James Bond Soundtracks Ranked

BOND IS BACK IN ACTION. Which means time to rank all of the incredible soundtracks that took us to BOND AND BEYOND. (a disclaimer: at one point of time or another I represented a number of the composers involved including John Barry, Bill Conti, David Arnold, Marvin Hamlisch, Michel Legrand and Eric Serra).
  1. 1.
    GOLDFINGER
    The gold standard of Bond scores. In this one score, John Barry was able to fully define Bond's cool, brassy, sleek and playful world. Huge swatches of the film are dominated by Barry's confident score. And Barry composed the ultimate Bond song epically orchestrated. Shirley Bassey's brash, iconic performance is what every other Bond singer tries to achieve.
  2. 2.
    CASINO ROYALE (1967)
    The 1967 Bond parody could not be a worse film, but it does contain an amazing Burt Bacharach score that is as inventive, wacky, over-the-top, tuneful and insane and appropriate for this film as what John Barry did for his. The greatest shagadelic score of all time featuring Herb Albert and Dusty Springfield singing THE LOOK OF LOVE. A must listen.
  3. 3.
    ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE
    My favorite Bond film. The one in which everyone had to work overtime to compensate for the lack of Sean Connery. The direction, editing and action are great throughout the movie. And John Barry composed a masterpiece that provides a non-stop reminder that Bond is Back and Better than Ever. His groovy use of Moog gives the score extra cool balls. His title theme is among my faves. Even Louis Armstrong gets in on the action with his beautiful rendition of WE HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD.
  4. 4.
    YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
    John Barry's more mature score for a Bond film. A gorgeous blend of peppy action music and great pseudo-Japanese romanticism. It is almost hard to remember a time when strong melodies (and lots of them) were used to underscore action films. The title song, sung by Nancy Sinatra is mighty pretty.
  5. 5.
    FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
    A brilliant and sophisticated score by John Barry that further helped define the sound of the series. A highlight of the score is 007 a cool and robust theme composed by Barry in an attempt to get away from THE JAMES BOND THEME for which he did not receive writing credit. In this one score Barry really got to pave the way for all that followed. The title song was written by Lionel Bart who wrote OLIVER. It's a nice, lush and corny tune.
  6. 6.
    THUNDERBALL
    A rather tedious film is amped up Barry's solid score which continues his GOLDFINGER sass with a more romantic, mysterious approach to capture the undersea aspects of the film. Tom Jones matches Shirley Bassey in defining the big-lunged approach to belting a Bond song. An alternate tune, MR. KISS KISS BANG BANG is used (in instrumental form) throughout the score, and it is a sly winner.
  7. 7.
    SKYFALL
    Though Thomas Newman is beloved for such scores as AMERICAN BEAUTY and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, there was a bit of a question whether he could tackle the world of Bond. Not only did he tackle it, he slaughtered it, brilliantly. Lending his own unique style and voice, Newman composed a modern Bond score that kept the sleek lyricism of the series but pumped it up with electrons done with incredibly good taste. And the Adele song is a really catchy, solid effort.
  8. 8.
    CASINO ROYALE (2006)
    This is the crown jewel of David Arnold's Bond scores. Arnold helped reboot the series with a hyperactive and smartly composed score that ushered in the Daniel Craig era. A very stong and confident score. Cris Cornell performed the rather forgettable title song.
  9. 9.
    DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
    By the time Connery came back to the series things started feeling a little by-the-numbers and for-the-paycheck. The whole tone of the film has a weird campy overlay, including John Barry's score which features a sly theme for the gay stereotype hitmen, Wint and Kidd. The highlight of this film's music is the terrific phallic-innuendo title song, sung with gusto by Shirley Bassey
  10. 10.
    THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
    A dorky John Barry theme song awkwardly sung by Lulu is part of the charm of this quirky, silly musical outing. Barry just can't help himself composing incredibly hooky motifs.
  11. 11.
    MOONRAKER
    The film so wanted to cash in on the STAR WARS sci-fi crazy. John Barry scored it like a dreamy historical epic along the lines of THE LAST VALLEY. A score far better than the film it accompanies. Barry also composed a Shirley Bassey dirge that jump the shark of her contribution to the series.
  12. 12.
    SPECTRE
    A solid score by Thomas Newman that doesn't quite reach the lyrical heights of SKYFALL. His blending of world source music into score is extremely clever and solid. The Sam Smith song, "Writing's on the Wall" is the Jeb Bush of title songs... too low energy (though it does have a great orchestral arrangement to accompany it.)
  13. 13.
    LIVE AND LET DIE
    Paul McCartney and Wings deliver the best pop hit Bond song. The Beatles producer, George Martin takes over for John Barry providing a very competent and very white version of a Shaft-wannabe score. The whole thing is actually quite fun, though lacking the dramatic drive of Barry's efforts.
  14. 14.
    A VIEW TO A KILL
    Duran Duran and John Barry team up for a fairly fun title song while Barry goes through the motion of scoring the film without investing heavily in the innovations he had once contributed to the series.
  15. 15.
    TOMORROW NEVER DIES
    I remember working to try to bring John Barry back into scoring the series on this film, but several factors stood in the way. Coming off his cover band Bond Album SHAKEN AND STIRRED, David Arnold stepped into the series and did a fantastic job of bringing a contemporary approach to scoring the film while retain his affection for what had proceeded him. This paved the way for several more Bond scores for Arnold. Sheryl Crow did the title song which no one really remembers.
  16. 16.
    OCTOPUSSY
    One of the most sleepy of title songs, ALL TIME HIGH sung by Rita Coolidge actually adapts into a lovely underscore theme by John Barry. His score is fairly typical of Barry's later Bond entries.
  17. 17.
    QUANTUM OF SOLACE
    A rather lackluster and forgettable entry into the series. Arnold's score was fine, but after his CASINO ROYALE masterpiece, it was a bit of a letdown. For some reason Jack White & Alicia Keys did the title song (and I only remember that because I looked it up).
  18. 18.
    THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS
    Norwegian pop group, Ah ha, did the title song with John Barry. Pretty much what one would expect from the "Norwegian pop group" genre. Barry can't help but write at a very high level, but the this is not one of his most impressive efforts.
  19. 19.
    THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH
    David Arnold became the first composer since John Barry to be invited back to score a second Bond film. Arnold delivered. The song was by Garbage (insert your own joke here).
  20. 20.
    FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
    Though Bill Conti composes some amazing and inspired action-laced scores for other film, here his efforts are fairly nondescript. He did write a really strong title song sung by MORNING TRAIN sensation, Sheena Easton (the only artist to appear in the main title sequence).
  21. 21.
    DIE ANOTHER DAY
    David Arnold continued to make solid contributions to the modern Bond films, though this effort did not stand out in this one in particular. Madonna appears in the film and sings the title song. For the life of me, I can't remember it.
  22. 22.
    THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
    Follow his Oscar wins for THE WAY WE WERE and THE STING (as well as great scores to the early, funny Woody Allen films), Marvin Hamlisch made an odd choice for the Bond cannon. He delivered a great Middle of the Road hit, NOBODY DOES IT BETTER sung by Carly Simon. The rest of the score his dipped in disco. Oddly, this was the first time a Bond score was nominated for an Oscar, something Barry never achieved. What an outrage.
  23. 23.
    LICENCE TO KILL
    A post-LETHEL WEAPON Michael Kamen seemed like a perfect choice to take over the Bond series. However his efforts blazed no new grounds, nor did his Title Song performed by Gladys Knight.
  24. 24.
    GOLDENEYE
    I remember pitching French composer Eric Serra to producer Barbara Broccoli which seemed like a bold new direction to take the Bond scores following his work on LE FEMME NIKITA and THE PROFESSIONAL. While the final results did not fully gel with Bond, they did show the way for electronic elements that would be incorporated in Bond scores in the future. Tina Turner did the title song that did not become a classic.
  25. 25.
    DR. NO
    Monty Norman is the Pete Best of Bond Scores. Sure, he was there at the beginning, but... Most of the score is made up of Jamacian source ditties like "Underneath the Mango Tree" and lame and generic scoring that sounds like it was pulled from a second-rate music library of the time. HOWEVER... there is that one amazing tune, THE JAMES BOND THEME (credited to Norman) that defined the Bond series forever. John Barry came on board to "arrange" Norman's piece and the rest is history.
  26. 26.
    NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN
    Michel Legrand is a terrific composer. However everything surrounding this Sean Connery remake of THUNDERBALL is off, including Legrand's dated jazz score and a weak song sung by Lani Hall.