The “Bond girl” is one of the most problematic tropes of the James Bond franchise. Since the beginning of the series, the Bond movies’ female characters have been woefully underdeveloped and objectified. The Bond girls are generally split between femme fatales who betray Bond and romantic interests who fall madly in love with him in the space of a few days.
Except for the first one, GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies were among the most critically polarizing entries in the franchise. As with everything else from Brosnan’s movies, the “Bond girls” who appeared opposite 007 were a mixed bag. Some were compelling characters, while others were forgettable one-note archetypes.
8 Dr. Christmas Jones
For the most part, the “femme fatales” of the Brosnan era were much more interesting characters than the more straightforward love interests. Audiences were more receptive to villains like Elektra King than their more ethical counterparts, like Dr. Christmas Jones in The World is Not Enough.
Denise Richards’ unconvincing performance as a highly skilled scientist was one of the recurring points of negative criticism in the movie’s notoriously mixed reviews.
7 Paris Carver
Tomorrow Never Dies has one of the Bond franchise’s silliest villains. Elliot Carver is a media mogul who wants to start World War III purely for exclusive news coverage. When Bond is tasked with investigating Carver, his first step is to seduce his trophy wife, Paris Carver.
Played by Teri Hatcher, Paris coincidentally happens to be Bond’s ex-girlfriend. Like many Bond girls, Paris is objectified. Her function in the plot is to drive a wedge between the hero and the villain by cheating on the villain with the hero.
6 Miranda Frost
Since playing the Bond girl Miranda Frost opposite Brosnan’s 007 in his final film, Die Another Day, Rosamund Pike has become a prolific movie star. She’s proven her deadpan comedic chops with roles like Sam in The World’s End and earned an Oscar nod for her dark take on the femme fatale archetype in Gone Girl.
In retrospect, the actor is seriously underutilized in Die Another Day. Frost is an undercover MI6 agent who turns out to be a double agent in a pretty predictable twist. Pike doesn’t get a chance to show off the full range of her talents.
5 Natalya Simonova
Bond falls for Natalya Simonova in GoldenEye (Brosnan’s first film in the franchise) after she survives the attack on the titular satellite. Since she’s not a murderer, Natalya is certainly the most likable of the two Bond girls in the movie. But her femme fatale counterpart – Xenia Onatopp, who uses sex as a lethal weapon – is undoubtedly the most interesting of the two characters.
Izabella Scorupco gives a serviceable performance as Natalya, but it’s not particularly memorable – especially opposite Famke Janssen’s unforgettable turn as Xenia. Natalya fills the expected role of the true romantic interest, but a romantic interest who turns out to be a cold-blooded killer is much more exciting.
4 Elektra King
Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King is responsible for one of the Bond franchise’s most shocking twists in The World is Not Enough. She’s introduced as an oil heiress whose father has been assassinated. Bond is tasked with protecting her after she’s seemingly targeted by Renard, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.
The jaw-dropping twist reveals that Elektra is actually a villain in cahoots with Renard, hoping to expand her oil empire by destroying Istanbul (the specifics of the plan are pretty complicated).
3 Wai Lin
In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond teams up with a Chinese spy named Colonel Wai Lin, played by the legendary Michelle Yeoh. The two investigate the same suspicious shipwreck and get captured and brought to Saigon together, so they decide to collaborate on the case.
The love interests in Bond movies tend to be helpless damsels in distress who rely on Bond to protect them, but Wai Lin is every bit the badass action hero that 007 himself is.
2 Jinx Johnson
For the most part, Die Another Day was panned by critics. Its lazy storytelling and overuse of CGI made it the final nail in the Brosnan era’s coffin, paving the way for Daniel Craig’s gritty reinvention of the 007 mythos in Casino Royale. But one of the saving graces that made Die Another Day watchable was Halle Berry’s typically fantastic performance as Jinx Johnson.
Jinx is set up as a traditional Bond girl, but she’s really a female version of Bond: a cool, charismatic, highly skilled government agent. After Die Another Day, Jinx was primed for a spin-off franchise that unfortunately never materialized.
1 Xenia Onatopp
Xenia Onatopp, the secondary love interest who becomes the secondary villain of GoldenEye, is the quintessential Bond girl, because she’s a literal femme fatale. Xenia is a lust killer who lures men into bed and then crushes them to death with her thighs during sex. Famke Janssen leans into the fighter pilot-turned-henchwoman’s unapologetic darkness, evoking the classic noir performances of Barbara Stanwyck and Lauren Bacall, and shares electric on-screen chemistry with Brosnan.
In one of the movie’s most thrilling set-pieces, Xenia tries out her moves on Bond in a sauna and he catches onto her murderous game just in time to throw her into a vat of hot water, where she’s forced to reveal the identity of the villainous Janus.
NEXT: 10 Ways GoldenEye Is Pierce Brosnan’s Best Bond Movie
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