Top 10 James Bond Movie Villains, part 2

… and  here are the ones that didn’t make the cut. Following up on Top 10 James Bond Movie Villains, these are the villains that we would have like to include, but just couldn’t justify doing so given our criteria. Nonetheless, they deserve some accolades by the merits that they do have. So:

Robert Shaw as Grant in From Russia with Love1. Grant: The blond assassin played by Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love makes the list because he’s a super soldier that’s specially trained as a brutal KGB killer and he’s an all around bad man. He performs his sinister business with precision and antipathy. Grant is a formidable physical foe for James Bond. Grant’s downfall, ultimately, is that he just isn’t as clever and resourceful as James Bond. That and he allows his greed to get the better of him.

Christopher Walkin as Max Zorin in A View to a Kill2. Max Zorin: We likes us some Christopher Walken. He’s such a delightful weirdo. In A View to a Kill, he gets to play a zany madman with too much money and charisma, and a master plan to nuke the San Francisco area so he can cause a rift in the Hayward and San Andreas faults, flood Silicon Valley, and dominate the microchip marketplace. And who doesn’t love a villain that owns his own blimp, dammit. It’s a crazy good time!

Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love3. Rosa Klebb: Who knew that a small, ugly, mean KGB Colonel whose primary weapon is a pair of shoes could be such a threat, but Rosa uses what’s she’s got to get more of what she wants…something like that. With her awesome powers of seduction (ah? clever?), she is almost more than Bond can resist … forget it, we’re not going to go anywhere with this story. Leave us to say, Rosa is a dangerous toad. Perfectly cast with Lotte Lenya doing the favors in From Russia with Love.

Putter Smith (Kidd) and Bruce Glover (Wint) in Diamonds are Forever4. Wint and Kidd: OK, these guys aren’t anything major on the megalomaniac scale, but they make up for it in sadism and sheer creepiness.  Bruce Glover is a whole mess of strange (and we have to assume that this is in the genes since his spawn, Crispin, is also a freak). We really can’t tell if Putter Smith is a terrible actor or if he plays it aces high as a genuinely weird villain. Either way, we were distracted while watching Diamonds are Forever by these dangerous doofs and just couldn’t figure out what to think of them. For that, we give them a place on this list.

Yaphet Kotto as Kananga and Mr. Big in Live and Let Die5.  Kananga/Mr. Big: Here’s another weirdo masquerading as a villain with Yaphet Kotto playing the mysterious Kananga in Live and Let Die. It’s all well and good that Kananga proves to be a bad guy, but when he converts to Mr. Big (essentially a bad ass voodoo Mr. Hyde-like gangster), James Bond wonders when he gets to play with the Russians or S.P.E.C.T.R.E. again. By the way, we’re not going to give Baron Samedi his own place on this list, but he does deserve to get some airtime. Again, another voodoo freak and we like him particularly because of his voice. If any of you remember the vintage Seven-Up commercials with the big black man that says “Crisp and clean, and no caffeine. Never had it, never will. Ha, ha, ha,” you’ll recognize that the actor, Geoffrey Holder, was the same guy that played the witch doctor in LALD.

Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun) and Hugo Drax (Moonraker) made the bottom of our “best villains” list but mostly because they were played by actors we like — Christopher Lee and Michael Lonsdale, respectively. We don’t care for these characters, but Jaws (played by Richard Kiel in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker), and May Day (played by Grace Jones in A View to a Kill) are certainly memorable.

Christopher Lee as Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax in Moonraker

Richard Kiel as Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me

Grace Jones as May Day in A View to a Kill

And, just so we don’t get grief from NICO.D. over at Technology4Democracy again, we’ve deliberately excluded Blofeld. He’s too big for this list.

So, anyone else we missed?

Top 10 Villains in James Bond Movies

Top 10 Favorite James Bond Villains

The fact that we are enjoying the 50th year of James Bond movies what with all the releases of this and that, caused us to reflect on the James Bond movie franchise again after so many months since our last posts. On our way home from work, we were quoting some of our favorite Bond lines, one of which is “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action,” by Goldfinger. It’s an immensely transportable quote. Its usage could apply anywhere (although perhaps the sub-phrase “enemy action” should be replaced with an appropriate alternative depending on the situation).

Anyway, we thought it would be interesting to revisit the villains of the Bond movies and have a go at sorting them from benign to deadly. When everything was shaken out, we came up with a list of the Top 10 Villains in James Bond Movies. Since the term “Top 10” is ambiguous, we’ll provide our definition for purposes of this particular list. Here are our criteria:

  • Character appeal: How engaging is the character (for example, do we “love” hating the villain)?
  • True Contender: Does the villain give Bond a real work out mentally, physically, or both?
  • Scope: How big an impact does the villain have on the story?
  • Actor/Actress: How well is the role played?
James Bond dressed as a clown from Octopussy

If our list was about villains that almost destroyed the franchise rather than Bond himself, the decision to put James Bond in a clown outfit in Octopussy takes it all. The only things missing were Ewoks.

Und zo, here is our list of the Top 10 Villains in James Bond Movies. First the short list in descending order:

10 Karl Stromberg The Spy Who Loved Me
9 Xenia Onatopp Goldeneye
8 Le Chiffre Casino Royale
7 Fiona Volpe Thunderball
6 Alec Trevelyan Goldeneye
5 Emilio Largo Thunderball
4 Ernst Stavro Blofeld On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
3 Raoul Silva Skyfall
2 Auric Goldfinger Goldfinger
1 Dr. No Dr. No

And here we explain the list.

James Bond Villain Karl Stromberg from the movie The Spy Who Loved Me#10. The bottom of the list was the hardest since there are many that just didn’t quite make the cut. Coming in at the #10 is Karl Stromberg from The Spy Who Loved Me.

Character appeal: Stromberg is a megalomaniac with a utopian vision. This type of character appears more than once in Bond films, but unlike Hugo Drax in Moonraker, for example, Stromberg’s vision is more idealistic than elitist. Hugo is a glorified Nazi, whereas Stromberg is more like Captain Nemo. One has to have a bit of sympathy for Stromberg’s vision, deluded though it may be.

True Contender: Sure. Stromberg has the capital, the army (navy really), and a plan that puts Bond in a frantic race to defeat him before time runs out.

Scope: Well, world destruction and reconstruction after nuclear war is as big as it gets.

Actor/Actress: Curd Jürgens‘ portrayal of a delusional villain with a world weary vision is completely credible … in the James Bond Universe, of course.

James Bond Villain: Xenia Onatopp from the movie Goldeneye#9. Unfortunately for the ladies, there has been only one true leading female villain (Elektra King in The World is Not Enough), so most of the villainy offered up by women has been through a supporting role. Our choice for #9 is not a bone toss to the women of Bond, however. Xenia Onatopp from Goldeneye is a deadly opponent worthy of respect.

Character appeal: Xenia is gorgeous. She’s also nuts. We want her to be sexy, but she’s pretty much just nuts.  Her unpredictability and violent fury makes her very dangerous. Plus,  Bond’s most vulnerable when it comes dealing with femme fatales.

True Contender: Uh, yeah. She can crush a man’s rib cage with her freaky leg grip thing. Xenia gives Bond a true gender-crossing thrashing for the first time since May Day scared him silly in A View to a Kill.

Scope: Pretty small, actually, because of the supporting role, but still, the main villain (Alec Trevelyan) relies heavily on her to protect him as he goes about his nefarious plans.

Actor/Actress: Famke Janssen is a very believable physical threat. She’s athletic and aggressive, but she also has the ability to reign in her sociopathy and come off as a refined woman when needed. Well, sort of.

James Bond Villain: Le Chiffre from the movie Casino Royale#8. Le Chiffre from the Daniel Craig debut, Casino Royale, is next.

Character appeal: He’s actually a pawn, we come to learn, but he holds his own when confronting James Bond. We like that most of the best danger takes place around a baccarat table.  It takes an interesting character to pull off such a subtle battle.

True Contender: Given Bond’s ego and passion for card games, Le Chiffre is indeed a dangerous fellow for Bond to tackle. Rather than besting Bond physically, Chiffre actually pulls off a better coup by beating him at the casino match.

Scope: Again, not huge, but there’s a hint of a much larger game underfoot.

Actor/ActressMads Mikkelsen is a good looking dude, no doubt. Combine that with an exotic eye and he’s mesermerizing. Like some of the other villains, it’s the subtly of his villainy that is so captivating. Mads pulls it off nicely.

James Bond Villains: Fiona Volpe from the movie Thunderball#7. We’ll probably get hell for this but bear with us. Fiona Volpe in Thunderball is another supporting female character that deserves accolades because she actually presents more of a threat at some points in the movie than the main villain.

Character appeal: We love that she is absolutely immune to James Bond’s charms. She not only can’t be seduced, she mocks James Bond’s limitations. That’s a big ouch for the Man from MI-5. She’s just generally downright mean, too. And she’s completely flip about it! Fiona  literally doesn’t care about anyone and leaves not just Bond but everyone else with lower self esteem after they’ve met her.

True Contender: Well, James had to go hunt around for his balls after taking on Fiona. That can certainly affect a man whose virility may be the difference between saving the world and whimpering in a corner.

Scope: Pretty small, but highly explosive.

Actor/ActressLuciana Paluzzi pulls off “smug” perfectly.

James Bond Villain: Alec Trevelyan from the movie Goldeneye#6. What’s the worst possible type of villain? The one you think is your close friend. Betrayal cuts right to the core. So it is with Alec Trevelyan in Goldeneye.

Character appeal: We like Alec right from the start. He and James have got each other’s backs. They’re daring, heroic, and loyal. So, a vengeful villain that is personally invested in the destruction of James Bond in addition to his much larger villainous plans makes him even more interesting.

True Contender: Bond and Trevelyan share the same training, skills, and intimate knowledge about each other. So, it’s like Bond fighting Bond.

Scope: Big. His plans call for a good old fashioned last hurrah of Cold War villainy.

Actor/Actress: Sean Bean just seems to have one of those faces that says “Yep, I’m the bad guy.” That was actually why we were caught off guard in the first few minutes of the film. Yeah, we’re slow, but once it was clear that Alec was the baddie, Sean eased into the role and made us dislike him very much.

James Bond Villain: Emilio Largo from the movie Thunderball#5. Speaking of good old fashioned fun … Largo (Thunderball) is the epitome of the self-possessed megalomaniac that is the foundation on which good classical Bond films are made.

Character appeal: Yeah, he’s sinister alright. And the eye patch makes him even more scary. It’s not surprising that Fiona Volpe is his underling. They’re just a bad crowd and Largo is smack-dab in the middle of doing bad things because he’s just bad.

True Contender: Yes. He’s smart. He’s ruthless.

Scope: He’s a big one. As Number 2 in SPECTRE, he has a large network of resources to unfold his sinister plan of stealing nuclear warheads and holding the super powers ransom.

Actor/ActressAdolfo Celi plays Largo convincingly. His physical appearance along belies bad-assedness. His sharp eyes and cruel mouth (Fleming used that expression for James Bond himself, but it can most certainly apply here) would make anyone who’s got common sense, back their bus waaaay up. Did we mention the eye patch?

James Bond Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service#4. The version of Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is our favorite. Yes, purists will complain that Blofeld shouldn’t be an American. Well, Nick Fury isn’t black in the Marvel comics (and the back-story pretty much would have to make him white), but Samuel L. Jackson plays that role neatly.

Character appeal: It’s Blofeld, for crying out loud. He’s the iconic number one baddie.

True Contender: Uh-huh. Bond pretty much gets his ass handed to him when Blofeld’s involved. Blofeld is almost always one step ahead of Bond, until the inevitable “Flaw” unravels the whole thing.

Scope: As big as it gets. The world always hangs in the balance when Blofeld hatches a plan.

Actor/Actress: Telly Savalas is a great actor regardless of whether you thought he belonged in Blofeld’s role. Maybe it would have been better to just name him some other villain for the benefit of those that don’t like the connection.

James Bond Villain: Raoul Silva in the movie Skyfall#3. Skyfall was a fantastic film for so many reasons including the fact that it was refreshingly un-Bondesque. It has been time for a shake up. Times have changed and so should the character. Anyway, like Alec Trevelyan and Elektra King, Raoul Silva is the formulaic betrayed and vengeful character that has proven to be a good convention for a Bond villain. The stories are richer because the personal connection complicates Bond. It’s the same reason the Bourne movies are so enjoyable. Trust destroyed can be a powerful catalyst for bad things to happen.

Character appeal: MI-5 agents are immensely resourceful, talented, and intelligent. So, it stands to reason that a agent particularly good at being good, could be even worse if he turned bad. Revenge is a dish best served bold.

True Contender: Yes. Silva is a fantastically adept villain with a very well developed plan.

Scope:  Kind of a mixed bag. Ultimately, Silva wants to take M down. The collateral damage is unimportant. In that way, the Scope gets big. And did we mention a well developed plan?

Actor/Actress: Who doesn’t like Javier Bardem? The man oozes talent and charisma.

James Bond Villain: Auric Goldfinger in the movie Goldfinger#2. This one is very hard because we can see #1 and #2 swapping places depending on our mood and view. But in the end, we think Auric Goldfinger belongs at #2.

Character appeal: Goldfinger is a big ego. He’s happy to get what he wants regardless of the collateral damage, but unlike Silva, he’s just flat out selfish and that makes him more dangerous since he really can’t be reasoned with and he’s not likely to succumb to poor judgment due to emotional impairment. He sees enemies everywhere and simply eliminates them, no questions asked.

True Contender: Goldfinger has a well organized criminal network at his disposal. Bond has his charm, Felix Leiter, and dumb luck. And there you have it.

Scope: Bombastic. For a change, he’s not about a Utopian world or global terror. He just wants all the gold he can get his chubby paws on.

Actor/Actress: It’s hard to think of anyone else in that role other than Gert Fröbe. With his piercing stare, his sinister laugh, and perpetual look of annoyance bordering on anger, Gert makes us really dislike Goldfinger. Yes, we root for his success to a degree just because we want to see him pull off the greatest heist ever, but really, in the end, we just want the bastard dead. Gert drills into that sentiment dead center.

James Bond Villains: Dr. No in the movie Dr. No#1. OK, this one may seem like the safe bet, but time and again, we keep coming back to it. Dr. No is the one that started it all. All villains are measured against him.

Character appeal: Well, if you like James Bond, you can’t not like Dr. No. He is the yin to Bond’s yang. He’s our first peak at how sinister and powerful SPECTRE is. He is super intelligent and ruthless. And, he can lead a criminal organization like there’s no tomorrow.

True Contender: Bond almost doesn’t save the day. A couple of errors in judgment on the part of a pre-occupied and miscalculating Dr. No is enough to give Bond the time and space to strike. And, unlike other members of SPECTRE that prove to be more cerebral than brawny, Dr. No is both. Bond could just as easily have died in his metallic hands.

Scope: Again, Dr. No sets the standard of big villain, big villainy.

Actor/Actress: We love subtle performances. If they are well done, they are usually more poignant to us than the over-the-top ones. Joseph Wiseman plays a dangerously quiet man who is one moment all business and then swiftly ruthless on his whim.

There you have it. Did we miss someone? Let us know if you think differently.

It’s no riddle why Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t in The Dark Knight Rises

Batman Villain

Look. There are lots of worthy villains in the DC universe to counterbalance the heroes. Lex Luther. Darkseid. Sinestro. Doomsday. General Zod. Braniac. Catwoman. Circe. Black Adam. Batman has some of the best. R’as al-Ghul. Two Face. Scarecrow. Mr. Freeze. Poison Ivy. The best of them all – The Joker. And of course, there are a bunch more. But not all of them are big enough to go mano-a-mano in a big budget feature film. So, when we found out that The Riddler was a potential candidate for the primary villain in the last film in the Christopher Nolan story arc, we were disappointed. The Riddler? He’s kind of a zany character and often a thug, but he pales in comparison to The Joker. He’s smart, but then so is R’as al Ghul and R’as is a more sinister villain. True, Nolan does quite a bit of good stuff with the material he’s given but after The Dark Knight, he had to go with someone really different to one-up that masterpiece. There was no way The Riddler was going to give The Dark Knight Rises the oomph it needed to end the series brilliantly.

DC Comics

We’re sure a lot of our bias is based on the impish portrayal or Eddie Nigma in the campy 1960s series as well as the ridiculous buffoonery of Batman Forever. But, the Joker came through with flying colors in The Dark Knight after the goofiness of the Caesar Romero and the odd Jack Nicholson versions. In fact, The Joker is a versatile enough character it’s hard to go wrong with him. But The Riddler just isn’t a strong enough villain and Christopher would really have struggled to make him a truly full-on foe.

The Riddler character

Batman MovieSo, when the studios pushed for Riddler, it’s fortunate that more reasonable minds prevailed (what is it with studio bosses? no wonder bombs exist – those guys are a special kind of dangerous idiotry). Having said that, we are at least curious about the “what if?” since Leonardo DiCaprio would have been running the villainous side of the good guy/bad guy conflict. But, while a superb actor, we just don’t see him as the annoying jerk that The Riddler is.

Well, anyway, we all dodged a bullet. See more details at Yahoo Movies.

Poll time:

The Riddler

The first appearance of The Riddler – Detective Comics #140 (1948).

Venerable Foes for The Batman

We are looking forward with heady anticipation to the final chapter in the Christopher Nolan Batman series. Christopher gets high marks from us. He simply doesn’t make trash. Tackling Batman not once or twice but three times is a feat. Batman Begins was fantastic and The Dark Knight is legend, so audiences are going to expect Christopher to blow our minds with the last film. After the incredible performance by Heath Ledger, however, we were thinking that no villain could match the intensity of the Joker character. After all, of every criminal (or psycho) Batman takes on, the Joker is most definitely his greatest nemesis. Whereas Batman is the pillar of order and justice, the Joker is random and cruel. Ledger’s lines at the end of the Dark Knight summed up the relationship perfectly: “You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness… and I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun! I think you and I are destined to do this forever.

In Christopher Nolan’s version of The Batman, Ra’s al Ghul is the first one to take a poke at our hero. Ra’s is a character with serious chops. A touch of mysticism. Intelligence. Ruthlessness. The same vision of an orderly world as The Batman but with a completely different value system. In the second film, the Joker stepped up to the plate and exploded. Game over, right? What could possibly be the final villain in the trilogy? The Penguin? This isn’t your campy Batman anymore, so, no. The Riddler. Really? A dainty man that robs banks and tries to outwit a hero that could destroy his face with one punch. Nope. Already did Scarecrow. Poison Ivy just means sexual tension and no action sequences. Mr. Freeze? We shudder to think about that possibility after his character was destroyed by the Adulterator. Two-Face? Done. Catwoman? See Poison Ivy. Harley Quinn? Great opportunity to build on the psycho theme but with the Joker gone, she’s paper-thin. Killer Croc, Clayface, Solomon Grundy? No, this is a feature film and Batman would dispatch any of these 15 minutes into the movie and we would want our money back. Hugo Strange or Black Mask? Could be, but not the major characters you use in a swan song. We suppose that leaves Bane or some other new character. It appears we are going to be seeing Bane.

Batman Villains

Artwork by Dennis Colver. Copyright 2012. The snarky dialogue was added by Comics A-Go-Go!

We’re not a big fan of Bane, mostly because DC threw him out as a gimmick (and didn’t really bother hiding that fact) in Knightfall. Bane’s a big bruiser. Smart we’re sure, but a physical villain mostly. Where there was an interesting mystical back story for Ras al-Ghul and a boatload of thrills and chills from the Jester of Arkham, Bane strikes us as a much lesser foe. Nonetheless, Christopher Nolan has taken up the challenge. It doesn’t hurt that Tom Hardy has been cast. If you haven’t seen Bronson or Warrior, do so. He’s a bit short for the role of Bane, but there’s no question he has the mass. Hardy is a talented actor and is up to the physical challenges of the role. If Nolan focuses primarily on the original theme of having Bane destroy Batman’s will as well as his body, this film could go places.

So, here’s to you Christopher Nolan. We’re anxious to see how you close your book on The Batman. And if you’re reading this, please send us IMAX tickets for the premiere. It’s the least you can do after we wrote such a sycophantic review.

Batman Bane

Any guess as to what that dot of light is hovering to the left of Bane's face? We're curious. Leave us a comment to let us know what do you think.