007’s Rogue’s Gallery – The 10 Most Iconic Bond Villains, Ranked
Every hero is only as good as his list of villains.
Brutal, sadistic, unnerving and even charming – across James Bond’s 60 years on film, we’ve seen a truly incredible roster of dangerous men and women, hell-bent on accomplishing their nefarious missions.
The latest Bond flick No Time To Die goes live on Amazon Prime Video today, March 4th. With two iconic villains sharing the screen, it’s the perfect time to revisit these iconic characters, and relish in their larger-than-life schemes.
With unique quirks to each of them – from hideous scars to surprising real-life influences – Bond’s biggest villains are every bit as iconic as the quintessential British superspy. Some spawned their own lists of homages and parodies across pop culture, along with references to real-life historical tragedies, bringing a very real political lens to these classic action films.
Here’s our top ten, ranked in order of effectiveness, skill, brutality, and sheer acting charisma.
10. Emilio Largo
Film: Thunderball, 1965
Actor: Adolfo Celi
Unique Quirk: Left eyepatch
Last Words: “Get him!”
While most Bond villains take the shape of some complex cocktail of gags, madcap schemes, and weird sidekicks, Largo is much like Bond’s prefered Vesper Martinis – simple, to-the-point, and effective.
Sporting an eyepatch and dressed in his signature white jacket, Largo’s plan is straightforward – after stealing two atomic bombs, he plans to simply hold the US and UK hostage in the process. It’s a bit tragic that his classic take on a criminal mastermind feels almost cliché to audiences today.
9. Hugo Drax
Film: Moonraker, 1979
Actor: Michael Lonsdale
Unique Quirk: Fake piano skills
Last Words: “Desolated, Mr. Bond.”
A peculiar cadence to his speech and an absolute mind-boggling evil plan to boot – Michael Lonsdale’s has the evil monologue down to an absolute science.
While a bit drab considering the other unforgettable faces on this list, he deserves a spot on this list for his eloquence and his ambitious, dastardly plan – aiming to poison the Earth and repopulate it with moon-men, while armed with a giant space laser to deter his enemies.
8. Elliot Carver
Film: Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997
Actor: Jonathan Pryce
Unique Quirk: Eyeglasses
Last Words: “It’s going to be a fantastic show!”
The Bond films weren’t focused on realism – atleast not until the Daniel Craig era. Long before that however, Tomorrow Never Dies Elliot Carver portrayed a media mogul modeled as a sinister, over-the-top caricature of Australian-American tycoon Rupert Murdoch. It’s stunning how the filmmakers even got away with it!
An all-too-real persona converging ideas of the information age paired with his Steve Jobs-esque wardrobe all the way back in 1997 – Carver was truly a villain ahead of his time.
7. Franz Sanchez
Film: Licence to Kill, 1989
Actor: Robert Davi
Unique Quirk: Water-themed murders
Last Words: “You could have had everything.”
License To Kill’s Franz Sanchez is your classic run-of-the-mill drug lord villain – ruthless, calm on the exterior, yet vicious with those he needs out of the picture.
He’s famous for including the legendary Shark Tank method of murder – along with giving real-life drug kingpins a run for their money when it comes to his ingenious smuggling tactics.
6. Le Chiffre
Film: Casino Royale, 2006
Actor: Mads Mikkelsen
Unique Quirk: Scarred left eye
Last Words: “Tell them, I’ll get the money.”
Math whizz. Chess grandmaster. Weeps tears of blood. Need we say more?
Played by Mads Mikkelsen, Le Chiffre represents the absolute peak of an intellectual Bond villian. Dressed in all black, with a penchant for cold and calculating work, this criminal banker moves more money in a minute than some national GDPs.
5. Alec Trevelyan
Film: GoldenEye, 1995
Actor: Sean Bean
Unique Quirk: Facial scarring
Last Words: “For England, James?”
Goldeneye was to many, Pierce Brosnan’s career highlight. It had everything – a perfect intro, incredible action scenes, just the right amount of spycraft and gadgetry, and a villain that casted a very dark shadow over Bond’s alliances to MI6.
Bean appears to die twice in this movie too, which is hilarious. His character does so in service of a pretty unique scheme for a 90s villain – an EMP that aims to cause a financial crisis that cripples the entire United Kingdom. Nice, as long as you ignore Trevelyan’s reliance on ‘hackerman’ style gimmicks.
4. Raoul Silva
Film: Skyfall, 2012
Actor: Javier Bardem
Unique Quirk: Dental prosthesis
Last Words: “Only you can do it. Do it.”
Portrayed by the incredibly talented Javier Bardem, Silva is a slightly different villain than most of the others on this list – mostly owing to the fact that his backstory is surprisingly sympathetic.
An ex-MI6 operative betrayed by Bond’s boss M, his horrific origins transformed the once-loyal agent into a force of sheer sadistic anger, flamboyance, and even borderline personality disorder. This was clearly one of Bardem’s best performances – reflecting what Bond could become if he were ever broken by the high-stakes, ruthless world of international espionage.
3. Francisco Scaramanga
Film: The Man with the Golden Gun, 1974
Actor: Christopher Lee
Unique Quirk: Third nipple
Last Words: “Ready.”
Sure, just being played by Christopher Lee gives any villain a license to thrill – but add in a circus marksman backstory, an ex-Soviet assassin career, an eccentric, calm attitude to both work and pleasure, and you’ve got the recipe for an unforgettable Bond villain.
Apart from the stellar performance from Lee and the legendary ‘Golden Gun’, Scaramanga is a massive fan favorite owing to his final showdown – one of the best gunfights ever captured in a Bond film. After all, this was no criminal mastermind with plans for world domination – just a ruthless gunslinger aiming to prove he was the best.
2. Auric Goldfinger
Film: Goldfinger, 1964
Actor: Gert Fröbe
Unique Quirk: Compulsive need for gold
Last Words: “She is where she ought to be, at the controls.
While the first two Bond films – Dr. No and From Russia With Love were successes in their own right, it was 1964’s Goldfinger that truly kicked off the Bond craze – resulting in record-smashing box office figures, much in theme with the film’s wealth-minded villain, Auric Goldfinger.
Obsessed with the titular precious metal, Gert Fröbe’s take on the character was a jovial and polite businessman on the surface – covering up a ruthless, sadistic, and hypercompetitive criminal mind.
Ready with countermeasures and merciless to his enemies, his evil plot to steal the entire US gold reserve is the stuff of film-villain legend, and has been parodied more times than we can count.
1. Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Film: You Only Live Twice, 1967
Actors: Donald Pleasance, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray, Max von Sydow, Christoph Waltz
Unique Quirk: Missing eye, facial scar
Last Words: “Cuckoo.”
Whether you’ve joined the franchise recently or been a fan for decades, chances are that you guessed our #1 pick would have to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Starting off as a shadowy figure who’s face is never revealed in From Russia With Love, he was first played by Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice (1967), pictured above.
Following this, the head of SPECTRE took on many faces. His introduction marked the end of Sean Connery’s classic Bond era, and followed through with several recastings and appearances – some hits, some misses – yet none as incredible as Christoph Waltz delivering his spine-chilling lines in Spectre and No Time To Die.
With a cold, calculating mind, impeccable style, and a great sense of dark humor, Blofeld has been the blueprint ‘evil villain’ for three generations of Bond fans – and may even continue into Bond’s future after Daniel Craig, after some major retcons.
No Time To Die; Daniel Craig’s last film as Bond, and the 25th film of the franchise, will have its digital premiere on Amazon Prime Video starting March 4 in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada.
(Featured Image Credits: EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)