty much the ultimate “classic James Bond” theme song, being the template every James Bond theme parody pulls from. 

It did get nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards in 1982. However, it lost out to “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” from the now-forgotten movie Arthur. If this song was released as a stand-alone single, it would likely be much more fondly remembered. 

7. “No Time to Die” – Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish was roped in to provide the theme for No Time To Die in 2020, and the song perfectly showcases Billie’s immense vocal talent. In some ways, it feels like a throwback to earlier James Bond themes. 

The song does feature some neat production flourishes, including some incredible faded brass lines, which give the feeling of standing in a jazz club’s back alley. As well as some epic builds and swells that really make the piece feel dramatic. This is because the song was orchestrated by the legendary Hans Zimmer, who knows how to create memorable tracks. Unfortunately, like many other modern Bond themes, it lacks a catchy hook that will stick in your mind as you leave the theater. 

This song did very well for Eilish, being her first number-one single in the UK. It also swept up during awards season, winning Best Original Song at the Academy Awards and Best Song Written for Visual Media at the Grammy Awards. 

6. “You Know My Name” – Chris Cornell

2006’s Casino Royale was a massive departure for the James Bond franchise. Returning to Ian Fleming’s books for the first time in years and trying to move away from the sci-fi camp of the later Pierce Brosnan movies to a more grounded spy-thriller atmosphere. 

And “You Know My Name” plays heavily into this. While it has elements of a classic Bond theme, including the powerful brass stabs, this is very much a modernization of the art form, putting these hallmarks into a crunchy rock song. Cornell’s voice is perfect for this song, as he has plenty of range. But he also has some grit, further hammering home that Casino Royale wouldn’t be a film packed with flying cars and gizmos. 

The song did well during awards season, netting the Best Original Song award at the 11th Annual Satellite Awards and a World Soundtrack Award. It was nominated for Best Song Written for Visual Media at the Grammy awards but lost to “Love You I Do” from Dreamgirls.

5. “Another Way to Die” – Jack White & Alicia Keys

A very controversial song, “Another Way to Die,” was written for 2008’s Quantum of Solace. This song is the natural sequel to “You Know My Name,” taking some of the Bond hallmarks and mixing them with heavier alt-rock elements. 

The downside is that this is a very Jack White song. His signature guitar style will be instantly familiar to fans of The White Stripes or The Raconteurs. However, if this isn’t your thing, you’ll struggle to vibe with this song, which is why it ends up in the middle of this list. But if you like Jack White’s style, especially his Whammy-infused solos, the core riff is an utter earworm. Alicia Keys’ vocals are also excellent, with her vast range and powerful voice being perfect for a Bond theme. 

But this is another song that would likely be more fondly remembered if it had been a stand-alone single. It did okay during awards season, winning Best Original Song at the Satellite Awards, and was nominated for Best Song at the Critics’ Choice Awards.

4. “GoldenEye” – Tina Turner 

In many circles, Tina Turner was considered the natural successor to Shirley Bassey, and it makes sense that she would be selected to perform a James Bond theme. Acting as the theme to the 1995 movie of the same name, one of the most fascinating things about “Goldeneye” is that it was written by Bono and The Edge from legendary rock band U2. But you wouldn’t realize it, as this song features none of U2’s hallmarks. 

In fact, the song feels like a perfect modernization of the classic James Bond formula, featuring some hard-hitting brass and lush orchestra flourishes. Tina’s vocals are the highlight here, however. Her immense vocal power and range make this track wonderfully striking. It has a wonderfully tense atmosphere, which perfectly fits James Bond. Alas, this song didn’t do amazingly outside of Europe, and it didn’t win any awards. 

3. “Skyfall” – Adele

In the same way, Tina Turner was considered the successor to Shirley Bassey, Adele is regarded as the modern vocals queen due to her soul revival-inspired sounds. 

Made for the 2012 movie Skyfall, this song feels like a throwback, combining the classic Bond formula with the smooth and sleek production that defined the late 2010’s soul revival. Adele’s powerful vocals work perfectly here, and the chorus features a fantastic hook that will stick in your brain for weeks. Plus, the lyrics fit the movie perfectly. While also being enjoyable in their own right. 

This song got loads of praise, and it’s easy to see why, as it perfectly encapsulates what people expect from a Bond theme while still feeling like a classic Adele single. It won many awards, including Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, Best British Single at the Brit Awards, and Best Song Written for Visual Media at the Grammy awards. 

2. “Diamonds Are Forever” – Shirley Bassey

It is impossible to talk about James Bond themes without talking about Shirley Bassey. Bassey provided the title tracks for 3 Bond movies. And all of them are classics. In fact, Bassey’s songs are often considered the template that all Bond themes should follow. 

However, “Diamonds Are Forever,” from the 1971 movie of the same name, is her best theme by far. Featuring powerful and technically complex vocals mixed with lush orchestration and some very ’70s wah-wah effects, all wrapped up in a very catchy melody. It is easy to see why this song has endured so well and why it is still considered one of the quintessential Bond themes. 

1. “Live and Let Die” – Paul McCartney & Wings

1973’s Live and Let Die is an often overlooked Bond movie. However, its theme is one of the most well-known. And while Wings might be a frequently mocked band, this song is Paul McCartney at his best. This song stands out because it features progressive rock elements, moving from its subdued opening to a bombastic high-speed section effortlessly. Then, to further prove that McCartney is the king of songwriting, it slips into a Reggae-influenced verse for a moment before unleashing the bombast again. These constant changes in tempo and style capture the chaotic nature of Bond’s life, never knowing what will be waiting around the corner. And despite all of these changes, the song is still amazingly catchy, even after all these years. 

When this song was released, it quickly became the most successful Bond theme up to that point. It was the first Bond song nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. And it won Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) at the Grammy Awards. 

Looking at it now, you realize that “Live and Let Die” was ahead of its time. In fact, by taking the Bond theme hallmarks and combining them with heavy rock and other genres this song laid the foundation for the Bond themes we saw in the late ’90s and 2000s.