History's Sexiest Bombshells

A retrospective of 20 of the sexiest sirens ever to grace the small screen, big screen and computer screen


A bombshell, above all, is jaw-droppingly sexy. But we're not talking about the waifs fashion often loves. No, no. You will not see Kate Moss or Twiggy in these slides. A bombshell is curvaceous in all the right places and not afraid to show it off. She takes pleasure in being provocative. She has a sparkle in her eye and a confidence in her step because she knows the effect she has. When a bombshell walks into a room, the reaction is, of course, explosive. Here are 20 prime examples of women who have worked their magic, from the golden age of Hollywood to today.



Marilyn Monroe

Jean Harlow may have been the original bombshell, but Marilyn Monroe is the most iconic. Her image was simultaneously sexy and childlike. Monroe's high-pitched voice and carefully curated dumb-blonde persona were paired with an intense sexuality and the most celebrated curves of any bombshell. Monroe started acting and modeling in 1946, but she didn't become a superstar until the 1950s for films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), The Seven Year Itch (1955)-including the famous scene in which her skirt is blown up while standing over a grate-and Some Like It Hot (1959), which is still widely considered one of the best films ever made. The entire nation lusted after her, and Monroe married three times: James Dougherty, when she was only 16; baseball great Joe DiMaggio, in 1954; and then playwright Arthur Miller, in 1956. But her most famous alleged affair was with President John F. Kennedy. Her last major public appearance was a sultry rendition of "Happy Birthday" for JFK, sung while wearing a clingy white dress by Jean Louis so famous that it sold for $1.26 million in 1999. She met a tragic death at her own hand at 36 years old, but her image and career are the most celebrated of all the bombshells.



Marilyn Monroe (1926–62)Marilyn Monroe (1926–62)

Blake Lively

Blake Lively is a golden girl in both Hollywood and the fashion industry. Professionally, she's graduated from family-friendly good girl in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to being Gossip Girl's resident sex kitten, and on the red carpets she's become every designer's favorite mannequin. Discussion about her revealing fashion choices, as well as how they continually display her admirable physical assets ( GoFugYourself has affectionately named her "Boobs Legsly"), inevitably follows every red carpet appearance.



Blake Lively (1987–)Blake Lively (1987–)


Bettie Page

Bettie Page is the unchallenged queen of pinups. She was a free spirit with an open, unabashed sexuality during the repressive 1950s. In 1951, her notorious curves caught the attention of S&M photographer Irving Klaw, who cut her hair into her trademark thick, black bangs and made her the "Queen of Bondage" before she became a top mainstream pinup model. Page was rarely seen without a cropped top or bikini revealing her tiny 23-inch waist and was always pictured with a sweet, inviting smile. After only six years in the public eye, Page disappeared, her whereabouts unknown until the 1990s. But her pinup pictures have inspired aspiring bombshells ever since.


Bettie Page (1923–2008)Bettie Page (1923–2008)

Dita Von Teese

Burlesque star Dita von Teese, born Heather Renée Sweet, has brought pinup glamour back with a vengeance. As an 18-year-old stripper she decided to develop a creative retro act. She then transitioned into fetish modeling as a "tightlacer," someone who wears corsets for long periods of time to make her waist smaller. Von Teese can now get her 22-inch waist down to a minute 16 inches. As a burlesque dancer, Von Teese "puts the tease back in striptease," doing elaborate 1930s- and '40s-inspired routines. The bombshell's most famous dance involves stripping down to a glittery thong and pasties before slipping into a giant martini glass.


Dita Von Teese (1972–)Dita Von Teese (1972–)

Jean Harlow

Jean Harlow was the original bombshell. She shot to fame in 1930 after a performance in the movie Hell's Angels so sexy that censors cut 30 minutes from the film in its original British release. Harlow uttered the famous line "Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?" before entering her bedroom and dropping her robe to reveal a slinky backless dress. Three years later, Harlow starred in the film Bombshell, based on her life. Although she died tragically young at 26, Harlow's unapologetic sexuality and platinum-blond locks became the prototype for bombshells to come, particularly a young girl named Norma Jean Baker.


Jean Harlow (1911–37)Jean Harlow (1911–37)



Salma Hayek

Many modern bombshells are both beauties and businesswomen. Spicy Mexican actress Salma Hayek started out as a telenovela star who broke into the U.S. market starring opposite Antonio Banderas in Desperado (1995) and then taking sexy roles in movies like Dogma (1999) and Wild Wild West (1999). The curvy Latina took control of her career in 2000 by founding her own production company and has put out passion projects like the critically acclaimed Frida (2002) as well as the successful prime-time TV show Ugly Betty. Since marrying billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault and giving birth to her first child in 2008, Hayek has largely remained behind the scenes, although her occasional cleavage-heavy red carpet appearances still send out media shock waves.


Salma Hayek (1966–)Salma Hayek (1966–)


Brigitte Bardot

French bombshell Brigitte Bardot is the great 1950s sex kitten. Her sensuality was mesmerizing. She was an instant sensation when she starred in then-husband Roger Vadim's film …And God Created Woman (1956). Bardot dancing wild and barefoot on a tabletop is one of the most erotic scenes in the history of cinema. And the bikinis she wore in her films are credited with popularizing the bathing-suit style. Even though her English was limited, she was a phenomenon in the U.S. as well as France. Her image was so in demand that paparazzi documented her every move. Although it's common today, Bardot was the first celebrity to be hounded by photographers in her daily life. She retired from film shortly before turning 40, but went out with a bang by celebrating her birthday with a spread in Italian Playboy.


Brigitte Bardot (1934–)Brigitte Bardot (1934–)


Scarlett Johansson

Many bombshells have carefully crafted their look, but part of Scarlett Johansson's principal appeal is that her's seems almost effortless. Woody Allen has called her "criminally sexy," but Johansson rejects diets and gyms, and is usually casual and without makeup in her daily life. Her curves and sensuality make her a natural to take on sexy starring roles in Lost in Translation (2003), Match Point (2005), and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008). Some bombshells are born, not made.


Scarlett Johansson (1984–) Scarlett Johansson (1984–)



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