For nearly sixty years, James Bond has ruled the box office around the world with its seemingly never-ending string of blockbuster spy movies. As with any franchise that seems to have no end, there are spots of total brilliance—and total stinkers too.
So it is with the theme songs, a staple of the genre since John Barry crooned his way into oblivion on 'From Russia With Love'. For the purposes of this list, we have excluded John Barry's original 'James Bond Theme', the official song written for the debut canon Bond film Dr. No.
The remaining 24 are a mixed bag of some of the pop world's greatest artists writing songs that vary from transcendent beauty to absolute dreadfulness.
Read on to see how we ranked them in the ultimate list:
24. ‘Writing On The Wall’ - Sam Smith (Spectre)
A disappointing return to the crooning dirge of old, 2015’s Spectre got a dull single in the form of ‘Writing On The Wall’ by Sam Smith complete with glass-shattering falsettos.
23. ‘From Russia With Love’ - Matt Monro (From Russia With Love)
More dirge for the sixties audience—surprising, considering so much brilliant music came out at the time. It’s a shame that the film featuring the jet pack of dreams had to get such a dreadfully dull theme song.
22. ‘Moonraker’ - Shirley Bassey (Moonraker)
Fittingly, the dreary ’Moonraker’ ranks very low down the list: Moonraker itself is the worst Bond film ever released.
21. ‘All Time High’ - Rita Coolidge (Octopussy)
As forgettable as the film it’s joined to.
20. ‘For Your Eyes Only’ - Sheena Easton (For Your Eyes Only)
The dirge-train arrives in 1981 at Sheena Easton-ville. Honk honk.
19. ‘Licence To Kill’ - Gladys Knight (Licence To Kill)
After the thrill of ‘A View To A Kill’ and ‘The Living Daylights’, Gladys Knight’s ‘Licence To Kill’ seemed to return the Bond song back to its crooning origins—in this case, it could have been worse, but probably not by much.
18. ‘You Only Live Twice’ - Nancy Sinatra (You Only Live Twice)
Another entry into the Bond dirge oeuvre.
17. ‘Another Way To Die’ - Jack White, Alicia Keys (Quantum of Solace)
Funny how the worst songs seem to link up with the worst films here. Jack White’s guitars do something to this one but can’t bring it back from the messy brink it’s windmilling on.
16. ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ - Lulu (The Man With The Golden Gun)
Opening lyric “he has a powerful weapon” does at least set the tone for Roger Moore’s entire corny run as Bond. As the seventies movies go, you could do worse than Lulu’s effort, but in no way is that saying much.
15. ‘Goldeneye’ - Tina Turner (Goldeneye)
Tina Turner has a fantastic voice: there’s no denying that. So too, though, do Shirley Bassey, Gladys Knight, Sheena Easton…and that didn’t shield them from their involvement in some of the most boring Bond songs to ever be released.
14. ‘Thunderball’ - Tom Jones (Thunderball)
‘Thunderball’ is saved by Tom Barry’s iconic score and the fact of Tom Jones' likeability. Other than that, it’s simply more painful funeral fodder here.
13. ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ - Sheryl Crow (Tomorrow Never Dies)
Sheryl Crow’s voice is suited very nicely to the dangerously sexy vibe of the Bond film and while the verses in this song hold up nicely, the chorus isn’t as strong as it could be.
12. ‘Live And Let Die’ - Wings (Live And Let Die)
Paul McCartney’s Wings do a passable job of creating a great Bond song—at least it’s memorable—but the sheer patchwork of inspirations here dampen what could have been a simple, powerful rock ballad as teed up in the opening forty seconds.
11. ‘Nobody Does It Better’ - Carly Simon (The Spy Who Loved Me)
Carly Simon’s ballad is part of a small coterie of Bond songs that have made it out into the pop world without suffering typecasting as merely a 'Bond Song'. The slow, irritated declaration of love is a nuanced love song for the ages.
10. ‘A View To A Kill’ - Duran Duran (A View To A Kill)
With Duran Duran, the franchise chose its first big-time contemporary pop act. The move away from iconic crooners works: ‘A View To A Kill’ lends a fresh perspective to what a Bond song can be.
9. ‘The Living Daylights’ - a-ha (The Living Daylights)
a-ha carry the baton from Duran Duran, adding—as their predecessors did—some much-needed contemporary spice to the Bond song.
8. ‘Goldfinger’ - Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger)
Points docked for some of the caterwauling here, but so many points are added for drama, memorability, fame and the inclusion of John Barry's iconic opening score that it hardly registers.
7. 'Diamonds Are Forever' - Shirley Bassey (Diamonds Are Forever)
Suitably dramatic, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ is still used in nigh-on every diamond-themed media to come into the world. Not only one of the only great songs about the jewel, but Shirley Bassey’s second of three Bond outings is a legitimately great diss track to all men.
6. ‘We Have All The Time In The World’ - Louis Armstrong (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
Australian George Lazenby’s only Bond film was joined with one of the franchise’s most moving ballads, debuting at the tail-end of the film just as (spoiler) Bond’s wife Tracy Draco is gunned down on a mountain road. The gentle lullaby sway of ‘We Have All The Time In The World’ and the swirling strings of John Barry combine deliciously with Louis Armstrong’s heavenly vocals for a gorgeous finished result.
5. ‘No Time To Die’ - Billie Eilish (No Time To Die)
An inspired choice of artist for the most modern of Bond songs, Billie could have her pick of producers. That she chose to go with her brother Finneas shows just how formidable a songwriting pair these two are: her effort follows in the footsteps of Adele’s genre-defining ’Skyfall’.
4. ‘You Know My Name’ - Chris Cornell (Casino Royale)
The most out-and-out rock song from the entire back catalogue, the late, great Chris Cornell pulled it out of the bag with the theme song for Casino Royale. Like the film it was written for, ‘You Know My Name’ reinvigorated the Bond franchise ready for its best era yet under the tenure of Daniel Craig.
3. ‘The World Is Not Enough’ - Garbage (The World Is Not Enough)
The only song written from the villain’s perspective, Garbage’s ‘The World Is Not Enough’ is a powerful combination of Bond-like strings and rock vocals, creating something akin in energy to John Barry’s original Bond theme while remaining loyal to Garbage's own sound.
2. ‘Die Another Day’ - Madonna (Die Another Day)
As well as an extended cameo appearance in 2002’s sub-par Die Another Die, Madonna also crafted its theme song. Not only is the nuanced, impeccably-crafted songwriting and production of this track one of the franchise’s very best, it is also up there as one of Madonna’s best ever songs too...
1. ‘Skyfall’ - Adele (Skyfall)
Simply the perfect Bond song. Ominous, grand, memorable and, most importantly, ‘Skyfall’ made the whole world deliriously excited for its attached film.