If a hero is only as good as his villains, then James Bond is quite the hero indeed. Over more than 50 years and 24 official film instalments, Agent 007 has faced off against a truly impressive array of ruthless killers, twisted tycoons, and brilliant madmen.
Some wanted to rule the world, others wanted to take revenge, and more than a few just wanted to get very, very rich – regardless, they each proved a bit of a headache for MI6’s finest operative.
That said, not all baddies are created equal, and some of Bond’s enemies rate more highly than others in the eyes of fans. Much like one of our super spy’s trademark cocktails, the best villains to grace the James Bond franchise are characterized by several key ingredients.
First, a great Bond antagonist needs a grand and devious scheme – although these can occasionally go awry, making absolutely no sense whatsoever. Second, they need some kind of gimmick, whether it’s a distinctive gadget or memorable physical skill or ailment. And finally, they have to possess a certain sense of style.
Keeping these three criteria squarely in mind, and limiting ourselves solely to main villains to keep things manageable – so no henchmen like Jaws or Oddjob, sorry – we’ve set out this list of Every Bond Villain, Ranked From Worst To Best.
23 Gustav Graves
Gustav Graves started life as Tan-Sun Moon, a colonel in the North Korean army. He later undergoes radical gene therapy to assume a Caucasian appearance, and plots to use a solar-powered super-laser to spearhead an invasion of South Korea by the North.
So Graves is basically a guy with a terrible sense of style (by the third act, he’s rocking a tragic-looking suit of mech armor), a racist gimmick (Asian guy becomes white guy…really?), and a plan that seems destined to end in disaster (it’ll likely result in North Korea going kablooey, at the very least).
There were a lot of reasons why critics and fans alike responded negatively to Die Another Day – hello, invisible car! – and this shabby excuse for a bad guy is one of them.
22 Mr. White
Essentially the ultimate middle manager in the James Bond mythos, Mr. White barely qualifies for inclusion on this list. Indeed, he only makes the grade by virtue of being Le Chiffre’s boss in Casino Royale, as he’s generally proved a fairly minor thorn in 007’s side.
A senior member of SPECTRE’s shabby step-child organization Quantum, White operates behind the scenes, setting in motion the plans of Quantum’s ruling body, and liaising with (and occasionally eliminating) the help.
He gets a few good lines and a bit more depth during his subsequent appearances in Quantum Of Solace and Spectre – the latter of which casts him as something of an anti-hero – but frankly, without any panache or gimmick to speak of, he’s too small-time to really cut it on a list filled with actual supervillain heavy hitters.
21 Dominic Greene
A valiant attempt at presenting a “realistic” Bond villain, Dominic Greene ends up coming across as more bland than chilling.
In keeping with the dour, grounded tone of Quantum Of Solace, Greene disappointingly offers no gimmick to speak of – intended as a commentary on the ability of real-world bad guys to hide in plain sight. The closest he comes is a clumsy attempt to rip-off villainous peer Goldfinger, when he has Agent Fields whacked by being drenched in oil (because oil is the new gold, geddit?).
Setting this aside, this leaves Greene as little more than an average-looking Frenchman in a nicely tailored suit, and while there is a certain style to that, it’s nothing to write home about, either.
Then there’s his evil scheme, which is comparatively unambitious by the standards of the franchise. It involves gaining control of the majority of Bolivia’s water supply, in order to establish Greene’s company as the country’s sole (and wildly overpriced) H20 provider.
That’s right: he doesn’t even steal all of Bolivia’s water, just most of it! C’mon, dude – you’re a Bond villain, reach for the stars!
20 Brad Whitaker
Just barely nudging out fellow nogoodnik General Koskov as the major threat in The Living Daylights, Brad Whitaker gains style kudos – or at the very least, serious geek cred – for owning some pretty sweet military dioramas.
That said, other than than curating a rather impressive toy soldier collection, Whitaker amounts to little more than a jumped-up arms dealer. Moreover, with his exaggerated American South mannerisms (not exactly an arresting gimmick), he borders on the ridiculous for much of the film’s runtime.
Completing Whitaker’s embarrassing report card, his scheme is fairly mundane, too – for all of its moving parts, it boils down to running guns for the Soviets – and thanks to his oafish demeanour, Bond (along with critics and fans) never really views him as a credible threat.
19 Aristotle Kristatos
In half a century of Bond films, only one villain has the dubious honor of being foiled by a talking parrot – For Your Eyes Only’s Aristotle Kristatos!
That’s right, the wretched old geezer made the mistake of repeating the critical details of his wicked plot in front of one of the tropical birds, which relayed them to 007 in time to for him to intervene.
In terms of flair, Kristatos doesn’t bring much to the party either, embodying the “evil tycoon” trope without adding anything to it, and he’s similarly skint on the novelty front.
Still, it’s not all bad – his plan to offload the ATAC system to the KGB, in order to add a massive pile of cash to the mountain he already has, at least makes sense (even if it is less than thrilling).
18 Victor Renard
Victor Renard – who shares big bad status in The World Is Not Enough with his missus, Elektra King (more on her later) – is easily the most relatable figure on this list. When it comes down to it, all the poor guy wants to do is make his girlfriend happy by blowing up Istanbul (and really, who hasn’t been there before?).
In addition to his suitably ambitious plans, Renard sports a reasonably solid gimmick: he has a bullet lodged in his brain, which leaves him impervious to physical pain. On the plus side, this makes him a formidable foe for Bond (even if he is played by the physically less-than-intimidating Robert Carlyle). Of course, on the downside, it also means he’s losing all other sense of feeling as well, but you have to take the good with the bad in these situations.
However, despite having both a quality plan and gimmick in order, Renard gets marked down by his conspicuous lack of sartorial elan, with the terrorist opting for a trend leather jacket/zipper-necked sweater combo.
17 Hugo Drax
Despite some stiff competition, Hugo Drax takes the award for “Most Verbose Villain” on this list – seriously, the dude gives a great evil monologue.
One of the few highlights of the otherwise disappointing Moonraker is listening to Drax waffle on eloquently, even if his “master race”-inspired views are admittedly barking mad!
His villainous scheme is to poison every last person on Earth and then restart humankind from his space station is equally looney, but the mechanics of it at least makes sense.
Why then does Drax deserve such a low ranking? Well, for one thing, he’s missing a gimmick (pretending to play a grand piano doesn’t count, nor does owning amazing real estate).
But really, it all comes down to one word: style – he hasn’t got any! Outside of his admittedly impressive gift of the gab, Drax dresses in outfits that are neither military chic or GQ model-worthy, making him more than a little drab.
16 Elliot Carver
The James Bond franchise isn’t exactly famed for its subtlety, but Tomorrow Never Dies’ Elliot Carver is so clearly modelled on Rupert Murdoch, it’s a wonder the filmmakers got away with it!
Viewed through a modern lens, Carver appears both hilariously quaint (a conventional media magnate in a largely pre-digital era) and eerily prescient (information is our new currency) at the same time.
True, his machinations to engineer a conflict between the UK and China in order to expand his media empire in Asia don’t quite stack up (once again: this would probably start World War III), but at least follows some semblance of (flawed) logic.
He also possesses a degree of panache, with his proto-Steve Jobs wardrobe, although he is noticeably deficient on the gimmick front.
15 General Orlov
On a list filled with outlandish, convoluted schemes, General Orlov – aided and abetted by sidekick Prince Kamal Khan – still manages to mastermind the craziest one of all.
The chief antagonist in Octopussy, Orlov attempts to trick the Western powers into total nuclear disarmament (because that’ll ever happen), paving the way for an invasion of Europe by the Soviets.
Along the way, the general tosses a circus, a jewel smuggler, and a floating palace into the mix, which at the very least leaves 007 momentarily scratching his head.
Aside from his bonkers designs, Orlov gets a tick in the “Style” checkbox – by virtue of being a man in uniform – although he gets a big, red X next to the one labelled “Gimmick”, seeing as how he hasn’t got one!
14 Elektra King
Portrayed by the impossibly beautiful Sophie Marceau and almost always dressed to kill (literally), Elektra King has dash for days.
This sense of style only adds to her seductive charms, which Elektra uses to good effect in The World Is Not Enough, where she’s revealed to be the real mastermind behind proceedings. Proving she’s more than just a pretty face, she not only manages to usurp control of the family oil business, but very nearly corners the market by sabotaging the competition.
True, Elektra’s plot isn’t the most inventive plan on this list – nor is it the most fun – but it all adds up, and where Bond villains are concerned, that’s really saying something!
Elektra also has a minor gimmick: a mangled ear – a souvenir from time spent as a kidnap victim – which she hides beneath one of her unsurprisingly tasteful earrings.
13 Karl Stromberg
Simply put, The Spy Who Loved Me’s Karl Stromberg wants to build a kingdom under the sea. This is so lovably insane you can almost forgive him for being prepared to kill millions of people in order to do it.
To achieve this, he strives to light the fuse for World War III – one of the few people on this list actually intending to do this! – which is decidedly less endearing.
In terms of panache, Stromberg has a kinda distinctive look going on, mostly rocking monochrome military get-up that’s kinda middle of the road. Fortunately, where this elderly gent truly excels is in the novelty department, where he records not one, but two major wins.
Right up front, there’s his unique physical affliction: his (quite frankly, gross) webbed fingers. But the pièce de résistance is his penchant for feeding underperforming or redundant employees to his pet shark – that’s right, this guy is a stone cold classic bad guy!
12 Colonel Rosa Klebb
With Blofeld operating from the shadows in From Russia With Love, it’s left to his subordinates Red Grant and Rosa Klebb to take on the mantle of “main villain”.
Whilst the argument could be made for Red being the real big bad here, given the assassin is the main physical threat to Bond, we’ve plumped for Rosa to take the honors instead.
A merciless woman trying to make it man’s world, Colonel Klebb – also known as No. 3 – may not offer much in the way of style, but at least she’s not afraid to get her hands (or rather, her knife-tipped gimmick shoes) dirty.
In terms of a plan, Klebb tends to be better at riffing off the ideas of others than dreaming things up herself, showcasing a good, practical brain for logistics.
As an added bonus for fans of James Bond parody franchise Austin Powers, Klebb was one of the key sources of inspiration behind comically severe (and big-lunged) villainess Frau Farbissina.
11 Emilio Largo
With his white dinner jacket and eyepatch, Emilio Largo is every inch the classic Bond villain, at least as far as couture is concerned.
The Thunderball baddie further solidifies his status as a text book 007 foe when he hatches franchises first large-scale ransom scheme.
It’s fiendish in its simplicity – the cycloptic bum has hijacked a couple of nuclear warheads, and threatens to decimate either the US or UK if they don’t cough up the dough.
Then there’s Largo’s trademark use of sharks as a death trap – well before Karl Stromberg ever entertained the idea – which very nearly puts 007 out of business! In short: this guy has it all, and the only reason he doesn’t rank higher is that he’s proven so influential, he almost comes across as a cliché to modern audiences.
Indeed, given just how many classic Bond villain traits Largo possesses, it’s not hard to see why the team behind Austin Powers modelled the equally depth perception-impaired Number Two after him!
10 Max Zorin
A View To A Kill’s Max Zorin represents the “evil yuppie” stereotype – so popular in ‘80s cinema – taken to its logical extreme. Better still, Zorin is brought to life with the all the quirky charm of living treasure Christopher Walken, granting him a sense of poise all his own.
His plan – to cause an earthquake in California, handing him a monopoly over the microchip market – does feel a little derivative of Lex Luthor’s plan in Superman: The Movie. On the other hand, it’s hard to argue that Zorin’s vision is lacking in either scope or rationale.
With two out of three bases covered, it’s just a shame that Zorin drops the ball when it comes to a memorable calling card, although perhaps the filmmakers thought Walken’s involvement would be gimmick enough!
9 Dr. Kananga
Powerful drug baron Dr. Kananga – who also goes by “Mr. Big” – boasts easily the most memorable death in James Bond history. 007 has dispatched his enemies utilizing a variety of colorful methods over the years, but literally blowing someone up has to take the cake!
The good (or rather, not so good) doctor’s plot in Live And Let Die isn’t exactly complex, but it works on paper. He’s going to saturate the US with free heroin, financially ruining his fellow dealers and dramatically increasing the number of users hooked on his product, at which point he’ll jack up the price considerably.
Evaluating Kananga’s sense of style, it’s fair to say he’s a sharply dressed cat, however the more striking visual style belongs to his henchman - the voodoo-inspired Baron Samedi.
More encouragingly, he has a decent enough gimmick in the form of his alter ego, “Mr. Big”, which involves a latex mask and gangland wardrobe, helping him stand out from the villainous pack.
8 Franz Sanchez
On the face of it, Licence To Kill’s Franz Sanchez is little more than yet another drug lord, but look past his generic appearance, and you’ll find one of the most vicious villains on this list.
In fact, Sanchez can take credit for deploying that old Bond villain staple: the shark tank, for more than just weeding out the minor players. This despicable pusher is responsible for maiming Bond’s CIA ally and friend Felix Leiter – as well as murdering Leiter’s wife – after feeding them to one of the anti-social fishies.
In doing so, he makes things personal between himself and 007 – something only a few villains can lay claim to. He also shows a glimmer of flair, courtesy of the note he leaves attached to Leiter, which bears the awesome-terrible pun, “he disagreed with something that ate him.”
Lastly, Sanchez’s plan – to smuggle cocaine dissolved into petrol, providing the means for reintegrating the drug to the highest bidder – is kinda ingenious, although we’ll leave it to the scientists among you to determine just how feasible it really is!
7 Dr. Julius No
The baddie who started it all (in the film that shares his name), Dr. No laid the groundwork for the Bond villains would follow him.
First up, he’s a mad scientist with a nefarious scheme – and in this case, a plausible one, too. Eager to mess with the US in retaliation for being rebuffed by the Powers That Be there, No unleashes an atomic radio beam to disrupt their attempts at a manned missile launch. Not all that outrageous, but on the plus side, it adds up.
Next, there’s his hard to miss deformity: having lost both hands to radiation poisoning, No sports a pair of bionic, metal replacements – the crushing grip of which almost has MI6 looking for a new 007!
Finally, there’s his style. As the first ever big screen Bond villain, Dr. No establishes the fashion template for all those seeking to ape his high-cut collared outfits. Others may have worn it better, but No wore it first!
6 Alec Trevelyan
The baddie calling the shots in GoldenEye, Alec Trevelyan is Bond as seen through a mirror darkly. Formerly known as Agent 006, this rogue operative is played by the most “killed” actor in Hollywood, Sean Bean, and fittingly, his gimmick would seem to be dying.
Trevelyan appears to kick the bucket at the start of the film, then later turns up alive and well – aside from some impressive facial scarring – only to be killed again by Bond, in rather definitive fashion (it involves a very big drop and an exploding satellite dish).
Trevelyan’s scheme – to cause a financial crisis in the UK by hitting London with an EMP – touts a laudable sense of scale, and all the pieces more or less fit together (allowing for cinema’s typically embarrassing grasp of how computers and hacking actually work, that is).
When it comes to style, Trevelyan sticks mostly to dark suits and combat fatigues, which means he presents fairly well – which is actually quite an achievement, given the film’s ‘90s setting!
5 Le Chiffre
As we enter the top 5, we arrive at Le Chiffre – a math whizz (who’s also a chess grandmaster, for what it’s worth) sports a subtle yet effective gimmick. Owing to a previously injured peeper, he weeps tears composed entirely of blood!
Despite this rather unsettling physical quirk, the main villain in Casino Royale cuts a rather stylish figure, dressing almost exclusively in smart all-black suit and tie outfits, and even his asthma inhaler is platinum plated!
Backing up Le Chiffre’s gimmick and style is his wicked plot to recoup his criminal clientèle's lost cash via an ultra-high stakes poker game.
Yes, it’s a little on the risky side – as 007 proves when he lands the winning hand – but given his proven track record of counting cards and calculating probabilities, it’s easy to see how this course of action seemed a safe bet.
4 Francisco Scaramanga
The eponymous Man With The Golden Gun, Francisco Scaramanga benefits greatly from the towering frame and aristocratic charm of the late, great Christopher Lee. In fact, the world’s finest assassin is almost as suave as Bond himself!
Scaramanga complements his (literally) killer skills with not one, but three novelties. The first (and easily least cool) is a physical abnormality: his superfluous third nipple. The second is his golden pistol, which he assembles (Transformers-style) from a cigarette case, lighter, fountain pen, and cufflink! The third and final is his car, which – again, Transformers-style! – can convert from an automobile to an aircraft!
Admittedly, Scaramanga’s overarching plot is a bit basic: he’s going to nick a gadget capable of manipulating solar energy, then auction it off to the highest bidder. However, he’s redeemed by the aspect of his plan that relates to his fixation with duelling 007 inside a murder maze, which is an undeniably boss play.
3 Raoul Silva
Skyfall’s Raoul Silva presents a disarming mixture of ferocious and fey character traits that make him a genuinely disturbing fellow. That said, there’s also no escaping the fact that – horrendous peroxide job aside – this impeccably attired gent (real name: Tiago Rodriguez) is the very definition of chic.
However, lurking beneath Silva’s well-manicured facade is a shockingly grotesque disfigurement: most of his teeth and his entire left cheek have been eaten away by cyanide, after a botched suicide attempt. Indeed, it’s only by wearing a nifty dental prosthesis that he’s able to conceal his ravaged visage.
Rounding out Silva’s Bond villain credentials, he follows a compelling agenda – retribution for being betrayed by M years earlier – which he pursues by way of an intricate plan that (nitpicking aside) more or less stacks up, and is wild enough to include a weaponized Tube carriage!
2 Auric Goldfinger
Auric Goldfinger (the baddie in, uh…Goldfinger) can actually lay claim to masterminding not one, but two iconic Bond moments.
The first of these relates to his gimmick – an unhealthy obsession with gold (which was later lampooned by weirdo Austin Powers baddie Goldmember). In this instance, this compulsion manifests itself when he bumps off Bond Girl Jill Masterton by covering her head to toe in gold, leaving her oxygen-deprived corpse for 007 to find.
The second is maybe the most famous James Bond moment of all, and demonstrates Goldfinger’s flair for the dramatic. The big stinker straps Bond to a slab, and positions a laser so that it will slice the super spy right down the middle. His mocking response to 007, when asked if he expects his captive to give up MI6 secrets, is equally slick: “No, Mr. Bond – I expect you to die.”
Goldfinger’s got style, he’s got flair – and he’s got a pretty decent plan, as well. His scheme to devalue the gold in Fort Knox, so that his own stores would dramatically increase in worth, is well thought out, and came this close to working, too!
1 Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Was there ever really any doubt who would claim the top spot? Blofeld is pretty much the Bond villain, and thanks to his prolific work rate across seven films in the franchise, he’s the closest thing 007 has to an archenemy!
Everything about Blofeld is iconic, from his trademark pet white cat, through to his bald noggin, facial scar and preference for Mao suits. True, not all of these aspects of the supervillain’s characterisation remain consistent across his numerous appearances – that’ll happen when you’re portrayed by at least seven different actors.
But they’re established enough to have become shorthand for “Bond villain” and have inspired countless serious imitators and affectionate parodies, with Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil in particular owing Blofeld a massive debt.
And with evil schemes that range from the inspired to ludicrous, which all – low key effort in From Russia With Love notwithstanding – encompass a vast level of ambition (not to mention nuclear warheads and super viruses), Blofeld truly sets the standard.
Who’s your favorite James Bond villain? Let us know in the comments!
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