Bond 50 Poll: Best James Bond Theme Songs

Over the years, the James Bond theme song has become so integral to the success of the Bond formula that many of these songs have proven to be even more popular (and sometimes just plain better) than the movies they support. On the other hand, some are unfortunately forgettable. Which Bond theme songs are your favorites? Vote in today’s poll.

The tradition of the Bond theme song didn’t begin in earnest until Shirley Bassey belted out the iconic theme to ‘Goldfinger‘ in 1964. Prior to that, the first two movies in the series only had instrumental music over the opening credits (though ‘From Russia with Love‘ had a song over the end credits). After Bassey’s single became a Top 40 hit, producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman made sure that every following Bond film (except ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, for some reason) had a song over the opening credits.

The only artist to record multiple James Bond theme songs, Shirley Bassey returned to work on ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and ‘Moonraker‘. Her theme for the latter is probably the best part of that film. Other 007 tunes have been performed by notable artists and bands such as Carly Simon, Sheena Easton, Duran Duran, Tina Turner and Madonna. Famously, Dionne Warwick’s intended theme for ‘Thunderball‘ was ditched at the last minute and replaced by a new tune by Tom Jones. (You can watch the original synced up to the film’s credits on one of the Blu-ray’s commentary tracks.) Similarly, k.d. lang’s “Surrender” was shifted to the end credits of ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ in favor of a much less effective song by Sheryl Crow.

Paul McCartney brought James Bond into the rock & roll era with the blazing ‘Live and Let Die‘ theme, which is still one of the franchise’s best songs. Other personal favorites of mine include Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” (from ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’), Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” and Tina Turner’s “GoldenEye.”

Sadly, some of the modern James Bond songs have been much less memorable. As mentioned, I’m not terribly fond of Sheryl Crow’s “Tomorrow Never Dies.” In my opinion, the last three themes (“Die Another Day” by Madonna, “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell for ‘Casino Royale‘ and “Another Way to Die” by Jack White for ‘Quantum of Solace‘) have all been pretty much terrible.

Which Are Your Favorite James Bond Theme Songs?

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  1. Alex

    We could have whole poll on your favorite version of the “James Bond Theme”. Personally, I’m partial to the Parodi Fair version that shows up in the teaser for “Goldeneye.”

  2. M. Enois Duarte

    Of course, I’m going with Duran Duran on this one. I still listen to the song often. I love it!

    “Live and Let Die” and the theme by Monty Norman & John Barry are also high on the list.

      • And how exactly is she going to turn it into a song about getting dumped? she’s a film too late in that regard.

        Anything, ANYTHING but Adele. William Hung autotuned would be an acceptable alternative.

        • Alex

          Anything? Bold statement, Nate. How about Carly Rae Jepsen?

          Hey, I just met you,
          And this is crazy,
          But shoot some henchmen,
          and drink martinis!

  3. Nick McMahan

    i heard it was adele doing skyfall on siriusxm the other day, voted for goldfinger, goldeneye, tomorrow never dies

  4. Barsoom Bob

    I think Adele was confirmed last week.

    There is no arguing with the basic James Bond guitar riff, it is iconic but it really isn’t a song.

    I like Goldfinger the best of all the songs, followed by You Only Live Twice ( much less well known.)

    I know everyone hates it but I like the Jack White/Alicia Keys one. It has the brass and some great fuzzed out guitars from Mr White but I think their high voices and stacatto, stop start nature of the song throws people off. But how can you not love a James Bond song that contains the line, “another dirty money, heaven sent honey, turning on a dime”

  5. lordbowler

    I have the album of all of the theme songs through The World is Not Enough (I think?). Great album.

    My favorite is still Live and Let Die!

    I also love Tina Turner’s Goldeneye, great intro for the New Bond!

    I look forward to hearing Adele, if that is correct. I also enjoyed Bassey’s Goldfinger, so if it’s like that then it should be good.

  6. As a big a-ha fan, my vote goes to “The Living Daylights”. What a great song. Props to Josh as well for the correct spelling of the name of the band. A lot of people write “A-Ha” or “A-ha”, whereas it really should be “a-ha”.

    • EM

      In English, it really should have a capital letter, probably the first A and perhaps the H as well. Affectation does not trump good orthography.

      • Uhm, not really, no. Because the band wants and writes it like this. We write “Eagles” and not “The Eagles”. We opt for “The Beatles” and not “The Beetles”. And because a-ha prefers “a-ha”, we write “a-ha”. Am I wrong?

      • William Henley

        a-ha is not an English band, they are Norwegian. Norwegian capitolization rules are different than in English.

        Now, you could claim that because it’s an artist, you need to capitolize, but if the artist decided to use an expression as their name, then capitolization rules do not apply.

        In this case, the band chose not to capitolize, and as they are not English, English rules do not apply anyways.

      • EM

        Q. What belongs to you but doesn’t take up room in your home and is used more by your friends and family than by you?
        A. Your name.
         —a riddle I vaguely remember from childhood

        “‘Sandy’, ‘Sandy’. It’s a nice name. Everybody has such weird names now; it’s like ‘Tiffany’ with a P-H-I, and…and instead of ‘Nancy’ it’s ‘Nancine’.”
        “Big S, small A, small N, big D, small E, big E.”
        “Big S, small A, small N, big D, small E, big E. … Big S, small A, small N, big D, small E, big E. And there’s a little star at the end.”
         —L.A. Story (1991)

        Proper names are a part of language; like language in general, they are functional only to the extent that consensus and custom permits. Language permits a bewildering variety of means of expression; because it is not inherently fixed, some conventions must be accepted (whether explicitly or tacitly) in order for linguistic communication to be practical. While even a single individual may deviate—or innovate—such variation runs risks.

        English, like most (all?) languages normally written in bicameral Latin script, has certain conventions about capitalization. Generally speaking, English wants capitalization applied to proper names. (One uncontroversial counterexample would be the title of the novel 1984, which of course has no letters to capitalize—however, I’ve also seen it rendered Nineteen Eighty-Four, with three capital letters…)

        English, like many languages, does have a fair amount of tolerance for proper names that violate English orthographic conventions. But the tolerance is not without limits. You may recall the example of an American pop singer who in 1993 declared that his name would thenceforth be a novel logogram with no pronunciation. A novel symbol, at least, could work within some languages’ written conventions, but the usual response of the English-speaking world was—and continues to be—ridicule.

        On the scale of things, letter-case variations are not so bad. Still, there is a very strong expectation in English orthography that proper names be marked with uppercase letters. Deliberate flouting of the rule can introduce readability problems. Within limits, creative spellings like Beatles are less of a problem; people experienced in reading English are used to homophony, even among proper names (e.g., Green vs. Greene), and punnery enjoys a long tradition in English.

        William, I saw nothing in the page you cited that suggested Norwegian rules are any different in this particular matter. My understanding is that the band was trying to come up with an English-compatible name. And I believe the original comment above and all follow-up commentary have been in English, not Norwegian.

  7. Vincent Radzikowski

    It’s hard to pick an absolute favorite, but I guess it would have to be Goldfinger. The opening brass, Shirley Bassey’s vocals, and the fact that it set the standard for all to follow. Goldeneye is right up there, with the combo of Tina Turner, Bono, and The Edge. “We Have All The Time In The World” is perfect for the tone of OHMSS, and the title instrumental song is one of my all time favorite pieces of film score (among other things, inspiring the soundtrack to the Incredibles, I mean they even used the OHMSS theme in the teaser!) And I really liked “You Know My Name.” Chris Cornell has a very distinctive voice, but in addition to that the song has a great pace, how it slows down, then builds back up rapidly, always gets me excited. Along with an awesome title sequence it makes for a great package.

  8. Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode on BBC Radio 5 recently did a live show featuring the 10 best Bond films as voted on the BBC website. They had performances by the BBC Philharmonic. It was simply amazing.