Top 5 Bond Villains 

As we come to the end of our Bond series in the lead up to the release of Spectre, it seems only fitting to go out with a bang by shining a radioactive light on the most dangerously diabolical, and magnificently malevolent Bond villains.

**WARNING: spoilers ahead**

Corey’s Pick: Auric Goldfinger, Goldfinger (1964)

“He’s the man with the Midas Touch… a spider’s touch!” so crooned Shirley Bassey of the first truly memorable Bond nemesis; Auric Goldfinger, a  prosperous businessman with a penchant for golf and, of course, a psychotic obsession with gold. Played by the late German actor Gert Fröbe (though dubbed by the British Michael Collins due to Fröbe’s poor English), Goldfinger remains a truly iconic adversary for his sadistic, yet undeniably imaginative methods of murder- such as suffocating his rogue seductress Jill Masterson by covering her in gold paint. With almost equally unprecedented henchmen – Pussy Galore and Oddjob – and an extraordinarily diabolical scheme involving chemical and nuclear warfare, Goldfinger shall forever be one of Bond’s – and cinema’s – greatest villains.

“No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die” –

Rhys’ Pick: Raoul Silva, Skyfall (2012)

Batman and the Joker, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader; the best villains have the capacity to mirror an aspect of the hero, and for James Bond (Daniel Craig) in Skyfall, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) represents his complicated relationship with, and his potentially misplaced trust in M (Judi Dench).

Silva, a past MI6 operative himself, is a victim of M’s uncompromising, take-no-prisoners attitude; the very same attitude which sees Bond shot through the chest, and left for dead at the very start of the film. Whilst Bond was able to put M’s questionable decision behind him, Silva was left disfigured and determinately disgruntled with his former handler. Driven by this personal vendetta, Silva’s plan involves disgracing MI6, dispatching Bond and, finally, exacting his revenge by assassinating M.

“Look upon your work, mother”

Zachary’s Pick: Le Chiffre, Casino Royale (2005)

Among a great many surprises, Casino Royale treats us to one of James Bond’s most human villains; a man who makes some poor financial choices, and compensates by putting up a stoic front to try and redeem himself.

Le Chiffre is suave, deadly, deceitful, and a master of high-stakes poker, but weakness is ever-ready to gnaw away at his resolve. He’s not above sacrificing his girlfriend’s arm to African warlords, yet when deadlines close in, and debts have to be paid, he is impatient. Afraid, even. And Mads Mikkelsen hides a steely peril behind his cold, bleeding eyes. You know at once that this isn’t a man to be trifled with.

Le Chiffre’s not a larger-than-life organisation like SPECTRE, neither is he a megalomaniacal tech fiend like Max Zorin. He is very flawed. Very real. Very human. Not to mention he pummels Bond’s dangly bits with unabashed glee.

Le Chiffre wins –

Tom’s Pick: Dr. No, Dr. No (1962)

1962’s Dr. No successfully kicked off the ever-lasting 007 franchise with a hearty concoction of Sean Connery, gorgeous settings, and that white bikini. However, unlike most Bond villains, its titular antagonist is a dangerous, well-defined character. Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman), part of super-villain super-group SPECTRE, fits the mad scientist trope. His thirst for radioactive materials, costing him his hands, drives his thirst for mass destruction and power. No’s plan, disrupting multiple rocket launches in superpowers including the USA and Soviet Union, resonates effectively. Sporting bionic metal paws and an elaborate island lair, the character, physically and psychologically, resembles the archetypal Bond foe. Bond, lured to No’s abode in Jamaica, is threatened by multiple attacks on No’s behalf. Capturing Bond and Honey Rider, No’s confronting persona and mercilessness make for a worthwhile obstacle throughout the climax. As the lair self-destructs, however, No is foiled by his physical deformities. Unable to grasp onto anything, he falls to his destructive demise into boiling coolant.

SPECTRE revealed –

Rhys’ 2nd Pick: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, From Russia With Love (1963), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), For Your Eyes Only (1981).

James Bond has faced dozens of foes over the years, but none have been quite as fearsome and iconic as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, head honcho of international terrorist group SPECTRE. The villain against which all others are measured, Blofeld has recurred more times than any other antagonist, and in many ways has transcended the series to influence cinema as a whole.

Concerned with only one thing – total world domination – Blofeld has orchestrated potential nuclear war between Russia and the United States, threatened to sterilise the world’s food supply and, perhaps most tragically, assisted in killing Tracy Bond (Diana Rigg) mere minutes after her wedding to James.

Although numerous actors have played him, perhaps his most iconic appearance was in You Only Live Twice when Donald Pleasance was cast in the role. With a pale and scarred visage, and gently stroking a white cat on his lap, Blofeld is also a villain who has been parodied a thousands times over, from Mike Myers’ hilarious Dr Evil in the Austin Powers series to the outlandish volcanic lair used by Hank Scorpio in my personal favourite Simpsons episode of all time.

“Allow me to introduce myself”

Images courtesy of United International Pictures, Chapel Distribution & Sony Pictures

Top 5 Bond Theme Songs

Swirling graphics. Crisp silhouettes. A screen drenched in blood… every 007 romp opens the same way: an intricate opening credit sequence backed by a killer song that boasts a powerful voice. From all-time legends (Paul McCartney), to eighties icons (Duran Duran) through to today’s megastars (Sam Smith), only the best of the best are fit to carry Bond’s theme songs, and below you will find our top 5 picks for the greatest of the great.

Zachary’s Pick: Tina Turner – Goldeneye (1995)

A Bond song has to sound like a Bond song. What’s the name of his game? Seduction. Espionage. Violence. Cheek. There have been a fair few theme songs over the years to wittingly capture the essence of 007, notably classics sung by Garbage, Adele, and perennially, Shirley Bassey (you can wipe all the love ballads of the ‘70s and ‘80s from your memory). While Bassey’s Goldfinger will forever remain the cornerstone of the Bond musical canon, none encapsulates all that the franchise is more succinctly and proudly than Tina Turner’s Goldeneye.

From the second it begins, Goldeneye hints at something clandestine, almost taboo; dark secrets not yet revealed. Then Turner sweeps in, singing as if she too is concealing deadly secrets, and is happy about it. The song has a masterful ebb and flow of power and restraint, much like Bond himself. Apart from Goldfinger, no other song in the Bond universe tells you everything you need to know about this character and the dangerous world he inhabits.

Tina Turner sings Goldeneye –

Tom’s Pick: Adele – Skyfall (2012)

Like Skyfall itself, the titular song eclipses everything that has come before it. Building upon the already immense success of British pop singer/songwriter Adele, this theme song elevated her career into Golden Globe and Oscar glory.

Hitting its stride immediately, the song’s orchestral riffs and straight-edged tone establish the film’s dark, gritty aura. Like the accompanying credits sequence, Adele’s sombre, hushed style firmly emphasises the film’s refreshing rebirth angle.

The singer’s graceful harmonies pay tribute to the Shirley Bassey era whilst ushering in the new-and-improved Bond universe. From the piano-key lead-in to the ear-shattering crescendo, Skyfall delivers an array of memorable, heart-pounding touches. Eclipsing recent entries including You Know My Name and Another Way to Die, the track is one of very few themes to successfully accompany, and elevate, the film and franchise.

Adele’s Skyfall music video

Rhys’ Pick: Paul McCartney & Wings – Live and Let Die (1973)

Despite racking up the most appearances as the iconic super spy, Roger Moore’s era is lumbered with a divisive reputation; however, you can’t deny that the titular track on 1973’s Live and Let Die didn’t get things off to a rip-roaring start.

Written by Paul and Linda McCartney, and performed by Paul’s band WingsLive and Let Die was a departure from the series norm of grandiose horns and operatic themes. It’s a much stranger beast as McCartney kicks things off with a gentle piano intro before diving into racy guitar snarls, hammering drums and some spacey, fever dream weirdness in the middle.

It’s a fitting companion to the film also; Live and Let Die concerns itself with drug trafficking in New Orleans, Blaxploitation and voodoo rather than maniacal supervillains in Alpine bases or volcanic lairs, and marks the first time that 007 cosies up with an African-American character (Rosie Carver played by Gloria Hendry). Simply put, it’s a vastly different song for a vastly different Bond.

Live and Let Die opening titles sequence –

Corey’s Pick: A-ha –The Living Daylights (1987)

The two Timothy Dalton-starring Bond films – The Living Daylights and License to Kill – seem to divide 007 aficionados; some welcoming a darker, more realistic side to their favourite spy, others criticising Dalton’s sombre, humourless hero. Their theme songs, on the other hand, were decidedly upbeat; particularly the former. Performed by Norwegian synthpop rock band A-ha (yes, the guys who did Take On Me) The Living Daylights is among the catchiest of the many Bond theme songs, despite not ranking among the most well-recognised. After the commercial success of Duran Duran’s A View to a Kill, the producers sought after another popular band, first asking Pet Shop Boys (who declined) before opting for A-ha. A clash with the film’s composer John Barry led to the existence of two versions of the song; Barry’s string arrangement that wound up in the credits, and A-ha’s synth-heavy reworking for their own album – though both are deliciously 80’s and perfectly capture the essence of Bond’s style with cryptic lyrics. An underrated gem.

The Living Daylights opening titles:

Kit’s Pick: Shirley Bassey – Goldfinger (1964)

Performed by the mightily lunged Shirley Bassey, the opening theme to 1964’s Goldfinger is not only not only synonymous with James Bond; it’s also one of the most recognisable theme songs in film history. The searing vocals, catchy lyrics and bold brass section marry together to create something truly special.

The song set a high bar and generated a long-standing influence that can be seen in later themes that copied its formula. Bassey would return to record two more efforts for the franchise for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever and 1979’s Moonraker, making her the only artist to record multiple Bond themes. The song, along with an iconic opening title sequence (featuring sexy female silhouettes painted gold) capture the film’s tone perfectly.

Goldfinger title sequence:

Images courtesy of United International Pictures, Chapel Distribution & Sony Pictures

Top 5 Bond Gadgets

Go-go-gadget: where would our suave spy be without his modest collection of exploding devices, souped-up cars and various deadly weapons disguised as innocuous objects? Like Tony Stark with his Iron Man suit, or Bruce Wayne and his Batmobile, Bond often relies heavily on innovative – or at least, imaginative – technology to see him through each near-death situation he faces. From the early sixties’ instalments, through to the contraption-shunning Daniel Craig era, we have scoured the Bond canon to bring you our top picks for the most ingenious 007 gadgets.

Rhys’ Pick: Watch Laser, Goldeneye (1995)

Have you ever been stuck in a bomb-rigged train carriage, with all the doors and windows locked, and wondered how you’re going to get out? Well, James Bond has, and luckily, he had his cool laser watch on hand (well, wrist) to help him out. With just the press of a button, this otherwise unassuming timepiece emits a high-powered laser that can cut through metal in an instant – and you thought it was just for telling the time (pah!)

Featured in Pierce Brosnan’s 007 debut Goldeneye, this gadget doesn’t just help James and current squeeze Natalia (Izabella Scorupco) out of the aforementioned tight spot, it also looks really swish – with the Omega logo emblazoned on the face, it’s an example of movie product placement at its finest! After that scene, you know you want one. I mean, c’mon – who doesn’t want to look stylish whilst simultaneously saving the world?

90’s Omega Watch Commercial –

Zachary’s Pick: Lotus Esprit, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The gadgets assigned to the various incarnations of James Bond have always tinkered with the parameters of fantasy, reality and science-fiction. In The Spy Who Loved Me, the world of Bond electronics finally plunged headfirst into the realm of science-fiction, producing the Lotus Esprit; a car that could also transform into an operational submarine. The transformation was so sublime the entire vehicle served as one massive gadget, whisking Bond ( and Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) away from danger in the most absurd fashion.

The car was such an oddity, such a marvel in the Bond canon, that BBC show Top Gear recreated it, and literally dunked it into a lake with critic Richard Hammond at the wheel. Of course, the replica didn’t survive nearly as gracefully as its original, but the science was there. The Lotus Esprit, while not small enough to fit in Bond’s grip, certainly propelled the world of 007 into the future.

Can You Swim?

Corey’s Pick: The Dagger Shoe, From Russia With Love (1963)

Not actually an MI6 invention used by 007, but instead a lethal weapon concealed by agents of SPECTRE in From Russia with Love; the dagger shoe – a boot with a retractable, poison-tipped blade hidden within its cap – is among the franchise’s most ingenious gadgets, manufactured to cause death within seven seconds of stabbing. This fatal footwear is sported by Morenzy – head of SPECTRE’s training grounds, and Rosa Klebb – the No. 3 ranking operative of the ominous organisation; the latter attempting to spike Bond whilst disguised as a maid. Though the films do not specify the toxin utilised, Ian Fleming’s original Dr. No novel notes that it is tertodotoxin, known to cause paralysis of the diaphragm, preventing breathing. These loafers proved so iconic that they were paid tribute in the “greatest hits” Bond outing Die Another Day, and have become something of a clichéd weapon in cinema, appearing in The Dark Knight, Wild Wild West, The Punisher, Salt, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Kingsmen: The Secret Service and many more.

Death of Kronsteen –

Tom’s Pick: Radio Transmitter, Skyfall (2012)

Released in 2012, Skyfall reinvigorated the once-ailing Bond franchise thanks to Sam Mendes’ efficient direction, and Roger Deakins’ exquisite cinematography. The film capped off Bond’s 50th year in style – honouring 007’s past, present, and future. Among many titbits and gags, the film acknowledged the lack of gadgets in the Daniel Craig-led instalments. Q (Ben Whishaw) gives him one particular device – a radio transmitter. Though clunky, the device was needed in the right place at the right time. Bond, cornering cyber-terrorist Silva (Javier Bardem), uses the device to send back-up and imprison him. However, Silva, manipulating Bond and M (Judi Dench) into revealing MI6’s new location, uses the device to entrap 007 in London’s subway network. The device, effective on both occasions, illustrates Bond and Silva’s two-sides-of-the-same-coin dynamic. Though unaware of each other’s moves, both characters use similar strategies to outwit their opponents. The old-school device proved exploding pens and invisible cars aren’t necessary in today’s surveillance-driven world.

It’s Called Radio –

Kit’s Pick: Palm-Print Reader Gun, Skyfall (2012)

As Tom has mentioned, Skyfall was mostly void of high-tech gadgetry; however, Daniel Craig‘s 007 was armed with a Walther semi-automatic pistol with a difference in this most recent entry. Wishaw’s Q equips our favourite spy with this new weapon, which is encrypted with an in-built palm reader, guaranteeing that only Bond can fire the gun. In a tense scene, a thuggish bodyguard grapples Bond in a Komodo dragon pit, and attempts to shoot him with his own weapon to no avail. Walther firearms have been a long-standing fixture in the franchise, featuring in the original literary series, and debuting in the film series’ first entry.

Komodo Dragon Fight Scene

Images courtesy of United International Pictures, Chapel Distribution & Sony Pictures