The Bad Guy
The key to a successful Bond villain is giving him a hellbent reason to destroy the world or take over the world or steal whatever important he's stealing, and give him a relatively good motivation to do so. On top of that, hiring a strong actor is pretty key. Of course, it's not always perfect. Christopher Lee is undeniably great as Francisco Scaramanga in Golden Gun, but the villain's desire is a little flimsy. And sometimes, there are surprises. Yaphet Kotto was kind of a small time player until his turn as Kananga in Live and Let Die and while I also thought he didn't have much to work with, he ended up putting in a pretty frightening, unnerving performance. Here are my 4 favorite successes and 3 failures.
4.) Elliot Carver - Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies)
I have an infinite soft spot for Carver, this villain crafted by a great actor in Jonathan Pryce. Though the plot is left a little wanting (a media domination these days seems a bit more plausible with the expansion of the internet, though how territorial it could be remains questionable) Pryce turns in one of my favorite cerebral villain performances. He's not going to out-punch Bond, but he's undeniably brilliant, and he has one of my favorite lines of the entire franchise:
"The distance between genius and insanity is measured only by success."
3.) Raoul Silva - Javier Bardem (Skyfall)
Lord. Bardem created something pretty iconic. I haven't been too
impressed with the villains of the current Craig-era, until Bardem was
announced for the role for Skyfall. That got me excited. Could he bring
something new? Could he deliver something different from his villainous
assassin in No Country for Old Men? He answered the questions, and
exceeded expectations. Bardem gave a beautiful, legitimate, demonic
performance. I wouldn't say he was affably evil, but in a vein similar
to Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lector, I found myself captivated and
compelled. I left amazingly fulfilled.
Head of SPECTRE, a constant villain for various films, Blofeld was a featured antagonist in six Bond films. My favorite performance however, is Charles Gray's in Diamonds. He's charming, smart, and frightening. His smile is so deceitfully dangerous. I love it.
1.) Alec Trevelyan (Janus) - Sean Bean (GoldenEye)
An emotionally driven character, Trevelyan, formerly 006, is revealed as a
traitor and prepared to stop at nothing to destroy England for what he
perceives as war crimes of World War II, leading to his parents, and
countless others', deaths. Sean Bean is endlessly brilliant in the role,
just as charismatic as Brosnan's Bond but with hell in his eyes.
...And the 3 Worst...
3.) Elektra King - Sophie Marceau (The World is Not Enough)
Though a beautiful Bond girl, I find it hard to believe anyone couldn't see the twist coming from a mile away. Also, Marceau just didn't convince me at all as the villain. The whole plot was seemed really petty to me and was nothing but a spoiled brat getting what she wanted (and eventually getting what she deserved).
2.) Dominic Greene - Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace)
A completely forgettable performance in the middle of a pretty weak movie. Quantum of Solace's "stealing the water" plot seems hilariously irrelevant and Almaric convinces me not for a moment as the villain.
1.) Georgi Koskov and Brad Whitaker - Jeroen Krabbe and Joe Don Baker (The Living Daylights)
These two are the most unconvincing villains of any movie. No wonder Dalton had nothing to work with, the silly worry wart Koskov and the obnoxious brash Whitaker are his antagonists. Koskov is completely nonthreatening as a villain, and Whitaker is endlessly irrelevant.
...And my favorite Villainous Sidekick
I am just not a fan of Oddjob or Jaws. Jaws becomes a friendly oaf and Oddjob was never threatening in the least to me. Most of them are just there for laughs, though Baron Samedi from Live and Let Die is pretty frightening to me. Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love is a very close second, but in the end...
Xenia Onatopp - Famke Janssen (GoldenEye)
A little more clever with the name, infinitely dangerous and undeniably insane, Xenia is the most threatening of the villainous sidekick to me, and easily one of the best parts of GoldenEye.