It’s a long-established tradition in Bond movies: First, the slam-bang opening action sequence, and then a quick cut to the opening credits — almost always filled with scantily clad dancers gyrating while the theme song is belted out (most often by Shirley Bassey, who holds the record with three theme songs to her name). The Bond series has produced some of the most well-known themes in cinema history. Three received Academy Award nominations, while several more hit the Top 10 charts.
The bestThe first two Bond movies, “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love,” introduced two now-ubiquitous pieces of music used in every movie afterward: The slinky, guitar-driven “James Bond Theme” by Monty Norman, and John Barry’s “007 Theme,” the more orchestral tune often used in chase scenes. But “Goldfinger,” the third film, topped them both with Shirley Bassey’s bold, brassy song, perfectly capturing the spirit of Bond, especially its early-1960s incarnation. It’s swinging and glamorous in a jet-setting, Vegas-y way, and set the template that many of the subsequent themes followed. Sing it with me now: Gooooold-FIN-gaaah!
The worthy“James Bond Theme”: Written by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry for Bond’s debut film, “Dr. No,” it played over the now-iconic Bond-walks-across-a-gunsight sequence. Fitting the Caribbean setting of “Dr. No,” it also included a bongo sequence and a calypso version of “Three Blind Mice.” (It makes more sense in context, trust us.)
“Thunderball”: Who better to ooze machismo the James Bond way than another 1960s U.K. sex symbol, hairy-chested Welshman Tom Jones?
“Diamonds Are Forever”: “Goldfinger” singer Shirley Bassey returns to belt out another classic, this one echoing Marilyn Monroe’s wise words: Men might not be reliable, but jewelry will never disappoint.
“Live And Let Die”: Paul McCartney teams up again with Beatles producer George Martin to rock up the Bond soundtrack with one of McCartney’s best Wings-era tunes.
“A View To A Kill”: This slick, synthesizer-driven theme by British poster boys and fashion plates Duran Duran perfectly brought Bond into the age of 1980s glam. The Bond filmmakers tried to capture that lightning with A-Ha’s “The Living Daylights,” but achieved only fizzle.
“Nobody Does It Better”: Carly Simon’s song from “The Spy Who Loved Me” shows how to make a Bond ballad sultry and sexy without following the Bassey template.
“The Man With The Golden Gun”: Of the several Bond themes that tried to re-create the Bassey magic without Bassey herself, Scottish singer Lulu’s Roger Moore-era tune fared best.
“Die Another Day”: Madonna brings Bond to the dance floor on this techno-driven track; not entirely successful, but an interesting try at something different.
“All Time High”: Rita Coolidge’s theme from “Octopussy” was probably intended to have the same soft-but-sexy punch as Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better,” but just proved the latter title correct — it’s mere elevator music, and doesn’t even seem to be about Bond all that much.