The Bond Girl is one of the most iconic elements of the James Bond franchise. An adventure with 007 simply doesn’t hold quite the same thrill without a glamorous double-agent, a good girl gone bad, or a sweet young thing needing to be saved from the agents of SPECTRE.
Even with the misogynistic undertones and sexist put-downs that the series has been rightly criticized for, the Bond Girls can be just as iconic as James Bond himself. From the glamourous and hopeless to the dominating and deadly, these are the best of the Bond Girls.
Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger
The character in Goldfinger is interesting because her story in the novels is so radically different from the film. There are plenty of lesbian undertones in the film, but the character of Pussy Galore in the original book is very much a lesbian. (I don’t recommend looking into it too deeply though – the way it’s explained and dealt with in the original text is so Freudian it’s disgusting.)
The first of the suggestively-named Bond Girls, Pussy Galore is also one of the first Bond Girls to give Bond a run for his money, being much more immune to his ‘charms’ than anyone previously. She remains very much in control for most of their encounters and feels as though her character exists for a purpose other than going to bed with Bond.
Grace Jones as Mayday in A View to a Kill
The casting of Grace Jones as Mayday in A View to a Kill brought some much-needed intensity and energy into the end of the Roger Moore era. Moore’s double-entendre Bond was wearing thin with filmgoers and this final outing makes it clear that a parting of ways was overdue.
Playing off the perception of Jones as an androgynous icon, the filmmakers created a Bond Girl who was able to cut through the nonsense of Moore’s wise-cracks to get down to business, existing in a wold halfway between ultra-feminine and ultra-masculine. As with many of the more recent Bond films, Mayday (as a villainess) is so much more interesting and appealing than the actual Bond Girl of the film – Stacey Sutton (played by Tanya Roberts). To be honest, I forgot that Stacey even existed until I re-watched the film recently.
Mayday lives up to her name, and she’s the height of this otherwise milquetoast entry into the franchise.
Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies
Just like Grace Jones, Michelle Yeoh brought a whole new level of bad-ass to the Bond Girl trope. For the first time in a Bond film, a woman works with Bond not because she needs him, but because he needs her. She manages to best Bond multiple times through the film and has an attitude that is the perfect antidote to Pierce Brosnan’s TV-acting hangover.
Yeoh’s fight sequences are some of the best in the series, and she’s one of the few non-recurring characters in the 50 years of the franchise that I would actually like to see more of.
Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova in From Russia with Love
Ursula Andress might have been the first Bond Girl to steal the screen with her white bikini and big knife, but Daniela Bianchi proved that all you need to make a scene is a little black choker. A KGB agent chosen by Rosa Klebb (played by the great Lotte Lenya) to be a pawn for SPECTRE, Tatiana Romanova becomes the centre of a battle between good and evil, playing back and forth until she is forced to choose between Klebb and Bond in the iconic final shootout.
Beautifully played, the character sets the template for many temptresses turned putty in the Bond series. It is clear that many actresses have followed Bianchi’s lead in the way they play Bond Girls and it is nice to see an original among copies.
Lois Maxwell, Caroline Bliss, Samantha Bond and Naomi Harris as Miss Moneypenny
Of all the Bond Girls, Miss Moneypenny probably remains the most intriguing. Even though she exists almost simply as a school-girl crush, Miss Moneypenny has proven herself to be the only woman who seems to be able to keep Bond at bay – ‘Close, but no cigar,’ as she says in The World is not Enough. In addition to this, she is one of two or three female characters who have appeared in more than one film in the series – most women die off in the third act or are never seen again after consummation. With the exception of Bond’s wife, Teresa, she is the only woman he has a relationship with that exists outside of the fieldwork sex and violence.
Even with the rough treatment they can get, the Bond Girl is still a desired role for actresses. Eva Green and Olga Kurylenko – both well-known on the independent and art house cinema scene – have both scored major roles in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace respectively. Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydeux have both been cast to appear as Bond Girls in the upcoming Sam Mendes follow-up to Skyfall, SPECTRE. Judging by this news and recent trends, it looks as if there will be many more talented and interesting Bond Girls to come.