Since its inception, James Bond has been a source of controversy over sexism, misogyny, and believability. That iconic moment where Ursula Andress's Honey Rider stepped out of the ocean in a white bikini spurred a flurry of criticism, lust, and fantasy. But there's more to James Bond's female counterparts than their ability to wear a bikini or provide comic relief. In fact, there have been a number of feminist Bond Girls during the franchise's 50 plus years.
Sure, a lot of his partners wind up dead. The only two times he's fallen in love, both women have met their demise. But in the golden age of Bond, when so many women were portrayed as fluffy bit characters , or worse yet, slaves to their husbands (I Dream of Jeannie, anyone?), the *ss-kicking, plane-flying, smart-mouthed women of the Bond films ushered female characters into a new era. One where they could be smart, sexy, and capable without the help of a man.
Certainly not all women portrayed in the Bond films can be qualified as paving the way for female characters in cinema, but so many of them have. Without further ado, here are the ten most feminist Bond Girls throughout the ages.
1. Honey Ryder
As the first Bond Girl, Honey Ryder was either going to make it or break it. And, well, she made it. Andress set the bar high for every Bond Girl to follow in her footsteps, and for good reason. Aside from her iconic white bikini, Honey Ryder was sensible, tough, and independent. The very first scene where she meets Bond, she tells him she doesn't want or need his help. Even though she ends up falling into his arms, her introduction as the first Bond Girl, earns her a spot on the list.
Not only is Octopussy the only Bond Girl to make it into two films, but she's the only Bond Girl to have a film named after her. Much like her predecessor Pussy Galore, Octopussy has a no-nonsense approach to Bond's overly suave moves. With a girl squad of her own, Octopussy fights her way to the very end, and can only be subdued when surrounded by an army of ten (yes, ten) men.
Pussy Galore is introduced as a villain working with Goldfinger, but refreshingly enough, she's only in it for the cash money. She's witty, she's cunning, and, best of all, she finds James Bond to be a bit of a joke. She has her own agenda, and her own crew of femme fatales. Pussy Galore's Flying Circus, a flock of female fighter pilot, is her one true love. With a low tolerance for Bond's typical charm and disarm, she keeps him at bay. And little-known fact: her name is a tribute to the fact that Ian Fleming wrote Pussy as a lesbian in the books — and not as another conquest for Bond.
Perhaps the only Bond Girl to ever be showcased as Bond's equal, Wai Lin trumped the snoozer of a storyline that was Paris Carver by a mile. Lin is one of the only assassins to ever give Bond a run for his money, and keep viewers interested the whole time. Unfortunately, she winds up tied up and needing rescue at the end of the movie, true to Bond formula. But the films need more of this archetype, and they need it now.
If Fiona Volpe was the answer to a true female villain for the Bond films, Xenia Onatopp was her exaggerated successor. Though a little on the campy side, Janssen manages to mix the themes of sex and murder perfectly for her role as Onatopp, and steals the show. I mean, the woman murders a man by squeezing him to death with her thighs during sex, and still finishes after she kills him. Righteous, forward, and sexually charged, Onatopp is unapologetically feminist in putting herself first.
Audiences were left a little bit miffed when Pussy Galore was immediately swayed to the good side after an encounter with James Bond's penis. (And rightly so. No one man can have all that power.) Fiona Volpe was a direct answer to that problem. She is, without a doubt, the iconic Bond bad girl. She's feisty, beautiful, and calculated. Billed as one of SPECTRE's top assassins, Fiona Volpe has no qualms about using her sexuality as a means to finish the job. She'll seduce you, then try to kill you. Volpe marked the introduction of a villain who stays a villain into the Bond series, and she did not disappoint.
A View To Kill has some of the most misogynistic moments of any Bond film ever made, which is probably why May Day sticks out as the only saving grace. Campy and over the top, Grace Jones takes the archetype of bad Bond Girl to new heights in her outrageously awesome androgynous eighties outfits. And the best part? She's one of the few Bond Girls who doesn't bore you for a single second, or forget who she is. When her boss (and lover) tries to toss her like yesterday's trash, she doesn't just get ma — she gets even. May Day uses Bond to her advantage, wears a headdress, assassinates some guy with a blow dart, and soars off of the Eiffel Tower in a parachute after she's done. Bow down to May Day.
Camille Montes makes our list for a few reasons, despite being in arguably the most forgettable and boring Bond movie ever made. She has no sexual desire for Bond, she doesn't sleep with him despite this fact, and she's on a mission for revenge. A delightful departure from the usual sex-and-slay appetite of the usual Bond Girls, Montes is one of the only ones who leaves a lasting impact on our suave hero.
Sworn to kill Bond after finding out that he murdered her lover, Anya Amasova has a troop of fans in the Bond world. She winds up having to work with Bond to save the world, but swears to murder him once the job is done. She doesn't kill him, of course — but her presence in the film is ever challenging Bond, often times showing him up at his own game, and ultimately, one of the first Bond Girls to ever be seen as an equal to Bond, rather than a trophy girl.
In perhaps one of the greatest plot twists in James Bond history, the team behind Skyfall introduces a Bond Girl into the film without disclosing her identity. The film opens with her leading the car chase, maneuvering her vehicle expertly, saving Bond's buns, and taking the reigns. Did I mention she's the only Bond Girl to ever successfully taken Bond down? It's only at the end of the film that viewers find out that this woman is Eve Moneypenny, an integral character in Bond lore. Some people like to argue that she's not really a Bond Girl because she's got more to her than meets the eye (i.e. a future at MI-6) — but who cares. She's the first step in the right direction of a future where Bond Girls don't need Bond to save them — instead, they have the capabilities to save him. And that, is something the Bond world needs.