A look at our top picks for the most iconic female villains to match wits with James Bond.

The Craig era is now over, and while it gave us many cool characters, memorable henchmen have not been very present in the past few Bond films. Actually, neither have their female counterparts! As a fan of 007 villains, this does make me sad: evil ladies often have an amazing aura, and make for some of the best antagonists in the entire saga. Luckily, there are still plenty of henchwomen who opposed 007, and here are the most ultimate:

7) Rosa Klebb: From Russia with Love (1963)

Beware old ladies in action films: stern SPECTRE agent Rosa Klebb is no exception. The hidden poisonous blade in her shoe made history, and the henchwoman is the definition of an excellent villain. Klebb doesn’t joke about her job, and is very good at it: she manipulates Tatiana Romanova into getting the Lektor, a powerful decoding device. Klebb is not only a nasty piece of work – and therefore, an interesting henchwoman – but also one of the few female baddies who are known for their intelligence. Her devious and cunning nature proves that Blofeld knows how to choose his No. 3.  

6) Irma Bunt: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – Massive Spoilers below!

Another effective henchwoman of Blofeld – who clearly knows how to pick the right underlings – is Irma Bunt. She too is a humourless, professional woman, who rules Blofled’s unique Alpine “clinic” with an iron fist. But of course, what everyone remembers Bunt for is her terrifying victory: she gets the last laugh as she shoots James Bond’s wife Tracy straight into the head – on her wedding day, no less! The sequence still haunts many viewers, and we can “thank” Bunt for it.

5) May Day: A View to a Kill (1985)

In life, there are simple pleasures, and seeing the amazing Grace Jones in a Bond film is one of them. May Day is the right-hand woman of the insane Max Zorin, and can kill her way through anyone – even holding her own in front of Bond. A menacing force throughout the film (once Grace Jones stares at you, it’s over), it is her redemption arc which sets May Day apart from other characters on this list. We rarely see antagonists turning good in Bond films, hence why her change of heart after the betrayal of her boss feels so memorable. It instantly adds depth to her character, and while she sacrificed herself to save James, May Day lives in the heart of A View to a Kill’s fans.

4) Miranda Frost: Die Another Day (2002)

Sometimes, great villains help to make a good film even better. Other times, a great henchwoman can help to save an over-the-top mess. I might make enemies here, but Miranda Frost is the true villainess of Die Another Day: its mastermind Gustav Graves is both hammy and forgettable, and while Zao’s diamonds make for a great look, there is little depth to his character. It is Miranda Frost who really stands out among the chaos, thanks to the talent of Rosamund Pike. She was only 22 when shooting the film, yet Pike is fully believable as MI6’s cold-hearted little prodigy. Add fencing to the mix, and you get a memorable traitor who gives proper stakes to a tone-deaf movie. A little bonus – the character was supposed to be named Gala Brand, as an homage to the book version of Moonraker… but the screenwriters instead decided to highlight Frost’s cold nature!

3) Fiona Volpe: Thunderball (1965)

The OG of Bond femmes fatales – if one doesn’t count Pussy Galore – Fiona Volpe is a magnificent proper villain. What I mean by this is that she doesn’t need any sad excuse or tragic background story to justify her villainy: Volpe is evil to the core, point blank. Through her character, Thunderball shows us that women can also pose a real threat. Fiona and James have a brief fling, but despite Bond’s best efforts, nothing can get the motor-riding assassin to give up her job at SPECTRE – which she very much enjoys. Her death, during a lethal waltz, feels like a suitably glamorous and brutal end for this memorable femme fatale.

2) Fatima Blush: Never Say Never Again (1983)

I know Never say Never again has its fans – but to me, this unofficial and kitsch remake of Thunderball remains hard to watch. Its best quality is undeniably Fatima Blush, the film’s unhinged version of Fiona Volpe: Barbara Carrera chews up the scenery in the best way possible and manages to give Blush a distinct personality. SPECTRE’s Number 12 is unafraid of killing but wants her victims to know that she is the best lover before they pass away. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the character provided inspiration for Xenia Onatopp: Fatima Blush is the perfect reinvention of Volpe, and a modern take on the femme fatale. Her presence alone makes Never Say Never Again worth a watch!

1) Xenia Onatopp: GoldenEye (1995)

This first place won’t be a surprise for anyone, but Xenia Onatopp remains the most iconic henchwoman of the franchise – and is even a strong contender for the best villain! This insane former Soviet pilot has a knack for killing enemies with her thighs, and Famke Janssen’s over-the-top performance is perfect for the role. She is quite literally insanely believable as the most lethal henchwoman of the entire saga. Xenia’s aggressive behaviour and her love of thrills also make her an evil counterpart to Bond himself – who for once, regrets trying to seduce a woman. Onatopp is one of the best predators in the history of 007, and her lethality coupled with her killing method made the character a standout. To this day, she remains a fan favourite, and I’m willing to bet that not a single person who has seen GoldenEye has forgotten Xenia!