Julien Neaves, Editor
Last Monday (March 15) American actor Yaphet Kotto passed away. He was 81. The actor is best known for his roles as chief engineer Parker in iconic Sci Fi horror film Alien, and for playing main villain Dr Kanaga in Roger Moore’s first James Bond outing Live and Let Die (1973). I enjoyed Kotto’s enthusiastic performances in both roles and he definitely left his mark on the film world.
Now I had been thinking about a Bond villain list since we got our first images of Rami Malek’s baddie Safin in the upcoming Bond flick No Time to Die (whenever it is finally released), but with Kotto’s death it feels like a good time to do the ranking and celebrate his memorable role. Now a major caveat before we get started—this will be a list of main villains, so you will not find any henchmen like Oddjob or Jaws here (that’s another list for another time). So with that out of the way and a gun barrel SPOILER ALERT let’s get shaken (but never stirred) and rank the Top 10 Bond Big Bads:
#10 Francisco Scaramanga, The Man with the Golden Gun
Roger Moore is my favourite Bond actor but The Man with the Golden Gun is my least favourite of his films. It is just so underwhelming and action-lite. But it is saved from being one of the worst Bond films by the late great Christopher Lee’s performance as Francisco Scaramanga. Lee was a master at playing the bad guy, and as this flashy, three-nippled assassin he just oozed cool and panache. And his titular golden gun is one of the memorable weapons in the entire franchise.
#9 Franz Sanchez, Licence to Kill
Licence to Kill is easily the most underrated Bond film. Yes it is super gritty and very dark but it is also very good and entertaining throughout. Contributing to that entertainment was Robert Davi as ruthless drug kingpin Franz Sanchez. This dude was as cold blooded as his blinged-out pet iguana, and when he butchered Bond ally Felix Leiter and murdered his blushing bride Della we couldn’t wait for this smug bastard to get his. And when Timothy Dalton’s Bond set him ablaze and he began screaming in agony it was like music to my ears. Too dark? Yeah, I don’t care.
#8 Dr Kananga aka Mr Big, Live and Let Die
Eighth Bond film Live and Let Die had its own rogues gallery of villains. You had the soft-spoken Whisper, sadistic hook-handed Tee Hee Johnson, and the theatrical and mysterious Baron Samedi (played by late Trinidad-born actor Geoffrey Holder. You know I gotta big up my fellow Trinis). But the biggest of the bad was Dr Kanaga, drug baron and dictator of fictitious Caribbean island San Monique. Yaphet Kotto was deliciously vile as this superstitious, misogynistic and power hungry politician/crime boss. And the scene where Mr Big rips his face off to reveal Kanaga left an indelible mark on my Bond-loving brain. Sure his exploding death looked utterly ridiculous, but let’s not blow it out of proportion. Get it? You get it.
#7 Le Chiffre, Casino Royale
Casino Royale is one of the best Bond films EVER. Feel free to @ me or fight me. I am willing to die on that poker chip mountain. And to be clear I am speaking about the 2005 version and not the ill-advised and aggressively unfunny 1967 parody version.
Daniel’s Craig debut film as Bond just delivers in every way: action, strong Bond girl, great story, and cool villain. Now I know someone will say “achually Le Chiffre was not the main villain but was just a subordinate of Quantum which was really Spectre” but he is the major villain so I’m going with that. A pre-Hannibal Mads Mikkelsen just nailed the suave, calculating banker to terrorists, whether he was battling Bond at poker or literally busting his balls in an unforgettable torture scene. But his luck ran out when Mister White gave him a bullet to the head. House always wins, sucker!
#6 Elektra King, The World is Not Enough
The sole woman on the list, oil heiress Elektra King is is also rare as one of the few “twist” Bond big bads like Kristatos from For Your Eyes Only or the number two entry on this list. When we first meet her she seems like the usual beautiful Bond girl-in-distress. But we eventually learn that sense-numb terrorist Renard is her lackey and she is the real one in charge. The stunning Sophie Marceau delivers a chilling performance as Elektra, wielding her sex appeal, power, and deviousness like playthings. And the scene where Bond is forced to shoot her dead and then caresses her body is one of the most heartbreaking in the franchise.
#5 Dr No, Dr No
Here he is. The very first big bad. Dr Julius No. This SPECTRE agent may be your prototypical evil movie scientist but his distinctive look, refined speech, and creepy metal hands really made viewers stand up and take notice. And the guy had a dragon tank. How cool is that?
Played with understated menace by Joseph Wiseman, Dr No was the first villain to capture Bond and wine and dine him instead of killing him. It became such a franchise trope that they lampooned it in the first Austin Powers film. And the diabolical doctor learned the result of his cavalier behaviour when 007 left him to cook in boiling coolant. Ouch!
#4 Raoul Silva, Skyfall
Ex-MI6 agent turned vengeful cyber-terrorist Raoul Silva is the most recent entry on the list, and he made quite the splash in Skyfall. Played by Academy Award-winning actor Javier Bardem, Silva’s witty, flirty and flambouyant nature hid a dangerous and calculating sociopath. Sure his elaborate plans were helped a lot by plot convenience but it looked cool. A truly unique villain, Silva will be remembered for mortally wounding Judi Dench’s version of M before Bond gave him the business end of a knife. #lastratstanding
#3 Auric Goldfinger, Goldfinger
Some Bond big bads have ridiculously over-the-top plans of global proportions like The Spy Who Loved Me’s Karl Stromberg or Moonraker’s Hugo Drax (and yes, both of these are Roger Moore villains. Leave me alone, Connery fans). But not Auric Goldfinger. He is all about the cold hard cash. Well, actually cold hard gold. And he is a simple, practical criminal with a very unthreatening appearance, kinda like a brash uncle who eats too much at lunch and falls asleep on himself. So when he is threatening Bond’s Crown Jewels with a laser and delivering one of the best lines in the entire franchise—“No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die”—there is an added menace to it all.
Now while German actor Gert Fröbe appeared onscreen it’s not his voice we hear, as his lines were dubbed due to his inability to speak English. But he remains one of the most famous Bond baddies in arguably the greatest Bond film ever (and yes, that is an argument I will make).
#2 Agent 006 Alec Trevelyan, GoldenEye
I promised you a twist big bad and here he is—Agent 006 Alec Trevelyan. I recall seeing GoldenEye in the cinema (it was actually my first Bond flick on the big screen) and being shocked at the revelation that 007’s former friend and presumed dead Agent 006 was not only still alive, but was the mastermind of a nefarious plot involving the titular satellite nuclear weapon. Too bad some genius decided to spoil the twist in a subsequent trailer. Idiot!
Sean Bean, who is currently doing some stellar bad guy work in Season Two of Netflix’s post-apocalyptic Sci Fi series Snowpiercer, is devilishly brilliant as the cocky and sardonic Trevelyan. His line about having “more money than God” is a personal favourite. Trevelyan’s betrayal adds another layer to his relationship with Bond and makes his over-the-top demise (and boy is it over-the-top) all the more poignant. Other franchise big bads may be more well-known but in terms of overall baddie quality nobody does it better than 006.
#1 Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Various
While I think Trevelyan is the best Bond big bad in terms of character quality, he gets beaten by SPECTRE leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld due to the massive impact on the franchise. Blofeld is our favourite secret agent’s nemesis, the Moriarty to his Sherlock, the Master to his Doctor in Doctor Who, the KFC to his Royal Castle (that’s a little Trini joke there). He literally is the biggest of the bad Bond has ever faced and the enemy that keeps returning like a bad penny.
Now the films where Blofeld appeared in full (I’m not counting his shadowy appearances in From Russia with Love and Thunderball) are not the best and range from the mediocre (You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) to the subpar (Diamonds are Forever, Spectre). Ironically the best film he appeared in was For Your Eyes Only which was a pre-title sequence cameo that made fun of the character. And the actor performances of him are also a mixed bag as well ranging from Donald Pleasance’s iconic turn in YOLO (also parodied in Austin Powers as Dr Evil), to the disappointment of Christoph Waltz in Spectre, to Telly Savalas’s meh turn in OHMSS, and finally to Charles Gray’s laughable take in Diamonds are Forever. Blofeld in drag? Seriously.
But despite the calibre of the films or his individual appearances Blofeld shadow looms large over the franchise and his status as the greatest evil remains undisturbed. And because of that he gets my crown for the ultimate Bond big bad.
So that’s my list. Did I miss any of your favourite Bond big bads? Feel free to sound off in the comments. For my ranking of All 6 Bond Actors you can click here. Or for my Top 10 Best and Worst Bond Films you can click here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.