PG Cooper: James Bond Villains Ranked

Posted: October 24, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

Everyone loves a good villain, and the Bond series has a plethora of great ones (and some not so great ones). Given that several Bond films have more than one villain, I’ve decided to help this list’s number of entries in order to talk about all the major villains.

24. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray), Diamonds are Forever

Blofeld had several different incarnations in the films, all of which will be represented in this list. Easily the worst version, and the worst villain of the series, is Charles Gray’s Blofeld from Diamonds are Forever. Blofeld was once an intimidating and scary force who commanded power and respect. Charles Gray washes away all that. His Blofeld is about as threatening as a caterpillar, and with little more personality. Plus, he isn’t bald! That probably sounds like a nitpick to outsiders, but Bond fans know that part of the character’s iconic image is being bald. Overall, Gray’s Blofeld is no way resembles the character fans know and love.

23. Kamal Khan (Louis Jordan), Octopussy

A really boring villain. What was his scheme again? Something about a golden egg? Whatever.

22. Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), Die Another Day

Smug, arrogant, and nonthreatening are just a few of the words that come to mind when thinking of Gustav Graves. He’s a pretty dumb villain throughout most of the film, but he’s put into the echelon of the worst near the end when he dons the robocop costume pictured above.

21. Karl Stromberg (Curd Jurgens), The Spy Who Loved Me

An extremely boring villain who’s about as menacing as a care bear. But what really thrusts him into the “worst of” category is the fact that Stromberg is the only weak element in The Spy Who Loved Me. Everything else is great from Bond, to the leading lady, to the gadgets, to the action. The film even has one of the greatest henchmen of all time. Everything is awesome…except for the villain. The quality of everything else shines a light on how poor Stromberg is.

20. Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), Moonraker

Drax is a Stromberg rip off and shares all his short comings. But his voice is more threatening and I like his beard, so that makes him better.

19. Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), Quantum of Solace

This character is pretty boring, but Mathieu Amalric injects some intensity to the film. Or maybe I’m just biased because Amalric is phenomenal in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Whatever.

18. Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto), Live and Let Die

Mr. Big is not a very well thought out villain. He’s too silly to be really menacing but too serious to be really fun. The “twist” set up around him and Kanaga is also really weak. That said, I like Yaphet Kotto a lot so I don’t want to dump on this character.

17. Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), Tomorrow Never Dies

I’m really torn on Pryce’s performance. On one hand, he’s eccentric and weird. On the other hand, he’s kind of annoying and isn’t very threatening. I will say, his performance is memorable if nothing else. Overall, I think Carter works better as an eccentric supporting character than as a menacing villain.

16. Renard (Robert Carlyle), The World Is Not Enough

Renard had so much potential. He’s a villain who can’t feel physical pain. That’s one of the best concepts for a Bond villain ever. Simple, but creates an interesting challenge. He’s also played by Robert Carlyle, who’s a talented actor. Unfortunately, the filmmakers really dropped the ball with Renard. Instead of an unstoppable badass, Renard is actually very sensitive and wants to talk about his feelings. Perhaps the filmmakers thought they were being clever by making the villain who can’t feel pain a very introspective character, but Renard comes off more like a baby than anything. Still, the concept is inspired enough to warrant his placement.

15. Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), A View to a Kill

The things Zorin actually does are pretty forgettable and his main scheme is a rip off of Goldfinger’s, but on the plus side he’s played by Christopher Walken. Even in the worst of roles, Christopher Walken is fun to watch. In fact, the best part of A View to a Kill is one Zorin goes nuts and starts shooting his own men while laughing maniacally.

14. Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal), From Russia With Love

Creepy, smart, and evil, Kronsteen is just one of the many great villains in From Russia With Love. He has a very calculating manner and I find his character very memorable. The down side is he’s barely in the film, hence his relatively low placement.

13. Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), Thunderball

Largo isn’t a very deep character, but he’s a threatening dude and he manages to pull off an eye patch without looking like a time confused pirate. He’s also the inspiration for one of my favourite Austin Powers characters, and that earns him some points.

12. Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), The Man with the Golden Gun

I have a lot of problems with Scaramanga. The three nipples thing is dumb, I don’t like how the film gives him a diabolical evil plot when that isn’t what the character’s about, and he’s challenged with being in a horrible Bond film. And yet Scaramanga still has a decent spot on the list. Why? Because Christopher Lee really sells that Scaramanga could conceivably kill Bond. Lee also brings a lot of menace to the role and creates a pretty cool villain, all things considered.

11. Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), From Russia With Love

While I wouldn’t call Klebb a deep character, she does show more dimension than most of the other villains so far. As a villain, she’s scary, manipulative, powerful, and dangerous. But she’s also a pawn to Blofeld, and shows fear in a number of scenes. Credit must also be given for the poison tipped blade from Klebb’s shoe (which Chris Nolan paid tribute to in The Dark Knight) and for her being the inspiration of Frau Farbissina.

10. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence), You Only Live Twice

Easily one of Bond’s most iconic foes. Blofeld had been alluded to in earlier installments, but it wasn’t until You Only Live Twice that audiences finally saw him. Donald Pleasence completely lives up the hype, showing menace and power, despite very little screen time. Blofeld also has one of the greatest scars in film. Classic character.

9. Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover), For Your Eyes Only

I’m sure a lot of Bond fans are shocked that I have Kristatos ranked so highly. They may be even more shocked to realize the reason most fans don’t like Kirstatos is the same reason I do. Fans complain that Kristatos isn’t very threatening and doesn’t seem like a villain. I agree, that’s why he works so well. Kristatos being the villain is actually a twist in For Your Eyes Only and it’s because he’s so unassuming that the twist works so well. Besides, there are plenty of menacing and powerful Bond villains. It’s kind of nice to see one that’s just a greedy bastard.

8. Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), License to Kill

Another villain fans don’t like, and one I like for the same reason fans don’t. Fans criticize Sanchez for feeling more like a real world drug lord than a Bond villain. I think this works really well. It’s a nice change of pace and he works for the tone of License to Kill. I also like that he’s a character that appreciates loyalty more than money. He’s also a pretty menacing villain, using torture on others frequently. More importantly, unlike a lot of Bond villains, I feel like Sanchez could exist in the real world.

7. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

My third controversial choice in a row, most fans prefer Pleasence’s Blofeld by far. While I love Pleasence, I feel like Savalas’ Blofeld outshines him. Partly because this version of Blofeld has a lot more screen time, but more importantly, I really like the way Savalas plays Blofeld. He feels like a brute who worked to build an empire and that his air of sophistication is merely a front masking a brutish interior. I find that very threatening and interesting. My only complaint is this Blofeld doesn’t have the awesome scar.

6. Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), Casino Royale

With Le Chiffre, the filmmakers found a sweet spot between classic Bond villain and real world type villain. As a classic Bond villain, Le Chiffre is threatening, powerful, brilliant, and he has a weird deformity (his left eye). But his motivation isn’t to rule the world, but to pay back terrorists he owes money to because if he doesn’t they’ll kill him. The latter point is especially awesome. I like that Le Chiffre is a villain acting out of fear and desperation, and not flat out villainy. That’s not to say Le Chiffre is a good person, the dude does fund terrorism, but the fact that he’s motivated by something more makes him interesting.

5. Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), GoldenEye

Villains designed to be the equal of Bond are nothing new to the series, but what sets Alec apart is that he’s someone Bond actually likes. He and Bond have a history, and Bond is more conflicted about taking him down than most villains. Alec is also a former double O, and is able to predict Bond’s actions. In truth, I feel like the filmmakers could have taken advantage of Bond and Alec’s relationship a bit more, but Sean Bean is beyond awesome in the role and more than warrants a high spot.

4. Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman), Dr. No

Smart, sophisticated, insane, deformed, and evil. Dr. No was the first Bond villain and he set the standard for the series. Though he isn’t seen until the film’s third act, his presence is felt throughout. His villainous goals are over the top and ambitious, but Joseph Wiseman makes the audience believe he could really accomplish such goals. The classic bond villain, his influence can be felt from Blofeld to Stromberg.

3. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (voiced by Eric Pohlmann), From Russia With Love/Thunderball

Interesting that Blofeld was most effective as a villain when he went more or less unseen. While we see glimpses of him, we never see Blofeld’s face. We do get a very menacing voice courtesy of Eric Pohlmann. What makes this incarnation of Blofeld so effective is how powerful he feels. He feels like an unstoppable force, a figure who’s evil could not be challenged. He’s ruthless, both to his enemies and his subordinates. Blofeld won’t think twice about killing his own men when they’ve failed him, as shown through the shoe-blade scene in From Russia With Love and the electric chair from Thunderball. Though his screen time is minimal, this Blofeld is an unforgettable entity and the greatest version of the character.

2. Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), Goldfinger

Auric Goldfinger is widely considered the greatest Bond villain of the series. Given him not being number one here, I clearly disagree, but will get to that later. What’s important now is that Auric is an awesome villain. He’s powerful and menacing, and constantly gets the better of Bond. Something a like a lot is that despite being inferior to Bond in many ways, Auric is able to get the better of Bond by shifting things to his terms. Michael Collins, who dubbed Gert Frobe, provides an excellent voice and is highly entertaining. Goldfinger provides so many classic scenes, my favourite of course being the laser scene. Menacing and evil, but maintaining a sense of humour, Goldfinger is everything you’d want in a villain.

1. Red Grant (Robert Shaw), From Russia With Love

I’m sure some were wondering why Grant didn’t make my henchmen list. Because to me, he isn’t a henchmen. He may be taking orders, but he’s his own man and is no more a henchman than James Bond himself. I’d go into detail about why Grant is my favourite James Bond villain, but I already did a year ago for my list of underrated performances. In talking about Shaw’s performance as Grant:

“Talk about great James Bond villains, who do people talk about? Goldfinger, Oddjob, Bloefeld, Jaws, maybe even Dr. No. Talk about the late Robert Shaw, people talk about him in A Man for All Seasons, The Sting, and Jaws. Everyone seems to forget that Robert Shaw played the best Bond villain of all; Red Grant in From Russia With Love. And I make no hesitation in saying Grant is the best Bond villain, or at least my personal favourite. I’ve seen every Bond film, and while there are some great villains in the series, none of them come close to Grant. What makes Grant such a good villain you may ask? Well, it’s hard to really say why. For one, the guy isn’t in the film a lot. You see him lurking in the background throughout, always guiding things into motion, but he doesn’t take center stage until late in the film. In fact, Grant doesn’t have a single line of dialogue until well over the first hour. But despite this, he makes an undeniable mark in the film. Every time you see Grant, you feel a sense of menace and danger. He manages to say so much with just his body language and mannerisms. And when the guy finally does have a confrontation with Bond, it’s the best scene in the film. Red Grant is also the only Bond villain who truly feels like the mental and physical equal to Bond. That alone makes him someone of note worth.He may not be as flashy as Oddjob, or as diabolical as Blofeld, or as crazy as Goldfinger. But Red Grant is the most threatening, most interesting, and most down to earth Bond villain of the series. This would not be true had Grant been played by an actor lesser than Robert Shaw.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  1. brikhaus says:

    Awesome list! I would put Renard at the bottom, his weak-ass pussy attitude easily makes him the worst Bond villain ever. I had also read somewhere that Stromberg was originally supposed to be Blofeld but they had to change it for legal reasons, or something. Just think how much better TSWLM could have been with Blofeld as the bad guy!

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      That would have been fantastic. And I’ve read that as well, I think it had to do with Kevin McClory. Glad you enjoyed the read.

      As for Renard. Well, I like the concept enough to give him some credit.

  2. Jeff Lee says:

    I gotta admire your dedication in coming up with this list. I’m interested in seeing Bardem’s baddie character on Thursday when I see ‘Skyfall’.
    Also, I liked your Rosemary’s Baby vs Alien comparison.

  3. wl5603 says:

    Very well thought out and written well. Makes me wanna see all the bond films again.

  4. ruth says:

    Nice to see Sanchez and Travelyan make your top 10! Funny that lots of people LOVE Dr. No. I had just rewatched it recently and he just isn’t all that menacing to me, but I guess that film being the first has a special meaning for us Bond fans!

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