A Definitive Guide to the 10 Best James Bond Themes

A word about Adele‘s “Skyfall,” the theme of the upcoming same-named James Bond film starring Daniel Craig in his third turn as 007: Eh? The institution of the Bond theme is built on gorgeously overwrought music and ballistic emotions, and “Skyfall” feels like a drippy, austere tune with a so-so conclusion.

The best Bond themes combine five key elements: melodrama, a compelling vocal, classic James Bond appeal, a touch of the insane, and a palpable sexiness. Based on those criteria, “Skyfall” wouldn’t even make a top 10 list of Bond anthems. But what would? I count down James Bond’s 10 best musical triumphs (songs only, no scores) below.

10. Chris Cornell, “You Know My Name”

Melodrama: 6
Compelling Vocal: 7
Classic Bond Appeal: 8
A Touch of the Insane: 5
Sexiness: 7
Total: 33

By 2006, it’d been years since we’d heard a definitive “rock” Bond anthem, so Chris Cornell’s sinister track felt like the freshest possible fit for the franchise’s fresh new Bond, Daniel Craig. Indeed, the song is macho but swift, much like Casino Royale itself, and even if it lacks the absurdity and soaring melodrama of the best Bond themes, it’s a solid, highly re-playable tune for a solid, highly re-playable movie. And by the way? Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) is the undisputed best Bond girl. Smart, cool, and fully realized. Wish she hadn’t perished.

9. Shirley Bassey, “Moonraker”

Melodrama: 7
Compelling Vocal: 8
Classic Bond Appeal: 8
A Touch of the Insane: 8
Sexiness: 5
Total: 36

Shirley Bassey is as menacing as ever on this track, one where she’s forced to mutter mouthfuls like, “Just like the moonraker goes in search of his dream of gold / I search for love, for someone to have an hold.” It’s an indispensable Bond jam, but with Shirley at the helm, you want something even more melodramatic to satisfy her hotly theatrical instincts.

8. Duran Duran, “A View to a Kill”

Melodrama: 6
Compelling Vocal: 8
Classic Bond Appeal: 7
A Touch of the Insane: 7
Sexiness: 9
Total: 37

When Simon Le Bon tells you to dance into the fire, you put on your party dress and jive into a billowing flamethrower. His pouty vocals are a sexy treat here, and it’s adorable to hear him utter sentiments about “crystals tears” and “lovers’ rosy stain” while maintaining a straight face. Complaint: I think this would’ve been perfect if Tears For Fears handled it. They’ve got the melodrama knack, and without that critical element, “A View to a Kill” is merely cute and slightly carnal, not a throbbing Bond anthem.

7. a-ha, “The Living Daylights”

Melodrama: 8
Compelling Vocal: 8
Classic Bond Appeal: 7
A Touch of the Insane: 7
Sexiness: 8
Total: 38

Magically, this was the perfect band and song for the forgettable ’87 Timothy Dalton flick, as the transcendent a-ha track just beams with the best of ’80s whimsicality and melodrama. Sure, the twinkliness of the tune is pretty “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” but there are enough jabs of 007 finesse in there to make it a sufficiently sexy track.

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