Ian Fleming’s James Bond is an iconic action hero like no other. Suited and booted in a smart tuxedo and dashing good looks, Bond is as well-known for his own suave arrogance, as he is for all the bells and whistles that came with such a character. Elegant cars, bizarre gadgets, seductive women and maniacal villains have come to define the James Bond franchise, with the modern era of the character having dialled back on the character’s more fantastical elements.
Nonetheless, earning the role of a villain in a James Bond film has become as rewarding as securing the role of the title character himself, with some of the finest actors of contemporary cinema having starred in Daniel Craig’s most recent outings. Each of Mads Mikkelsen, Christoph Waltz and Javier Bardem have enjoyed taking on a snarling hatred for Bond’s irritating British ego.
Whilst such actors have come to define modern Bond, with excellent performances across the board, the history of the franchise has produced some of the most well-known and eccentric antagonists of all time. From bizarre henchmen with unique fighting skills to powerful arch-villains with a hatred for Bond and the world around them, the series has yet to present the character with a truly unbeatable threat, though each are formidable foes.
Spanning the tenures of Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan, let’s take a look back at the very best James Bond villains of all time.
The 10 greatest James Bond villains:
10. Fiona Volpe – Thunderball
One of the finest female villains ever to grace the franchise, Fiona Volpe is the strong, seductive Spectre henchwoman of Thunderball’s main antagonist Emilio Largo.
Highly capable of cold-blooded murder, Volpe is a confident killer who lures Bond into bed before trapping him at gunpoint, saying: “James Bond, the one [who] has to make love to a woman, and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, and turns to the side of right and virtue…but not this one!”. A fantastic character and a formidable foe, Fiona Volpe is often overlooked in the history of Bond.
9. Albert Wint and Mr. Charles Kidd – Diamonds are Forever
In Sean Connery’s final outing as the iconic character and one of James Bond’s most camp adventures yet, Diamonds are Forever, two close friends Albert Wint and Mr. Charles Kidd, carry a sinister undertone.
Somehow perfectly riding the line between enjoyably silly and genuinely disturbing, Wint and Kidd are played perfectly by actor Bruce Glover and famous jazz musician Putter Smith. Sharing a dark, homoerotic thrill for a gruesome murder, Wint and Kidd aren’t very formidable villains, though they are certainly memorable, providing the films with a refreshingly fun take on maniacal insanity.
8. Dr. Julius No – Dr. No
The very first cinematic bond villain, Dr. Julius No helped to establish the stereotypical Bond nemesis, being a genius scientist eager for world domination whilst sitting in the comfort of his elaborate island lair.
Armed with a band of loyal henchmen as well as a somewhat useless bionic hand, Dr. Julius No is less a proficient fighter, and more a powerful, intelligent individual, well depicted by Joseph Wiseman. Cold yet strangely elegant, Julius No is a straightforward Bond villain, vicious, deceptive and driven by his own over-inflated ego. So classic was his portrayal, that despite decades of films to choose from, Dr. No was a major source of inspiration for Dr. Evil in Austin Powers International Man of Mystery.
7. Jaws – The Spy who Loved Me / Moonraker
The towering figure of the silver-toothed Jaws has since become one of the most iconic images of the James Bond’s franchise, a memorable foe thanks to his influential aesthetic and bombastic brawls with the titular character.
Fantastically portrayed by the late Richard Kiel, Jaws appeared in two films starring Roger Moore in the lead role, The Spy who Loved Me and Moonraker. By far the most memorable part of both forgettable Moore outings, Jaws was the perfect henchman for James Bond to come up against, as whilst the British spy worked on wit and skill, Jaws operated on pure brute strength and ceaseless effort.
6. Oddjob – Goldfinger
Perhaps the most ridiculed James Bond henchman, Oddjob has been satirised throughout the world of TV and film, an easy target thanks to his mute role and use of his bowler hat as a lethal weapon.
The right-hand man of Auric Goldfinger, Oddjob is a loyal and impossibly strong henchman that poses a genuine threat to James Bond thanks to his cunning wit. Using his bowler hat as a sharp projectile that slices through flesh like a knife through butter, he is an unflinching opponent that cares little of Bond’s stature or ego. Though mute, the character of Oddjob is elevated by occasional leaks of emotion and satisfaction.
5. Rosa Klebb – From Russia With Love
The first and only female arch-nemesis of James Bond, Rosa Klebb is a powerful, strict Spectre agent who takes the fight to the British spy with a valiant effort in Sean Connery’s second film, From Russia With Love.
Whilst the iconic Ernst Stavro Blofeld lurks in the background of the film, it is Rosa Klebb who goes about bringing Bond down with dictatorial orders. Planning to steal a secret decoding machine from the Soviets, Rosa Klebb deceives every individual she comes across before being killed herself by a double-crossing agent Tatiana Romanova. Armed with a knife neatly concealed within her shoe, Rosa Klebb remains an iconic James Bond villain with genuine capabilities to hurt the classic character.
4. Alec Trevelyan – GoldenEye
The Pierce Brosnan era of James Bond isn’t known for its intricate stories and attention, though the actor’s very first foray into the character in Goldeneye remains the very best of his tenure, with thanks to Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan.
Moving away from the trappings of the 20th-century cold war, GoldenEye embraces modernity in more ways than one, urging the character into the new millennium with an altogether more intelligent villain. Alec Trevelyan, a former 006 agent left to die by a previous 007, comes back to the organisation for revenge, bringing the very organisation that abandoned him down from the inside. Both physically and psychologically daunting, he’s likely one of Bond’s most formidable foes.
3. Ernst Stavro Blofeld – Multiple Films
Certainly the most iconic of all of James Bond’s villains, the scarred, cat-stroking maniacal evil of Ernst Stavro Blofeld has stalked 007 throughout several films including Connery’s You Only Live Twice through to Daniel Craig’s Spectre.
The mastermind behind Spectre, Ernst Stavro Blofeld is Bond’s arch-nemesis even if he rarely gets his hands dirty himself, leaving much of his murderous work to his loyal underlings. The menacing shadow leading the threat behind many of James Bond’s early outings, Blofeld represents psychotic chaos, exactly that which 007 and his sturdy, straight-talking demeanour stands against.
2. Francisco Scaramanga – The Man with the Golden Gun
Portrayed by the iconic Christopher Lee, the great Francisco Scaramanga appears in one of the worst James Bond films, Roger Moore’s The Man with the Golden Gun, an irredeemable mess made palatable by the excellent villainous performance.
A professional assassin who assembles his golden gun together from multiple parts, Francisco Scaramanga is a cool, ruthless villain made all the better by Christopher Lee’s menacing performance. With many sides to his eccentric character, Scaramanga is in equal parts a deadly assassin, seductive lover and theatrical showman who puts up a formidable, entertaining threat to Moore’s Bond.
1. Auric Goldfinger – Goldfinger
Popularly recognised as the greatest James Bond film of all time, Goldfinger is driven by excellent characters and a story that well treads the line between absurdity and sincerity, following an eccentric maniac with a love for gold.
Auric Goldfinger is a greedy, egotistical madman with an insane plan to hire a fleet of pilots and stage a raid on Fort Knox so that he can destroy America’s gold reserves to make his stash all the more valuable. With such a strange plan, there is truly no other villain like Goldfinger, focused purely on monetary gain other than physical harm or world domination. Originally intended to be played by Orson Welles, Gert Frobe was brought on due to Welles’ high wage demands and nailed it with his frank, sarcastic approach to James Bond’s efforts.
“Do you expect me to talk?”
“No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.”