The 8 Ball 11.13.12: The Top 8 Bond Girls
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 11.13.2012
From Casino Royale's Vesper Lynd and Honey Ryder from Dr. No to Xenia Onatopp from GoldenEye, Tatiana Romanova in From Russia With Love and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 Bond girls of all time!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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As you probably know unless you were stuck under a rock, Skyfall bowed this past weekend and broke box office records for a Bond film. The twenty-third film in the Bond franchise was the fourth-biggest opening of the year and is already being hailed as one of the best Bond films ever. I agree 100% in that it deserves to be considered on the list, though I don't know where I would place it at the moment and need a bit of time for it to sink in. One of the failings I did see in it was a lack of a really strong Bond girl. In Skyfall, M basically fulfills most of the Bond girl traits except for romance, which falls to Bérénice Lim Marlohe as the "blink and you'll miss her" Sévérine. Her role in the film is almost obligatory and the other potential girl Eve, as she is known until the end of the film, doesn't really fit the mold for many reasons. As much as I loved the film, I found myself wishing for the glory days of the Bond girl, which is where this list comes from; I thought we could look at the greatest girls to share the screen with good ol' 007.
Caveat: The definition of a "Bond girl" is somewhat murky, but I think that it's one of those things that you just know when you see. There are a few definite traits that apply, the most common being a romantic attraction or relationship to Bond. As such characters like Judi Dench's M, Grace Jones' May Day and the like don't qualify. There may be some debate about some of the Bond girls but I feel very solid that all the ones on this list qualify.
Melina Havelock - For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Anya Amasova - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Jill Masterson - Goldfinger (1964)
#8: Tatiana Romanova - From Russia With Love (1963)
Tatiana Romanova was the second Bond girl, appearing in 1963's From Russia With Love and since then there has been dozens of women between the twenty-three official EON Bond films. This Soviet embassy clerk is such an important part of Bond lore, and set the template so firmly for what a Bond girl should be, that to this day the scene in which she seduces Bond is still used as the audition scene for potential Bond girls. As an enemy agent who is sent to get close to Bond so she can get to England and steal the SPEKTOR code machine and plant false information, she set down many of the rules for some of the best Bond girls; beautiful and statuesque, seductive, dubious trustworthiness due to possible double agent status and more. Daniela Bianchi really embodied what a Bond girl should be and nearly every female who has appeared in a Bond film as a rival or lover of the super-spy have had something to take from the role. Over two hundred actresses were auditioned for this role, and suffice it to say that it is a good thing that they did so or they may not have found Bianchi, the perfect actress for one of the perfect Bond girls.
#7: Wai Lin - Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
James Bond has found many women his equal in various different disciplines, but rarely does he find someone who is not only his equal in the physical arena, but in fact surpasses him. For Tomorrow Never Dies--which, point of fact, also has a very lackluster Bond girl in Paris Carver--they wanted someone who could match Bond toe-to-toe and who else would you bring in for that but Michelle Yeoh. Yeoh, one of my favorite female action stars, was able to match up with 007 on all fronts. Frankly, after the relative disaster that Tomorrow was, I was less interested in seeing another James Bond film than I was in seeing a potential spin-off with Wai Lin kicking ass in a high-espionage, high-action situation. Yeoh is a beautiful woman who made Wai Lin a formidable ally and adversary for Bond, and one of the few Bond girls who you could really invest in as a character, as opposed to just a damsel in distress-type caricature or a over-the-top villain (not that there's anything wrong with either, as you'll see on this list!). She was everything most of the Bond girls weren't and that pushes her high on the list of Bond girls for me.
#6: Natalya Simonova - GoldenEye (1995)
Natalya Simonova is criminally underrated as a Bond girl. Played by the gloriously lovely Izabella Scorupco, Natalya is a programmer at the Severnaya facility in Russia and is the only survivor when the facility is betrayed, allowing General Ouromov to lay waste to the rest of the staff and walk out with the control disk for GoldenEye. After getting betrayed (again) by shady little Boris she teams up with Bond in order to help him stop the villains from their plans to destroy England and steal billions at the cost of countless lives. Scorupco never quite rose to the same heights as this role--something that is common among many Bond girl actresses--but she was a perfect fit for GoldenEye in that she embodied the idea of a new kind of Bond girl, much like the post-Cold War GoldenEye was intended to become the Bond film for a new era. Natalya certainly had the physical assets of her predecessors and she had some damsel in distress moments, but she was also smart and resourceful, destroying GoldenEye and even saving Bond after he finishes off Alex Trevelyan. Unfortunately she doesn't seem to get enough recognition for her role in ushering in a more competent and interesting kind of Bond girl, perhaps because she was overshadowed by someone. Speaking of which...
#5: Xenia Onatopp - GoldenEye (1995)
Oh come on, don't act like you didn't know she was going to be on the list. Xenia Onatopp is one of the most famous Bond girls for a very good reason. Sure, part of that is the fact that Famke Janssen has never been hotter--and that's saying a lot, by the way--than she was as the Russian sexual sadist who got off (literally) by unleashing pain and death. But another part of that is because she was such a formidable enemy. Xenia didn't have to get someone into bed and make them vulnerable in order to kill them; she had no problem handling an assault rifle or going hand to hand. No, she wrapped those legs around a victim and squeezed because she chose to. Xenia was in many ways the bridge between the old ways (overtly sexualized, pun-worthy name) and the new ways (someone who had to take seriously). She and Natalya helped reinvigorate the Bond girl after several years' worth of lackluster characters; as much as I love Natalya, Xenia was just the more memorable one. She also had one of the greatest Bond girl deaths, behind only Jill Masterson and Vesper Lynd.
#4: Tracy di Vicenzo - On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Bond has bedded many, many women throughout the years. I would hate to be his doctor, is all I have to say about that. But with all the women he's found between the sheets, only one (okay maybe two, but we'll never know with one) ever got him to put a ring on it. That one would be Tracy di Vicenzo, often a bit underrated because she was opposed the one-time Bond in George Lazenby. Di Vicenzo was the daughter of a Corsican mob boss, and life just sucked for her. Her husband died in a Maserati with a mistress by his side, her child died of spinal meningitis and she intends to commit suicide, only to be interrupted by Bond. Tracy and Bond change each other significantly and as I said, she is the only woman who has ever married the superspy; of course she is then tragically gunned down by Blofeld and Irma Bunt as revenge against Bond. Diana Rigg had an unmistakable chemistry with Lazenby and it really enhanced their growing relationship in the film, thus making it that much more heartbreaking when she dies. Her character is referenced more than any other Bond girl throughout the length of the series, with references or at least subtle nods in The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, License to Kill, GoldenEye and The World is Not Enough. That's a testament to her influence on the franchise and a feather in her cap as a Bond girl.
#3: Honey Ryder - Dr. No (1962)
The first Bond girl, Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder may be the most famous; the image of Honey stepping out of the sea in a white bikini is one of the most memorable and iconic images in the entire franchises. Ian Fleming enjoyed her performance so much that he made reference to Andress in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. While Romanova largely set the template for the Bond girl, Andress came first and is remembered far more. There are many who would consider her ranked too low at #3 here; what keeps her from being higher is the fact that Andress' accent was considered too heavy and the dialogue was dubbed by Nikki van der Zyl. A performance is more than just a great body and while she of course gave all the visual parts of the performance, she wasn't the "total package" so to speak. But that's certainly not discounting her performance; there's more to her than just looking good and she does embody the character in all of her movements, expressions and so on. You simply can't have a list of top Bond girls without Honey on the list, and high on the list to boot.
#2: Vesper Lynd - Casino Royale (2006)
The Bond girl for a new generation is also one of the top two, and that's an easy two as far as I'm concerned. Eva Green was, like many of the Bond girls, a relative unknown before she was cast as the foreign liaison that is brought in to oversee Bond's mission to bankrupt Le Chiffre. It isn't until late in the film that we find out she is also a double agent, forced to work for Quantum so that her lover Yusuf is not killed. In the course of the film she of course falls for Bond and ultimately sacrifices herself for him, going to her death in order to deliver the money to keep him safe. The act of both betrayal and self-sacrifice for him is too much for Bond and sets him on the path to becoming the Casanova that we know and love. Green was brilliant in the role, making Lynd the embodiment of a character who could match wits with Bond in a way that previously only M could, but could also be vulnerable and romantically viable for him. It was a potent mix and it made her one of my absolute favorite Bond girls.
#1: Pussy Galore - Goldfinger (1964)
Really, is there any other option? Outside of "Bond...James Bond" and "Martini, shaken not stirred" there are no phrases that even come close to being as famous in Bond cinematic lore as "My name is Pussy Galore." It is the name that sent millions of teenagers into snickering fits and yet as played by Honor Blackman, the character was an intellectual who would inspire (much) later female characters in the franchise who would be able to match up with Bond on more than a romantic level. Blackman left her role as Cathy Gale on The Avengers to play Pussy and in doing so etched her name in film history. She didn't have the physical skills of Wai Lin but she could hold her own; she didn't quite have the brilliant mind of Vesper Lynd but she was certainly smart. She was the total package in every way and represents the most well-rounded, perfect embodiment of a Bond girl that the franchise has been able to find in fifty years; it is likely that she will remain so even if the franchise goes another fifty.
Note: Now that I am caught up to current, I have gone back to watch the episodes that have become available in the US since I started watching and thus were previously unavailable to me (thus why I have episodes remaining despite being caught up).
Current Series/Season:Season Eight (1971) Episodes Watched: 587 Last Serial Completed:Colony in Space - When the Time Lords discover that the Master has stolen their secret file on the Doomsday Weapon, they realize that they have only one recourse and send the Doctor and Jo--without their knowledge or consent--to the planet Uxarieus. There, they become enmeshed in a struggle between an agrarian colony and a powerful mining corporation, with the Master himself pulling strings from the shadows. Surviving Episodes Remaining: 42
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.