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No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Die: The 5 Best Bond Villains

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist November 5, 2012 at 1:02PM

Even before it's released in the U.S. this Friday, "Skyfall," the 23rd official entry in the James Bond series, is already a monster hit, taking nearly quarter of a billion dollars worldwide in its first ten days in theaters. And with good reason -- Sam Mendes' take on Ian Fleming's super-spy is terrific, and certainly ranks among the upper reaches of the franchise.
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Goldfinger
Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) - "Goldfinger"
One of only two bad guys to get their name in the title, and the only one to get his own song ("HE LOVES GOOOOOOLD," as Shirley Bassey timidly put it), Auric Goldfinger is probably the only n'er-do-well who can compete with Blofeld as 007's most iconic opponent. A businessman who uses his legit enterprises to cover up a huge gold smuggling business, the German-accented golf-lover has one of the most cunning schemes in the history of the franchise: to irradiate the gold in Fort Knox to make it unusable, making his own collection wealthier and plunging the U.S into recession. He's got some of the best henchmen (Honor Blackman's ultimately treacherous pilot Pussy Galore, Korean bowler-hat wearer Oddjob) too, and is responsible for several defining scenes in the villainous canon (not least the laser-wielding "Do you expect me to talk?"/"No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die" exchange). And given the difficulties inherent in the part, German actor Gert Fröbe is an impressive presence. Orson Welles was originally sought to play the part, but wanted too much money, so the filmmakers ended up picking out Fröbe, who'd come to fame as a child killer in 1958 thriller "It Happened In Broad Daylight" (later remade by Sean Penn under the original title of Frederich Dürrenmatt's source novel, "The Pledge"). The actor spoke barely any English, and started out speaking the lines phonetically, but wasn't fast enough for director Guy Hamilton's tastes, and he ended up having most of his lines dubbed by actor Michael Collins. And yet it's still an enormously entertaining turn, and one that sits nicely in the hall of fame.

The Man With The Golden Gun Christopher Lee

Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) - "The Man With The Golden Gun"
Bond movies have, at least since the Connery era, been of a somewhat inconsistent quality and it sometimes felt that for every decent entry, you'd then get two disappointing ones. As such, there's a few terrible films in the series with entertaining villains -- think Christopher Walken in "A View To A Kill," or the enjoyably hammy Jonathan Pryce in "Tomorrow Never Dies." But perhaps the best example of this sub-set is Christopher Lee's Scaramanga in "The Man With The Golden Gun." Generally, and probably correctly, deemed to be one of the worst films in the series, it's the start of the slip into out-and-out silliness and zeitgeist chasing that would make up the rest of the Roger Moore era. But it's dominated, as the title might suggest, by Hammer Horror legend Lee, as the legendary never-misses assassin Scaramanga, who's out to kill Bond. Lee, whose step-cousin was Bond creator Ian Fleming, had actually been considered to play "Dr. No" in the first Bond entry, but finally got his time in the sun with the ninth entry in the series twelve years later. And though he has to deal with a certain amount of silliness (a distinguishing third nipple, Herve Villechaize as diminutive sidekick Nick Nack), Lee is deeply menacing, suave, and appropriately twisted. If the film around him matched up to the performance, he might be considered at the top of the tree by more fans.

Goldeneye Villains

Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) & Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) - "Goldeneye"
After a six year gap (the longest in Bond history; no more than three years had ever passed without a new 007 film) and the Cold War having since warmed up, the franchise needed to come roaring out of the gate when it came back with "Goldeneye," and for the most part, that's exactly what happened, with a new Bond for the 1990s, and one of the more entertaining films in the series. And it helped that Pierce Brosnan's 007 had as worthy a pair of adversaries as the character ever faced. Sean Bean, star of "Patriot Games" and "Sharpe," was one of the names considered alongside Brosnan to take over the lead role before Timothy Dalton nabbed it in 1987, and eight years later, got his consolation prize by getting to play agent 006, Alec Trevelyan. Seemingly killed in the opening sequence, it's revealed that Trevelyan was always playing a long game, and is out to take vengeance on Britain for the death of his Russian cossack parents with the help of the titular satellite. It's a canny move, the best example of the "Bond's mirror image" trope (revived again somewhat in "Skyfall"), and Bean -- who's often underrated as an actor -- gives a very modern take on the villain, free of camp or slyness. He leaves most of that to Famke Janssen as henchwoman Xenia Onatopp, a sexually aggressive seductress who is just as much a match for Bond in the bedroom as Bean is physically. Janssen, in her breakout role, doesn't so much chew the scenery as entirely devour it, and she serves as a nice counterbalance to her boss. Shame about Alan Cumming's irritating comic relief computer hacker, though...

This article is related to: Features, Skyfall


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