The old adage says a hero is only as good as his villains; with that in mind, James Bond has more than earned his title as one of the greatest onscreen heroes of all time. Over the last five decades, 007 has encountered myriad villains that have challenged him not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
With Spectre – the villainous organization, and dark analog to Bond’s own MI6 – set to return in the upcoming film of the same name, let’s take a look back at some of the best rogue’s our favorite British secret agent has encountered over the years.
#9: Raul Silva – Skyfall
A Bond villain for the digital age; Raul Silva – played by Oscar winner Javier Bardem – technically is more of M’s enemy than Bond’s. Playing off of themes of loyalty, Skyfallexamines the relationship of two men with vastly different perceptions of the same maternal figure. On one hand, Silva feels betrayed due to M’s abandonment of him while on assignment while Bond can learn to forgive her and focus on the job at hand. Silva takes a page from Heath Ledgers Joker – a gleeful mastermind who seems to always come out ten steps ahead of our heroes – but ultimately feels more human once we see the betrayal and anger he feels at those he once called his allies.
#8: Auric Goldfinger - Goldfinger
All Auric Goldfinger wanted to do was make his fortune more valuable by irradiating the entire supply of gold stockpiled at Fort Knox. As outlandish and inconceivable as his plan was, he also remains one of the more stylish and ruthless villains Bond has ever faced. Goldfinger proved that Bond movies did not need to be set against the backdrop of the Cold War to entertain. Goldfinger was simply a criminal mastermind -- a man who loves gold so much he used it to kill the beautiful yet ill-fated Jill Masterson. Perhaps his most notable contribution to the Bond mythos comes from him uttering the iconic line, “no Mr. Bond I expect you to die.”
#7: Rosa Klebb – From Russia With Love
While Bond has encountered numerous femme fatales over his decades of service, most have been sexpots and few have ever existed as the true villain of the story. Rosa Klebb made her mark as a villainess by proving herself just as ruthless as any male villain in Bond’s considerable rogues gallery. Bond’s sophomore outing in From Russia With Love proved that enormous danger could come in small packages. The blade hidden in her shoe instantly became an instant icon, and would even be referenced forty years later in the Pierce Brosnan outing Die Another Day.
#6: Le Chiffre – Casino Royale
He cries blood; need we say more? Although not particularly physically imposing – and not even ultimately taken out by Bond himself – Le Chiffre perfectly encapsulated the direction of Daniel Craig’s rebooted Bond. Grounded in a more realistic world, Le Chiffre represented the first Bond villain who could truly inhabit a post 9/11 world: a banker who could finance terror groups all over the world. He didn’t need a giant laser, or a nuclear weapon; he could destabilize the world with some money and a few willing mercenaries. It’s no wonder Madds Mikkelsen would go on to play Hannibal Lecter; Le Chiffre has a dignified charisma that hides a hidden vicious side – men around the world will forever cringe at his torture methods.
#5: Jaws – The Spy Who Loved Me
The name says it all. A mute mercenary known throughout the criminal underworld, Jaws first appeared in The Spy Who Loved Me, and easily stood out as the highlight of the film – impressive, considering its arguably Roger Moore’s best outing. Fans remember him for his steel teeth, and his ability to survive almost anything he encounters. This provided the filmmakers with a chance to show Bond at his scrappiest, and most inventive, as sheer brute force could never subdue Jaws. His later appearance in Moonraker diluted the character into something of a punchline, but his first appearance will always mark one of the scariest villains Bond has ever encountered.
#4: Dr. No – Dr. No
The one who started it all. The Bond formula had not fully worked itself out in 1962 whenDr. No hit the silver screen, but one element that seemed to almost immediately his its stride came in the form of the film’s antagonist: Dr. Julius No. Possessing a cold, analytical demeanor, No existed as perfectly antithetical to the larger than life, hero. Many traits associated with No would go on to become staples of the genre: physical deformity, Nehru jackets, exotic hideout, and even association with Spectre.
#3: Oddjob – Goldfinger
While Auric Goldfinger definitely deserves his place on this list, his associate Oddjob most certainly made the more memorable impression. Bond villains have almost always come in pairs – for every evil mastermind, there’s an obedient, sadistic henchman. We can all remember the first time we heard the “whoosh” sound as his razor brimmed hat decapitated a statue. While the series established this trope before Goldfinger, Oddjob represents the first henchman to possess the unbeatable, almost superhuman qualities that would go ! on to be ! the norm for the franchise. Without Oddjob, we likely never would have seen evil sidekicks like Xenia Onatopp, or even Jaws.
#2: Alec Trevelyan - Goldeneye
The dark mirror. While many villains have challenged Bond over the years, none have had as personal a connection to the Character as Alec Trevelyan – A.K.A 006. Supposedly killed on assignment years ago, Goldeneye heavily implies that the weight of Trevelyan’s death serves as one of the many causes of Bond’s self-destructive tendencies. A physical and mental match in equal measures, 006 can go toe-to-toe with Bond in almost any arena – he can even recognize a potential sabotage in the form of Bond’s watch. Perhaps his greatest strength comes from the fact that he can make Bond do something we seldom see: hesitate.
#1: Ernst Stavro Blofeld – You Only Live Twice (among others)
We couldn’t have picked anyone else, as the head of Spectre, Blofeld almost single-handedly established the archetype of genius evil mastermind. Bond’s most recurring nemesis, Blofeld also holds the distinction of murdering Bond’s wife Tracy on their wedding day. Although played by many actors over the course of the Bond films, from Telly Savalas to Charles Gray to (potentially) Christoph Waltz, Donald Pleasance will always own character after his iconic portrayal in You Only Live Twice. Many attributes of the character seem cliché by todays standard – the facial scar, the white cat, the volcano lair all conjure images of Dr. Evil – but that only speaks to the legacy established by this iconic, terrifying villain.