The beauty of James Bond is that the women in his universe are more gorgeous than most of the girls we’ll meet in the real world. Somehow, this immaculate physical specimens also happen to be wickedly smart, capable, and confident as they navigate a world that seems, let’s face it, overrun with egotistical men and their fancy toys.
Even still, among that elite group of women, there is an even-more-elite crew of ladies that made such a mark on Bond and audiences, that they’ve earned their own place in the inner circle – the best of the best.
The trend of strong female figures started immediately when Ursula Andress appeared as Honey Ryder in Dr. No. The Swiss beauty launched her career after appearing in perhaps the most iconic bikini moments of the 1960s – a moment so legendary and central to the Bond-style that it was homaged by Halle Berry in Die Another Day and later by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.
Creating a strong archetype for future Bond Girls, Ryder is an independent, strong woman who claims to never need help from anyone. Her golden locks and soft beauty hide the fact that she’s a vicious killer, especially if revenge is involved and there’s a black widow spider nearby. She holds her own fairly well, despite needing some rescuing from Bond, and she shares a Happy Ending with 007 on a boat as a reward for not being killed by No. She, to this day, is probably still the best Bond Girl of all time.
But Bond was able to find more gorgeous women without much trouble, including Honor Blackman as the beautiful personal pilot, Pussy Galore, from Goldfinger. She is a bad ass. Not only does she best Bond in a Judo fight and turns him into her employer, she falls victim to Bond’s wiles, turns on Goldfinger and sabotages a plan to break into Fort Knox. Not awesome enough for you? She also hijacks the President’s plane. Oh, and Bond ends up seducing her after defeating Goldfinger, blowing up said plane, and landing under a parachute. If you’re a woman, and you haven’t hijacked Airforce One then made love underneath a parachute, you’ve got a lot more living to do.
Despite being used as a human shield, Luciana Paluzzi‘s Fiona Volpe is an incredible assassin and turns the table on Bond by seducing him, waiting for him in a bathtub. She then tries to kill him, fails, and sets a trap for him at the Kiss Kiss club, where she tries to use her feminine ways to distract 007 from the gun aimed at his heart. In a bit of controversy, Bond uses her body to block the bullet, technically making her the first woman to be killed by Bond. It’s a good thing she died, though, because she was a biter and apparently wasn’t that great in bed.
Diana Rigg already had an established career (appearing as Emma Peel in The Avangers TV series) before playing Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo – or more commonly known as Mrs. Bond. She’s the first Bond Girl to actually strap a wedding ring around the Super Secret Agent. I would argue she’s the only one. It all starts when Bond takes over a wager for her when she doesn’t have the cash to back up her gambling debt. While I’m not convinced that she’s really that impressive a character, she definitely earns a certain spot in the myth as Bond’s wife. Sadly, after the wedding, Blofeld and his main henchwoman shoot Tracy Bond, killing her, and sending Bond vengefully tracking Blofeld well into the next film.
One of the most alluring Bond Girls of all time was Jane Seymour, taking her turn as Solitaire in Live and Let Die. She was youthful – the youngest Bond Girl at 22 – and her eyes were hypnotic as she played the completely virginal Tarot reader. Not only are her acting talents a testament to the strength of the character, it’s also one of the best written characters in the Bond universe. Her virginity is what keeps her in control of her powers – and keeps her useful to her ruthless boss – so being seduced by Bond has a major effect on her and the plot. Bond effectively puts her life in danger by going to bed with her and travels all the way to San Monique to rescue her and destroy Kananga’s vast poppy fields. Thus, saying no to drugs, saying yes to virgins, and admitting that romance for them was always in the cards.
International Jewel Thief. Cut-throat businesswoman. Circus Owner. Maud Adams, portrayed the dangerous and alarmingly beautiful (and suggestively-named) Octopussy in the film of the same name. After years of getting by the censors with their female leads, the Bond crew decided to go to the wall with their leading lady and the film title. Octopussy is an incredible character who almost mirrors Bond – she lives a life of excitement and luxury, is used to her fair share of romances, and is no stranger to crime and danger. She’s probably the closest thing to an exact foil that Bond’s ever had, and luckily, they end up wrapped in each other’s arms at the end of the movie after exacting revenge, taking out the bad guys, and saving each other from certain death.
Modern Bond films have given us some good Bond Girls, but it’s difficult to place them in the upper echelon. In one sense, they haven’t had time to prove that they remain classic in the face of other Bond women, but for the most part, it’s unclear as to whether their performances or characters really warrant it. The closest to that level that the more-recent films gave us were Famke Janssen‘s Xenia Onatopp, the strong-thighed assassin and winner of the Most Ridiculous Name contest, and Sophie Marceau‘s Elektra King, the kidnapped oil tycoon who gives Bond an exquisite round of torture.
Then, with the rebooting of the franchise, Casino Royale gave us Eva Green as Vesper Lynd. Pristinely beautiful, Lynd is a match for Bond right from the beginning – proving in their first meeting that she’s not going to go down as easily as the women in his past. She adds to her persona when they pose as lovers. Lynd has a tuxedo for Bond, fully tailored, because she’s had him sized up from the first time they met. Obviously, Lynd goes on to save Bond’s life, affecting him so strongly that Bond plans on quitting MI6 to sail the world with her on permanent honeymoon, and her forced betrayal causes Bond to dive deep into depression – hopefully resulting in some majorly violent revenge to be exacted by Bond in the forthcoming film.
There are a ton of women in James Bond’s life, and we can’t mention them all – certainly not all of them deserve to be mentioned – but it’s clear that the most prevalent icon in the Bond universe besides 007 himself is the parade of strong female characters who seduce, torture, drug, fight, fall in love with, and rescue the Super Secret Agent. They’re beautiful, daring, and usually end up making love to Bond by the time the end credits roll, and without them, Bond is half the man he’d be.