Despite the film industry’s long history of
myopic representations of women on-screen, a certain sector of actresses, from Uma Thurman in Kill Bill to Charlize Theron in , have managed to find roles that have allowed them to play some of the Atomic Blonde fiercest, ass-kicking, gun-toting characters in action film history. And while white men have dominated the James Bond franchise—usually with a scantily clad so-called “Bond girl,” who’s usually about 10 years younger, at their various sides—women have managed to work their way into the action franchise alongside 007 over the years, too. That, of course, has often come with a side of revenge—like when Judi Dench‘s M, who became the first woman to play Bond’s boss in 1995, promptly declared the agent a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur.” They’re also words that stars like Rosamund Pike, who plays an M16 double agent who learned her fencing skills from Madonna, and Famke Jenssen, who plays a former fighter pilot who’s still sexualized but does manage to murder men with her thighs during sex, have turned into action over the years, and hopefully will in the next film, too, whether Theron rightfully lands the lead role or not.
Famke Jenssen as Xenia Onatopp:
A former fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force, Famke Jenssen’s Xenia Onatopp becomes an assassin, in part motivated by the fact that killing apparently gives her sexual satisfaction. That much is clear in 1995’s
GoldenEye when, after crushing an admiral to death with her thighs during sex, she steals a helicopter and then the controls to a Cold War-era Soviet satellite weapon and kills the center’s staff—all before she kidnaps the film’s Bond girl, Natalya Simonova, and finally even meets Bond in the first place.
Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann:
As a child, Léa Seydoux’s character Madeleine, whom we meet in 2015’s
Spectre, once shot and killed an intruder looking to kill her father, which led to her reticence when it comes to guns. In adulthood, she pursues medicine and works for Doctors Without Borders before she ends up meeting Bond—and threatens to kill him, too, if he touches her in her sleep.
Karin Dor as Helga Brandt:
Karin Dor’s character Helga Brandt is supposedly a secretary in 1967’s
You Only Live Twice, but before Bond knows it, she has him tied up in her room, where she questions him and threatens to torture him, plastic surgery implement in hand. The two end up consensually having sex, though Dor flees after they’re finished, leaving Bond locked up in a private plane.
Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki:
Bond couldn’t have done his job in 1967’s
You Only Live Twice without Akiko Wakabayashi’s Aki, the Japanese secret service member and expert driver who both helps Bond on his mission and rescues him twice, with more than a few car chases along the way.
Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki:
Once Aki dies in
You Only Live Twice, accidentally swallowing a poison intended for Bond, Mie Hama steps in as Kissy Suzuki, an agent chosen for her diving skills to help Bond stay undercover in Japan, which she also does by pretending to marry him. She later helps him uncover Spectre’s hidden headquarters in a fake volcano—and enjoys the view of it exploding with him, after they both invade it and escape.
After decades of being ceaselessly in-your-face about his masculinity, Bond was forced to answer to a woman from 1995 to 2012, once Judi Dench became the first woman as M, Bond’s boss and the head of the British Secret Service. She squeezed plenty of chastising of the agent in in that time, starting with her very first Bond film,
GoldenEye, when she calls the agent “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the cold War.”
Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenny:
The Second Officer in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, and the helpful asssistant to M, the head of the British Secret Service who’s also Bond’s boss, Miss Moneypenny is not your ordinary secretary—especially when played by Samantha Bond in
GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. Though other iterations of Moneypenny openly flirt with Bond, Samantha Bond’s openly spurns 007; in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, she asks Bond if he brought her back any souvenirs from his mission in Spain, and promptly throws his gift of a cigar away.
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny:
Finally, after decades, Miss Moneypenny gets a first name—and, played for the first time ever by a person of color,
Naomie Harris, also adds M16 field agent to her accomplishments as well as secretary. In Skyfall, Harris’s Moneypenny does get romantic with Bond, but the film actually starts with her shooting him—a revenge won for all Bond girls throughout the years, even if it was accidental.
Eva Green as Vesper Lynd:
Daniel Craig made his debut in the Bond movies opposite
Eva Green, who almost steals the show in 2006’s Casino Royale as the foreign liaison agent—and secret double agent—Vesper Lynd. After she saves his life with a defibrillator, Lynd later sacrifices her own life to betray Bond, which she does while the pair are on a supposed romantic getaway.
Sophie Marceau as Elektra King:
Bond makes it his mission at the beginning of 1999’s
The World Is Not Enough to protect Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King, a wealthy heiress who once went so far in colluding with a terrorist named Renard to steal her family’s fortune that she cut off a chunk of her ear and sent it to her father. Her biggest move, though, comes later: She eventually kidnaps M, and manages to both torture and seduce Bond before he kills her.
Halle Berry as Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson:
Halle Berry was criticized even before she appeared in 2002’s Die Another Day, thanks to the film’s marketing: Some 007 fans were upset that she was being treated as a costar of the film, thereby stealing the spotlight from Bond, then played by Pierce Brosnan. The film, though, definitely shows she deserves that status: As Jinx, Berry is an NSA operative and Bond’s partner in tracking down the North Korean agent Zao, with Jinx taking down the M16 double agent Miranda Frost along the way.
Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost:
After being introduced to Bond by none other than
Madonna, who plays her fencing instructor, Verity, Rosamund Pike’s Miranda Frost works alongside him as M has requested, not knowing that, in addition to being an Olympic gold medal winner, she’s also a double agent—and the one who betrayed Bond years earlier in North Korea, leading to over a year of imprisonment and torture.
Olga Kurylenko as Camille Montes:
Camille Montes, played by Olga Kurylenko, became the first lead “Bond girl” not to have sex with Bond with the release of
Quantum of Solace in 2008. Instead of “love scenes,” which Kurylenko said she was “so glad” weren’t included, the Bolivian Secret Service agent spends the film teaming up with Bond to get revenge on the man who raped and murdered her family.