James Bond films are known for their iconic theme songs. From the twanging guitar of the original instrumental theme, to Shirley Bassey’s strong vocals, many of the songs have been successes in their own rights. Here are our favourite ten.
#10 License To Kill
In tenth place we have the Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight, singing the titles for Licence to Kill. Long time Bond composer John Barry, who had worked on the series since Dr. No, fell ill, and couldn’t work on the music. But the theme song, composed by Jeffrey Cohen, Walter Afanasieff and Narada Walden, was based on the horn melody from Goldfinger, for which Barry received a royalty.
Licence to Kill was significantly less poppy than the prior two Bond films, and fitted the more serious, grittier theme of the film. Gladys’ vocals are softer than usual, and the lyrics go well with the music. The song hit number 6 in the UK charts, but wasn’t as successful in America. It’s a good song, and a great match for the film.
#9 From Russia With Love
The theme song for From Russia With Love was almost two themes in one. The full theme, composed by Lionel Bart and sung by English musician Matt Monro, was played over the end credits. It coupled soft and laid back music, with Monro’s bold vocals. It could be considered the most classical of all Bond themes, and is certainly distinct in the series.
The second aspect of the theme was the opening titles of the film. Fully instrumental, they opened with an intense, fast paced and sharp brass and drum arrangement, that was aptly titled “James Bond is Back”. After this brief celebration, came John Barry’s lively, upbeat version of the Monro tune, which eventually blends into Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme. The opening music was fantastic, and it was refreshing to have two different versions to open and close the film.
#8 You Only Live Twice
The You Only Live Twice theme was sung by Nancy Sinatra and composed by John Barry, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, who had also penned the lyrics for Goldfigner. The music is of particular note, a solid composition with an authentic Japanese twist. So authentic in fact that it has been used in numerous low budget Japanese films, albeit probably unlicensed.
The lyrics are better than many of the Bond themes, and Sinatra’s voice beautifully blends in with the melody. You Only Live Twice is one of the most critically acclaimed Bond themes, and has been covered by many artists, including Shirley Bassey.
#7 Nobody Does It Better
Picture the opening scene of The Spy Who Loved Me. Bond gets chased by a swarm of assassins when skiing in Austria. He shoots one of them with his gadget ski-pole, does impressive gymnastics to avoid bullets and knock-out one of the henchmen, but still has men on his tail. In a tense escape, he skis off the edge of a mountain, saved by a hidden Union Jack parachute. And then plays the theme song Nobody Does it Better. Perfection!
Nobody Does it Better was the first Bond song to diverge from the film’s title. Sung by Carly Simon, it was a truly beautiful song, and a commercial success, charting at #2 in the UK and #7 in the US. The song has been used in numerous other films, and is a favourite among fans.
#6 Live and Let Die
The theme for Live and Let Die was sung by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, and scored by George Martin, who had most recently worked with McCartney on the Beatles album Abbey Road. The lyrics and music were written by Paul and is wife Linda, but she didn’t take part in the recording. Live and Let Die was the first Bond film not to feature John Barry, who had fallen out with producer Harry Saltzman.
The absence of Barry gave the producers an opportunity to drastically change the style of the music, choosing a rock song for the first time in the series. Live and Let Die was a big commercial success, and charted on both sides of the ocean. The music was very impactful, and was integrated very well into many scenes throughout the film.
With over twenty Bond movies released through five decades, the James Bond series has had more than its fair share of great villains. Many have been parodied and copied over the years, and their influence can’t be overstated. But which ones really stand out, as the most memorable and iconic villains of the series?…
Jaws is the quintessential bigger than life bad guy, and without doubt the most well known of the Bond villains. Introduced in The Spy who Loved Me, 7 foot tall Richard Kiel brought to life the steel giant, lending the film a unique charm. He proved so popular that the producers brought him back for the next film, Moonraker.
His second appearance came with a rather cheesy love affair, but Jaws remains a favourite among fans, and has gone down in history as one of the best villains in cinema history. He has appeared in many of the James Bond video games, as both playable characters and as part of the story.…
American actor Yaphet Kotto joined the Bond series in 1973, playing politician Dr. Kananga and big time gangster Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Dr. Kananga was a calm Prime Minister of San Monique, an island used to grow drugs that were to be smuggled into America. He would don a rubber face mask to become his alter ego Mr. Big, the ruthless gangster who controls most of Harlem.
He played the two characters well, and brought a unique contribution to the series. Kananga, alongside his taro reading mistress Solitaire, remains a popular and well known villain amongst fans. His death by a co2 filled bullet was a little cheesy though.…
And of course, you can’t list Scaramanga without immediately thinking of his small butler and sidekick. He may only have two nipples, but he’s still a hell of a guy. His cheeky attitude added a lot of humour to the film, and he worked surprisingly well alongside Christopher Lee.
From a mini-gun and peanuts, to suitcases and bottles of wine, there is no shortage of entertainment with Nick Nack around. It is also to his credit that he was the inspiration behind Mini-Me in the Austin Powers films. Nick Nack was played by French actor Herve Villechaize, who would go on to play the role of Tattoo in the American series Fantasy Island.…
No list of villains would be complete without including Le Chiffre from Casino Royale. He brought a much needed freshness to the reboot of the series, and was one of the better villains of the post-80s era. The intense battle on and off the poker table was reminiscent of some of the climactic gambling scenes in the Ian Fleming novels.
With his creepy eye, sly demeanour, and–as if anyone could forget–his comical torture scene, Le Chiffre is the perfect place to start this article, and well deserving of 10th place. Le Chiffre was played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, who reprised the role in the 2008 first-person shooter Quantum of Solace, providing his voice and likeliness for the character.…
Christopher Lee had originally been put forward for the role of Dr. No by his step cousin, Ian Fleming. Unfortunately for him, the producers had already cast Joseph Wiseman, but Lee got his chance again twelve years later. He accepted the role of Fransisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun.
Lee was perfect for the role of Scaramanga. He was the spitting image of Fleming’s original character, and was received very well by fans and critics alike. His effortless charm, million dollar contracts, golden gun, and third nipple are all memorable parts of the film. Scaramanga has also proved to be a popular character in the 007 video games.…