Alfred Hitchcock once said that a movie is only as good as its villain, and this is particularly true of James Bond films. In all of his cinematic outings, 007 is sent around the world on a mission to take down a megalomaniac bent on global domination or nuclear arms deals or starting World War III. There have been great villains that really felt like an ominous threat and stuck in fans’ heads and there have been terrible villains with stupid plans. So, ahead of the release of Bond’s next big-screen adventure, here are The 5 Best (And 5 Worst) On-Screen Portrayals Of James Bond Villains.
10 Best: Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre
Just as he would go on to do with the role of Hannibal Lecter, Mads Mikkelsen brings a chilling overtone to Le Chiffre. In every scene, he comes off as a terrifying presence, even when he’s just sitting behind a poker table, checking out his hand. Unlike the megalomaniacs of earlier Bond movies, Le Chiffre suits the grittier, more grounded, realistic tone of Casino Royale. He isn’t bent on world domination or corporate monopoly; he’s essentially just a dirty banker working for various terrorist organizations, and his involvement in the shady, high-stakes world of terrorism ultimately becomes his downfall.
9 Worst: Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax
Moonraker, the infamous Bond entry that took 007 to space as a response to the runaway success of the Star Wars franchise, is mainly memorable for its trip to the Moon. As far as its antagonists go, most Bond fans remember Jaws. He has sharp metal teeth, he’s a vicious lug, and his name is Jaws, so a lot of fans forget that he wasn’t actually the main villain — he was really just a henchman working for Hugo Drax. That’s how indistinctive Drax himself is. It’s the same tired tropes all over again, nowhere near as effective as they had been previously, and have been since.
8 Best: Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No
The first ever on-screen Bond villain still stands as one of the best. This is usually the case — the first one sets the template and then every subsequent offering follows that formula as they attempt to live up to it (the same goes for MCU origin stories, Rocky Balboa’s opponents, and Indiana Jones movies). Not only did Joseph Wiseman make for a nefarious villain as the titular character in 1962’s initial Bond outing, Dr. No; he also set the stage for wider threats in the Bond universe as a member of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., which was established in Dr. No to be expanded in later sequels.
7 Worst: Charles Gray as Ernst Blofeld
Ernst Blofeld is remembered as a classic Bond villain, but he’s really not all that noteworthy. There have been a couple of interesting incarnations of the character, but despite being set up years in advance like Thanos, the version played by Charles Gray in Diamonds Are Forever isn’t particularly intimidating.
There’s a reason that this version was the basis for Mike Myer’s characterization and portrayal of Dr. Evil, his satirical jab at Bond villains. This Blofeld is never focused on his plan; he’s more interested in tending to his cat. And he can’t even seem to string a comprehensible sentence together — he’s a bumbling buffoon.
6 Best: Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva
Okay, to be fair, Raoul Silva’s plan is way too complicated. He leaked spies’ identities to lure Bond to his island, where he intended to get caught (copying the Joker, Loki, Bane, Khan, Palpatine, Lord Blackwood, and just about every other recent blockbuster villain), so he could blow up a tunnel in a chase he couldn’t have anticipated and send Bond back to his childhood home in Scotland that he planned to shoot with a helicopter, all just to get back at M. On the other hand, Javier Bardem did a fantastic job of playing him. He came off as a truly scary, truly ruthless bad guy.
5 Worst: Joe Don Baker as Brad Whitaker
The fact that the villain from The Living Daylights shares his name with Will Ferrell’s mild-mannered suburban stepdad character from Daddy’s Home should give you some idea of how menacing he is — not very. He constantly wears his general’s uniform, despite his military career being a miserable failure, and he’s obsessed with the idea of leading the world into war, but he’s an incredibly shallow character. Joe Don Baker must’ve somehow impressed the Bond producers as an actor, but not as a villain, because he was brought on to play 007’s contact within the CIA in a couple of Pierce Brosnan’s movies.
4 Best: Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga
Christopher Lee is one of the greatest actors of all time, and he’s particularly adept at playing iconic villains — Dracula, Saruman, Count Dooku, etc. — so it was a no-brainer to cast him as a Bond villain. He played Francisco Scaramanga, the big bad in The Man with the Golden Gun, and despite some ludicrous character quirks (his third nipple, his affinity for mushrooms and table-setting, and of course, the titular golden gun that uses golden bullets and is made of golden cigarette paraphernalia), he’s an unforgettable part of the movie. With anyone besides Lee at the helm, it’s fair to say that Scaramanga wouldn’t be anywhere near as brilliant.
3 Worst: Christoph Waltz as Ernst Blofeld
By some insane stretch, with 2015’s Spectre, Sam Mendes managed to make a movie about James Bond taking on an evil organization that secretly controls the world, headed by an iconic villain played by one of the greatest actors working today, boring. Christoph Waltz has proven with his chilling, Oscar-winning turn in Quentin Tarantino’s darkly comic WWII epic Inglourious Basterds that he can play an unforgettable villain.
All he needed was some good writing — like Tarantino’s masterfully written suspense and dialogue for Col. Hans Landa — to pull it off. Instead, he was given no sense of threat, a nonsensical plan, and schlocky attempts at recreating classic Bond one-liners.
2 Best: Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger
Auric Goldfinger is the quintessential Bond villain. He has memorable one-liners (“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”), a crazy plan to plunder all the gold in Fort Knox that actually checks out, and unnecessarily convoluted attempts to kill 007, like the laser beam between his legs. There was initially controversy over the casting of Gert Fröbe, especially in Israel, since it was discovered that he had been a member of the Nazi Party — however, it was later revealed that he left the party before the outbreak of World War II and saved two Jews’ lives by hiding them in his basement, so he was absolved.
1 Worst: Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene
Daniel Craig’s run of Bond movies featured some truly great villains, but also a lot of truly terrible ones. Dominic Greene is a prime example of the latter. After Martin Campbell revitalized the franchise with the dark, gritty, violent, visceral, astounding Casino Royale, Marc Forster followed it up with the generic action movie Quantum of Solace. The villain is as mediocre as the film itself, with a vaguely-defined plan to dominate the oil industry and rehashed plot points like killing a girl with oil as a pastiche of Goldfinger’s gold-paint gambit. In the end, he’s defeated by a big explosion...‘cause oil.