Although it arguably paved the way for the "shared" universe trend currently permeating the blockbuster world, the Bond franchise has rarely shown much interest in establishing tangible connections between each individual film.
In something of a concession to modern blockbuster protocol, the new entry Spectre (opening next week) taps into some long dormant Bond mythology with both the titular evil organisation, and the much-rumoured presence/re-emergence of its leader, the most classic Bond villain of them all, Ernst Blofeld, the (usually) bald, kitten-stroking mastermind played by multiple actors across multiple early Bond films.
The last time the Bond franchise acknowledged Blofeld, in the 1981 Roger Moore film For Your Eyes Only, it was in something of an ignominious fashion: Bond, piloting a helicopter, drops Blofeld (wheelchair and all, face unseen) into a chimney in the opening sequence.
The character was clearly regarded as obsolete and lay dormant until Mike Myers resurrected the trope for his excruciatingly successful comedic riff on the character, Dr. Evil.
But the modern movie market does not allow any intellectual property to go untapped, so Spectre (SPECTRE?) is once again part of the James Bond world and it begs the question of whether or not Blofeld is too.
To the mark the re-emergence of Spectre and the resultant implied involvement of you-know-who, The Joker to James Bond's Batman if ever there was one, let us celebrate the best and worst villains in the franchise's history. Excluding all the Blofelds.
Auric Goldfinger. Played by Gert Fröbe in Goldfinger (1964)
Fröbe's performance as the man with the midas touch is notable for how he both defines and subverts the classic "verbose villain" archetype, highlighting how the Bond series has revealed in self-awareness from the very beginning. His crazy scheme (irradiating gold bullion), weird accent and larger-than-life presence set the mode for the next several decades of big-screen villainy.
Francisco Scaramanga. Played by Christopher Lee in The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
The rare Bond villain who's also 007's physical equal (see also Sean Bean's Alec Trevelyan/006 in Goldeneye), Lee channelled a lifetime's worth of villainous portrayals into his performance as the cool-as-custard assassin described in the title of Roger Moore's second outing in the role.
Octopussy. Played by Maud Adams in Octopussy (1983)
Graduating from Bond girl (in The Man with the Golden Gun) to Bond villain, Maud Adams, aka Cheekbones McGee, kills it as the mysterious leader of the "Octopus Cult", which is the completely reasonable explanation for her name. In retrospect, the character may initially seem like a token gesture from a series not especially known for its empowering female characters, but Adams owns the part and outshines Roger Moore all the way.
Franz Sanchez. Played by Robert Davi in Licence to Kill (1989)
In an era defined by sterile, polite villains, Davi's drug lord was a welcome throwback to the classic sneering bad guy of old, the kind of villain who simply seeps pure evil. The underrated character actor/opera singer (The Goonies, Die Hard) makes the hilariously sadistic Sanchez work where many others couldn't have - he's cheesy and threatening at the same time.
Raoul Silva. Played by Javier Bardem in Skyfall (2012)
Narrowly pipping Mads Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre in the modern Bond villain stakes, Bardem's vengeful "asset" reintroduced method actor menace to the position of Bond's nemesis, and the film benefitted greatly. It will be interesting to see how Christoph Waltz fares in Bardem's wake, whoever he's playing.
The Stinkest Bond Villains
Hugo Drax. Played by Michael Lonsdale in Moonraker (1979)
Despite his cool-ass villain name, Drax typified the non-threatening nature of many of Moore's villains. Luckily Jaws (Richard Kiel) was around to cause supplementary havoc, having first appeared in the previous entry, The Spy Who Loved Me. If Blofeld is back in the new Bond film, surely Jaws is next? We deserve a new Jaws. Michael Shannon should play him.
Max Zorin. Played by Christopher Walken In A View To A Kill (1985)
The product of a Nazi super-baby genetics programme, Zorin was probably the closest thing the Bond series ever got to spilling over into self-mockery. Walken's comically over-the-top rendition was difficult to take seriously. Grace Jones was pretty good, though.
Elliot Carver. Played Jonathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
A one-note riff on a potentially intriguing idea - Rupert Murdoch-esque media mogul as Bond villain - Carver's name promised a degree of threat that never materialised. Pryce later cut a much more amusing line in Bond-esque villainy as the cackling President in GI Joe: Retaliation.
Robert Carlyle in The World Is Not Enough (1999)
As an ex-KGB agent with a bullet permanently lodged in his brain, the man who just three years earlier had left audiences battered and bruised as the iconically aggro Begbie in Trainspotting, failed to project anything close to the level of badassery demanded by a Bond Villain. Carlyle's not to blame, pretty much all the Pierce Brosnan-era villains were written as (bad) cartoon characters.
Dominic Greene. Played by Mathieu Amalric in Quantum of Solace. (2008)
I have seen Quantum of Solace but I cannot remember a single thing about it. I believe there was car chase at one point? And a bit in a cave maybe? One thing is for sure, the villain, played by acclaimed French actor Amalric (who recently directed and starred in a really great thriller), was totally lame.
• Who are your favourite Bond villains? Who do you think were the stinkest ones? Comment below!