James Bond Theme Songs
The James Bond franchise is a globally recognized and widely admired series of British spy films, known for its action-packed sequences, compelling storytelling, and James Bond Theme Songs.
First brought to the silver screen in 1962, the series is based on the literary character created by Ian Fleming in 1953. This franchise has delivered 25 films to date and has introduced us to several actors playing the iconic character of Agent 007.
Almost as iconic as the character of Bond himself, the theme songs of play a significant role in shaping the film. James Bond Theme Songs are not mere additions to the soundtrack. They carry the essence of the film, encapsulating its mood, its spirit, and often hinting at the underlying narrative.
Often performed by some of the most notable artists of the time, these songs have become timeless pieces of music that are indelibly linked to the image of the suave and sophisticated secret agent.
The opening sequences, with their striking visual montages, are as eagerly anticipated as the films themselves, and are always one of the main talking points of any Bond film. In this article, we take a look at each James Bond Theme Song in order of release.
James Bond Theme Songs – 1960s
James Bond Theme – John Barry & Orchestra, Monty Norman
The iconic James Bond Theme, written by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry & Orchestra for 1962’s Dr. No, is now synonymous with James Bond. Instantly recognizable, the theme‘s surf rock-style guitar riff, underscored by brassy orchestral flourishes, creates a musical motif that captures Bond’s mix of elegance and action.
It is not just a piece of music. It’s a cultural symbol, encapsulating over six decades of Bond’s cinematic charisma. It has been adapted and reprised across the series, but has featured in every Bond film.
From Russia with Love sung by Matt Monro
The theme song for From Russia with Love, performed by the velvet-voiced Matt Monro, stands as a classic in the James Bond canon. Released in 1963, the song is emblematic of its era, embodying a luxurious and romantic crooning style that contrasts with the high-octane adventure of the film.
Composed by John Barry with lyrics by Lionel Bart, the song marries sweeping strings and a lush melody to create an atmosphere of intrigue and longing. Monro’s dulcet tones bring a warmth and emotional depth to the song, making it an unforgettable part of the James Bond musical legacy.
Goldfinger sung by Shirley Basset
The Goldfinger theme, sung by Shirley Bassey, is a powerhouse in the James Bond series. Released in 1964, this song perfectly encapsulates the glamour and danger inherent in Bond’s world.
Bassey’s commanding voice, combined with the dramatic brass arrangements by composer John Barry, creates a cinematic and suspenseful aura. The lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley weave a tale of the villainous Auric Goldfinger, setting the tone for the entire film.
This song’s bold, theatrical nature elevated the importance of James Bond theme songs, making them essential to the franchise’s identity. It remains one of the most recognizable and celebrated Bond themes to date.
Thunderball sung by Tom Jones
Performed by Tom Jones, this song served as the thrilling theme for the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball. Composed by the legendary John Barry, with lyrics by Don Black, the song perfectly captures the tension, danger, and excitement of Bond’s underwater exploits.
Jones’ powerful vocals, combined with Barry’s dramatic orchestration, create an atmosphere of high stakes and adventure. The final sustained note, held by Jones for an impressive length of time, leaves a lasting impression. Like its predecessors, the Thunderball theme continues the tradition of unforgettable James Bond theme songs, setting the bar for those that would follow.
You Only Live Twice sung by Nancy Sinatra
The theme for You Only Live Twice, performed by Nancy Sinatra, provides a significant shift in the musical tone of the James Bond series. Released in 1967, the song is a sultry and haunting ballad, highlighting Sinatra’s smooth, dreamy vocals against a backdrop of John Barry’s lush orchestration.
Leslie Bricusse’s lyrics evoke a sense of mystery and romance, embodying the film’s exotic Eastern setting. Unlike previous Bond theme songs, Sinatra’s performance prioritizes emotion and atmospheric subtlety over bold dramatics, thus leaving a unique mark on the franchise’s musical legacy.
We Have All The Time In The World sung by Louis Armstrong
We Have All the Time in the World, performed by Louis Armstrong is one of the few James Bond theme songs not titled for the film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). However, the song serves as a poignant underscore to one of the most personal stories in the Bond franchise.
With its soothing melody and heartfelt lyrics by Hal David, contrasted with the film’s high-paced action sequences, the song beautifully mirrors Bond’s deep and tragically short-lived love for his wife, Tracy.
John Barry’s exquisite orchestration and Louis Armstrong’s warm, gravelly voice imbue the song with a bittersweet sense of timeless love. The theme song gains an even deeper resonance after Tracy’s untimely death, making it a deeply moving piece in the James Bond musical legacy.
James Bond Theme Songs – 1970s
Diamonds Are Forever sung by Shirely Basset
Returning to the James Bond franchise for Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Shirley Bassey delivers another powerful theme song that drips with both decadence and danger. Composed by John Barry, with lyrics by Don Black, the song is a sultry hymn to the allure of diamonds — a fitting metaphor for the film’s plot.
Bassey’s voice, rich and commanding, rides on top of the lush orchestration, creating an atmosphere of glamour and intrigue. The theme, with its memorable refrain, “Diamonds are forever,” is as enduring as the precious stones it extols, further cementing Bassey’s legacy as a definitive voice of the Bond series.
Live and Let Die sung by Paul McCartney and Wings
Live and Let Die, performed by Paul McCartney and Wings, represents a pivotal moment in the musical evolution of the Bond franchise. Released in 1973 for the film Live and Let Die, the song introduces a rock edge to the traditional orchestral Bond themes.
Paul McCartney’s dynamic vocals and the innovative fusion of rock elements with George Martin’s orchestration creates a sense of thrilling unpredictability, mirroring the film’s fast-paced action. The song’s blend of genres and its enduring popularity heralded a new era for Bond music, showing that it could both adapt to changing musical trends and maintain its cinematic impact.
The Man with the Golden Gun sung by Lulu
The Man with the Golden Gun, performed by Lulu for the 1974 James Bond film, is a playful and fiery theme that fits the flamboyant nature of the film’s titular villain. John Barry’s composition, with lyrics by Don Black, weaves in elements of rock and pop, showcasing the changing musical landscape of the era.
Lulu’s energetic delivery of the provocative lyrics adds a sassy and seductive layer to the song, encapsulating the charisma and danger associated James Bond films. While less renowned than some other James Bond theme songs, this one still holds a unique place in the franchise’s musical history.
Nobody Does it Better sung by Carly Simon
Nobody Does It Better, performed by Carly Simon for the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me, stands out as one of the most celebrated theme songs in the James Bond catalogue. Composed by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, the song marks a departure from the tradition of naming the theme after the film.
Carly Simon’s emotive vocals, combined with a memorable piano intro and lush orchestration, create a powerful tribute to Bond’s unparalleled prowess. The song’s enduring appeal and its affirmation of Bond’s irresistible charm make it a classic, illustrating the versatile nature of Bond themes.
Moonraker sung by Shirley Basset
Shirley Bassey returned for a record third time to perform the theme song for Moonraker in 1979. Her distinctive voice, coupled with John Barry’s atmospheric composition, brings a touch of familiar glamour to Bond’s outer space adventure. Bassey’s performance, though more subdued than her previous outings, carries a sense of wistful longing, aligning with the film’s more romantic moments.
While not as well-remembered as Goldfinger or Diamonds Are Forever, Moonraker demonstrates the adaptability of the James Bond theme song formula to changing narrative settings, reaffirming Bassey’s lasting impact on the musical identity of the franchise.
James Bond Theme Songs – 1980s
For Your Eyes Only sung by Sheena Easton
For Your Eyes Only, sung by Sheena Easton for the 1981 James Bond film, is a hauntingly beautiful ballad that brings an emotional depth to the franchise’s musical legacy. Composed by Bill Conti with lyrics by Mick Leeson, the song marks a shift from the typical orchestral Bond themes to a more contemporary pop sound.
Easton’s soulful performance, combined with the heartfelt lyrics, provides a romantic and introspective tone that mirrors the film‘s narrative. Notably, Easton is the only artist to appear in the opening credits sequence, underscoring her integral role in shaping the film’s mood and character.
All Time High sung by Rita Coolidge
The theme for Octopussy (1983), titled All Time High, was performed by Rita Coolidge and marked a softer, more romantic direction for the Bond franchise’s music. Released in 1983, the song, composed by John Barry with lyrics by Tim Rice, pairs Coolidge’s warm and rich vocals with a smooth, jazzy arrangement.
All Time High doesn’t follow the James Bond theme song tradition of sharing its title with the film but still captures the film’s sense of adventure and romance. Coolidge’s heartfelt delivery enhances the song’s emotional resonance, helping it stand out as a distinctive entry in the Bond theme repertoire.
A View to a Kill sung by Duran Duran
A View to a Kill, performed by Duran Duran, brought a fresh, modern sound to the Bond franchise when it was released in 1985. This song, co-written by the band and John Barry, merged the classic Bond orchestration with the contemporary energy of synth-pop, perfectly reflecting the era’s musical zeitgeist.
Duran Duran’s vibrant performance, brimming with 80s electronic influences, gives the theme an upbeat tempo that fits the film‘s high-octane action sequences. Notably, A View to a Kill remains the only James Bond theme song to have reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, affirming its enduring appeal.
The Living Daylights sung by A-Ha
The Living Daylights, performed by Norwegian synth-pop band A-ha, brought an edgy, contemporary sound to the Bond franchise in 1987. The band, renowned for their hit Take On Me, collaborated with composer John Barry to create a blend of their unique synth-pop style with the traditional Bond musical aesthetic.
With its catchy rhythm and atmospheric synthesizers complementing Barry’s dramatic orchestration, the song offers a fresh and youthful interpretation of a Bond theme. The result is a theme song that, much like the film itself, symbolized a new era in the James Bond franchise.
Licence to Kill sung by Gladys Knight
The theme for Licence to Kill, performed by Gladys Knight, is a soulful and powerful anthem that adds a touch of R&B to the Bond franchise. Released in 1989, the song was composed by Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen, and Walter Afanasieff.
Knight’s robust and emotive vocals give the track a sense of urgency and determination, reflecting Bond’s personal vendetta in the film. With a nod to the classic Bond horn section in its intro, Licence to Kill blends traditional Bond musical elements with Knight’s soulful style, making it a standout entry in the Bond theme lineage.
James Bond Theme Songs – Pierce Brosnan Era
GoldenEye sung by Tina Turner
The theme song for GoldenEye, performed by Tina Turner, brings a sultry, bluesy edge to the Bond musical canon. Released in 1995 and marking the return of Bond after a six-year hiatus, the song was written by U2’s Bono and The Edge, who crafted a melody that perfectly suits Turner’s powerful voice.
Tina Turner’s performance exudes a sense of danger and allure, perfectly embodying the Bond mystique. The song’s raw energy and dramatic composition, infused with Turner’s unmistakable raspy vocals, set the stage for Pierce Brosnan‘s debut as Bond, helping to reinvigorate the franchise for a new era.
Tomorrow Never Dies sung by Sheryl Crow
The theme for Tomorrow Never Dies, performed by Sheryl Crow, is a blend of the contemporary and classic, bringing a 90s sensibility to the established Bond sound. Released in 1997, Crow’s theme, co-written with Mitchell Froom, features her distinctive voice and a melancholic tone, perfectly capturing the theme of the film.
The song’s orchestration, while nodding to the classic Bond themes with its use of brass, is paired with Crow’s gritty guitar playing, bridging the gap between the traditional and modern. The result is a James Bond theme song that remains faithful to the franchise’s roots while also reflecting its time.
The World is Not Enough sung by Garbage
The theme song for The World is Not Enough was performed by alternative rock band Garbage, and offers a brooding and atmospheric take on the Bond theme. Released in 1999, the song, written by David Arnold and Don Black, delivers a mix of the band’s darker, alternative style with traditional Bond motifs.
Lead singer Shirley Manson’s sultry and ethereal vocals paired with the haunting orchestration create an ambiance of mystery and danger, reflecting the film’s plot. The song’s blend of modern rock with classic Bond elements shows the adaptability of the franchise to different genres, further broadening the musical scope of James Bond theme songs.
Die Another Day sung by Madonna
Die Another Day, performed by pop icon Madonna, represents a bold departure from traditional Bond themes. Released in 2002, the song is a daring fusion of electronic dance music and orchestral elements, reflecting Madonna’s innovative style.
Composed by Madonna and Mirwais Ahmadzaï, the track’s pulsating beats and distorted vocals create an edgy and modern atmosphere that parallels the film’s use of cutting-edge technology and CGI.
While controversial among fans due to its unconventional approach, The Die Another Day them song highlights the franchise’s willingness to experiment with diverse musical styles in the ever-evolving landscape of Bond themes.
James Bond Theme Songs – Daniel Craig Era
You Know My Name sung by Chris Cornell
You Know My Name, performed by Chris Cornell, was the theme for the 2006 reboot of the Bond franchise, Casino Royale. Cornell, best known as the lead vocalist for Soundgarden and Audioslave, brought a raw rock intensity to the Bond musical canon.
Co-written with Bond composer David Arnold, the song blends hard rock energy with a high-octane orchestral arrangement, perfectly capturing the film’s grittier, more realistic approach to the Bond character. Cornell’s powerful vocals and the song’s aggressive tone set the stage for Daniel Craig‘s debut as a more ruthless and grounded 007.
Another Way to Die sung by Jack White and Alicia Keys
Another Way to Die, performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys for the 2008 film Quantum of Solace, is a fusion of rock, soul, and classical Bond motifs. As the first duet in the history of Bond themes, White’s raw rock sensibilities intertwine with Keys’ soulful style, creating a unique musical mix.
The song, written and produced by Jack White, features a punchy rhythm, bluesy guitar riffs, and orchestral flourishes that echo traditional Bond themes. Despite its divisive reception, the track’s distinctive blend of styles illustrates the evolving musical experimentations of the Bond franchise.
Skyfall sung by Adele
The theme song to Skyfall (2012), performed by Adele, is a soaring return to the classic Bond theme style. Co-written with her producer Paul Epworth, the song merges Adele’s soulful voice and poignant lyrics with a dramatic orchestration that recalls the early Bond themes.
The song, with its rich textures and atmospheric mood, perfectly captures the film’s introspective exploration of Bond’s past. Winning both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, Skyfall reaffirmed the timeless appeal of the James Bond theme song formula and underscored Adele’s status as one of the finest voices of her generation.
Writing’s on the Wall sung by Sam Smith
Writing’s On The Wall, performed by Sam Smith for the 2015 film Spectre, is a dramatic ballad that brings a sense of vulnerability to the Bond theme repertoire. Smith’s emotive falsetto, paired with Jimmy Napes’ poignant lyrics and a lush orchestration, infuses the song with a melancholic tone that mirrors the film’s exploration of Bond’s inner demons.
The song’s sweeping melody and its reflective lyrics about the personal costs of being a spy provide a counterpoint to the typical action-driven James Bond theme songs. Its 2016 Academy Award win for Best Original Song marked the second consecutive win for a Bond theme, and it was the first Bond theme to hit Number One in the U.K singles charts.
No Time To Die sung by Billie Eilish
No Time To Die, performed by Billie Eilish for the 2021 film of the same name, is a hauntingly beautiful theme that blends the young singer’s distinctive style with the classic Bond aesthetic.
Co-written with her brother Finneas, the song features Eilish’s ethereal vocals layered over a moody and atmospheric composition, punctuated by dramatic orchestral swells reminiscent of classic Bond themes. The lyrics, filled with despair and betrayal, mirror the darker undertones of Daniel Craig’s final outing as Bond. Eilish’s song, with its modern interpretation of a Bond theme, signified a generational shift in the Bond musical legacy.
James Bond Theme Songs
James Bond theme songs are as integral to the franchise’s identity as the suave British spy himself. They have evolved and adapted with the times, reflecting shifts in popular music while always maintaining a core identity that is unmistakably ‘Bond’.
From the iconic guitar riffs of the early films to the soulful ballads and edgy modern sounds of recent years, these songs have shaped the tone of each film, creating an auditory expectation of suspense, glamour, and thrilling action. Each song is a snapshot of its era, and together, they form a diverse and vibrant musical tapestry that complements the rich cinematic history of James Bond.