James Bond 007 Themes – Worst to Best (Music Review)

With the current state of affairs around the world, cinemas and movies theaters alike have taken a pause and closed the curtain temporarily, which unfortunately also includes flicks that were soon to be released.  One such movie was the next (and possibly final!) outing of Daniel Craig as James Bond 007 that was supposed to hit in April – the tasty looking No Time To Die.



But since it looks like we’re all gonna have to wait to get our license to kill groove on just a little longer, it felt like a great the time to look back at the soothing sounds of Bond over the years that have made the mega-franchise so memorable.  And while my list below may be different from your own in terms of everything from placement (hey – the openings of both From Russia With Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service didn’t feature the songs listed below, what gives?!) to the inclusion of a tune from what some consider the “fake” Bond flick (Never Say Never Again, really?!) this is nevertheless my list and I’m standing by it, naysayers.  And it’s a comprehensive one that includes a theme from every film, so all Bond works are present and accounted for.  (No, I’m not including the gamey 1967 Casino Royale with Peter Sellers – sue me!)  I gave each theme a good re-listen and placed them each on a scale of worst to best and surprisingly with some songs I was truly taken aback by the results.  (And some I was not!)  From Shirley Bassey to Tina Turner, Tom Jones to Paul McCartney (plus a little Adele and even some Billie Eilish!) here are twenty-six James Bond themes listed from Worst to Best for your consideration!  (It may leave you shaken, but hopefully not stirred!)

26. Spectre (“Writing’s On The Wall”) Sam Smith

I don’t know if it’s because it followed the five-star stuff by Adele via Skyfall or if someone merely dropped the ball, but this is hands down not only the worst Bond song but one of the worst songs I’ve heard ever.  Rife with a horrible American Idol B-level vocal quality, artist Sam Smith, whom I was unfamiliar with until I heard this song, did not make me a fan.  Though he did make sure that I firmly avoid his work in the future – Spectre would use this tune as a torture device.






25. The Living DaylightsA-ha

Proving that going with a popular pop band doesn’t always produce A View To A Kill, A-ha provides new agent Timothy Dalton with one of the dullest and uninspired debut tunes this side of elevator music.  Lame lyrics, horrible vocal styling and a crappy chorus to match, anything living here died before the first note.







24. Casino Royale (“You Know My Name”)Chris Cornell 

A sad and seriously uneventful tune that should have all but announced the arrival of new Bond Daniel Craig from the musical rooftops instead brings the secret agent in with a whimper.  What follows is a lame, almost unplayable song that I dare you to listen to all the way through (and if so more than once!) – this Bond ballad is blah.







23. From Russia With LoveMatt Monro 

Other than the booming vocal range of crooner Matt Monro there isn’t much adieu when it comes to this simple tune.  (And yes, it plays at the end of the film!)  Basic, boring and with way too much tambourine (guess that was the 60’s for you!), this is an oldie that’s not necessarily a goodie.








22. Quantum Of Solace (“Another Way To Die”)Jack White/Alicia Keys 

I respect what Alicia Keys and Jack White were trying to do with this one (the decent vocals get top billing here), but the problem is this song kinda sucks.  It’s not a toe-tapping tune, does not get better with multiple plays and is seriously unmemorable – just like the flawed film it inhabits.






21. The Man With The Golden GunLulu 

There are moments of great lyrical quality with singer Lulu on The Man With The Golden Gun, especially near the end.  But there are sadly more overbearing bits where she comes across like a bad Las Vegas lounge act giving an overall cheddar cheese feel – some bad aim on this anthem.








20. Never Say Never AgainLani Hall

An example of typical 80’s techno score featuring a gal (Lani Hall) with super high hair singing (I guessed it before I even saw the video!), this last return to Bond for Sean Connery feels like a sad stab at trying to be topical for the time – even then it felt dated.








19. The World Is Never EnoughGarbage 

Garbage’s rendition of The World Is Not Enough wants to be a big and grandiose ballad, but just never reaches above being so-so.  With song vocals that don’t have enough boom, but a bit too much sensuality, lead Scottish singer Shirley Manson never really decides what kind of song she wants this one to be – that makes two of us.







18. MoonrakerShirley Bassey

While Shirley Bassey is the benchmark for all other Bond songbirds to reach for, Moonraker (much like the inane flick itself!) feels like a misstep.  It’s what happens when you give a sub-par song to an A-list singer – the quality gets firmly moon raked over the coals.







17. Tomorrow Never DiesSheryl Crow

A weaker addition to the Bond song repertoire, this one has ho-hum work by Sheryl Crow – until the kick ass chorus.  If only the rest of the song had as much high-spirited sassy spunk.








16. No Time To DieBillie Eilish 

The song here starts off in a disappointingly dark and low key fashion, but midway through Eilish finds her inner old school crooner and finishes her No Time To Die with some nice Bond bravado – the song much like her career keeps getting better as it goes along.







15. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (“We Have All The time In the World”)Louis Armstrong 

I know this one comes at the end of the film (I do dig the score for the opening by the John Barry Orchestra!), but better late than never.  Not the coolest song in this singer’s greatest hits, but the legacy of Louis Armstrong is that he can make ANYTHING sound amazing.  All the time in the word indeed – to listen to that iconic voice please.







14. Octopussy (“All Time High”)Rita Coolidge

Gotta say Rita Coolidge has one of those old school voices that would make a cat food commercial come to life.  All Time High works solely on her ample shoulders and is a great example of an artist who elevates everything around them.  (But again a missed opportunity not using the tasty title of Octopussy for the song!)







13. The Spy Who Loved Me (“Nobody Does It Better”)Carly Simon

I admit I kinda hate when the song doesn’t match the title of the film (I know she says the line in the song, but I’m a purist!), but as far as soothing sounds nobody does it better than Carly Simon.  Only marks off would be this one firmly feels like it was made for another flick – it’s more a love song more than a Bond ballad.








12. You Only Live TwiceNancy Sinatra

There’s a quirky and too simple execution to Nancy Sinatra’s vocal work with You Only Live Twice that it makes the song almost forgettable – almost.  But thankfully backed up by a high violins and lush French horns, it gives Sinatra’s easy drawl a second life.








11. Die Another DayMadonna

Again, another tune that defies the typical song style of a Bond theme and yet still manages to seriously succeed.  In this case it’s the “electroclash” Die Another Day which features stuttered editing on the voice of Madonna and with that almost mechanical sound defies the odds by going into unchartered creative territory – Bond has never been so bold.







10. Diamonds Are ForeverShirley Bassey

Bringing the same vocal chutzpah she displayed with Goldfinger, Shirley Bassey once again delivers a deep and layered tune that brings fans right into the films’ sparkling themes.  And while Goldfinger can never be outdone, Diamonds proved that Shirley was no fluke – Bassey brings it.








9. Live and Let DiePaul McCartney & Wings

Another interesting song that announced the arrival of Roger Moore as 007, this one plays almost like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody – you don’t know where it’s going to go.  Starting off as a ballad, moving into a pop song and then into the big band stuff, McCartney and company were firmly announcing to James Bond fans there was a new sheriff in town.







8. For Your Eyes Only Sheena Easton

Another surprise hitting high on this list, the lyrical styling of Sheena Easton simply cannot be ignored here.  So smooth and sexy is her vocal work that it overcomes the fact that there is not much in terms of a big band background. And frankly it’s not needed – Easton is enough.







7. GoldeneyeTina Turner

Who better to ring in the whole Pierce Brosnan era of 007 than The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll herself Tina Turner and boy does the iconic vocalist deliver.  Tiptoeing in the lyrics early on before belting out good stuff is a Turner staple and with Goldeneye it’s badass business as usual.  A cool cat that knows how to croon, Turner makes sure Brosnan and his debut are golden indeed.







6. ThunderballTom Jones

Nobody does deep voice like the great Tom Jones and with the highly evident orchestra backing him up there’s simply a song synergy that is unmatched.  When he goes low, so do they and when he goes high, they follow – two pitch perfect peas in a Thunderball pod for your listening pleasure.








5. A View to A KillDuran Duran

There’s simply no rhyme or reason in terms of MIA Bond staples (no grand orchestra, deep voices or meaningful lyrics) for this selection to be so high on this list except for the fact that the song simply kicks ass.  As a power band of the 80’s, this was Duran Duran giving a little youth sass to Roger Moore’s old school spy (much like Grace Jones did in the film itself!) and in doing so created a tune that killed.







4. Licence To KillGladys Knight 

Of all the selections here it was the great Gladys Knight and her crooning of Licence To Kill that caught me by surprise the most.  Belting out a great song filled with majestic horns and sizzling synthesizers, Knight channels her inner Bassey for an awesome anthem that far surpasses the film it represents.







3. SkyfallAdele

Second only to Goldfinger, Adele went back to the old school song well and delivered a ditty that would make the deep-voiced Bassey blush.  A perfect mix of soulful singing and just enough underlying orchestra to make fans nostalgic, this tasty tune proved that it was not only the movie that delivered exactly what die-hard fans wanted.







2. GoldfingerShirley Bassey

Of all songs associated with James Bond, I would put Shirley Bassey and Goldfinger against any tune, anytime, anywhere.  So perfect are the lyrics (“He loves only gold – ONLY gold!”), the horn ridden orchestra accompaniment and the booming voice of Bassey that there has never been a Bond song that bested it – ever.








1. Dr. No (James Bond Theme)John Barry 

This may not be a song (I’m most assuredly not putting the Calypso-flavored rendition of Three Blind Mice in here purists!), but it’s what not only started this whole franchise but the film as well.  (No big song just mostly score to open Dr. No!)  And as everyone knows this catchy theme ala John Barry and the Orchestra became a staple for all things Bond and not by accident – the classics never die.


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

2 Responses to “James Bond 007 Themes – Worst to Best (Music Review)”

  1. Adam

    Nice list! Glad to see my favorite (Licence to Kill) up so high. Gladys killed it!!! I listen to that one pretty frequently actually, and it never gets old or unsurprising.

  2. Eric Larson

    Hmmmmm I disagree with many here… I think “You know my Name” is great and I am not even a Chris Cornell fan. I think a big reason I like it is that the theme plays well throughout the film. I need the Orchestra version though.

    Personally I think you have Skyfall too high. Just too sweeping and kinda cliché Bond theme.

    I hate The World is Not Enough By Garbage. That would be at the bottom of my list.

    All the Time in the World is the least Bond song but fits the film.

    This is controversial but I am not the biggest fan of Live and Let Die.

    Otherwise I would just flip here and there..

    Anyways I love lists and love Bond.. thanks for the good Read.