The 10 Most Popular Bond Themes of All Time

On November 9, Daniel Craig makes his stern-faced return as Agent 007 in Skyfall, which also marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series. The woman everyone is talking about isn't the new Bond girl; it's the singer Adele. Her Skyfall theme song has already hit No. 1 on iTunes in both the United States and Europe. It's been a while since a James Bond theme has hit the top of the charts.

A little research revealed an odd mix of artists, including Tom Jones, Sheena Easton, Duran Duran, and Madonna. Here's a look at the 10 most popular Bond themes of all time, who sang them, and the year of the film. But first, the new Adele track...

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10. "Diamonds Are Forever," Shirley Bassey, 1972, No. 57 on the Billboard Hot 100

This was the final Bond film for Sean Connery, which, considering its initial reviews, might have been a good thing. The theme song, however, was a hit. Shirley Bassey would follow it up eight years later with the theme to Moonraker.

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9. "You Only Live Twice," Nancy Sinatra, 1967, No. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100

Nancy Sinatra's sixties hit got a second life recently as the song that closed Mad Men's fifth season. It initially debuted in the fifth James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, which had a screenplay written, strangely enough, by the children's-book author Roald Dahl.

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8. "All Time High," Rita Coolidge, 1983, No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100

The Nashville-born Rita Coolidge recorded this theme song for Octopussy, the 13th film in the Bond series, starring Roger Moore. The song got a huge boost from lovers of smooth saxophone solos and soaring vocals; it stood at No. 1 on the adult-contemporary chart for four consecutive weeks.

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7. "Thunderball," Tom Jones, 1966, No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100

Tom Jones said in an interview that he held the final note in the recording studio for so long that he fainted. Good thing he tried so hard; his song was eventually chosen over versions recorded by Johnny Cash, Shirley Bassey, and Dionne Warwick.

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6. "Die Another Day," Madonna, 2003, No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100

This was Pierce Brosnan's final Bond film, and it cost somewhere between $130 to $150 million. Madonna's music video was a relative value at $6 million to make. Apparently it paid off; the song hit No. 1 in 12 different countries.

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5. "Goldfinger," Shirley Bassey, 1965, No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100

This is the song that made the Welsh-born Shirley Bassey famous in the United States and raised expectations for every James Bond theme that followed. Twenty movies later, "Goldfinger" is still the song most likely to make you reach for a martini.

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4. "For Your Eyes Only," Sheena Easton, 1981, No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100

Sheena Easton made James Bond history by actually performing "For Your Eyes Only" in the movie's opening credits. The song was eventually nominated for an Academy Award, which, incidentally, was the last nomination the film series has received.

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3. "Nobody Does It Better," Carly Simon, 1977, No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100

Carly Simon's seventies hit was the first theme not to bear the name of its film (in this case, The Spy Who Loved Me). It barely references James Bond at all, which is probably why it went on to have a shelf life long after the movie had premiered.

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2. "Live and Let Die," Paul McCartney and Wings, 1977, No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100

Yes, this song was indeed written for a James Bond film. The dramatic orchestral arrangements by Beatles producer George Martin, not to mention its popular remake by Guns & Roses, has guaranteed the song's ubiquity on classic-rock radio to this day.

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1. "A View to Kill," Duran Duran, 1985, No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100

While a lot of famous musicians have released James Bond themes, only Duran Duran did it while at the apogee of their career, red-hot after years of dominating MTV with singles like "Girls on Film" and "Hungry Like the Wolf." The band even paid homage to Agent 007 with a cheesy music video that, for better or for worse, includes the line, "I'm Bon ... Simon Le Bon."
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—Keith Wagstaff is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Follow him @kwagstaff.

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