In 007 films (especially the earlier ones), Bond girls are those curvaceous young creatures, often to be found disporting themselves poolside, typically in skimpy bikinis, and squeaking: “Ooh, James!” whenever Mr Bond strides past them manfully. And, er, that’s about it. Their function, you might say, is purely decorative.
Bond women, on the other hand, are, let’s come right out and say it, older. They tend to be well-rounded, fully-fledged characters. They’re intelligent, resourceful, sometimes loyal, sometimes treacherous. Yes, some of them have suggestive, nudge-nudge names: that’s Ian Fleming for you, a man very much of his time. But all the Bond women at least add something to the story when they appear on the big screen.
And guess what? Some of them are rivetingly attractive into the bargain. Case in point: the disarmingly glamorous Paris-based Italian actress Monica Bellucci, who played Lucia Sciarra in Spectre at 50 years old.
Here’s a rundown of 10 of the best ‘Bond women’ – all of whom have made significant contributions to 007 films:
10. Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead
Lois Chiles was 32 when she played the role in Moonraker (1979), of Holly Goodhead, one of the most accomplished Bond women: she was an astrophysicist and NASA employee who piloted a space shuttle.
9. Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp
The Dutch actress Famke Janssen proved a feisty, formidable rival for 007 in Goldeneye (1995). As Xenia Onatopp, she played a KGB assassin, whose preferred method of dispensing death was crushing her victims with her thighs.
8. Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder
Ursula Andress is the exception in this list. She’s your basic sex-bomb. As Honey Ryder in Dr. No (1962), she emerged from crashing surf in a white bikini. That classic scene not only made her an overnight star but helped launch Bond films as a successful franchise that endures to this day. Swiss-born Andress had such a strong accent that her lines were dubbed. Yet her screen presence was undeniable. She played Vesper Lynd in the spoof Bond movie Casino Royale (1967), starring David Niven.
7. Halle Berry as Jinx Johnson
Halle Berry was the only Bond woman to take her role immediately after winning a best actress Oscar (for Monster’s Ball). In 2002 she played tough-talking Jinx Johnson, an NSA operative who becomes a more or less equal sidekick for Bond in Die Another Day. Yet Berry still had a scene in a fetching orange bikini, which felt like an homage to Andress in Dr. No.
6. Diana Rigg as Tracy Draco
In 1969, long before becoming an acting Dame, Rigg was still best known for playing Emma Peel on TV in The Avengers when she played Tracy Draco, who actually married Bond, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It all ended badly for Tracy, and the film (with George Lazenby as Bond) wasn’t exactly great; she acted him off the screen. Yet Tracy was an interesting character, and Rigg made the most of the part.
5. Sophie Marceau as Elektra King
The World Is Not Enough (1999) is arguably the strongest Bond film with Pierce Brosnan as 007, and the subtle, attractive French actress Marceau is one reason why. As Elektra King, she plays an enigmatic woman who may be Bond’s ally or enemy. The impassive Marceau keeps us guessing, which helps sustain the film’s suspense.
4. Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore
Goldfinger (1964) remains the favourite 007 film for many, and boasts two memorable performances by women. We all recall Shirley Eaton meeting her death by being covered head to toe in gold paint. But better yet is smoky-voiced Blackman, playing Pussy Galore (yes, yes, we get it) – the villainous Goldfinger’s personal pilot, seemingly immune to male charm. Blackman, like Rigg, a former Avengers TV star, was five years older than Sean Connery. She gives the role her all, with understated humour.
Read our in-depth interview with Honor Blackman
3. Naomie Harris as M
A ‘Bond woman’ with a difference: in the 007 movie Skyfall, Harris assumed the role of M’s secretary Miss Moneypenny (played for decades by Lois Maxwell), and was an instant sensation. Stunningly attractive, calm, and authoritative, Harris (a Cambridge graduate) simply transformed the part and made it her own. Early word on the new Bond film Sceptre (it opens in October) suggests her role will have grown. A fine actress, Harris deserved more awards attention for her portrayal of Winnie Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. She seems certain to play a major part in future Bond movies.
2. Eva Green as Vesper Lynd
It’s generally accepted that Bond women became more interesting and complex at the point Daniel Craig donned the 007 mantle. Casino Royale (2006) was the first, and Green made a fine match for him as Vesper Lynd, his first love, who turned out to be more complex (and treacherous) than he had imagined. An intelligent beauty, Green played Vesper as an intriguing woman who hung on to her secrets. A very grown-up Bond woman.
1. Judi Dench as M
Dame Judi Dench about as far removed from the idea of “a Bond girl” as one can imagine (in terms of intelligence, acting ability and of course age). But in 1995, for Goldeneye, Dame Judi took on the role of M, head of foreign intelligence in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and therefore Bond’s boss. She played M superbly through seven films – until her final crowning glory, Skyfall (2012), in which some of the dark secrets of M’s past come back to haunt her. Skyfall is an exceptional Bond film, in that its story is as much about another character (M) as it is about James Bond. It’s also worth noting that Skyfall is also the most financially successful 007 film to date. Judi Dench – a truly great Bond woman.