Without a doubt, James Bond is one of the best film series of all time and Sir Ian Fleming’s literary character is also one of the best cinema characters of all time. But it’s not just the different versions of 007 or the Bond Girls we love, but also the best James Bond villains who we can’t get enough of.
Whether it’s Scaramanga or Goldfinger or Le Chiffre, these great villains continue to frighten us and while we want Bond to defeat them, we also love them.
Let’s go down the list and look at some of the best James Bond Villains of all time. And we’ll save the best for last.
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The Man With the Golden Gun featured a unique villain named Francisco Scaramanga – known for his reclusive lifestyle, his third nipple, and of course, his golden gun. He was played brilliantly by Christopher Lee who seemed perfect for the role.
But it was actually Jack Palance who was originally considered for the role. While Jack Palance would have certainly been great for the role, Christopher Lee truly made it his own.
Christopher Lee, at the time, was well-known for his work in British horror films such as Dracula, Death Line, and The Wicker Man. The Man With the Golden Gun showed his versatility and why he was the perfect villain.
It should also be noted that Christopher Lee’s mother re-married a man who was Ian Fleming’s uncle. Thus, Christopher Lee became the step-cousin of the creator of the very villain whom he’d one day play!
It’s believed that the surname Scaramanga came from one of Ian Fleming’s classmates. The Man With the Golden Gun follows the tradition of some James Bond films being named after the main villain. In these films, the villain almost becomes as important as Bond himself and Francisco Scaramanaga is often hailed as one of the best James Bond villains of all time.
What also made the character great was his imposing height – much taller than Bond and also the contrast with his henchman Nick Nack, who was much, much shorter!
Many of Roger Moore’s Bond films had a sense of comedy and campiness to them. The Man With the Golden Gun is no different but Francisco Scaramanga also brings a cold-heartedness to him which made the film such a classic.
Auric Goldfinger was played by Gert Fröbe and this was one of the strangest yet still frightening Bond villains.
His line “No Mr. Bond I expect you to die!” remains one of the best-known and most repeated lines from a James Bond film ever. What made Goldfinger interesting was that he was the total package – he was big, he was wealthy, he was intelligent, and he was ruthless.
While mostly known for his German films, Gert Fröbe is probably best known in the English language because of his role in Goldfinger.
What also makes Goldfinger an interesting villain is that he’s not sophisticated or suave. He’s vulgar and rather than wanting to control the world, he only cares about his own gratification and becoming wealthier. He’s not really interested in power but rather in gluttony.
While we might be used to torture scenes in cinema today including in later James Bond films, audiences in the 1960s – the scene where Bond might get castrated through a laser showed the mercilessness of Goldfinger.
And the way that Goldfinger died? Arguably one of the funniest and most brilliant ways that a Bond villain died. Perhaps he’s still playing his Golden Harp.
For many fans, Goldfinger is actually one of the best Bond villains and the film itself is one of the best films in the series. This is probably because Gert Fröbe was so great in his role that we know the name of the character but not always the actor. While we know the oeuvre of the other actors playing Bond villains, for many, Gert Fröbe is synonymous with Auric Goldfinger.
The first James Bond feature film was Dr. No and the fact that it was named after the main villain made the Bond villain almost deified – no matter how demonic they may have been.
What made Dr. No interesting is that we don’t see the villain until the end of the film. This made the character mysterious and in the beginning of the film, Bond has to battle many henchmen before he eventually comes across Dr. No.
While perhaps Dr. No is now overlooked by other villains, he’s still arguably one of the best which is why he’s on our list. He also seems to have paved the way for other Bond villains – he has two metal hands and he has a Nehru jacket.
This unique look and style of dress has been a recurring theme for many Bond Villains who are also dressed interestingly or have idiosyncratic features – such as Scaramanga’s third nipple, for example.
Therefore, Dr. No deserves a mention on this list. And without a doubt, this is one of the best Bond films and it’s what made the series such a success.
Of course, Bond films sometimes had one or more major villains. From Russia With Love, had a villain which we’ll explore later in this video. It also had a few henchmen and one henchwoman who were also popular in the film.
One of the henchmen was featured heavily in the film that he’s worth seeing as a villain in his own right. This was Donald “Red” Grant played by Robert Shaw.
Red Grant was one of the most ruthless and violent villains and throughout the film we see him doing nothing but kicking ass! He stalks James Bond and his only mission is to kill 007 forever. When the two gentlemen finally meet, he’s menacing and yet he presents himself as a friend first.
When he and Bond eventually fight, we almost feel that he will defeat Bond as he puts up a great fight. He’s arguably one of the many reasons as to why From Russia With Love is one of the greatest James Bond films of all time.
Mads Mikkelsen’s role as Le Chiffre was one of the most haunting portrayals of a Bond villain and this puts the character at the top of our list – still saving the best for last, of course.
But interestingly enough, the first time Le Chiffre was portrayed was by Peter Lorre in a TV movie called Casino Royale. This was the first time James Bond was adapted for the screen and the sheepishness of Peter Lorre didn’t make Le Chiffre a particularly frightening villain.
Later, in the 1960s, Orson Welles played the character in a film called Casino Royale which was loosely based on the novel and was a comedy film. The context of the film didn’t do much to make Le Chiffre a scary villain – even though he was played by the imposing Orson Welles.
But this changed in the contemporary Casino Royale when the Danish actor portrayed a villain who had the same ruthlessness that we associate Bond with. This was one of the darkest James Bond films and showed us that the new films, with Daniel Craig was going to be darker and more intense.
The Danish Mads Mikkelsen also became known more to English-speaking audiences when he got cast as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. This is the role that launched his career in English-speaking cinema. Of the contemporary Bond villains, he’s arguably one of the most menacing.
He also showed us that the Bond villains of today would be scarier and at least for some time, we wouldn’t see any of the cartoony villains that we saw in some previous James Bond films.
This meant that the villains would be exciting. And this brings us to our favorite James Bond villain…
ERNST STAVRO BLOFELD
The surname Blofeld came from one of Ian Fleming’s friends and is the surname of Henry Blofeld, a popular cricket commentator from England and one of the most delightful chaps about.
But the villain of Blofeld was anything but delightful.
We first saw him in From Russia With Love. Well, we didn’t actually see him as we only see his body but never his face. The role was played by Anthony Dawson who played the sheepish Professor Dent in Dr. No. In this film, he was credited as “?” which helped create the mystique of the villain who, through his company SPECTRE, wanted to rule the world.
Blofeld was played by different actors in different films – most notably by Donald Pleasance and Telly Savalas. We saw him again recently played by Christoph Waltz starting in Skyfall. What makes this new iteration of Blofeld so exciting is that there’s a backstory of him and Bond growing up as children together.
This makes him all the more frightening. What made Blofeld the best villain is that he wasn’t cartoonish and he had no morals whatsoever. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he doesn’t seem to spare Bond as he’s trying to leave MI6 forever. His henchmen miss Bond and end up killing his wife Teresa. This Bond film ends in sadness and it’s thanks to Blofeld.
We expect that we’ll always see Blofeld as one of Bond’s biggest enemies.
Are you a fan of the James Bond series? The film series is one of cinema’s greatest gifts and the series isn’t complete without the great James Bond Villains. While we want 007 to defeat them, we still have a place in our hearts for them.
Now, here’s what we’d like to hear from you:
Do you agree with this ranking of great James Bond villains?
Or are there ones you feel we missed out on? Who are your favorite James Bond villains of all time?