Though the James Bond theme songs get all of the attention, the soundtracks for all of the Bond films, except for “A View to a Kill,” are pretty top notch. Over the last 50 years such celebrated composers as John Barry, George Martin and Thomas Newman have given each Bond release a distinctive flourish, and this list celebrates the Top 5 James Bond soundtracks, the ones that really stick with you long after Bond has faded from the screen.
5. “Goldeneye” (Eric Serra, 1995)
The “Goldeneye” soundtrack gets a fair bit of flack within the James Bond community, and I’ve never really been sure why. I find that composer Eric Serra perfectly compliments both the bombast of driving a freaking tank through Russian streets, as well as the stealthier moments. The best flourish of this soundtrack is the reverb-drenched, echoing metal drums that features in all of the scenes in Russia.
4. “Skyfall” (Thomas Newman, 2012)
Though “Skyfall” is the most recent Bond film, the soundtrack heavily features classic sound cues and homages to earlier soundtracks, as “Skyfall” marks James Bond’s 50th anniversary. Thomas Newman brings a lush sound to Sam Mendes’ bold visuals that features quick string and percussion work, but what makes his soundtrack stand out is that it is the first time that real electronics are used in a James Bond score. Synths had of course been used before, but Newman is the first Bond composer to integrate samplers and electronic beats and rhythms into his score, as well as a stronger focus on the guitar, making for a soundtrack that perfectly straddles the line between classic and modern.
3. “Live and Let Die” (George Martin, 1973)
The first Bond soundtrack not scored by John Barry, “Live and Let Die” immediately cues the viewer into the realization that Roger Moore really is a brand new Bond. The score is soulful and layered with trumpets and trombones without bombast, instead creating a groovy and jazzy soundtrack that jives completely with “Live and Let Die’s” Harlem and New Orleans setting.
2. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (John Barry, 1969)
Accompanying George Lazenby’s only appearance as James Bond, the “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” soundtrack mixes things up quite a lot. The James Bond theme is re-recorded, and most importantly the Moog is used for the first time on a James Bond soundtrack. Once it was introduced the Moog was a staple of James Bond soundtracks, allowing for more complex and varied soundtracks. This soundtrack is often touted as the best James Bond soundtrack.
1. “Thunderball” (John Barry, 1965)
While “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” might often be considered the best James Bond theme song, I personally favor the “Thunderball” soundtrack. John Barry is at the top of his game in this one, creating one of the best action scene scores ever. He uses punchy violins, a shrill flute, and a military march for great effect, and the main theme is impossible to get out of your head.