SPECTRE

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ranking the Bond Girls

As we get down to the nitty gritty time, it's time for me to start cranking out the lists. And it's time to rank the Bond Girls.

Before we get to the counting, let's establish a couple of terminological details. Everybody seems to have their own definition of Bond Girl. And hey, in their lists, they can do what they like. But for me, Bibi Dahl is not a Bond Girl...she's a female character who turned up in a Bond movie. You start including characters like that, well, you're list is going to get mighty long.

So for my purposes, I'm going with the completely arbitrary and personal definition of Bond Girl: it's the woman Bond is hooked up with at the end of the movie, the one he's chosen.

Why? Well, as I noted above, it gets too unwieldy too easily if I start including every Chu Mi and every Log Cabin Girl. To me, Bond Girls aren't just the random dalliances and flirtations. If that was the case, this list would have to expand to 50+, and it would be impossible to make rational distinctions between characters who made only fleeting appearances.

Nope, I want the real characters, the ones who are on the posters, and high up in the credits. And, again admittedly arbitrarily, it's just one entry per movie. Sorry, Teri Hatcher and Akiko Wakabayashi. Sometimes the movies make choices about which girl Bond ends up with that I don't always agree with. But as the film itself declares some of the women sacrificial lambs and some ladies "the" woman--at least for the duration of that movie--that's what I'm after: the woman whom the filmmakers themselves say is THE Bond girl.

Yeah, it's arbitrary. But it's my list, so there you go.

Also, I completely and fully acknowledge that there's is absolutely no scientific approach to the rankings. Oh, sure, I try to factor is such things as sexiness, beauty, chemistry with the star, the arc of the character, her usefulness in a clinch, acting ability...But there's no formula as such I can defend. All of these things are incredibly susceptible to innate personal preferences, which I will valiantly attempt to justify with after-the-fact rationalizations, which will occasionally sound like they contradict each other. C'est la vie.

But basically it's just my personal preferences, which I freely admit. And let's be clear--these are all some pretty damn bodacious ladies, none of whom I would ever refuse a romantic dalliance with. So finishing relatively low on this list should not be taken as a measure of disdain or dislike. Hell, I love you all, ladies...it's just that the competition is pretty tough. I'll be glad to personally console any of you who are disappointed by your position on the list.

And let's take a moment to celebrate--all of these lovely women are still with us!! Think about that--46 years in, all of our Bonds and Bond Girls are still here. That's pretty amazing...and I'm hoping they'll still be here for one hell of a 50th anniversary bash.

So with no further ado, prepare the hate mail!!

22) Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois "Voodoo" Chiles), Moonraker: Lovely lady, great astronaut, decent secret agent...terrible actress. Sorry. Just listen to her mannequin-like delivery of her lines--brings every scene she's in to a screeching halt.

21) Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), A View To A Kill: absolutely gorgeous woman, but she's a screamer. She screams a lot. And a lot more. Terrifically unhelpful. And then screams again.

20) Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), The World Is Not Enough: Abrasive, argumentative, and annoying. Also suffers from Wai Lin syndrome, i.e., being the second woman in Bond's life that movie, and nowhere as near as interesting or appealing as the first.

Hmmm, the bottom 3 were all Americans...I didn't plan it that way, but there you go.

19) Mary Goodknight (Britt Ekland), The Man With The Golden Gun: Not as many as many claim she is. But still, she does turn on the death ray--WITH HER ASS!! Something like that is gonna drop you down the list...

18) Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), You Only Live Twice: The original case of Wai Lin syndrome. She doesn't have much to do or say, and her personality pales next to the departed Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi). Puzzling script choice...She does fill out that white bikini very nicely, though.

17) Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger), Never Say Never Again: Good dancer. No Claudine Auger.

16) Maud Adams (Octopussy), Octopussy. Nothing against Maud, but she was much better in TMWTGG. The writers give her very little to do, and she's much less interesting than her top aides or the villains. What a waste of the only title role for a woman!!

15) Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), Diamonds Are Forever: This ranking would have been much higher based on the first half of the movie. But after Bond discovers Blofeld in Vegas, she disappears from the movie for awhile, and when she comes back she's been transformed into a useless git. The hardened, tough as nails smuggler tries to help Bond when he's being attacked...by throwing a cake at the guy?!?

14) Major Anya Amosova (Barbara Bach), The Spy Who Loved Me: Overrated role, abysmally acted. And for 30 of the the last 35 minutes of the film, she's tied up off screen!!

13) Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), Dr. No: The "emerging from the water scene" is revered, but she's not terribly useful, as she gets Bond caught, and then he has to keep rescuing/protecting her. Mighty purty, though.

12) Solitaire (Jane Seymour), Live And Let Die: Gorgeous lady, not the most useful in a fight, but then again she didn't ask for this lifestyle. One of the few things that make the movie bearable. (PRO-TIP: the tarot dack filled with Lovers cards gambit doesn't work in real life.)

11) Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), Licence To Kill: A good blueprint, but execution is somewhat lacking (especially since she has to compete against the dazzling Talisa Soto). Lowell just doesn't convince. And crying at the end? I call foul!!

10) Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), Goldfinger: Good character, but Blackman has absolutely ZERO screen chemistry with Connery, and her off screen conversion is not remotely believable (and was roundly mocked by one of the villains in Thunderball!) Underdeveloped at best.

9) Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), Tomorrow Never Dies: Of all of the "new type of Bond Girls" who were "Bond's equal," she was the closest in the butt-kicking department, but the script kind of forgot to add personality. And obviously, she suffers from Wai Lin syndrome, because Paris Carver was a much more interesting character.

8) Giacinta "Jinx" Johnson (Halle Berry), Die Another Day: A virtual tie with Wai Lin on my ballot...Wai Lin is better in a fight, but Jinx is sexier and has sizzling chemistry with Brosnan.

7) Melina Havelock (Caroline Bouquet), For Your Eyes Only. There's something about a stunning woman with a crossbow.

6) Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), From Russia With Love: She just may be the most purely beautiful Bond Girl period. And she gets to kill Kleb, which is a plus.

5) Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo), The Living Daylights: Absolutely the sweetest of the Bond romances. Absolutely charming, d'Abo's performance absolutely nails it.

4) Dominique "Domino" Durval (Claudine Auger), Thunderball: Stunning woman, great role, wonderful swim suits.

3) Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), Casino Royale (2006): I'll concede that my wallowing in CR06 this week might have contributed to ranking her this high...time my mellow my appraisal. But the package is there--sharp-tongued yet vulnerable, willing to give her life for her man (well, men..). The accent still bugs me, though.

2) Natalya Fyodorovna Simonava (Izabella Scorupco), Goldeneye: This high a ranking may surprise you, but I seriously believe she is the most under-rated Bond Girl by a mile. We spend more time with her than any other Bond Girl, she's gorgeous, she's smart, she saves Bond as often as he saves her, and her computer skills save the day. What's not to like? Is it the hard to pronounce name? Did Famke Jannsen's Xenia overshadow her that much? I don't understand why she's not lots higher on these lists...

1) Contessa Teresa di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg), On Her majesty's Secret Service: She will always be The Woman.

Well, I've fiddled with the list about 5 times since I "finished" it, so I'd better stop now. Have at it.

15 comments:

  1. I agree with so much on the list in varying order. The last three on your list I would have as:

    22.Tracey Sutton
    21.Christmas Jones
    20.Holly Goodhead

    The middle portion, pretty much identical.

    And the top three:

    3. Natalya (yes the name is too long, not catchy. Screenwriting 101: short and/or punchy/memorable names).
    2. (and almost no. 1) Vesper. I agree, the "accent." Sometimes it annoys. Too posh to be posh. However, the character is overwhelmingly believable. Played perfectly, by both actors, you could see the little moments where they were falling in love (and did the accent become just a little less when she, as Bond did, "let down (her) guard"?). The chemistry between Craig and Green was so pure that when Vesper died, the impact was explosive. Bond didn't only lose the woman he loved, I think we, the audience (especially the male audience), lost the woman we had fallen in love with over the past 2.5 hrs.
    1. Tracey... of course... but with time, I wonder if Vesper will stand side-by-side with her?

    I look forward to reading your QOS review/meditation... and hope you may continue light blogging until the next time 007 returns...

    peter

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  2. Great list, I can't argue with it much, at least in the broad strokes. I might tinker with the order slightly, but the Top 7 match mine, I think.

    About the only "What, are you crazy?" reaction I have is of not putting "Denise Richards, Nuclear Physicist" dead last.

    I mean, at least Tanya Roberts is *believable* as a silly, annoying woman who screams a lot, and Lois Chiles is *believable* as a fairly boring CIA agent who can't act very well....

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  3. Your definition is truly unfortunate. There are so many good secondary characters. Highest ranking among them is Magda "I collect...memories" from Octopussy. And no way is Paris Carver more interesting than Wai Lin; I think you're just more "interested" in Teri Hatcher.

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  4. Good call on Maryam D'Abo -- though I might have put her one or two places higher still. Ranking Ursula Andress so low (behind Carey Lowell??) is about the only serious miscue that I can see.

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  5. David C--Denise Richards is *believable* as an incredibly hot babe.

    But more seriously, I consider Lois Chiles so bad, it's a non-performance, not much better than taking a random person off the street and having them read off cue cards. So to that extent, even though Richards performance is terrible, it still *is* a performance.

    Anonymous #2--Sorry you dislike my definition. Feel free to make your own list incorporating whomever you like.

    Paris Carver has a back story. Paris Carver has a history with Bond and a history with Elliot Carver. Aside from having grown up in a "rough neighborhood" and not having a Little Red Book, we know absolutely nothing about Wai Lin--the character is a complete cipher the writers never even tried to fill in.

    I'm no huge Teri Hatcher fan. But I think that, unless you give a disproportionate weight to "ass-kicker," Paris is clearly a better drawn, more interesting character.

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  6. I disagree, I enjoyed Wai Lin far better than Paris, who I found to be the very worst thing about TND. We never learn much about Wai Lin, but I still found her a far more interesting on-screen presence than Paris. Hatcher character's affair with Bond is so underdeveloped, I never understood why Bond fell for her other than o give the film a "personal edge" that the Brosnan era overdid. Plus she started the horrible trend in the Brosnan era of getting popular American actresses to play the bondgirls.

    I agree with most of the list, but Ursula Andress, Jane Seymour, and Maud Adams are too low while Halle Berry is way too high. God call on Kara, the most underrated of all bondgirls. All she needed was a sex pun name and Ebert would have liked her.

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  7. Hey, how about a ranking of the Bond Bad Girls, defined as the ones ones on the side of the bad guys who Bond at least rolls around with (or more)?
    I'd put Fiona Volpe at #1 for that list.

    I see what you're saying about Paris Carver's _story_ having more to it, but I think that the character that ended up on the screen (and I'm no Teri Hatcher hater) just came across as kind of blah.

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  9. Xenia Onnatop would be #1 in my Best Bond Bad Girls list (but she never slept with Bond so I guess she doesn't qualify? Same for Naomi...) with Fiona volpe on a close second. Do Rosa Klebb and Irma Bunt count?

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  10. I'm sorry if I came off a bit rude when saying you were "interested" in Teri Hatcher. I completely understand what you're saying, but I feel that, as the others' said, Wai Lin has a stronger presence. Once again, I apologize for the nasty remark.

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  11. Icebreaker:
    I worded it as "at least rolls around with" specifically so that Xenia could be included.

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  12. I agree with your top six choices, in that precise order, and would not argue against your next four. Nice job laying out the case. On a sentimental basis, I'd bump Ursula Andress up, as her emergence from the water signaled (and perhaps caused) the beginning of my puberty - but that's too personal.

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  13. I agree with your top 4 in that order, but I would rank Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) over Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo) simply because Tatiana killed Kreb, whilst Kara only played her cello.

    We've seen rankings of the movies, the themes, the teasers, the villians, the bond girls...

    I'd be interested to see you do rankings of:

    - Q's gadgets - the hits and misses, even if the gadgets only show up once. If I recall, there are a few gadgets that do make multiple appearances, particularly his watch.
    - Top 10 Secondary Bond Girls - basically, any girl not on the above Bond girl list.

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  14. OK, All you so-called Bond experts: What name does Bond, James Bond (D.Craig) give to Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in Casino Royale to check-in to the hotel under?

    Double-0 This.

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  15. It is a difficult task to rank multitalented bond girls on my side. Since all seems fabulous in their actions, stunts and performance. So I must say to you that great job you have done here!
    bond girls list

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