Bond movies are always surrounded by spectacle and speculation — who will play 007? Who will play the villian? What about the Bond girls? And Q? And M? So on and so forth.
Another facet that gets fans buzzing every time a new Bond movie draws near is its theme song and who will perform it.
The franchise kicked off in the 1960s with Dr. No, which featured an orchestral theme before From Russia with Love kicked off the tradition of a song with lyrics accompanying the spy thriller.
In the franchise’s history, only two Bond songs have bagged Oscars: Adele’s “Skyfall” and Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall,” though several others have been nominated.
With No Time to Die preparing to hit theaters in the United States, here’s a look at the top 10 best Bond songs of all time.
10) “License to Kill” by Gladys Knight
Though Timothy Dalton’s tenure as James Bond wasn’t long, “license to kill” became a phrase closely associated with the fictional spy for years to come. No doubt, Gladys Knight’s soulful and sleek theme song of the same name. The song pays homage to the franchise by using a horn line similar to that of “Goldfinger.”
9) “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran
New wave band Duran Duran may have seemed like an odd choice — if not a total money grab — when they were chosen to create the theme song for A View to a Kill, but the band’s tune managed to incorporate modern commercially successful trends of the 1980s into a song that still stayed true to the Bond brand of spooky vocals and ominous lyrics.
8) “GoldenEye” by Tina Turner
When GoldenEye was released in 1995, Tina Turner was the perfect addition to the Bond franchise’s music team — powerful and sultry vocals similar to staple Shirley Bassey with experience in genres like rock and R&B, which she mashed together to create a tune that paid tribute to older songs from the franchise without sacrificing Turner’s iconography.
7) “Diamonds Are Forever” by Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey was a favorite of the Bond franchise when it came to the music, as her vocals paired well with the movie’s suave and tough lead, not to mention her tunes like “Diamonds Are Forever” were noted for going toe-to-toe with the movies themselves in terms of their thematic intensity.
6) “You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra
Nancy Sinatra struck gold with “You Only Live Twice,” with the song becoming one of her best-known tracks. She utilized the same moody percussion that’s frequently used in songs that accompany 007 movies and played into the psychedelic sounds and themes of the late 1960s.
5) “Nobody Does it Better” by Carly Simon
The theme song for “The Spy Who Loves Me” is the first not to also use the movie’s title, though it is incorporated into the lyrics. The song is also noted for being a departure from Bond songs’ usual signifiers like brassy horns, raspy, bold vocals and tense themes, instead opting to be a love ballad with a lighter orchestral backing.
4) “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey
One of the earlier Bond songs, the track accompanies the 1964 film of the same name — the third in the franchise. The brass-heavy orchestration paired well with Bond’s iconic theme music while Shirley Bassey’s unwavering voice helped to establish the Bond brand: Strong, resilient and bold.
3) “No Time to Die” by Billie Eilish
The newest addition to the list, Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die” was released back in February 2020 before the film was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. With its modern sounds, Eilish’s haunting vocals and post-modern lyrics, the song makes for a powerful sendoff for star Daniel Craig.
2) “Skyfall” by Adele
The first Bond song to ever clench an Academy Award, Adele was able to craft a theme song that not only played on classic tropes of the sub-genre but modernized it in a way similar to Craig’s own portrayal of Bond, adding an extra layer of understated darkness to the gravity of the film.
1) “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney & the Wings
Paul McCartney & the Wings’ “Live and Let Die” could be made into a movie of its own — starting off as an endearing ballad before flipping on itself and becoming a thrill ride of high-energy rock ‘n ‘roll instrumental interludes spliced together by smoother vocals, reflecting Bond’s own personas — both an uber-talented secret agent, but also a ladies man at heart.