007 has gone up against a wide variety foes in his first 23 on screen adventures and this list accounts for all of them including every single rich old white guy. How does your favorite rank? Let’s get started…
21. Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe – The Living Daylights)
Memorable Quote: “I’m sorry, James. For you I have great affection, but we have an old saying: duty has no sweethearts.”
Bond films often live and die based on the strength of their villain and as such The Living Daylights flounders in large part because of this two-timing Russian general who fakes a defection to set himself up for a drug and gun smuggling operation in Afghanistan. His plot is never particularly crystal clear and as such it’s hard to really care about him or want to see Bond take him down. His one redeeming factor toward being a decent villain: he’s a total douche bag.
20. Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric – Quantum of Solace)
Memorable Quote: “There is nothing that makes me more uncomfortable than friends talking behind my back. Feels like… ants under my skin.”
Dominic Greene can only – and I mean ONLY – be described as a human wiener. I’d say more but honestly, who can remember him?
19. Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens – Die Another Day)
Imagine the smarmiest person on the planet. Multiply him by ten. Now multiply THAT number by twenty and you have a rough idea how awful Gustav Graves is. To be fair, Toby Stephens clearly wanted to make him as unlikable as possible – this is a villain after all – but once you throw in the twist that he’s actually a maladjusted North Korean warlord with daddy issues and a ton of plastic surgery, he cements himself as one of the most eye-roll inducing Bond villains of all time.
18. Kristatos (Julian Glover – For Your Eyes Only)
Kristatos is one of the rare villains of the James Bond series who isn’t revealed to actually be the villain until much later in the film and normally this element of surprise and betrayal can make for a particularly juicy bad guy, but in this case he’s a pure vanilla villain in an otherwise satisfying Bond flick. And let’s be honest he definitely loses points for keeping Bibi, the ice skater, around.
17. Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens – The Spy Who Loved Me)
When it comes to Karl Stromberg I only have two words for you: Webbed. Fingers.
Read into that as you like.
16. Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale – Moonraker)
Hugo Drax is pretty much the epitome of the Older Rich White Guy Bond Villain. He gives a lot of stoic commands, never lifts a finger for himself, and constantly whines about how much Bond is a thorn in his side. And although his plot of creating a sort of Noah’s Ark in space with perfect human specimens before killing everyone else on Earth is pretty epic, his deadpan drollness hardly makes Drax a villain to get excited about.
Memorable Quote: “There’s no news, like bad news.”
In a lot of ways this 18th Bond film was ahead of it’s time for depicting a world at the mercy of a media baron manipulating events toward World War III for higher ratings and exclusive broadcasting rights in China. Luckily the real world hasn’t had to deal with someone as overtly nefarious as Elliot Carver, but the almost twenty years since the film’s release has certainly seen a rise in the media’s power to sway world events. Despite how prophetic this seems to be, Elliot Carver still falls into the Older Rich White Guy category of Bond villains who fail to pose any sort of physical threat and spend most of the movie lamenting Bond’s ability to survive. So even though he’s a captivating villain in theory, the final execution is less than inspired.
14. Kananga/Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto – Live and Let Die)
The one and only Bond villain to utilize a secret identity, Kananga – a United Nations ambassador who also masquerades as a Harlem drug lord – certainly has a wide sphere of influence and a great collection of thugs to back him up, but his scheme of giving away free heroin to create more addicts and then monopolize the market lacks a little imagination to really rank up there with the greats. Bonus points for that alligator farm though.
13. Max Zorin (Christopher Walken – A View to a Kill)
It goes without saying that Christopher Walken was born to play a Bond villain. It’s just a shame that he couldn’t have been a slightly better one. As a psychotic, genetically-modified, genius Nazi baby you might expect something a little more special, but the screenplay keeps him generally low key (as low key as Walken gets anyway) and thus deprives us of what could have been an epic Bond villain for the ages.
Memorable Quote: “Mr. Bond is indeed of a very rare breed… soon to be made extinct.”
Louis Jourdan pretty much ranks this high on the list for the way he says the word “Octopussy” throughout the film. He literally purrs the word. It’s beautiful. But beyond his dainty way with words, Kamal Khan was also a worthwhile Bond villain for his ability to play equally nice with female smugglers and Russian generals alike. He cheats at backgammon though. That’s pretty lame.
11. Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya – From Russia With Love)
It’s a bit hard to pinpoint exactly who is the main villain of From Russia With Love. Is it the faceless Blofeld? Kronsteen, the chess mastermind? Or is it the brawn of the operation, Red Grant? There are valid arguments for all of these contenders but at the end of the day it is the nefarious Rosa Klebb and her poison-tipped shoes that reign over the evil events of this second Bond film. You seriously can’t tell me you wouldn’t be creeped out to be alone in a room with this woman. It’s just not possible.
10. Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen – Casino Royale)
Obviously a villain played by Hannibal Lecter himself had to make the Top 10 of this list. As a classic Bond villain Le Chiffre really has it all: creepy facial scars, gorgeous suits, and a bevy of thugs at his beck and call. What keeps him from rising higher on this list though is how early on in the film he gets taken down due to his own insufficiency as a villain – a true heavyweight would have made it to the final reel.
9. Alec Trevelyan/006 (Sean Bean – Goldeneye)
Over the years Bond has gone up against all manner of enemy agents but Alec Trevelyan represents the only time that he’s had to face a fellow Double-O agent and the result is a legitimate battle of the titans. Sean Bean is a guy who could have easily played Bond himself back in the day, but since universal law demands that he die in everything he had to settle for the villain role. Luckily he does it with loads of wicked charm and some of the most physically threatening action from a main villain in the series’ history.
Memorable Quote: “When it gets up to your ankles, you’re going to beg to tell me everything. When it gets up to your knees, you’ll kiss my ass to kill you.”
At first thought it seems that a drug kingpin would be a lesser villain to go up against 007, but in the hands of Robert Davi the concept became truly terrifying. Sanchez is the rare Bond villain that could easily exist in our world today and by seeing the way he treats his enemies I certainly have no desire to cross paths with such a person. Don’t believe me? Ask Bond’s best bud, Felix Leiter, if we should fear Sanchez…
7. Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman – Dr. No)
The very first Bond villain may not have had the most compelling evil plot but he definitely holds a high rank on this list for introducing us to the notion of a criminal organization called S.P.E.C.T.R.E and his creepy ass way of talking. The metal hands are a nice touch too.
6. Largo (Adolfo Celi – Thunderball)
Let’s not beat around the bush – Emilio Largo is an intimidating bastard. That smooth Italian voice, that lush lifestyle, and that eye patch all come together to form a perfect Bond villain. There’s a reason this guy was S.P.E.C.T.R.E’s “No. 2” man and it may or may not have anything to do with that pool of man-eating sharks.
Memorable Quote: “To us, Mr Bond. We are the best.”
The legendary Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Francisco Scaramanga is the perfect example of a great villain appearing in a slightly less than great Bond film. He sells himself in the film as Bond’s equal and in their climactic final duel on that beach in Thailand it’s easy to wonder if 007 has finally met his match. But no matter how the duel ended up, how can you not admire a skilled assassin who charges $1 Million to take out his victims with a golden gun?
4. Elektra King (Sophie Marceau – The World Is Not Enough)
The reason that The World Is Not Enough is my favorite of the Pierce Brosnan Bond films lies firmly in the hands of Sophie Marceau’s double-crossing oil heiress. Introduced to us as a stoic but innocent, former kidnap victim we get to see the real Elektra emerge as the film plays out. Her ultimate bad girl status stings even more thanks to the film’s subtle references to her reminding Bond of his one great love, Tracy.
3. Silva (Javier Bardem – Skyfall)
It isn’t often that we actually fear for James’ life or worry that he’ll be defeated but that’s exactly what happens in Skyfall when former MI6 agent, Silva, comes onto the scene. Masterfully played by Javier Bardem, Silva is slightly off his rocker but cunning enough to possibly be Bond’s most dangerous foe of all time. This point is only made more potent by the tragic ending of the film caused by his actions.
2. Goldfinger (Gert Frobe – Goldfinger)
At first glance Auric Goldfinger may not appear to be much of a threat to the great 007 but this rotund German with a penchant for all things gold sticks in our memory for his nonchalant ruthlessness and the grand idea of blowing up Ft. Knox simply to make his own gold more valuable. That takes GIGANTIC balls.
But the greatest James Bond villain of all time is….
1. Blofeld (Donald Pleasence – You Only Live Twice, Telly Savalas – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Charles Grey – Diamonds Are Forever)
How could I possibly list anyone other than the man who directly took on 007 in three separate films, pulled the power strings while stroking his cat in three other films, and was responsible for the death of Bond’s one true love? And while it’s unfortunate that we can’t associate this role with a single actor across all of the films in question (Savalas has been the best thus far in my humble opinion) it’s impressive that his evil translates so well through the interpretation of so many different performances. Will Christoph Waltz be joining the tradition in SPECTRE as the next Blofeld? I can’t wait to find out.