They say a James Bond movie is only as good as its villain. That’s not always true—weak bad guys unwind fantastic Bond movies. Stellar villains elevate terrible installments. While England’s top spy has gone head-to-head against a variety of foes, you can’t deny that some have served as meatier adversaries as others. That’s why we have to do what any Bond fan must do: rank every single James Bond villain in a big list.
Jacob Hall for Esquire put together a ranking of all villains in the James Bond franchise. Two things about about this franchise will always be true: There is no such thing as objectivity when talking about these movies (Your favourite Bond movie is someone else least favourite, and each movie is exactly as bad as it is good for incompatible reasons), and that ranking the films is an equal to if not greater part of being a fan than watching them.
Any ranking will show the hand of the rank-er, and you could make a reasonable business doing tarot readings based on a persons Bond movie rankings. From my (equally subjective and not authoritative) standing, some choices in Hall’s list feel wildly indefensible, like putting Rick Yune’s Zhao from Die Another Day (Diamond face! In the canon of Jaws, Oddjob and Tee Hee for memorable gimmicky henchmen, regardless of how bad the actual movie is) so far below people like the nameless thug from the Casino Royale cold open, and putting cartoonish performances like Joe Don Baker’s Brad Whitaker above Sophie Marceau’s movie-transcending Elektra King (Like with Zhao, it feels like the quality of the film is overshadowing the quality of the character and performance in the list). Now I’m sure anyone who just read that will equally shake their head in frustration with me. But that’s, of course, all part of the game. My top five are going to be your bottom five and that is the torment that we will forever live with.