The 12 Worst James Bond Films: A Feminist’s Take on the World’s Favorite Spy

Whenever I complain about the misogyny in a James Bond film, I'm inevitably told: “What do you expect? It's Bond.”

The fact that this is said so matter-of-factly—it's often delivered in a condescending tone of voice, as if my outrage is unreasonable—is appalling. An entire series of movies shouldn't carry such a reputation like a badge of honor, as if it's perfectly normal and unsurprising.

This just proves how deeply ingrained misogyny is in our society. It's seen as a natural state of being, rather than the true imbalance of power it really is.

I shouldn't have to point out that a man forcing himself on a lady is horrific rather than sexy or masculine; or that coercing a woman into doing something she's uncomfortable with is deplorable.

This is no-brainer level stuff here, people.

And just because James Bond is “the world's greatest spy,” that doesn't mean he should be let off the hook when he does disgusting shit. His defense squad can cry all they want about how he does questionable things in the name of the greater good/to save the world/to protect Queen and Country—I'm still going to call a bastard a bastard when he acts like one.

So here are the worst twelve Bond flicks, ranked once again by how decently the ladies in each story are treated:

12. Tomorrow Never Dies

The Bond: Brosnan
The Bond Girl(s): Paris Carver, socialite wife of the baddie | Wai Lin, Chinese spy

Tomorrow is a teeter-totter, really: on the one end, they kill Paris off as soon as she sleeps with Bond, to prove her hubby is evil and to give our hero angst. But on the other, we've got Wai Lin, who's a total superspy in her own right, and more than a match for Bond or the baddies.

Plus, she helps him save the day by taking down a stealth ship with both hands full of machine guns. Wowza!

11. The Spy Who Loved Me

The Bond: Moore
The Bond Girl: Agent XXX, a KGB spy

XXX is a successful spy who gets the better of Bond several times in the course of their shared assignment. When she discovers Bond killed the love of her life on his last mission, she swears that once the threat has been dealt with, she'll return the favor.

But of course, Bond changes her mind with his awesome sexual prowess (*eyeroll of epic proportions*), and when they're captured by the baddie, he, of course, makes her don a skimpy red bikini number. Because no matter how competent a lady spy is, she's ultimately reduced to a physical object to oggle at and paw over. 

10. From Russia with Love

The Bond: Connery
The Bond Girl: Tania, a KGB operative

Bond does the “fake married” trope with mixed results. He's physically and verbally rough with Tania, who's just following orders and truly doesn't know what's going on. One of the primary baddies in this, Rosa Klebb, is a very capable lady, who certainly knows her way around an evil plot—and has killer taste in footwear.

But then there's a scene where Bond is “given” two Roma girls for the night because he stopped their fight to the death/saved their camp from SPECTRE assassins.

Okay then

09. You Only Live Twice

The Bond: Connery
The Bond Girl(s): Aki & Kissy, Japanese spies

This one gets points for Aki, who's a competent, badass spy, and saves James more than once in her fast white convertible.

This one loses points for killing Aki off with poison just because she was sleeping next to Bond—and let's not forget that disgusting bit where they “turn” Bond Japanese so he can go undercover. Who ever thought that was a good idea?

08. Thunderball

The Bond: Connery
The Bond Girl(s): Domino, Largo's mistress | Fiona Volpe, SPECTRE agent

Bond's female CIA ally, Paula, is captured by Largo, tortured, and kills herself before she can be rescued. The spy's primary paramour, Domino, is found out when she tries to help him and is subsequently tortured herself.

Baddie Fiona ends up shot by her own men while she and Bond are dancing, when he purposefully puts her in the path of the bullet; yes, she's a baddie who had it coming, but it's still disquieting how many women die after sleeping with James Bond.

At least Domino escapes, harpoons the evil Largo, and lives to see another day…which I ironically brings me to #7:

07. Die Another Day

The Bond: Brosnan
The Bond Girl(s): Jinx, an NSA agent | Miranda Frost, an MI6 agent/Olympic fencer

Jinx is a competent spy, Miranda a competent traitor. But I just can't, in all good conscience, rank this movie higher on the list because:

  1. It's such a bad film with atrocious CGI.
  2. The baddies are North Koreans who are literally white-washed within the story—one is turned into the British Toby Stephens, the other left bald, white, and blue-eyed by science “gone wrong.”
  3. The ladies are so incredibly sexualized and pitted against each other over Bond.

06. Octopussy

The Bond: Moore
The Bond Girl: The eponymous criminal

Everything about this film is an “UGH!” from me. We're supposed to believe Octopussy got her nickname from her father (totally a normal name for a father to give his daughter), Louis Jourdan is supposed to be a Middle Eastern baddie, and Bond puts on clown makeup at one point.

UGHHHH.

05. Diamonds Are Forever

The Bond: Connery
The Bond Girl(s): Plenty O'Toole | Tiffany Case, diamond smuggler

That first name makes me want to punch someone in the teeth; of course she ends up thrown out a window while naked, and then later drowned in a pool for absolutely no reason. The second woman, the main Bond girl, is literally called a “twit” by Bond when she tries to help and makes a simple mistake.

(You're such a class act, James.)

There's also a pair of acrobatic henchwomen named Bambi and Thumper (*rolls eyes again*).

The redeeming bit of this one is the obviously gay duo, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, who are at least amusing and semi-effective at their evil jobs.

04. The Man with the Golden Gun

The Bond: Moore
The Bond Girl(s): Andrea, Scaramanga's mistress | Goodnight, an MI6 agent

Not even having the late, great Christopher Lee as the baddie redeems this stinker: Andrea ends up shot dead, but not until she and Bond have sex after he shoves the other Bond girl into the closet to hide. What a gentlemen that James Bond is. The whole movie is just him treating Goodnight deplorably and belittling her at every turn.

03. Moonraker

The Bond: Moore
The Bond Girl(s): Caroline | Dr. Holly Goodhead, NASA scientist/astronaut

The first woman ends up eaten by dogs purely because she made the mistake of sleeping with Bond; the second has an absolutely awful name and has to play second fiddle to Bond in space, even though she's the qualified astronaut.

The one redeeming moment of this film is when henchman Jaws switches sides because he finds love.

02. Live and Let Die

The Bond: Moore
The Bond Girl: Solitaire, a mystical Tarot reader

Bond tricks Solitaire into sleeping with him by making her believe her magical Tarot deck has foretold it—as soon as the deed is done, she's sobbing about how she's now lost her magic (I cannot BEGIN to describe how much I hate “men taking women's power through sex” stories) and will be killed by her boss.

This one is also the first to feature a drug kingpin as the baddie—the fact that he's also the first black baddie does not escape me. Plus, there's a southern sheriff shouting racist epitaphs everywhere. *Side-eyes everything*

01. Goldfinger

The Bond: Connery
The Bond Girl: Pussy Galore, pilot | Jill Masterson, Goldfinger's girl

Truly, Pussy has the most awful Bond girl name—only #6's comes close—and Bond practically rapes her in a barn. Jill is murdered moments after sleeping with him; her sister Tilly's mission for revenge ends with her death, when she makes the mistake of crossing the spy's path, too.

It's just horrible, unpalatable stuff happening to ladies left and right. Hell, in the first five minutes, Bond smacks a woman's bum and tells her to run along because it's time for “man talk”—talk about warning signs and inducing a girl's gag reflex.

It's no surprise that most of the films listed here are the early ones. Misogyny has never been okay, but it was certainly more excused in the 60s and 70s. I'm desperately crossing my fingers that the next decade's installments will only get steadily more progressive—and sincerely urge everyone to be more vocal about these issues.

If we don't speak out, things won't change. And we are better than this, people! We can and should expect more from our entertainment, which should be—GOSH!—more entertaining than upsetting.

It's a novel concept, I know, but when I watch something escapist, I'd like to actually escape some of the issues, worries, and concerns I have to face in my day-to-day life.

If other action heroes—like Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, and Illya Kuryakin, just to name a few—can treat the ladies they encounter with respect, then I don't think it's too much to ask that Bond, the quintessential action hero, learn how to do the same.

 


Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.

Comments

  1. RJD

    I did an article on Connerys bond a while back. Always thought he was over rated and horrible to everyone , male and female.

    I finished the article with 5 of the worst misogynist quotes I could think of mixed with 5 quotes from his films. Readers could tell the real ones from the fake.

    ” In Japan Mr bond man always come first ”

    Bond ” I may just retire here “

  2. Stanley Rutgers

    File this one under the logical fallacy, “missing the point.” If something doesn’t align with your liberal arts indoctrination, that doesn’t automatically give you the right to judge it through a lens it was never meant to be judged through, get it? You don’t like it, turn the channel.

    You’re welcome.

  3. niluvian

    Been years since I’ve seen or read it, so I don’t remember if it’s mentioned in the movie, but in “LALD” the novel a big deal is made of the fact that Solitaire has her mystical powers because she’s a virgin. So when Bond takes them away…

    Among those who don’t just try and stonewall any conversation about stuff like this, the most prevalent excuse given is “It was just a different time. We were ignorant – these attitudes were in the air we breathed.” On one level, true. But speaking as someone who was there, and who heard many other voices in the conversation besides just those mentioned above, it’s also complete bullshit. We “didn’t know” that treating other human beings as inferior to us was wrong? Underneath it all we knew very well what we were doing, but we just kept doing it, with “it’s just the way it is” as our lameass escape hatch.

  4. erica woods

    I liked the Bond movies. They were just ridiculous. And if you wanted to watch something ridiculous, there they were. In my house we grew up laughing at all that snot, because they were MOVIES and not representative of anything that was real. I learned my feminism from my parents and my badass aunts not from Albert Broccoli and Ian Fleming.

    But a note about your poster for Goldfinger. Roger Moore was NEVER in Goldfinger. That is ALL Sean Connery.

  5. Adam Wagner

    @bejaermi That’s on me! Not sure how that even got on the internet, let alone past my eye? Good catch. All fixed.

  6. Hayley

    I agree with this whole heartedly, some disgusting comments from bond. Agree with gold finger being the worst too, in the books pussy galore is a lesbian and James Bond “converts her” ew.

  7. Kamil

    Obviously gay duo is redeeming factor in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’? So derisory portrait of gay dudes as goofy perverts is pretty ok, as opposed to nasty things Bond women get? A tiny bit of hypocrisy I spot 😉

  8. Milicent Stein

    There are certainly some miserable manhating haridans listing what irks them in life. Get out of the office (or cat-lined flat) and get a real life. Come up with something original on your own. Make good things happen in your life and the lives of others before your mierable mortal coils burn out.

  9. B

    These sound awesome. Now I know which ones to watch. Thanks!

  10. Oliver

    Holly in Moonraker does have a dirty name, yes. But she’s a skilled astronaut (at a time when no American woman had been in space) who pilots the Moonraker shuttle so Bond can destroy the globes.

    She’s a vital part of the mission. The climactic scene makes a point of her knowing the angle to fly the shuttle at so they can destroy the globes in time.

    Puritanical killjoy feminism puts most people off. Showing men and women working together is better.

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