Most of those Top Bond Girls lists focus on them as great tail.
Sod the sexism. This is about the women of BOND who are badass!
At his least, James Bond is the 1955 Hefner male fantasy with nips and tucks for the decades. At his best, he is an unequaled agent who admires equal partners.
At their least, Bond Girls are his mattress. At their best, the women in Bond films are his match.
In order, here are the women who advanced the most dangerous game.
from DR. NO, 1962
Honey makes one of the most memorable entrances in modern cinema, striding confidently out of the tide in a then-shocking bikini with a knife at ready.
She doesn't get to be that tough the rest of the film, but already she has set the waves in motion for women who are as attractive and deadly as Bond.
"Freelance" (Marguerite LeWars),
DR. NO, 1962.
Though set in Jamaica, the black extras in DR. NO seem sidelined in their own country thanks to fleeting shots, overdubs, and racist times. Even "Freelance", a fearless photographer working for the villain, is passed off as partially Chinese.
But LeWars, a former Miss Jamaica, is the door that will open opportunity for Gloria Hendry, Grace Jones, Halle Berry, and Naomie Harris later on.
from FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, 1963
1) She's a Russian colonel who works for S.P.E.C.T.R.E. So, Double Bad!
2) Her name is a pun on a Russian phrase for 'women's rights'.
3) She is played by legendary singer Lotte Lenya.
4) A quick kick from her knife shoes will cut you to the quick!
from GOLDFINGER, 1964
That name just screams compliant sex kitten.
But Honor Blackman (who they poached from the AVENGERS series) is too bold, strong, and independent to have it. She flies planes, flips judo, and quips acerbically better than anyone. And her actual name outclasses her character's in a way Ian Fleming would never have thought of.
This inspired the band Pussy Galore, from which came Jon 'Blues Explosion' Spencer and Cristina 'Boss Hogg' Martinez.
Pussy Galore's Flying Circus,
No, not a Monty Python porno. This crack team of aerial daredevils steals the show going for the gold. And they do it with style.
They will be revamped in OCTOPUSSY twenty years later.
from THUNDERBALL, 1965
Fiona is the first truly badass Bond woman. She is a coldblooded assassin who repeatedly drives him to the edge.
Her kill skills coupled with severely eroticized bloodlust are the template for later great villains like Fatima Blush, May Day, and Xenia Onatopp.
Domino Derval (Claudine Auger),
Domino could've been another bikini babe lost in the bed parade.
But she sets off the recurring Elektra theme in Bond films, a woman out for familial revenge, that expands with FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH.
from CASINO ROYALE, 1967
The toughest woman in the first five years wasn't even in an official film. And she actually was James Bond!
Due to weird rights issues, another studio cranked out this unofficial film with five directors and no coordination. The comedic film is a mess but has moments, the best of which is the sequence with Mata Bond, daughter of James Bond and Mata Hari.
Mata infiltrates East Berlin (which becomes an homage to 1920's Expressionist films) under her father's name, and tears the joint up with a savvy that official Bond women wouldn't do for years.
Her character would be swiped wholecloth by the official film OCTOPUSSY years later.
Also in the film was the actual first Bond Girl, Ursula Andress, playing Vesper Lind. (Not to be confused with East Berlin.)
Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama),
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, 1967.
Meanwhile, in the official film of the year, Kissy was a ninja agent who is treated more like a bikini babe. But she gets some strides in.
In the book, Kissy is the only woman to bear a child from James, and she raises James Suzuki by her self, without that deadbeat, of course.
from ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, 1969
There are three crucial women who matter the most in Bond. And Tracy is the first.
Diana Rigg, also stolen from THE AVENGERS show, shines as this pivotal character. Her performance is what gives this innovative film its poignancy.
OHMSS starred a new Bond actor, in a changing time. To the producers' credit, this underrated film takes bold chances, making Bond vulnerable and human, exploring a real love interest, and letting the female lead be a strong, confident, and self-contained woman. It's an uneven experiment, but that reboot strategy will pay off well in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS and spectacularly with the superior CASINO ROYALE ('06).
Bambi and Thumper
(Lola Larson and Trina Parks),
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, 1969.
Bambi and Thumper are interesting in that they seem to be lovers, a first for Bond films. They are uninterested in Bond except to mop the floor with him. And, being 1971 now, this is the first foreground, sexy, strong black female to appear.
Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry),
LIVE AND LET DIE, 1973.
In many ways, LIVE AND LET DIE is a remake of DR. NO ten years (and light years socially) later. With a predominantly black cast, it flips the script on the paragon of the British end at every turn.
Rosie is a C.I.A. agent who is treated too much like eye candy. But to the film's credit, she and Bond become lovers. The unspoken social gulf that separated Freelance and James in the first film is closed now, for the better.
Lt. Hip's nieces,
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, 1974.
Lt. Hip shows up giving his nieces a ride to their dojo, which is a good thing because the schoolgirls start stomping bad guys' tails!
This simple move, milking the success of mid-70's martial arts films, opens the door for more substantive characters later like Wai Lin.
from FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, 1981
The Elektra legend becomes much more explicit in this half-Greek woman's quest for revenge.
The Bond films were passing from producer Cubby Broccoli to his daughter, Barbara. With this film the series snaps out of a decade of spectacle (remaking YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE) to refocus on intrigue stories with practical stunts (in the spirit of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE). Some awareness of Feminism seems to finally be seeping in, and the Stepford Models begin to take on more depth and ability. Malina is an arrow in a better direction.
Something must have been in the air, because the anti-hero assassin Elektra was carving a bloody path through Marvel Comics simultaneously. Despite marked physical similarities, the parallels seem to be a concurrent coincidence.
from NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, 1983
Like the 1967 CASINO ROYALE, this is an unofficial Bond film made from a rights squabble. It is a remake of THUNDERBALL validated by the return of Sean Connery and a surprisingly perceptive script.
But mostly by the re-imagining of Fiona Volpe as Fatima Blush. Barbara Carrera is gleefully unhinged as an assassin who clearly gets actual orgasmic joy from murdering people. She is also a style queen who walks with more swagger than Bond does.
Though 'unofficial', she is the complete blueprint for May Day and Xenia Onatopp after her. As the most intense and unapologetic woman yet seen in the series, she elevates the bar for all the women that follow her.
(NSNA also cast the first black Felix Leiter on the suggestion of Connery, two decades before the Daniel Craig films.)
Magda (Kristina Wayborn),
The official film for that year, in competition with NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, is a strong spy film that reinvents Pussy Galore's Flying Circus as Octopussy's Cult of circus daredevils/ninjas. Their leader, Magda, takes her whole act from Mata Bond of CASINO ROYAL '67, down to her name, hair, abilities, and clothing!
from A VIEW TO A KILL, 1985
Grace Jones. Love is the thug!
1) It's Grace Jones. And that's just brilliance in itself.
2) She is clearly upending all those blond henchmen so favored since '63.
3) She does Bond, while never losing her razor's edge the way they soft-played Gloria Hendry.
4) She makes the ditzy co-star (Tanya Roberts) seem like the last of a dying dumb breed.
4) She goes all out for glory till the end.
from THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, 1987
Kara is a game-changer, not because she is a badass, but because she is believable.
The producers had a bad habit of playing it both ways; for any woman who showed strength or depth, there was the wooden model, the silly girl, or the disposable vamp. From this film on, when the whole series is watched in context, there's a clear shift in frontline Bond Girls towards skilled, intelligent women in the modern world.
The film is a brighter flipside to ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, rebooting a new Bond with more depth, more empathy, and a self-assessing sensibility. Kara is played with contagious warmth and enthusiasm by d'Abo, a genuine woman thrown into a shadow world of havoc who brings light into James' life.
The only downside to this successful film is that this great character is never followed up on again.
from LICENSE TO KILL, 1989
Pam is the supercharged Kara, a former CIA agent flying planes, flipping shotguns, stomping arses, and taking names. She wants nothing to do with James from jump.
Bond is successful in this adventure because Pam is his partner all the way. Who needs Felix Leiter?
An Honorable Mention should also go to Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto), a conflicted femme who's well-rounded in the deeper ways.
from GOLDENEYE, 1995
Xenia is the toppling domino set in motion by Fiona Volpe, Fatima Blush, and May Day; a hellion so fierce she unnerves everyone in the film. That's a good thing. More like that please, and make her the main villain, often.
Famke went on to play Jean Grey/ Phoenix in the X-MEN films, the ultimate woman that you don't want to get fired up.
Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco),
Natalya is a computer expert, harassed by men, undervalued for her skill, who proves her mettle with every challenge thrown at her.
from TOMORROW NEVER DIES, 1997
The bond films responded to the ascent of Hong Kong action films by importing the stellar Michelle Yeoh, one of the smartest moves they ever made.
There's no doubt that her Chinese agent is a real match for any adversity they throw at her. If anything, you sense she's holding back. There was lots of talk of a spin-off series for her, and we cry real tears that it didn't happen.
from THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, 1999
This woman wins the prize for being too great too briefly.
As an assassin for the opening sequence, she is a fireball of chaos that throws the entire film into damage control from go. She was so underused versus her potential that she was credited simply as 'Cigar Girl', and only got a proper name retroactively. Let's shake our collective heads and savor what we got.
from THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, 1999
Then there's the ultimate Elektra.
THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH is so effective because it is aware of all the Bond formulas, and it inverts all of them with fresh verve at every turn. Sophie Marceau's character is as nuanced as a prism, a triumph that is wondrous to watch.
This is where Neil Purvis and Robert Wade took over screenwriting, the best scribes in the series whose reflective work on the Daniel Craig films has been astounding.
from DIE ANOTHER DAY, 2002
As the 40th anniversary film, DIE ANOTHER DAY sums up many of Bond's past triumphs.
If you synthesized all the best elements of the women before her, you would have Giacinta: Honey's bikini and knife, Tracy's confidence, Rosie's agency cred, Fatima's perversity, Kara's charm, and Wai's chops. Halle was the full package, and gave us one of the most rewarding characters. She should have got her own spin-offs, too.
from CASINO ROYALE, 2006
There are three crucial women who matter the most in Bond. And Vesper is the second.
Her influence is so all-pervasive that it underscores everything in the first three Daniel Craig films. No other character has had that haunting and profound an impact across the direct storylines of the films.
CASINO ROYALE reinvented Bond from the inside out, purging his holdbacks and surging his potential. It made him a complex human being experiencing real physical and spiritual pain from a terrible job that he does too well. Credit inspired creators (spooked by the BOURNE films), a stunning lead actor, ...and the excellent Eva Green.
from QUANTUM OF SOLACE, 2008
Another Elektra, played with grit and vulnerability by Kurylenko.
Camille never sleeps with Bond, and the plot stays focused like a jackhammer on vengeance missions and how they burn you inside-out.
Ms. Fields (Gemma Arterton),
QUANTUM OF SOLACE, 2008.
The delightfully arch field agent, played with sly relish by the ever-great Gemma Arterton. Ms. Fields refuses to say her first name, but it is one in a long series of Beatles connections to James Bond films.
from SKYFALL, 2012
Perhaps no other agent in Bond history comes roaring so full-throttle from frame one. Eve is like a fist hitting you through a broken windshield.
Thankfully we'll get more of her, and here's hoping she gets to match the intensity level of her debut.
from SKYFALL, 2012
There are three crucial women who matter the most in Bond. And M is the third.
M is the ultimate Bond woman. No debate.
Who's your mama now?
© Tym Stevens
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