One of the longest lasting and most prolific franchises of all-time, James Bond has been entertaining audiences for decades. With the release of Spectre only a few short days away, we here at Screen Rant found ourselves asking “Who is the greatest James Bond villain of all?”
With Christoph Waltz shaping up to be one of the most intimidating and cerebral villains in franchise history and Dave Bautista looking like he may be the strongest henchmen ever seen, we wanted to know just who were the best villains over the course of the franchise’s 50+ year history.
So, here are our answers: Screen Rant’s 10 Greatest James Bond Villains!
Oddjob – Goldfinger (1964)
The henchman to billionaire bad boy Auric Goldfinger in Goldfinger, Oddjob (Harold Sakata) is one of the most memorable Bond foes thanks to his brute strength, bowler hat, and idiosyncratic mannerisms. Being a solid slab of muscle allows Oddjob to easily get the upper hand on all of his opponents, and this is why he almost never appears scared or worried. Bond (Sean Connery), being a secret agent and not a brute fighter, cannot stand up to the skill and strength of Oddjob whenever they fight. Oddjob handles Bond easily and is only defeated when 007 uses his brain to devise a way to kill the beast.
Oddjob set a great precedent for henchmen to come by being a singalur persona. He had a signature way of killing people, which was to decapitate them with his blade-rimmed bowler hat. But he was also proficient at murdering in various other ways. Oddjob was also responsible for one of the most striking Bond girl deaths in all of films, by covering her body in gold paint, which suffocates her skin. Oddjob leaves her body in the bed that she and Bond had slept together in, just to let Bond find her lifeless body.
Le Chiffre – Casino Royale (2006)
Mads Mikkelsen gave us the blood-crying Le Chiffre in 2006’s Casino Royale. Here we see Le Chiffre take on Bond (Daniel Craig) in a high-stakes game of cards and deception. Bond is known for his cunning and wit, but Le Chiffre matches his mental abilities. He not only has Bond poisoned, his girlfriend killed, and his money completely wiped out, but he tortures Bond in one of the most memorable ways. After Bond gets bankrolled by fellow poker player, Vesper Lynd, Le Chiffre is defeated at the poker table. Now, wanting revenge, he kidnaps Vesper knowing that Bond will give chase. Causing him to crash, Le Chiffre recovers 007 and ties him to a chair with the bottom cut out. He then swings a thick, knotted rope into Bond’s genitalia.
Even though Le Chiffre tortures James in a direct way, rather than creating an elaborate trap for him, his real threat is his intellect. Le Chiffre was the banker who allowed terrorist organizations to fund attacks all around the world. His skills were a huge threat to not only MI6, but the world.
Dr. No – Dr. No (1962)
The first film in the entire franchise, Dr. No gives us a plethora of memorable characters, gadgets, and visual queues. However, it also gives us our first great Bond villain, Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman) himself. Dr. No is a brilliant nuclear scientist who became involved with the criminal organization known as SPECTRE (The Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). Each villain in the series has some specific attribute that sets them apart from everyone else. In this case, Dr. No had metal hands that were extremely powerful.
When taking on Bond, Dr. No gives Bond (Sean Connery) a great mental challenge and hires others to try to murder him. At the end of the film when we finally see him, Dr. No is no match for Bond’s cunning nor his physical strength. He is enraged by Bond’s rudeness and later easily kicked into boiling, radiated water. Although he doesn’t do much to Bond when they meet, he did set the standard for villains to come in the 007 universe.
Franz Sanchez – License to Kill (1989)
The main villain in License To Kill, Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) is a man who is a lot like Bond (Timothy Dalton) himself. Franz is a brutal, strong man, but is also suave and charismatic. He is an international drug cartel head, and created an entire empire that he runs out of the fictional South American city of Isthmus. In this film, we see Bond go after the villain not just for his activities in the drug trade, but also for vengeance. 007 is out for blood because Sanchez had his men attack CIA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison) and his wife, murdering the latter.
With similar attributes to Bond, he poses a worthy adversary for the spy. His huge drug organization allows him to have many resources at his disposal, but he is undone by James Bond’s guile. With the thought that his henchmen are scheming against him, Sanchez becomes undone with paranoia.
Emilio Largo – Thunderball (1965)
Another member of SPECTRE, Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) is known as “Number Two” in the organization. He is the main villain of Thunderball, and creates one of the legendary schemes that has been used in dozens of other films. Largo steals missiles and demands $100 million dollars or he will detonate the bombs in the United States or England. Largo, like most SPECTRE agents, is a villain with a massive intellect, but is not physically imposing to Bond (Connery). However, he has the resources of his organization to hire plenty of henchmen to keep him safe. Largo also has a huge shark tank that he uses to try and dispatch Bond with. He is later killed by Domino (Claudine Auger), one of Bond’s accomplices. She shoots him in the back with a harpoon before he could shoot 007.
Jaws – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The greatest James Bond henchman of all-time, Jaws (Richard Kiel) appeared in both The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Since this is all about villains however, The Spy Who Loved Me is his best appearance as a henchman. In Moonraker he becomes more of a hero and tragic character.
Jaws is known for his love of murder and his penchant for brutality. Of course, his iconic metal teeth are what make him so memorable, but he is also by far the most physically domineering villain Bond (Roger Moore) has ever faced. If his metal jaw, psychotic smiling, and 7’2” stature wasn’t enough to make him terrifying, how about the time he literally killed a shark with his bare hands! There are far more things a man could do to show you just how insane and strong he is, but none are as impressive as killing a shark with no hardware.
Along with his massive size, he never spoke, but just smiled when trying to kill his target. Even crazier, he has been shown to survive incredible pain and trauma that would easily kill any other person.
Auric Goldfinger – Goldfinger (1964)
One of the most recognizable names on this list, Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) was the titular villain of Goldfinger. Auric’s greatest attribute was his enormous wealth. Although he isn’t particularly cunning or physically imposing, he did make for a great villain because of the resources he had at hand. He wasn’t attached to any organizations and simply acted on his own volition. Goldfinger’s entire operation was to destroy the gold within Fort Knox in order to increase the value of his gold stash, as well as bankrupting the United States economy.
What makes Goldfinger a great villain is his independence. He is able to do the insane things he desires simply because he has the means to do so. Goldfinger’s obsession with gold is also an odd piece of his persona. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the Bond universe was his line to 007 when he leaves him on a table with a laser-beam slowly moving towards him. Bond asks him “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger classically responds, “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.” Even those who are not as familiar with James Bond know that line.
Alec Trevelyan – GoldenEye (1995)
For Pierce Brosnan’s first time as 007 in GoldenEye, he must face his counterpart known as 006 played by the legendary Sean Bean (spoiler: he dies in this too). 006, Alec Trevelyan, was truly Bond’s best match. He possessed everything that Bond did, but had a lust for revenge. Trevelyan wanted to strike against the British government for betraying his parents and uses his training as a 00 agent to achieve his goals.
006 thoroughly kicks James Bond’s ass during the film and shows his prowess as a 00 agent. Throughout the film, 006 taunts Bond with little details that he knows about the agent. For instance, he taunts James about his drinking asking him if all the martinis will drown the sorrows of all the death he has caused and let happen. 006 is truly a villain that hit Bond with a whole new array of punches that we hadn’t seen before.
Raoul Silva – Skyfall (2012)
For a lot of people, Skyfall is not just a contemporary James Bond masterpiece, but their favorite Bond film of all time. This is in large part due to the gripping performance of Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva. Known for taking villainous roles, Bardem delivers a chilling performance as this cyber terrorist.
Silva was one of the greatest masterminds in all of the Bond universe. He planned every minute of his entire experience with Bond (Daniel Craig) and knew exactly how he would respond. What’s even more interesting is that he wasn’t particularly vengeful towards Bond, but rather his handler, M. She was the one who traded him for hostages and caused him to take a cyanide pill that maimed his entire face. Being an ex-MI6 agent, he learned all about their operations and knew dozens of identities of operatives. Silva was responsible for killing the long-beloved M, played by the brilliant Judi Dench.
Drawing inspiration from previous Bond villains, Silva was formed into one of the greatest onscreen villains of all-time. His jaw was an obvious call-back to the henchman Jaws. The intimate knowledge of MI6 and its operations was similar to 006 from Goldeneye, and his brilliance rivalled Dr. No. There is only one other villain that can take the top spot from him…
Ernst Stavro Blofeld – Various Films
By far, 007’s greatest foe is the head of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. He has been the source of many conflicts with James Bond and one of the only villains to make it out of multiple movies alive. He was first introduced as just a body stroking a white cat in both From Russia With Love and Thunderball. Once they decided to show his face and reveal him as a main antagonist, Donald Pleasence was the first to portray this signature villain in You Only Live Twice.
In this film we see Bond (Connery) face Blofeld in his volcanic lair, threatening to destroy both the United States and the Soviet Union in order to invoke SPECTRE as the world-dominating body. Although Blofeld isn’t physically a threat to Bond, he does almost shoot him before being injured. He escapes and destroys his entire facility.
The next to play the head of SPECTRE was Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This Blofeld was shown to be a much more evil villain with a personal vendetta against James Bond (George Lazenby). Bond fights against Blofeld and SPECTRE for the entire film, but he comes out successful. Unfortunately, Blofeld comes back at the end of the film to have Bond’s new wife, Tracy (Diana Rigg) shot and killed. Bond girls had been killed before, but this was a huge emotional blow to Bond.
There were a few other actors who played “Number One,” but these two defined the arch-nemesis of Bond and established him as the greatest force to be reckoned with in the 007 universe. Many are speculating that Christoph Waltz will indeed be Blofeld, due to his appearance and the obvious presence of SPECTRE in the film. If so, he would be a worthy addition to the handful of actors who have played the head of SPECTRE.
There have been dozens of villains over the years, but these are the best of the best. Each of them have challenged 007 in both a physical combat and intellectual cunning. These villains have become not just icons in the James Bond universe, but templates for what devious villains should be in films. Hopefully, Christoph Waltz and Dave Bautista will continue the tradition of creating memorable villains in the highly anticipated Spectre. Thanks for reading!
Spectre will be released in theaters on November 6!