There’s just something about James Bond and the movies in which he appears. The Bond films were a vanguard action movie franchise in the 1960s, a jokefest in the 1970s, something almost unwatchable through most of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, and most recently a very interesting and very topical deconstruction of the whole genre.
Bond is who we want to be… at the time
Bond films are encapsulations of everything that is wrong with our society on the day they’re released. Why? Because most Bond films are a reflection of our hopes and dreams for ourselves. We want to be the dashing, brave hero, the one with just the right line. We want to be irresistable to anyone we choose to seduce. Bond isn’t accountable to anyone. Bond just does what Bond wants and everything works out great.
The problem of course with that sort of wish fulfillment is that it exposes us for wanting the wrong things. In the 1960s, Bond films glorified sexism and dangerous behaviors. The ’70s Bond films went over the top and created stunts we normal humans could never reproduce. Our ’80s selves, vain and blown-dry, were exposed by Bond. ’90s Bond showed scared we were of technology, while ’00s Bond just proved we had no idea what the millennium was about.
But above all, Bond is fun.
The James Bond films practically invented the idea of an action franchise. Of course films were fun before that. And, let us not forget there were serials dating back to the 1930s which brought the same characters back over and over. Those films were meant for kids, though. Bond courted a much older audience (at least physically.)
In an age without internet, where people had to actually remember things, Bond rewarded longtime viewers for remembering who was who. There were always the disposable baddies, but along the way there were a few who kept popping up. If you were smart and had seen the movies that came before, you could recognize the cues before the villain showed up. If that sounds like today’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’re on the right track. Bond invented the idea of worldbuilding…
…with the help of some memorable villains.
I ran across an essay in Esquire from 2017 detailing all 107 villains in Bond films up to that date. It won’t rock your world but if you’ve seen these films you’ll find it’s an enjoyable way to spend a few minutes. There were a lot I didn’t remember. Bond films employ a lot of disposable henchmen who end up leaving no mark on their films but a blood stain. I’d forgotten most of them.
Oddjob, Jaws, or Blofeld?
You could be forgiven for skipping past about 104 of these folks to get to the three favorites. Oddjob comes near the end of the list, and the article is right to call him the gold standard of henchmen. He’s stronger than Bond and has a memorable gadget in his razor sharp hat. (Remember this was a time when hat-wearing was a lot more common.) Oddjob was the prototype for all the over-muscled, humorless bad guys to come in the next fifty years of movies.
If you’re a fan of ’70s Bond you remember Richard Kiel’s Jaws. He actually gets only a tiny bit of screen time in The Spy Who Loved Me, but he was so popular that he returned and even became a good guy in Moonraker (arguably one of the worst Bond films anyway.) He was lovable because he wasn’t bad, just a little less smart. Oddjob was a hardened assassin. Jaws was just following orders.
The king of all of them (in my opinion)
Of course the worst baddy of them all has to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Blofeld, the criminal mastermind behind essentially every bad act since 1964, appeared in 7 Bond films including the most recent, Spectre. Because 2010s Bond has to have motivation, Blofeld was revealed to have been a childhood friend of Bond’s. That’s fine but I always thought of Blofeld as this super-evil dude who didn’t need motivation. His motivation was doing whatever he wanted with the whole planet. What’s so wrong with that? Of course Blofeld also became a bit of a joke because he was such a bad guy. Some Bond films toyed with getting rid of him in a humorous way, and of course he was the basis for Dr. Evil in the 2000s Austin Powers films.
Who’s your favorite Bond villain? Is it yourself? Or someone else? Leave a comment below. If you don’t, I’ll strap you down and tell you my plans for world domination while a comically giant circular saw gets ever closer to you.