This time around, Bond is going up against Rami Malek’s Safin, a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology. We don’t yet know what Safin has in store for Craig’s super spy, but producer Barbara Broccoli has described the character as “a nasty piece of work,” while Malek has called him “quite unique and very complex.”
The real question is: just how over-the-top will Safin’s evil plan turn out to be? As fun-to-watch as the franchise’s many iconic villains are, their ‘genius’ schemes are often insanely ambitious–and don’t make all that much sense either. So here we take a look back at some of the craziest plots attempted by Bond’s eccentric rogues’ gallery…
Dr No (1962)
The baddie: The film’s title is a bit of a giveaway. Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman) is a criminal scientist with prosthetic metal hands–a result of radiation exposure. A former member of a Chinese crime syndicate, he’s now working for the evil secret organization, SPECTRE.
Silly scheme: Dr. No is using radio transmissions to topple U.S. rockets and hamper the U.S. space program. Why? According to Dr. No, it is punishment for the U.S. refusing to recognize his intellect. The ’60s were a simpler time in Bond-world.
How Bond foils it: During Dr. No’s attempt to sabotage a rocket launch, Bond (Sean Connery) sneaks into the villain’s control center dressed as a henchman and overloads the nuclear reactor. After a brief scrap between the two, No meets a grisly end by falling into the boiling reactor pool. Bond and Honey Ryder flee before No’s lair explodes.
Daft-o-meter: This being the first Bond movie, Dr. No is the ground zero of silly schemes. Given what’s to come though, it’s hardly the most bonkers plot 007 has come up against… 6/10
You Only Live Twice (1967)
The baddie: Bond’s arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who is a lover of cats and monorails. The founder of SPECTRE, Blofeld had been teased in From Russia With Love and Thunderball, but it wasn’t until film number 5 that he made his first–and most iconic–full appearance, played by the brilliant Donald Pleasance.
Silly scheme: SPECTRE has been hired to start a nuclear war between the USSR and the USA to benefit a third power (heavily implied to be China). To do this, they use a massive capsule-gobbling rocket, ‘Bird One,’ to capture the space vehicles of both powers–actions that escalate tensions between the Cold War foes.
How Bond foils it: Bond (Connery) activates Bird One’s self-destruct sequence, destroying it before it can capture another craft, and give the U.S.-USSR the incentive to start the Big One.
Daft-o-meter: The primary problem with any scenario involving nuclear war is the whole nuclear part of it. Blofeld’s volcano lair does not look like it could survive a first strike, and by the end of the movie, it has turned back into an active volcano, underlining how ridiculous the whole enterprise is. The fact that both Bird One and the volcano lair have self-destruct devices just proves that even the SPECTRE bigwigs were not that confident in their plan to begin with. 8/10
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
The baddie: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, tolerator of cats and lover of European aristocracy. This time, the ol’ baldie is played by Telly Savalas.
Silly scheme: Using a group of brainwashed young women referred to as the ‘Angels of Death,’ Blofeld threatens to release a virus that will cause mass sterility across all crops and species around the world… unless he is absolved from his past crimes and made a Count.
How Bond foils it: James Bond (George Lazenby) enlists the help of the Corsican mafia after making a deal with crime boss Draco and wooing his daughter, Tracy (Diana Rigg). He then assaults Blofeld’s mountaintop lair, destroying the complex and the transmitter that allows Blofeld to maintain control of his ‘angels.’ Blofeld gets the last laugh though, gunning down Tracy–now Bond’s wife–in the series’ most depressing ending.
Daft-o-meter: “Funny thing, snobbery.” The scheme is silly enough, but Blofeld’s seemingly earnest desire to gain an aristocratic title really takes the biscuit. 6/10
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
The baddie: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (again), relapsed lover of cats and body doubles. This time, he’s played by Charles Gray… and he has hair!
Silly scheme: Having impersonated reclusive billionaire Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), Blofeld uses his business empire and an illegal diamond-smuggling network to build and launch a diamond-powered super laser to blackmail the world into giving up its nuclear stockpiles (or handing over control of said nuclear stockpiles to whoever pays him the most money–it’s all a bit confusing).
How Bond foils it: When Blofeld tries to escape his oil rig lair in a submersible, Bond takes control of the crane holding it and smashes Blofeld’s vehicle into the control room directing the satellite, ending the plot and the villain once and for all (maybe).
Daft-o-meter: The brilliance here is how impossible it is to figure out exactly what the plot is: Blofeld uses plastic surgery to create doubles of himself, even after MI6 believes he has already died. He convinces Professor Metz to design a satellite armed with a laser powered by diamonds soaking radiation from the sun. That’s ridiculous enough, but it is almost impossible to tell what Blofeld actually wants to do with the thing. Plus, he’s doing all this while successfully impersonating a reclusive billionaire and enjoying his fortune–which makes his whole scheme seem rather pointless. 10/10
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The baddie: Shipping tycoon Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens), a billionaire who’s obsessed with the sea and employs a metal-toothed man-mountain named Jaws (Richard Kiel) as his muscle.
Silly scheme: Stromberg wants to establish an underwater civilization by triggering World War 3. Having captured a number of British and Soviet submarines using his supertanker Liparus, he plans to target their missiles against New York and Moscow, kickstarting a global nuclear war above the surface while he takes cover in his Atlantis base.
How Bond foils it: Bond (Roger Moore) manages to take over the Liparus and send new orders to the submarines, redirecting their missiles at each other (hope the wind is blowing the right way…). He shoots Stromberg and drops Jaws into a shark tank (though he survives to bite another day).
Daft-o-meter: Putting aside the ramifications of nuclear fallout, it does not sound like Stromberg has actually started building his underwater city. Where are the occupants of his new watery utopia going to live in the meantime, eh? 9/10
The baddie: Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), another vague millionaire industrialist who when he isn’t lounging around his French chateau is launching his own personal rocketships out of a secret Aztec pyramid base, like some kind of culturally insensitive 1970s version of Elon Musk.
Silly scheme: Clearly having enjoyed the then new release of Star Wars, Drax has spent years building his own secret space station and fleet of space shuttles with cloaking devices (of course), from which he’ll fire 50 “globe” bombs of nerve gas that will eradicate all human life on earth while leaving the animals untouched. He would meanwhile live with his personally selected collection of genetically superior ubermensches and models in space… waiting years before returning to earth to repopulate a new garden of Eden.
How Bond foils it: 007 (Moore) and CIA agent Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) infiltrate his space station and jam its cloaking device, allowing the Americans to know they’re there. One quick shuttle of American space marines later, and we have a full fledged Star Wars battle on our hands, complete with laser guns. During the kerfuffle, Bond ejects Drax into the cold vacuum of space before using the Force to shoot down Drax’s nerve gas bombs. He then attempts reentry with Goodhead.
Daft-o-meter: Where to begin? The simple fact that Hugo Drax’s Aryan ideal involves using a nerve gas that is sure to kill more than just humans, and that he wants to spend potentially decades making babies on a space station, is almost as ridiculous as giving Jaws speaking lines! 10/10
A View to A Kill (1985)
The baddie: Literal Nazi superman and billionaire, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken). Trained by the KGB, this genetically enhanced psychopath has decided to go it alone, with a view to a…
Silly scheme: In order to capture the world market for microchips–giving Zorin Industries a monopoly over the budding 1980s tech boom–Walken’s maniacal villain plans to detonate explosives along Californian fault lines, triggering an earthquake that will destroy Silicon Valley. Yes, it’s a very ’80s evil enterprise.
How Bond foils it: Well, actually, he doesn’t. Zorin’s spurned bodyguard/fitness trainer/girlfriend May Day (Grace Jones) saves the day, diverting the bomb above ground on a mine cart and sacrificing herself in the process. Bond does, however, manage to best Zorin in a fight atop San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, which results in the dastardly industrialist falling to his doom.
Daft-o-meter: It is hard to write about this one when Roger Ebert has already delivered the killing blow, but it is just so obvious: microchips are not manufactured in Silicon Valley. By flooding it, Zorin would be wiping out the companies that buy microchips: i.e. his own customers. 8/10
The baddie: Ex-MI6 agent and Bond’s former field buddy, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), aka the former 006. Turns out he’s a descendant of the Cossacks that were massacred by the Soviets, and he blames the UK for betraying his people.
Silly scheme: After faking his own death while on a mission with 007, Trevelyan founds the Janus crime syndicate and hatches a convoluted scheme to steal money from the Bank of England. He plans to cover up the theft by hitting London with a huge electromagnetic pulse generated by a stolen Russian satellite (the ‘GoldenEye’ of the title), frying all of the city’s tech and sending the global markets into meltdown.
How Bond foils it: After infiltrating GoldenEye’s Cuban control center, computer whiz Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) hacks into the satellite’s guidance system, forcing it off course. Meanwhile Bond (Pierce Brosnan) jams the mechanics of the base’s giant satellite dish, so that it can’t turn and redirect the weapon back toward London. In the ensuing struggle, Trevelyan is sent plummeting to a splattery demise.
Daft-o-meter: 006 would have been better off sticking with good, old-fashioned vengeance, as his haul would have depreciated dramatically in value when the economy collapsed. Doh. 7/10
Die Another Day (2002)
The baddie: Colonel Moon, aka Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), a high-ranking North Korean wrong ’un who manages to transform himself into a British businessman thanks to some experimental “DNA restructuring.” The fact that this is not the most ridiculous thing about the story is probably why Brosnan’s final 007 adventure is so universally derided.
Silly scheme: Graves/Moon wants to use his ‘Icarus’ satellite–which is able to focus solar power into a giant energy beam–to cut through the minefields of Korea’s demilitarized zone, allowing the North to invade the South and creating a new world superpower.
How Bond foils it: Bond directs Graves’ plane into the path of the Icarus ray, and tosses Graves–now kitted out in an electricity-generating supersuit that serves as the weapon’s remote control (because, well, why not?)–into one of the airplane’s engines, vaporizing him.
Daft-o-meter: One wonders how then-dictator Kim Jong-il would regard his subordinate’s megalomaniacal dreams (or the Chinese government, for that matter). And while we do see Icarus shoot down the one missile fired at it, it only seems capable of destroying targets one at a time, which does not sound like the best long-term strategy for world domination. Plus, Graves will probably have to deal with a lawsuit from Blofeld for ripping off his diamond-powered super-laser (see Diamonds Are Forever). 9/10
Casino Royale (2006)
The baddie: Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), creepy financier to the world’s terrorists. He’s a mathematical genius with an inscrutable poker face, who’s won a fortune through gambling. Oh, and he cries blood.
Silly scheme: After his plan to play stocks with his clients’ money goes up in flames, Le Chiffre decides the best way to recapitalize is to bet his remaining loot on a game of luck, and heads off to the titular casino in Montenegro for a high-stakes Texas hold ’em tournament.
How Bond foils it: With financial backing from MI6, Bond (Daniel Craig) beats the villain at his own game, outwitting his nemesis at the poker table despite an attempt on his life. A desperate Le Chiffre then subjects 007 to some horrific torture, until his mysterious employers catch up with him and put a bullet in his head.
Daft-o-meter: This is pretty small-scale compared with the other schemes here, but it’s made up for by Le Chiffre’s massive ego. That, and the fact that other intelligence agencies think gambling taxpayers’ money in a pot intended for terrorists is a good idea. 5/10
The baddie: He’s back! Thanks to furious internet speculation, it wasn’t all that much of a surprise when Christoph Waltz’s Hans Oberhauser, Bond’s sort-of half-brother, revealed himself to be none other than SPECTRE head and arch-nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. He hadn’t been seen on screen for over 30 years, but turns out he’s still partial to grey suits and fluffy kitties.
Silly scheme: Using acts of terror, Blofeld intends to force nations of the world to join an intelligence sharing pact–codenamed ‘Nine Eyes’–that will effectively create a worldwide surveillance state, which he will be able to use to control… something?
How Bond foils it: He doesn’t. MI6 chief M (Ralph Fiennes) and tech guru Q (Ben Winshaw) manage to deactivate the system before it can go online. Meanwhile Bond (Craig) shoots down Blofeld’s getaway helicopter and retires from active duty after sending ol’ Ernst to prison.
Daft-o-meter: Blofeld’s return has certainly not improved the clarity of his plans, but at least there are no diamond-powered super-lasers… 6/10