For Your Ears Only − Ranking The 22 Bond Theme Songs From Worst − Sorry Jack and Alicia! − To Best
Despite the silliness, sexism, and let’s face it, more than a handful of bad movies, James Bond has endured as a franchise for 50 years because deep down inside, all of us, at one time, wanted to be spies, and as anyone living vicariously through the movies knows, a good spy needs a great theme song. For better or for worse, presented below are all 22 James Bond title songs and sequences, ranked in order from worst to best. Get your martinis and Walthers ready, ladies and gentlemen…
22. Quantum of Solace
I’ve got nothing against Jack White or Alicia Keys, but yikes. This sort of mash-up is just not what James Bond is about. The grating production and completely asynchronous arrangement would be irritating as a standalone song: in a Bond film it’s borderline insulting. The visuals aren’t too great either, and look like some sort of digitally upgraded B-roll from The Mummy Returns.
21. Die Another Day
Fans said goodbye to Pierce Brosnan in 2002, and it’s hard to determine exactly how
many films he overstayed his welcome by. Rest assured, however, that Die Another
Day will go down in history as one of the worst Bond films of the modern era, and
the cookie-cutter, auto-tuned, glitchy mess of a title track by Madonna (speaking
of stars who overstayed their welcome…) isn’t going to be fondly remembered any
time soon, either.
20. The World Is Not Enough
It’s hard to tell when performers began hoping a James Bond film would get them
exposure rather than the other way around, but it’s safe to bet that it was well
before Garbage performed the title track to 1999’s The World is Not Enough, since
I imagine the bulk of kids in the theater went “who?” when the phrase “title song
performed by Garbage” flashed across the screen. Still, the song is serviceable, and
the sequence impressively slick.
Ugh. Poor Shirley Bassey deserved better than this. After having her name attached
to one certifiably classic and one so-so Bond film, Moonraker had to go and mess
with the program. Clearly the producers insisted that Bassey drop the completely
unmusical phrase “Moonraker” somewhere into the track, and it’s laughably bad. I
would have just turned in a new cut of Goldfinger with the titles swapped out, but that’s why I’m not in charge of such things.
18. For Your Eyes Only
This song and sequence are notable only because they ushered James Bond into
the 1980s with plenty of appropriate glam and glitter, and because Sheena Easton
appeared in the opening sequence. Otherwise there’s not much else to say.
17. The Living Daylights
Remember A-Ha, better known as “that Norwegian band who did Take on Me”? Well, they had another hit song two years after their award-winner: the theme to Timothy Dalton’s on-screen debut as James Bond. It’s a nice synthed-out dance number, perfect for 1980s 007, but the visuals look like the director just turned on the camera, told the naked girls to writhe around, and then went to lunch. A little effort, people! (Bonus factoid: Joe Don Baker appears in this film, many years before his turn as a CIA operative in Goldeneye).