James Bond movies have a terrible history with their women—especially the women who have been 007’s love interests. The spy has had 25 adventures on the big screen, and nearly all of them have featured different women to be discarded between films.
This policy has changed somewhat in the Daniel Craig era with better-written female characters who are better served by the story, not just there to be a distraction for Bond. But there’s still room to improve.
Yet even so, the franchise has seen several great examples of female characters who have challenged Bond, both physically and intellectually. Here are our picks for the best James Bond women ever.
6. Pussy Galore
Pussy Galore is a terrible name. However, as a character from the Sean Connery era of Bond movies (when the women were honestly disposable), Pussy was a better-written character than most.
She’s a skilled pilot who commands authority in most of the situations she finds herself in. She’s also a dab hand at judo and is blessed with quick, witty humor that still lives up.
Played by Honor Blackman, she’s the most iconic of the classic era of Bond movies. Despite her rude name, Blackman’s performance had plenty to like, and she was the reason why Goldfinger’s scheme failed.
5. Madeleine Swann
Madeleine Swann’s role in Spectre was lazy and under-written, and her relationship with James Bond came out of nowhere. If that were the only movie we’d seen her in, she wouldn’t have made it into this article.
But her return in No Time to Die marks a change for Bond movies. Not only is she in the film, but she has a role that’s much better suited to an actress of Lea Seydoux’s abilities.
Madeleine Swann is Bond’s focus in the film, the compass by which he steers—and even though it’s still a Bond movie at the end of the day, Swann is every bit as important to the movie as he is.
Her relationship with Bond is wholly fleshed out in Craig’s final film, giving the iconic spy something he’s never had in prior movies, and everything wrong with her in Spectre is fixed in No Time to Die.
4. Eve Moneypenny
Unfortunately, Naomie Harris’ role as Eve Moneypenny ran out of steam in the Bond movies. She was a character who suffered an unfortunate fate: the screenwriters didn’t know what to do with her.
But her role in Skyfall is intelligently written and creative compared to the Moneypenny iterations from years gone by. Harris’ version of the character does fieldwork and looks like she belongs inside the walls of MI6, rather than being only a victim of Bond’s endless innuendos.
When an actress of Naomie Harris’ caliber is allowed to explore a character, it’s rarely a disappointment—and that makes her lack of screen time in Spectre and No Time to Die so frustrating.
3. Wai Lin
Here we have a throwback to Pierce Brosnan’s Tomorrow Never Dies. Wai Lin wasn’t the traditional Bond woman typical of the franchise up to that point. Instead, she was a well-rounded and lethal character who was more than a match for Bond’s skills.
Portrayed by the ever-brilliant Michelle Yeoh, Lin was working for the Chinese Secret Service and investigating the same villains of Bond. She took out more than her fair share of bad guys, and her scene where she’s handcuffed to Bond on a motorbike is one of the best in the series.
Though Wai Lin never returned, she at least has an explanation: she’s also a spy, so she simply goes back to doing her job in the same way that Bond does, without any sense that he ditched her at the nearest port.
Looking back, Wai Lin is the first Bond woman to shake off the antiquated and sexist attitudes that plagued the movies since the beginning, and she thus became ahead of her time in the process.
Skyfall is all about M and how she treats her agents, including her maternal relationship with Bond and his attitude towards women.
The great Judi Dench’s performance as M through the years had always been a staple of the modern Bond films, as she was rightfully brought back by the production team after the Brosnan era ended.
In Skyfall, Dench stepped up from the sidelines to become a full-fledged character. Silva’s chase to kill her is thrilling to watch as Bond stands between them as her defender. The film shows the trust that exists between the pair, as well as how Bond feels about her at his core.
Her farewell is one of the best moments in the franchise, even able to draw tears from Bond’s very own eyes, humanizing him in a way that had never been done before. It’s proof that M was always more than a boss to Bond—she was, in many ways, a surrogate mother.
1. Vesper Lynd
In the history of Bond movies, there’s never been a character quite like Vesper Lynd. She isn’t a standard Bond woman. She isn’t even a great Bond woman. Vesper Lynd is the Bond woman.
Given life by Eva Green, Vesper was more than an intellectual match for Bond. She saw through his bravado and swagger to who he was underneath. It’s through Vesper that the franchise shows us two things: James Bond has a heart, and his heart can be broken.
Her death causes him to shut himself away and treat women like objects. He’s a man wounded by her perceived betrayal, and he loved her even to the final scenes of No Time to Die.
Daniel Craig’s Bond movies never improved on Casino Royale; Vesper Lynd dominated his life through the rest of Craig’s tenure.