They say a hero is only as good as his villains, and that’s certainly true when it comes to James Bond. The British secret agent has saved the day in dozens of EON Productions cinematic adventures, but he is always nearly foiled by some of the most dastardly villains in Hollywood history.
With a little help from Q Branch, we’ve put together our ranked list of the most iconic James Bond villains that managed to leave us shaken, stirred, and everything in between.
We can hear the collective groan from all you James Bond fans from here, and we’ll admit it: Jaws has never been our favorite villain. However, we’re specifically looking at which of Bond’s rogues is the most iconic, and whether you love him or hate him, Jaws fits the bill (or maybe that should be “grill”).
Obviously, his metal mouthpiece makes the character memorable, but this James Bond villain is also known for being a fearsomely tall and imposing foe. The character just kept coming back from events that should have killed him, including falling thousands of feet with only a malfunctioning parachute to keep him safe.
Jaws very nearly came back for a third movie and ended up haunting Nintendo 64 players in Goldeneye, and that makes him very iconic indeed.
When ranking James Bond villains, it’s always a given that Francisco Scaramanga will make the list. This character was brought to life by genre legend Christopher Lee, and that meant that all of his line deliveries (if not the lines themselves) became instantly iconic.
We also love this titular man with the golden gun because he is one of the few James Bond villains who seems to pose a real threat to our favorite secret agent. A killer for hire who won’t get out of bed for anything less than one million dollars per hit, Scaramanga eventually tangles with Bond in a very memorable duel.
An iconic actor armed with an iconic golden gun…what’s not to love for fans looking for a good action movie?
When Daniel Craig took on the role of James Bond, the filmmakers took us back to the beginning. Craig’s first Bond outing was Casino Royale, a big-budget adaptation of the very first James Bond novel. The Big Bad of the story is Le Chiffre, and this villain was perfectly brought to life by Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen.
Part of why we love Le Chiffre so much is that he was both a psychological and physical threat to the secret agent. As Bond’s equal (or better) at cards, Le Chiffre very nearly brought Bond’s mission to an end while inside the titular casino.
When things got a bit physical, audiences got to squirm in their seats watching this James Bond villain torture the British agent in a very personal way: by repeatedly attacking his testicles in a way sure to make you wince.
Modern James Bond villains are often hit or miss, and one reason for that is that they have some deep shoes to fill. In the third cinematic Bond outing, Goldfinger, we got to see Auric Goldfinger, arguably the best villain of Connery’s era. The reason for this is that his sense of style was just as timeless as his insane scheme.
To start, Goldfinger doesn’t just kill people…instead, this James Bond villain has his victims’ bodies coated in gold until they suffocate inside their skin. If that’s not iconic enough, he also hatches a scheme involving irradiating Fort Knox in order to drive his own gold’s value up.
Throw in the famous laser torture sequence and you’ve got yourself one of the most unforgettable villains we have ever seen.
Ernst Stavro Blofeld
While he’s not as goofy as Jaws, we have to say that Ernst Savro Blofeld is another villain that is on this list mostly due to his cultural impact.
In the various James Bond movies, this character certainly left his mark…he was responsible for crazy schemes involving nuclear weapons and space lasers, and he even has the dubious honor of having killed James Bond’s wife (a woman the series very rarely references).
However, the main reason we included Blofeld in our roundup of iconic James Bond villains is that his face eventually became the go-to pop culture stereotype of Bond’s villains. Even though Blofeld would later change his appearance (and even later be brought to limp life again in Daniel Craig’s movies), everyone remembered him as being the original bald brute.
That’s why, of course, Dr. Evil was physically modeled after this character in the Austin Powers movies that so wonderfully lampooned the James Bond franchise.
While his later James Bond movies were very hit or miss, Pierce Brosnan hit the ground running with Goldeneye. Brosnan himself brought plenty of charm and the writing was excellent, but what really took this movie over the top was the villain: Alec Trevelyan.
As played by future Game of Thrones star Sean Bean, Trevelyan was great as a former 00 agent who broke bad.
As simple as it sounds, this James Bond villain is the closest the franchise ever came to giving us an evil counterpart to Bond himself. Trevelyan was just as smart, suave, and stylish as Bond himself, making the character an instant fan favorite.
On a personal level, we also really loved seeing a fellow secret agent who wasn’t afraid to call Bond (himself a trained and cold-blooded killer) out on his hypocrisy.
This is likely a hot take among James Bond fans, but our pick for the most iconic franchise villain goes to Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva. He has some commonalities with Trevelyan: he’s a former secret agent who decided to use his skills to wage private wars across the world.
What makes him a bit different, though, is that he has mommy issues too heavy for any ejector seat to remove.
Silva is a James Bond villain who is fixated on Judi Dench’s M character, and all of his global schemes amount to getting her attention and then getting revenge on her.
It’s textbook Freudian motivation, but Bardem’s performance gives this character an unhinged charisma we just couldn’t look away from. All of this helped to make his final confrontation with Bond in Skyfall feel like something out of an epic poem instead of just another showdown with a forgettable villain of the week.