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 Girls

Super sexy and delectably dangerous; the Bond girls rep the femme fatale archetype unlike any other seductress of the silver screen. Along with dry martinis, Aston Martins and psychotic villains, no Bond movie would be complete without them, and often they are far more intriguing than the men behind 007 himself (#sorrynotsorry George Lazenby). So, to celebrate the upcoming release of Spectre, we decided to reminisce over our favourite female roles of the past 23 Bond films.

**WARNING: spoilers ahead**

Zachary’s pick: Lupe Lamora, License To Kill  (1989)

In the only film where two leading Bond girls simultaneously vie for 007’s heart (and share copious amounts of screen time together), Lupe Lamora has to be my pick for the best Bond girl. Not only is she not white, she’s also feisty, strong and stunningly beautiful.

Played by Talisa Soto, who’d later go on to mentor Robin Shou in the video game adaptation Mortal Kombat (1995), Lupe manages to outsmart her abusive druglord boyfriend, withstand the lecherous advances of some of his henchmen, and seduce James, only to have her love spurned in favour of the easier, whiter choice (Carey Lowell) by the end of the film.

Licence To Kill stood out for me because it gave Bond a heart. Here were two immaculate women before him, and he loved them both. No longer were the women in these movies purely for sex and death; they were breathing, feeling counterparts, and Lupe is perhaps the greatest lover Bond never had.

The Whipping Scene –

Tom’s Pick: Xenia Onatopp, Goldeneye (1995)

1995’s Goldeneye is an entertaining balance between classic Bond canon and inventive ideas. Indeed, Pierce Brosnan’s first stint as 007 far surpasses most of the franchise’s adventures. Along with Brosnan’s Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) and Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) became formidable, and memorable, characters.

Onatopp, matching her amusing surname, establishes swift, irrefutable dominance over her targets. Bond and Onatopp’s car chase sequence pits both characters’ fearlessness against one another. In addition, their first conversation sparks a witty, unique dynamic. Labelled a “Georgian lust murderer”, the former Soviet Air Force pilot’s tenaciousness combines Bond-girl beauty with Oddjob-level intimidation. Among many talents, her trademark thigh-grip unleashes an anaconda-style grip. Like many Bond foes, Onatopp reaches a tough, painful demise. Despite matching Bond blow-for-blow, she, ironically, is painfully suffocated. 007 perfectly sums it up: “She always did enjoy a good squeeze”.

Bond and Onatopp’s banter gets the ball rolling –

Rhys’ Pick: Vesper Lynd, Casino Royale (2006)

Would Casino Royale, 007’s gritty 2006 reboot, worked even half as well without the striking presence of Vesper Lynd? Doubtful. Played by sultry French actress Eva Green, Vesper ranks among the best Bond girls to date not because she rigidly conforms to the archetype, but because she so fiercely rejects it.

Think about it; she’s intelligent, self-made, resilient and oozing with sarcastic wit. She more than holds her own in that now infamous introductory scene aboard the train to Montenegro, exchanging quip after quip with the sassy young spy she detests from the get-go; “So as charming as you are, Mr. Bond, I will be keeping my eye on our government’s money – and off your perfectly-formed arse.”

That’s not to say she’s a heartless robot – her vulnerability starts to show after aiding Bond in a brutal stairwell fistfight, and the eventual love that blossoms between them is made even more gut-wrenching when we discover she was working to undermine Bond’s mission the whole time, an emotional twist that turns Bond from naïve rookie into the hardened killer he is today.

Plus, she has a pretty rocking drink named after her too.

“I’m the money”

Kit’s Pick: Strawberry Fields, Quantum of Solace (2008)

My favourite Bond lady is unlikely to rank alongside Ursula Andress, Diana Rigg or Honor Blackman in a popularity contest. She featured (with very little screen time) in a film which was panned by critics as one of the worst in the Bond canon. However, Agent Strawberry Fields, played by the stunning Gemma Arterton, shone opposite Daniel Craig in 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Fields harkens back to the stereotypical glamour girls of the Connery and Moore eras who would aid Bond in a particular location, as opposed to the entire movie. She met her sticky end in a hotel room; a direct parallel to an iconic scene in 1963’s Goldfinger where another Bond Girl was killed in a similar fashion using gold paint. An accomplished theatre actress, Arterton gives it her all in the role; presenting us with a plucky character who didn’t easily submit to Bond’s art of seduction.

My Name Is Fields –

Corey’s Pick: M, Goldeneye (1995) – Skyfall (2012)

Bond girls come and go with each adventure, succumbing to betrayal, death, or simply disinterest, but one woman (at least since GoldenEye) has remained consistent in 007’s life – Dame Judi Dench’s M, the head of MI6 and watchful eye over every dangerous mission undertaken by her agents.

Based on an actual female Director General of British Intelligence, M initially holds Bond (originally Pierce Brosnan) in disdain, but, like most, is won over by Bond’s famous charm and pure efficiency. Proving so endearing she survived the series’ retcon, and evolved into something of a maternal figure for Daniel Craig’s rendition; particularly in Skyfall, where her past actions involving a former MI6 operative make her integral to Bond’s mission, and lead to her untimely death.

As an orphan, the matriarchal M was the closest thing to a mother 007 ever had; he did indeed care deeply for her, as evidenced by his breakdown into tears clutching her lifeless body – an atypically emotional moment for the franchise, and perhaps the most human Bond has ever behaved. She will be sorely missed.

Bond pays M a visit in Skyfall –

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