Ursula Andress in Dr. No
Mysterious and charmingly aloof, Ursula Andress broke into Hollywood after signing a contract with Columbia Pictures and heading to the United States. She married shortly after and almost vanished from the screen, but made a huge splash upon her return in 1962 — in one of cinema’s sexiest bikinis, even. The actress’ appearance as Honey Ryder in the first James Bond movie Dr. No helped propel the franchise into popularity and set the standard by which future Bond girls would be judged.
Alain Delon in Purple Noon
Swiss-French actor Alain Deleon was already being dubbed one of the greatest screen talents of his time by his early 20s. His good looks often found him cast as the somewhat typical romantic lead, but it was in Purple Noon where director René Clément tapped into his darkly sexy side as Tom Ripley. The film is based on Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley and finds the actor as a calculating — but wholly unsuspecting and likeable — murderer who adopts the identities of his victims. Audiences would continue engaging in a lethal attraction with the actor throughout the decade.
Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour
French “ice maiden” Catherine Deneuve played a bored, bourgeois housewife turned prostitute in Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour. Her role — like the film itself — is a delicate balancing act where Deneuve is an elusive, erotic fantasy for the audience to decipher.
Mick Jagger in Performance
Securing Mick Jagger’s reputation as a counter-culture icon and bringing his signature pout to the big screen for the first time is Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s Performance. The film was shot in 1968 (released in 1970) during the start of Jagger’s popularity with band The Rolling Stones. He plays a rockstar has-been named Turner who has “lost his demon” and provides cover for violent London gangster, Chas. Jagger was the movie’s token bad boy after a real-life arrest and some bad publicity, but that didn’t matter. His gender-bending duality combined with the film’s transgressive, psychedelic nature gave him great allure.
Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C.
Earthy beauty Raquel Welch entered the acting arena in the mid ’60s as 20th Century Fox’s new, hot starlet. 1966’s Fantastic Voyage made her a big name, but it was Hammer Studio’s One Million Years B.C. that made her a dream girl. A striking publicity image of Welch in a fur bikini quickly became the UK studio’s best-selling poster thanks to the actress’ curve appeal.
Ann-Margret in Bye Bye Birdie
Ann-Margret’s sex kitten image was more obvious in 1964’s Viva Las Vegas, but the film was really a vehicle for singer Elvis — and talk around the feature quickly centered on gossip about the actress’ real-life relationship with Presley, not her talent. It was her film the year before that made Ann-Margret a true star, playing a love-struck teen in Bye Bye Birdie. Her breathless sex appeal is palpable in the emerging role, made obvious from the get-go during the memorable opening song and dance number. (By the way, is it time for Mad Men yet?)
Paul Newman in The Hustler
Paul Newman struggled against being typecast for his good looks his entire career, but the actor proved time and time again that he had the talent to back up the draw of those baby blue eyes. He showed he could hold his own when acting alongside greats like Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, and George C. Scott as a sexy antihero in Robert Rossen’s The Hustler. Newman’s portrayal of the passionate and troubled pool player showed incredible emotional range, which is why it’s a shame he didn’t win the Oscar for Best Actor that year.
Sean Connery in Dr. No
Ursula Andress’ appearance in an iconic white bikini in Dr. No made the first James Bond film a knockout experience, but the movie’s sex appeal didn’t end there. What would a Bond film be without a debonair gentleman spy? Luckily director Terence Young found the perfect man for the part in Scottish actor Sean Connery — who for many fans is the quintessential British agent. Witty and handsome, Connery’s character displayed a coolly cruel edge that immediately won audiences over.
Jane Fonda in Barbarella
1965’s Cat Ballou made Jane Fonda a bankable star, but she became everyone’s favorite space girl in the camp cult classic Barbarella — directed by her then husband Roger Vadim. Fonda’s zero gravity strip tease during the film’s opening credits could have something to do with her sex symbol status at the time, but even clothed the actress’ ability to balance wide-eyed innocence and seductress was notable.
Jacqueline Bisset in Casino Royale
No, we’re not talking about the 2006 film Casino Royale, starring current James Bond, Daniel Craig. We’re looking back on the 1967 Bond satire where English actress Jacqueline Bisset made an early and memorable appearance as Miss Goodthighs — a seductive Soviet counterintelligence agent. By the time 1977 rolled around, audiences were more than excited to see her swimming in a clingy, transparent t-shirt in The Deep. Her timeless beauty and talent has made her an enduring sex symbol.