The old adage goes that a hero is only as good as his villain, so it's no surprise that James Bond, a movie icon, has gone up against some of most memorable bad guys in cinema. But which Bond baddie was best? We've ranked 007's nemeses, from the supremely sinister to the just plain bad, including all chief villains and the most memorable henchmen.
40| Blofeld (Diamonds Are Forever)
Charles Gray was perfectly cast as James Bond's rakish ally Henderson in You Only Live Twice, and totally miscast 4 years later as the new Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever. Swapping menace for camp, he's a dud of a villain in a mostly charmless movie.
39| Gustav Graves (Die Another Day)
Pierce Brosnan's unworthy swansong has plenty of flaws—the invisible car, that windsurfing scene, but its limp antagonist, a Korean colonel (Rick Yune) who altered his DNA to pose as a British business tycoon—should be singled out as one of the film's biggest failings.
38| Dominic Greene (Quantum of Solace)
It's not Mathieu Amalric's fault, but Greene is sorely underwritten and ends up a tedious foe for Bond in Daniel Craig's muddled second outing.
37| Brad Whitaker (The Living Daylights)
An international arms dealer obsessed with military history? Sounds like vintage Bond villain material. But Joe Don Baker was miscast as the ruthless Whitaker—he fit his later role of Jack Wade, jovial CIA ally to Pierce Brosnan's 007, far better.
36| Elliot Carver (Tomorrow Never Dies)
The Bond series tried to be (semi-)topical by skewering tabloid media, but Jonathan Pryce failed to convey much menace as media tycoon Carver—and let's not even talk about his embarrassing 'kung-fu' display.
35| General Koskov (The Living Daylights)
Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé is actually great value as the deceitful Soviet general Koskov, but the character's so lightweight he barely even counts as a villain—hence his low placing here.
34| Kristatos (For Your Eyes Only)
Like the film in which he appears, Aris Kristatos (played by Julian Glover) is perfectly serviceable but not especially memorable. It's Topol who ends up stealing the show as Kristatos's long-time foe, the charismatic smuggler Milos Columbo.
33| General Orlov (Octopussy)
Steven Berkoff is dependably madcap as the disgraced Soviet general (yes, another one), but Orlov's limited screentime means he can't be considered one of the all-time great Bond villains. Plus, he doesn't even get executed by Bond—German border guards finish him off.
32| Nick-Nack (The Man with the Golden Gun)
One of the most divisive characters in the Bond canon. Yes, Nick-Nack is involved in the most embarrassing climax to any Bond film—Roger Moore scuffling with Hervé Villechaize before locking his opponent in a suitcase—but Villechaize himself brings an appealing, mischievous charm to one of the strangest villains to ever grace a 007 movie.
31| Blofeld (Spectre)
Christoph Waltz was terrifying in his breakthrough role in Inglourious Basterds, but his revamped Blofeld in Spectre was neutered by a naff backstory that made him Bond's resentful step-brother. From the world's most feared terrorist to sulky sibling.
30| Renard (The World is Not Enough)
Again, his impact is limited by a lack of screentime. (Bond writers? Two villains never works.) But Robert Carlyle's soulful performance and a classic Bond villain gimmick—a bullet in the brain that inhibits Renard's ability to feel pain—help add some color to a rather insubstantial character.
29| Kamal Khan (Octopussy)
Louis Jourdan is suitably suave but his villain in Octopussy—a 007 movie that's a lot better than you remember—is solid rather than spectacular. Has some great one-liners ("You have a nasty habit... of surviving.") though.
28| Stromberg (The Spy Who Loved Me)
It's Roger Moore's best, but while he's got a brilliantly bonkers evil scheme to destroy Earth society and rebuild a new civilization beneath the ocean, Curd Jürgens is mostly relegated to giving death stares and pushing buttons inside his underwater HQ. True infamy slips through his webbed fingers.
27| Baron Samedi (Live and Let Die)
Baron Samedi doesn't actually do that much—actor Geoffrey Holder only appears in a handful of scenes in Live and Let Die and the voodoo villain is mostly inconsequential to the plot. But his striking look, paranormal powers and that laugh mean he ranks far higher than similar third-tier Bond foes.
26| May Day (A View to a Kill)
On paper May Day's your typical bad Bond girl—she serves a male lead villain only to side with the angels after bedding Bond. But cast Grace Jones and you'll never get 'typical'. Her wild and unusual performance is a saving grace (pun intended) in an otherwise weak movie.
25| Xenia Onatopp (Goldeneye)
Famke Janssen is clearly having an absolute ball playing an assassin with *ahem* the world's most powerful thighs and her enthusiasm is infectious. Onatopp is a riot, even if the pun is appalling.
24| Mr. White (Casino Royale / Quantum of Solace / Spectre)
Perhaps the most complex Bond baddie of them all, Mr. White gets a three-movie arc, transforming from Le Chiffe's henchman in Casino Royale to an anti-hero ally to Bond in Spectre, where he meets his end. A fantastic character, though too sympathetic to be a truly great Bond villain.
23| Tee-Hee (Live and Let Die)
Roger Moore's debut is exceptionally strong on the bad-guy front, with Tee Hee one of the franchise's most memorable henchmen. His sharp style and mechanical pincer arm are all points in his favor, but it's a charismatic performance from the late Julius Harris that really makes the character stand out.
22| Franz Sanchez (License to Kill)
In an unusual brutal outing, Sanchez is a Bond villain free of gimmicks, but Robert Davi's intense antagonist is the perfect match for Timothy Dalton's more sober Bond—one of the few Bond villains to be genuinely, properly scary.
21| Wint + Kidd (Diamonds Are Forever)
In a film where most of the 'comedy' misfires, Bruce Glover and Putter Smith are a blackly comic delight as the endearingly unusual hitmen Wint and Kidd, with Smith—a jazz musician by trade—particularly memorable due to his innocent, hangdog appearance. The homophobic undertones are from another age, of course. Fun fact: Bruce Glover is Crispin "George McFly" Glover's dad.
20| Irma Bunt (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
Ilse Steppat is supremely cold and intimidating as Blofeld's domineering henchwoman. Plus, she gets added notoriety-points for the fact that she, not Blofeld, is the one who fires the bullet which kills Bond's wife Tracy… and she evades capture!
19| Raoul Silva (Skyfall)
Javier Bardem mangled his trademark good looks with prosthetics and CGI for Skyfall and the end result was one of 007's most bizarre foes to date, the horny, golden-haired tech-terrorist Silva. So wrong yet so right.
18| Hugo Drax (Moonraker)
The film itself shoots for the stars and falls short, but Christopher Wood's screenplay does include some of the all-time best Bond villain bon mots for madman Drax, delivered in wonderful deadpan fashion by Michael Lonsdale. "Mr Bond… you defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you."
17| General Ourumov (Goldeneye)
Ourumov plays second banana to the turncoat 006 throughout Pierce Brosnan's debut, but Gottfried John's performance remains absolutely superb, by turns cheeky ("You can't win."), domineering, and desperate. "HOLD YOUR FIRE—YOU'LL BLOW THE GAS TANKS!"
16| Max Zorin (A View to a Kill)
Roger Moore's final Bond outing is a mess but has its highlights: Grace Jones, Duran Duran's catchy theme song… and Christopher Walken doing Christopher Walken as the uber-intelligent product of a Nazi experiment. (Still, we'd love to have seen what first choice David Bowie would have done with the part.)
15| Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
"James Bond, who only 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!"—the beautiful but deadly Fiona scores high for utterly refusing to be wooed by Bond's notorious charms.
14| Elektra King (The World is Not Enough)
TWINE sought to dig a little deeper into Brosnan's 007, having him fall for Elektra, and Sophie Marceau is fantastic as the master manipulator who managed to wrap both Bond and her one-time captor Renard round her little finger.
13| Kananga (Live and Let Die)
Yes, his demise—popping like a balloon, after being inflated by a compressed gas pellet—is totally ridiculous. But otherwise, Yaphet Kotto is impressive and intimidating as the icy cool Dr Kananga, particularly in the scene where he rages at Solitaire (Jane Seymour) after she's slept with Bond. He even sells the character's absurd disguise as Harlem crime boss Mr. Big.
12| Blofeld (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
Telly Savalas's take on Blofeld is totally unlike all others—a charming Mafia-boss type and an imposing figure who could convincingly tussle with George Lazenby's scrappy 007. It's surprisingly effective. An under-appreciated villain from a sorely underrated film.
11| Emilio Largo (Thunderball)
"You wish to put the evil eye on me, eh?"—the early Connery films killed it when it came to villains, and SPECTRE's no. 2 Largo, with his chilly sneer and eyepatch, remains one of the most memorable over 50 years since Thunderball stormed the box office.
10| Le Chiffre (Casino Royale)
Before he was Hannibal, Mads Mikkelsen provided a truly unsettling opponent for Daniel Craig's blunt instrument. His lithe, deadly Le Chiffre is a world away from Fleming's bloated monster, but the scene in which he tortures Bond is equally effective both on page and screen. AND HIS EYE BLEEDS.
9| Rosa Klebb (From Russia with Love)
With a demeanor as spiky as her signature poison-tipped shoes, Colonel Klebb, played by the superb Lotte Lenya, was a truly fearsome foe, one who nearly succeeded in offing Connery's cocky Bond.
8| Dr No (Dr No)
The first and still one of the finest, Dr. Julius No is the archetypal Bond villain: clad in a Nehru suit, with a outlandish physical attribute (metal hands, which somehow imbue him with super strength) and a needlessly complicated evil scheme. Joseph Wiseman is fantastic as the not-so-good doctor, intimidating even sight unseen—that voice. Shame he was in 'yellowface' to play the part.
7| Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun)
It's a cruel irony that one of the Bond franchise's best ever villains should be relegated to one of the weakest movies. Still, Christopher Lee—arguably cinema's most popular and prolific 'villain actor'—remains phenomenally good as the eponymous Man with the Golden Gun, every bit as sophisticated and deadly as our agent 007.
6| Oddjob (Goldfinger)
Harold Sakata has no dialogue in Goldfinger, communicating only in non-verbal grunts and cries, yet Oddjob remains an utterly arresting villain. His razor-tipped bowler is a killer gimmick and his fixed smirk contrasts wonderfully with Sakata's physical presence.
5| Alec Trevelyan (Goldeneye)
"For England, James"—a handful of Bond villains (Scaramanga, OHMSS's Blofeld) could be considered 007's dark mirror image, but none more than Agent 006, played with brutal relish by Sean Bean. It's a neat twist that makes Trevelyan one of the franchise's most compelling antagonists.
4| Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me / Moonraker)
Just edging out Oddjob as the best ever Bond henchman, Richard Kiel's Jaws is part unstoppable juggernaut, part bloodthirsty killer and part clown and it's a combination that works supremely well, with the seemingly unkillable thug and his deadly chompers coming back to haunt Bond again and again.
3| Auric Goldfinger (Goldfinger)
"No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"—Gert Fröbe's snarling smuggler supreme (memorably voiced by Michael Collins) is the perfect villain for the colorful, larger-than-life Goldfinger, with some of the best methods of dispatch—death by gold paint, pulping a henchman alive in a car crusher—in the series.
2| Red Grant (From Russia with Love)
Robert Shaw's muscular, menacing, sharp-witted Grant is absolutely the best thing about the fantastic From Russia with Love—one of the most cunning foes 007 has ever faced, with a rare combination of physical prowess and a shrewd, if imbalanced, mind. What a performance, indeed.
1| Blofeld (You Only Live Twice)
The grandaddy of them all. Hired at the last-minute after original actor Jan Werich dropped out, Donald Pleasance ended up giving us the finest Bond villain of them all. With his bald head, disfiguring scar and strange, soft voice, this Blofeld is a truly unforgettable antagonist and all the parodies in the world don't take away from his effectiveness.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.