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007 Theme Song Rankings

November 5, 2015

Spectre has opened to huge audiences in England already, and it’s about to drop in the U.S. One of the most buzzed elements of any new Bond movie is the new theme song and the opening title sequence. Take a spin through the past 52+ years of title sequences. You’ll find every video embedded below (along with a few bonuses), and ranked in an apparently very arbitrary order of preference.

Worst to first:

1979 – Moonraker

Why is this a 007 theme song? Kudos for working one of the series’ sillier titles into the lyrics though.

2002 – Die Another Day

Sorry Madonna, you’ll always have A League of Their Own. Interestingly, this song gets one of the better accompanying music videos.

1983 – Octopussy (“All Time High”)

A melody that sticks in your head, and a shout out in Ted, aren’t enough to make this a great 007 song.

1981 – For Your Eyes Only

This song has a real pop sensibility, which is more than a handful of Bond themes can say. Not terrible, but certainly not a heavy weight. Fun fact: Sheena Easton is the only singer to be featured in any of the 007 opening credit sequences.

1975 – The Man With The Golden Gun

One of the goofier movies in the cannon gets one of the most bombastic songs. It combines the frenetic fanfare you hear at the beginning of the From Russia With Love theme, with gonzo tongue-in-cheek lyricism. An interesting combination of elements, but not one I’d like to hear that often outside of watching the film itself.

1963 – From Russia With Love

Welcome to the non-lyrical portion of the countdown. Revisiting all of the opening music videos for this list, it came as a surprise that FRWL had a non-lyrical theme. The song does have lyrics, as I’m sure you’ll remember, but they are only heard when the theme is played over the end credits.

1968 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

OHMSS was the first in the series to feature someone other than Sean Connery in the lead role. The instrumental theme is supremely hummable, and adds a lot to the action sequences in the film.

1962 – Dr No

Technically, Monty Norman’s guitar theme is the unassailable top dog among all 007-related music. This sentiment is not reflected in this list since that signature tune is also used in all the other films. It’s presence here is diluted a tad. If that doesn’t seem like sound reasoning, well, then there’s also the fact that it’s paired with the cheesy, yet memorable “Three Blind Mice” bit. Crisis averted.

2009 – Quantum of Solace (“Another Way To Die”)

The slickest Bond title song, and it’s not close; this is as close to a club jam as the Bond songbook gets. Jack White and Alicia Keys sound great in the duet, and the lack of a bombastic chorus gives the whole track a reserved intensity.

This song is the least hook-driven of the Bond themes, instead drawing energy from an intensity that mostly bubbles just below the surface. Despite the restrained chorus, “Another Way to Die” still manages to get you appropriately amped for the rest of Quantum of Solace, a disproportionately action-packed Bond film.

1995 – GoldenEye

“GoldenEye,” goes into diva mode, with Tina Turner belting a song written by Bono and The Edge. The combination of talent is probably more interesting than the actual song, but is packaged nicely with a striking video sequence.

1989 – Licence To Kill

Similar to “GoldenEye,” “Licence To Kill” is a solid diva vocal, this time by Gladys Knight. Knight’s opening song, combined with Patti LaBelle’s “If You Asked Me To,” playing over the end credits, make Licence To Kill’s soundtrack far better than the rest of the film.

1997 – Tomorrow Never Dies

Not a standard 007 power ballad, but Sheryl Crow sounded great here. Late in the game, and to some controversy, this song actually replaced an already produced title song by k.d. lang.

1999 – The World Is Not Enough

“The World Is Not Enough” is accompanied by a strong music video, making for an excellent overall package. That said, the song on its own is no slouch, and the first one performed by a proper rock band with a female lead singer.

1987 – The Living Daylights

Story has it that a-ha did not get along with John Barry when recording this tune. Sometimes, conflict works. While it sounds like a bit of an outlier among the other 007 themes, it retains a strong Euro feel, and compliments the film well.

1977 – The Spy Who Loved Me (“Nobody Does It Better”)

None of these songs perfectly encapsulate their movie better than Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better.” It’s an entendre-laden love song, harmonizing snugly with Roger Moore’s reign as the star of the franchise. Though the song includes the film’s title within the lyrics, it was the first Bond song to have a different title than its accompanying film.

1971 – Diamonds Are Forever

One of the songs that seems pretty synonymous with the Connery days. It’s indulgent, but therein lies its charm. The only real knock against Shirley Bassey’s second performance is that it’s stuck in the shadow of her first. More on that later.

2006 – Casino Royale (“You Know My Name”)

Soundgarden veteran Chris Cornell wrote and performed this lively rocker for Daniel Craig’s first Bond film. Casino Royale was a reboot in more ways than one, not only delivering a quasi-origin story, but drastically altering the tone of the franchise. “You Know My Name” fit this type of movie perfectly, and gave audiences a welcomed alternative after sleepy-yet-adequate tracks from Sheryl Crow and Garbage (not to mention “Die Another Day”).

1965 – Thunderball

Tom Jones’ signature wail coupled with the iconic brassy theme make “Thunderball” one of the more irresistible 007 songs. While “Thunderball” is lyrically less memorable than “Goldfinger,” the two songs are cut from the the same cloth. The track’s grandiosity is matched only by the film itself.

1985 – A View To A Kill

A great tune from Duran Duran, complete with their signature bass licks. With virtuoso use of neon body paint, the music video is equally great. AVTAK is enjoyable in its own right, but this credits sequence, song included, is the real star of the film.

2012 – Skyfall

Adele’s “Skyfall” serves as a fairly neat end point for a remarkable period in the British singer’s career. She rode an enormous wave of successful singles in the few years leading up to 2012, and capped her run with an Academy Award for “Skyfall.” She’s been pretty quiet since, but it sounds like we may be getting a new album from her any time now. It’s simultaneously true to Adele’s stripped-down oeuvre, and a great Bond theme. A few bonus points for one the best accompanying music videos in the series.

1967 – You Only Live Twice

Incredible pop song. The opening string notes can live in your head for days. Not much to say here, just enjoy this hit from Nancy Sinatra.

1964 – Goldfinger

This is not the poppiest song in series, but the man who only lives twice was never really into all that anyway. With Shirley Bassey’s indomitable vocal and the eminently hummable fanfare, this is still arguably the gold standard for 007 theme songs.

1973 – Live And Let Die

Beatles and Bond! In pop cultural terms, that’s really what sixties were all about, even if they seemed diametrically opposed at the time. Sir Paul McCartney obviously had a sense of humor about the Goldfinger-era Bond once proclaiming, “…That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!” Fortunately for us, McCartney wrote and performed this frenetic rock track with his new band Wings for the 1973 film. The song, infectious and unabashed, was an apt choice for the voodoo-tinged film and remains the film’s defining element.

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