Today, I’ve decided to do something a little different. If you listened to the season finale of the radio show (and if you missed it, you can find it here), you would remember we used the theme from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me in the “Your Life in Song” segment. While it was a great song, I wasn’t entirely sure that it was the greatest Bond theme ever. So I decided to figure out what was the greatest Bond movie theme song of all time.
10. You Know My Name
No, this isn’t a terribly good theme compared to the rest of the list. If anything, it gets in on an era exemption because it’s easily the best Bond theme of the 2000s. Chris Cornell’s theme has a good tune though it may not necessarily be memorable. At least, it isn’t cringe worthy like the themes from Die Another Die and Quantum of Solace. It is also the first real rock song used as a Bond theme since “Live and Let Die” which was a welcome change of pace.
9. The World Is Not Enough
Garbage sure seemed like an odd pick to do a Bond theme but they rose to the task. I would have expected Garbage to have come up with something closer to Quantum’s lackluster “Another Way to Die.” However, this turned out to be the highlight of an otherwise forgettable movie.
8. For Your Eyes Only
For a standard pop ballad, it’s not a bad song. It fits both as a Bond theme and would have likely worked just as well as a single from a Sheena Easton album. It doesn’t really build to that classic Bond theme crescendo that they often do but it still works. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s so different from most other Bond themes that makes it work so well.
I would have and should have ranked this higher. The only reason it falls to here is because it is essentially a knock-off of Goldfinger sung by a male singer, in this case, Sir Tom Jones. When you listen to it, you can clearly hear the influence in both the music and the vocals by Jones. That’s not necessarily a bad thing considering how good Goldfinger was. Jones was absolutely epic here and it is a shame we don’t have him or another powerful crooner like him doing Bond themes now rather than the garbage we usually get.
6. You Only Live Twice
When you hear it, you almost certain to remember the melody. Nancy Sinatra’s theme was sampled most memorably by Robbie Williams for his chart-topping song “Millennium.” The melody a sort of Asian influence to it which both fits the film as it’s set in Japan and gives it an exotic sound fitting of James Bond film. Not to mention the fact that Sinatra’s vocals more than live up to those by Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones in the previous two films.
5. Diamonds Are Forever
This was Shirley Bassey’s second go at doing a Bond theme. Once again, she knocks this one out of the park. Like her previous effort in Goldfinger, there’s a strong brass presence and Bassey thunders the vocals but Diamonds has a stronger percussion presence than Goldfinger. The song was reintroduced to the world when it was sampled by Kanye West for “Diamonds from Sierra Leone.”
4. A View to a Kill
Legend has it that Duran Duran’s bassist John Taylor went up to Bond producer CubbyBroccoli and asked when someone decent was going to do a Bond theme. That might have been a bit of a bold question since there are four Moore era themes on this list and Duran Duran only chimed in at third among those. Still, the band didn’t disappoint. The New Wave style theme was a break from the more pop/crooner style that was dominant in previous Bond themes. This is also the only Bond theme to have ever topped the Billboard Hot 100.
3. Nobody Does It Better
As good as the songs above it on the list are, Carly Simon’s take on the theme for The Spy Who Loved Me has been used in video montages since its release. We even used it on an episode of The Lowdown radio show. Although one could say that “Nobody Does It Better” falls into the same musical genre as “The Man with the Golden Gun,” Simon just blew them out of the water. The song has received all sorts of praise including from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke who was quoted on stage as saying this was the sexiest song of all time. That’s only fitting for Bond and this movie.
2. Live and Let Die
This is not just one of the iconic tracks in the history of the James Bond series but of Paul McCartney’s career. There’s no real way to describe the song with anything but pure magic. It’s so good and so popular that it’s a staple of McCartney’s live shows, including his performance at Super Bowl 39.
The Shirley Bassey classic is the gold standard for Bond theme which is only fitting as Goldfinger is the gold standard of Bond films. Bassey put it all on the line for this one. Her performance is memorable for the long belting of “gold” which was so long that she nearly fainted during recording of the song. And as much as we laud Bassey performance, the whole thing was amazing from Basset right down to the screaming horns in the background.