The Diegetic James Bond: Every Time 007 Hears Music in the Movies

Music has always been central to the success of the James Bond franchise. From Dr. No to No Time to Die and beyond, the movies’ title songs and iconic themes have thrilled audiences and inspired endless discussion, not least over what makes for good — indeed, essential — James Bond music. How do John Barry’s scores so perfectly capture the spirit of everyone’s favorite British secret agent? Why is Tom Jones’ “Thunderball” a good Bond song and Jack White and Alicia Keys’ “Another Way to Die” a not-so-good one? And so on.

Less attention, though, has been paid to another category of music in the Bond series: namely, in-universe music, or “diegetic” or “source” music.

Diegetic music is the music that characters in a story can hear. It’s what makes up the soundscape of the world in which they live: a 45 playing on a jukebox, a busker strumming a guitar on a street corner, an endless refrain of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” emanating from a child’s toy. Such music can serve a variety of purposes. Filmmakers might use it to conjure a sense of place or provoke some sort of response in a character. Or they might just have it play in the background in a club or casino, for example, so they can add the song to the soundtrack album.

While it’s often overshadowed by the movies’ title songs and scores, diegetic music appears throughout the James Bond franchise — because Bond is an inveterate globetrotter, skipping from one exotic locale to the next as readily as most of us walk to the corner store and back, but also because he spends so much time in clubs and casinos.

The pages below explore the use of diegetic music in the James Bond film franchise — that is, the movies made by Eon Productions over the past 60 years and counting. How did the filmmakers employ diegetic music in each movie? What music did they use? And how did the choices they made reflect what was happening in the movie and music industries at the time and in the culture as a whole?

I’ll add new entries on a somewhat regular basis, so be sure to check back. Also, don’t miss the Diegetic James Bond YouTube playlist, which collects all of the clips from the entries.

Diegetic James Bond Entries

[Stay tuned for more entries]