In honor of the 53-year film history of Agent 007 franchise, and the 2015 release of its 24th film “Spectre,” many famous qualities always stand out from each one. The James Bond movies since 1962 have everything moviegoers need. There’s over the top action sequences that will thrill you, always a handsome leading man, vast arrays of beautiful women, the introduction of exciting high-tech gadgetry, and sensational theme songs and music that's strongly associated with Bond’s adventures.
Many of these theme songs are equally as famous as the 007 movies themselves. Featured singers include a dame, a former Beatle, and today’s hottest vocalist who’s a Grammy and Oscar winner. That is why we honor the 10 best James Bond theme songs and music. They alone have made valuable contributions to the success of the James Bond, Agent 007 genre.
"The James Bond Theme” - Monty Norman/John Barry
What better to open this song list then with an iconic instrumental that defines the character of James Bond, a man of intrigue and danger. It was used in the opening and closing sequences from its inaugural film, "Dr. No" from 1962. “The James Bond Theme” features a signature guitar riff in that era’s popular surfer rock style during the early '60s. Over the decades there has been confusion in the media as to who composed this main signature theme song famously associated with “Bond...James Bond.” John Barry, the late composer of 11 Bond film scores, did not write it. It was Monty Norman, though John Barry did come up with the famous arrangement.
"On Her Majesty's Secret Service” - John Barry
In late January 2011 the British film composer John Barry passed away at age 77. He was responsible for 11 of the first 14 James Bond film soundtracks. 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” prominently features Barry’s composition. Instead of composing a theme song like the previous Bond films had, the composer devised an instrumental title theme. Later into the film John Barry also composed a love theme song. Sean Connery was no longer cast as James Bond and another actor took over the role, which lead to extremely divided film reviews. It was the only time the Bond character got married.
"Thunderball” - Tom Jones
Released in 1965, John Barry composed this theme song, along with Leslie Bricusse, that was originally titled "Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang." This original title was taken from an Italian journalist who dubbed James Bond that name. Its tongue and cheek reference is something along the lines of today's "Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma'am." Obviously the song title didn’t stick and it ended up with the same name as its film title. "Thunderball" features Tom Jones' powerful vocals that have become his signature over the decades.
"You Only Live Twice” - Nancy Sinatra
Frank Sinatra's daughter had marginal success as a singer in the 1960s. She also recorded this haunting ballad for the Bond film that was released in 1967. John Barry also composed it. Another recording was made for a record release that reached #11 on the UK pop chart and #44 on the U.S. Billboard chart. "You Only Live Twice" may not be one of the top-charting Bond songs, but it’s still considered one of the best theme songs by music critics and fans.
"Diamonds are Forever” - Shirley Bassey
If ever there was a singer that matched the over-the-top-ness with sophistication and elegance from the James Bond film series, it is none other than the Welsh singer, Shirley Bassey. Her bold voice says it all with a strong vibrato and signature holding out on the last note at the end on “Diamonds are Forever.” This was her second song for a Bond movie. She's still the only artist to have performed more than one theme song in the 24 film history.
Sean Connery came back to play Bond in this 1971 release. Once again John Barry also composed the theme. You may be more familiar with Bassey's 1990s hit "History Repeating." This was the song featured in the soundtrack to "There's Something About Mary" and as a TV promo for the HBO series "Sex and the City."
"Nobody Does It Better” - Carly Simon
Carole Bayer Sager wrote the theme song and Marvin Hamlisch composed the song and score. John Barry was unavailable to do the film. It is the first song that does not bear the title of the film, except in the lyrics. "The Spy Who Loved Me" was released in 1977 featuring Barbara Bach as a Bond girl. She would later marry Beatle's drummer, Ringo Starr in real life. Carly Simon had an enormous hit with "Nobody Does it Better" on the Billboard Pop and Adult Contemporary charts were it peaked at #2.
"A View to a Kill” - Duran Duran
This is the only Bond theme song to reach #1 on the Billboard pop chart. It was written by John Barry and Duran Duran. There's a story about the band's bassist, John Taylor, who is a lifelong Bond movie fan. He approached the producer and asked "when are you going to get someone decent to perform your theme song?" To this day you can still hear this song on '80s radio stations. "A View to a Kill" premiered in 1985.
"Live and Let Die” - Paul McCartney & Wings
If you’ve seen Paul McCartney live in concert, “Live and Let Die” is one of his signature showpieces. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The single release is still played on classic hits radio stations to this day. It’s the perfect song for this film series, because of its exciting brash fast tempo. It happened to be the first James Bond role for the actor Roger Moore. John Barry took a hiatus from composing and performing the film score. Instead, George Martin filled in as the film's composer, who was also The Beatles acumen record producer. "Live and Let Die" is considered one of the best known theme songs outside of the "James Bond” theme category. The film was released in the summer of 1973.
“Skyfall” - Adele
At 0.07 a.m. GMT on October 5, 2012 “Skyfall” made its debut as a single release on Adele’s official website. The significant date was an all-day James Bond UK celebration for the 50th anniversary of “Dr. No,” the first of many Bond films to come. Adele, along with record producer and songwriter Paul Epworth, wrote the Oscar-winning song, the first to ever win an Academy Award for a Bond composition. It peaked at #2 in the UK and #8 in the U.S. pop music charts Daniel Craig who portrayed the suave agent in “Skyfall” was very emotional when he first heard the song, especially Adele’s vocals.
"Goldfinger” - Shirley Bassey
Dame Shirley Bassey made her mark with a dramatic, bombastic-style that would become the standard for future theme songs in the Bond catalogue. "Goldfinger" is the only theme song written about the villain, not about Agent 007. Bassey would also become the first of many to follow pop recording artists to record a James Bond theme song. John Barry wrote the song with Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. This 1964 classic reached #8 on the Billboard chart.