A good rogues gallery features villains which present corrupted aspects of the hero’s persona. The Riddler challenges Batman’s intellect, while the Joker tests the limits of his morality.
James Bond has accumulated quite a rogues gallery over several decades and 23 feature films. In Bond’s world, we have both masterminds and henchmen. In many cases, the lackeys prove more colorful. Here are the 10 most memorable James Bond henchmen.
#10. Bambi and Thumper
After leaving the series over differences with the producers, Sean Connery returned for one more installment in Diamonds Are Forever. This immediate precursor to the Roger Moore era telescoped the trend of themed henchmen, referencing pop culture or building upon puns.
Bambi and Thumper were twin acrobatic femme fatales, featured briefly in a memorable melee with 007. Hardly the first or last female killers in Bond’s orbit, these two were the first to fight as a pair.
#9. Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd
Another set of paired henchmen appearing in Diamonds Are Forever, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd were a thinly veiled spoof of Simon and Garfunkel. Add to that their blatant homosexuality, penchant for killer puns, and a deeply rooted sadism, and you have a unique answer to Bond.
Like Bond, Wint and Kidd enjoyed elaborate, brutal, and ironic kills. They reveled in trickery and misdirection, and liked to play with their victims before ending them.
Their attraction to each other left them invulnerable to feminine charms, an advantage to which Bond could not relate.
Emile Leopold Locque stood out for his brutality and complete lack of empathy, characteristics shared by Bond though applied to different purpose. Locque was an enforcer and assassin for drug syndicates and smugglers.
Locque made the mistake of slitting the throat of one of Bond’s allies. That, combined with several attempts on Bond’s own life, leaves 007 less than sympathetic when Locque finds himself trapped in a car dangling precariously over a cliff.
Locque’s plunge was going to happen whether Bond aided it or not. But Bond chose to give him a push just to add insult to injury.
#7. Rosa Klebb
A sharp-tongued, androgynous elder woman, with a thick foreign accent and undying commitment to evil, Rosa Klebb became the model upon which many feature villains were based, from Irma Bunt of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to Frau Farbissina in the Austin Powers films.
Featured in From Russia with Love, Klebb was arguably Bond’s most stereotypically Russian adversary. She threaded the needle between mastermind and henchman, working behind the scenes with Red Grant and Tatiana Romanova as her frontline players. In the end, with Grant dead and Romanova converted by Bond’s charms, she was forced to confront Bond herself wielding a poison knife-tipped shoe.
#6. Red Grant
Portrayed by the captivating Robert Shaw, Red Grant might not hold up in a modern Bond film. There’s no gimmick to him. He doesn’t stand out in any particular way. He blends into a crowd and comes across friendly enough to convince Bond that he’s an ally and countryman.
He makes this list because he serves as the prototype of a kind of villain Bond faces again and again, the doppelganger, the man who could be Bond and who Bond could be. Red has Bond’s skills, his cunning, his charm. Red has everything he needs to beat Bond, and nearly does. In the end, Bond gets the edge only with a little help from Q.
#5. Baron Samedi
Unique among Bond villains, Baron Samedi managed to evade death much like his mythic voodoo namesake. Indeed, his portrayal by the towering Geoffrey Holder left open the question of whether the henchman is just a man or something more.
Samedi was introduced perfectly in the sequence above. Described as “just a performer in a little musical extravaganza,” Samedi lived up to his title as “the man who cannot die,” showing up again and again after apparent demise.
#4. Xenia Onatopp
For my money, Goldeneye retains the crown for most breathtaking Bond girls. As has been the case over the years, Bond’s girls often emerge as adversaries. None prove hotter to handle than the sadomasochistic sexual predator Xenia Onatopp. Played with convincing relish by Famke Janssen, Onatopp served as an operative in the Janus crime syndicate, utilizing her skills as a former Soviet pilot and an apparent psychopath.
Onatopp acted as a siren, attempting to lure Bond to his doom. She proved difficult to resist, even for a man as disciplined as Bond.
#3. May Day
Another villainous Bond girl, who switches sides along the way, May Day stands out among henchmen as a formidable challenge to Bond on all fronts. She’s tough, sexy, clever, and ruthlessly dedicated to her task. In the role, Grace Jones manages to eclipse Christopher Walken as the more compelling villain in A View to a Kill.
Betrayed by Walken’s Max Zorin in the film’s third act, May Day joins forces with Bond and ends up martyring herself to thwart Zorin’s plans. The moment stands as one of the franchise’s more satisfying redemptions.
A truly iconic villain, Odd Job was the oddly named, sharply dressed, mute Korean wrestler with a deadly razor-rimmed bowler hat. Recognizable in silhouette, like Batman, Alfred Hitchcock, or Indiana Jones, Odd Job earned an enduring place in our collective cinematic consciousness.
Not to take anything away from Dr. No or From Russia with Love, but Goldfinger was the first fully realized Bond film. Indeed, it became the formulaic model for the rest of the franchise. Part of that formula was distinctive henchmen with bizarre attributes and odd names. Nevermind the aerodynamics of a flying bowler hat, or the physics of how it could somehow chop a man’s head off. We believed the menace because we wanted to.
Odd Job would hold the top spot were it not for the one henchman so beloved by fans of the franchise that he persisted from one film to another. Jaws, played by the recently deceased Richard Kiel, was the consummate fantasy Bond villain.
If you thought it was tough to buy Odd Job’s hat, try keeping a straight face as Jaws bites through the cable of a ski lift with ease. You’ve heard of jumping the shark? Jaws ate one. Yet fans demanded he come back for more.
When you give it some thought, it’s actually pretty amazing that Jaws worked as well as he did. When he needed to be scary, he was terrifying. When he needed to be funny, he was hilarious. And when the time came for he and Bond to resolve their conflict, the writers of Moonraker gave us a satisfying and plausible explanation for their parting on good terms.
RIP, Mr. Kiel. Jaws will never die.