Maud Adams was born Maud Solveig Christina Wikström in Luleå, Sweden, the daughter of Thyra, a government tax inspector, and Gustav Wikström, a comptroller. She was discovered in 1963 in a shop by a photographer who asked to take her picture, a picture he submitted to the Miss Sweden contest arranged by the magazine Allers. Adams won this contest and from there her modelling career took off.
Adams moved to Paris and later to New York City to work for Eileen Ford. At this time she was one of the highest paid and most exposed models in the world. Her acting career started when she was asked to appear in the 1970 movie The Boys In The Band, in which she played a photo-shoot model in the opening credits. In the 1970s, she guest-starred in such American TV series as Hawaii Five-O and Kojak.
Adams was catapulted to international fame as the doomed villain's mistress in The Man with the Golden Gun with Roger Moore and Christopher Lee where her performance was reviewed as "tough but haunted". In short order, she appeared in Norman Jewison's futuristic Rollerball, several European films, and in the steamy obsession thriller Tattoo with Bruce Dern. She was so well regarded by James Bond film series producer Albert Broccoli that she was asked to return as the title character in Octopussy in 1983, this time as the lead—an exotic and mysterious smuggler, also opposite Roger Moore. Adams had a Swedish co-star on both of her Bond films, Kristina Wayborn as Magda in Octopussy and Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun. She was also an extra in A View to a Kill (1985). While portraying a Bond girl has not always indicated continued success as an actress, Adams comments, "Looking back on it, how can you not really enjoy the fact that you were a Bond Girl? It’s pop culture and to be part of that is very nice."
Adams parlayed her performance to a US television series Emerald Point NAS in 1983 and 1984, and then Jane and the Lost City in 1987.
She hosted the Swedish TV show Kafé Luleå in 1994 and played a guest role in the Swedish soap opera Vita lögner in 1998.
She guest-starred on That '70s Show in 2000, appearing as a bridesmaid to Tanya Roberts, along with Kristina Wayborn (her Octopussy co-star) and Barbara Carrera; all four share the title of Bond girl (though Carrera was in the unofficial adaptation Never Say Never Again). Adams has remained close to the Bond producers, often attending Bond premieres and other events associated with the series.
She also was the president of a cosmetics company called Scandinavian Biocosmetics.