What good is a hero if they don’t have proper villains to square off against? Ian Fleming’s super spy James Bond has certainly done battle with his fair share of legendary bad guys, and he’s been able to get out of each encounter with his life intact. But who are the best of the best when it comes to the 007 canon, and which villains actually had the charm and skill to get some hits in on her majesty’s ringer with the slick trigger finger? Pour yourself a martini or three, as we’re about to show you the best James Bond villains and rank them by effectiveness.
9. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Various Actors/Films, Currently Christoph Waltz)
The Plot: Basically boiling down to world domination, extortion and terrorism, Blofeld has done everything from stealing nuclear warheads to create a biological weapon and even hijacking a diamond magnified satellite… to destroying the world’s nuclear warheads. And almost every plot involves him trying to extort various governments and alliances for one thing: money.
How Far Did It Get: As far as the classic incarnation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld is concerned, the effectiveness of his various plots is a bit shaky. His various schemes through SPECTRE underlings were foiled time and again, and despite the murder of Bond’s wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, his overall track record wasn’t exactly the best. Blofeld can get pretty close to almost in the endzone, but Bond’s usually ready to tackle him when the timing is right.
The Charm Factor: Blofeld’s charm, if there is any to be had, comes from his cockiness. For the most part, the character has been known to rule through fear rather than effective leadership, killing anyone who fails him in the slightest way. Save for some isolated moments, Blofeld isn’t really the charming type; more so the intimidating mastermind.
8. Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen, Casino Royale)
The Plot: Le Chiffre is a professional gambler/investor who helped Quantum (and, by proxy, Spectre) fund its terrorist operations. With several plots already successful by time we start Casino Royale, the next big score was to come at that particular card table in Monaco. Naturally, James Bond stepped in to try and bankrupt him before he could go any further.
How Far Did It Get: While he wasn’t a terribly hands-on sort of villain, the card shark at the heart of Casino Royale had a huge hand in making sure the evil deeds that Quantum/Spectre were carrying out were fully funded. So to a certain extent, Le Chiffre’s effectiveness is consistent as he was more of a case-by-case baddie, with one all-or-nothing card game cleaning him out. Though once Bond is on the case, two fatal failings manage to take this villain out of the game of Life.
The Charm Factor: A cool customer at his best, Le Chiffre manages to be an icy, sinister presence with some witty words here and there. However, he definitely has a temper to be lost when he doesn’t get his way, and sometimes his desperation pushes him to extremes as well. You can have a conversation with the man, but don’t expect the small talk to get terribly interesting.
7. Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe, Goldfinger)
The Plot: Obsessed with gold, Auric Goldfinger wants to make sure the stockpiles he owns are the most valuable in the world. Which inspires “Operation Grand Slam,” a plot to set off an improvised nuclear device at Fort Knox, which will irradiate the Kentucky gold reserve and render it worthless. All that has to happen is for Goldfinger’s associate, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), to eliminate the entire base with a nerve gas, and the world’s economic stage will be tipped in his favor.
How Far Did It Get: Missed it by that much. While Auric Goldfinger gets the atomic bomb into the vault at Fort Knox, Goldfinger’s title bearing villain sees his attempt to neutralize US troops stationed on base subverted by Bond’s charms winning Ms. Galore to the side of good. Still, having the bomb in the room counts for something, right? Wrong, because at the seven seconds to the big boom, someone merely turns the destructive device off. To add insult to injury, Auric Goldfinger is later killed after being sucked out of his private jet in a humiliating fashion.
The Charm Factor: Goldfinger’s big bad is definitely not a charmer. While he may have had a pretty strong plot to victory, the man is a bully who cheats at any game he plays, threatens enemy agents with lasers set to cut their most private of parts first, and likes to literally paint people into fatal corners. When he flies out of that plane window, you can’t help but cheer.
6. Mr. White (Jesper Christensen, Casino Royale – Spectre)
The Plot: While Mr. White may not be a centerpiece villain in the modern James Bond canon, the man has earned his place in the rogues gallery by being able to get out of the right places at the right time. The handler behind every major villain, save for Blofeld himself, White keeps the wheels of Quantum and Spectre moving, in an effort to further destabilize the world stage.
How Far Did It Get: Escaping capture by MI6, making sure the woman James Bond loved died a horrible death after secretly working in his employ, and only ceasing to be a threat once he developed a case of fear for his boss, Mr. White did quite a bit of damage before forced retirement. It’s just a shame that Spectre saw the dastardly villain fatally poisoned by his employer, begging Bond to put a bullet in his head to end it all.
The Charm Factor: There isn’t so much a charm to Mr. White as there is a heavy dose of sympathy towards the end. Despite being the man behind the man and doing some pretty dirty deeds, White draws a line at sex trafficking and tries to leave the game once and for all. Knowing he actually had a daughter he was hoping to protect also helps soften the man’s image, but aside from his smarmy way of surviving the odds, all we have to root for is his humane death.
5. Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce, Tomorrow Never Dies)
The Plot: Elliot Carver’s idea for world domination was one that came from the annals of history itself. Much as William Randolph Hearst was suspected of engaging in Yellow Journalism to spark the Spanish-American War, Carver wanted to trigger World War III between China and the UK in order to grab ratings and market share. Using a brand new stealth boat of his design, and a GPS encoder that could convince any vessel it hasn't crossed enemy lines (when it really has) the stage was set for Doomsday.
How Far Did It Get: Carver was already destabilizing the world on a much smaller scale through blackmail and sensationalism, so he had a strong foundation for this new play. He even executed a successful attack against both countries that pushed Tomorrow Never Dies’ true caper into motion, thanks to his arsenal of deadly sea toys. If it wasn’t for Bond's efforts with Chinese agent Colonel Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh,) Elliot Carver would have gotten away with his scheme, as he has British and Chinese forces ready to retaliate against each other. But due to some quick thinking, and a pithy one-liner, 007 was able to save the day in style yet again.
The Charm Factor: Elliot Carver has a fair amount of charm to himself, even when he’s at his most villainous. It’s hard not to smile when watching him say “There’s no news like bad news,” and that’s a huge credit to Jonathan Pryce’s performance. While known to lose his temper, and definitely a candidate for a horrible husband in the Bond universe, he manages to do it all with a sense of glee.
4. Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi, License To Kill)
The Plot: The head of a drug cartel in Central America, Franz Sanchez is running drugs through his network of production and distribution. In terms of License To Kill’s plot, the more specific part of Sanchez’s plot is his intent to expand his reach to Asia and various countries in the Pacific.
How Far Did It Get: Already the head of a pretty successful cartel, and able to kill Felix Leiter’s new wife, Della (Priscilla Barnes), Sanchez opens his tenure in License To Kill pretty hard and fast. With the DEA also compromised by his generous monetary donations, and a televangelist helping keep customers aware of how the narcotics market is moving, Franz is pretty far along in his ambitions. But in terms of the specific expansion to the Pacific theater, those hopes go up in smoke just as he’s pitching those first shipments.
The Charm Factor: Franz Sanchez, while an obviously jealous lover and a cutthroat businessman, isn’t above rewarding those he feels he can trust. We see this as he tries to win over the rogue agent James Bond, who uses his recent resignation as a means to cover his true motives of revenge. While you don’t want to be on his bad side, Sanchez is a man who can motivate with more than just fear.
3. Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee, The Man With The Golden Gun)
The Plot: Francisco Scaramanga is here to do two things: kill James Bond and auction off the Solex Agitator, a Macguffin that takes the power of the sun and turns it into a destructive weapon. Seeing as he acquires that device through the help of righthand man Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize), the only goal he really leaves himself accomplishing is that first point of order.
How Far Did It Get: Scaramanga gets insanely close to killing James Bond. This isn’t a simple case of him failing because of Bond’s craftiness in a huge, explosive end. Rather, Bond is invited into Francisco’s home, dines with the man and is even given a tour of the entire evil operation before being challenged to a duel. If it wasn’t for Bond replacing his own wax likeness and shooting first when it came to the big showdown, we might have had a modern sun god on the run.
The Charm Factor: Some of the best villains are dark mirrors of James Bond’s charming, and at times womanizing, persona. Francisco Scaramanga is certainly one of the prime examples of what happens when a good killer goes bad, as he has the charmed and lavish lifestyle Bond is known to enjoy from time to time. Also, he’s played by Christopher Lee, and that in and of itself lends a dark power to the wiles of this adversary.
2. Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean, Goldeneye)
The Plot: A rogue agent left for dead after a fateful mission with 007, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), also known as 006, enacts a plot that he’s been building to his whole life. Ready to collapse the British government with an act of “petty theft,” Trevelyan uses his clout as an organized crime boss to steal the twin prototype satellites, codenamed Goldeneye, as well as an EMP resistant Tiger helicopter, in order to create an economic disaster of then unheard of proportions.
How Far Did It Get: Trevelyan got pretty far into his planned revenge against crown and country, as he was able to make off with access to the Tiger helicopter, as well as the Goldeneye weapons system. One of the two satellites was even used in the process, ensuring that Alec would be the only person able to use the remaining weapon. But, of course, in the middle of the final countdown to ruin, James Bond literally jams up the gears of his former colleague’s plan and ensures his fiery/pointy death.
The Charm Factor: Alec Trevelyan is the dark James Bond, full stop. With the same training, and the same sly personality to boot, he’s very much an equal match for 007’s legacy of martinis, girls and guns. If it wasn’t for his long standing axe to grind, he might have lived to see another day of action; but what is a villain but a hero with a statement to make.
1. Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem, Skyfall)
The Plot: A disavowed MI6 agent traded to a foreign government by M (Judi Dench) herself, Raoul Silva is obsessed with getting his personal revenge against his former employer. In the process, Silva is bent on showing how ineffective MI6 is at protecting its own people.
How Far Did It Get: Technically, Silva succeeds pretty admirably, as right in the cold open, his henchman obtains the list of MI6 operatives and their identities. Several are killed, forcing M and the rest of MI6 to go underground; as well as a larger inquiry into their own effectiveness. Throw in M’s untimely death at the end of Skyfall, and it’s a pretty devastating attack on the organization Bond is sworn to uphold.
The Charm Factor: Silva exudes charm, acting as a dark mirror of who James Bond could have been if he really let his darker demons take control. Plus, he totally flirts with Bond during his introductory interrogation, leading to one of the most entertaining moments of chemistry between 007 and one of his foes. It’s been said before, and I’m here to confirm it for all time: Silva is, at least at the moment, the best James Bond villain ever.
There you have it: James Bond’s best foes are ranked and filed in accordance with their skills and grace. It’s a lineup that any hero would be lucky to have, when looking at their journey of identity, as folks like this help make Bond the hero that he’s known to be to this very day. We’ll see how Rami Malek’s Safin stacks up to the lot, when No Time To Die makes its way to theaters in the near future; and won’t that be a fun conversation to have when the dust settles.