As the dust begins to settle on No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond, there are mixed opinions on Rami Malek’s villainous Lyutsifer Safin. Whilst elements of his character, such as his facial scarring or mask, are certainly memorable, he isn’t likely to challenge the likes of Goldfinger and Scaramanga in any ‘best of’ lists any time soon.
A strong Bond villain can elevate an otherwise mediocre film, Christopher Lee’s impeccable performance as Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun being the obvious example. Similarly, a weak villain can adversely affect the legacy of an otherwise excellent film, such as Joe Don Baker’s underwhelming arms dealer Brad Whitaker in The Living Daylights.
Generally, the villains drawn from Ian Fleming’s source novels have fared better in the memorability stakes than those created from scratch by the screenwriters of the various films, the odd exception like Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan notwithstanding. Anybody could pick Blofeld out of a line-up, but that certainly couldn’t be said for the likes of Gustav Graves.
No villains from the continuation novels written by other authors after Fleming’s passing in 1963 (recently ranked here) have ever been portrayed on screen. There are a handful that could certainly work, however, including the following.
5. Irina 'Babushka' Sedova
must’ve been one of the hardest parts of authoring the Young Bond series, given
that a teenage iteration of the character couldn’t realistically go toe-to-toe
with them physically as a result of his age or be subject to elaborate deathtraps
given the younger target audience.
Charlie Higson certainly did a respectable job across his five novels, however, even if his creations had to largely make use of young adult henchmen as proxies. Irina Sedova, codenamed Babushka, stands out in such an environment given how her entire existence revolves around operating from the shadows, manipulating others in her role as a leader of the OGPU, the Soviet precursor to the KGB.
Though she only appears in two of Higson’s novels and is actually an ally rather than a villain in By Royal Command, Babushka, named after the Russian dolls of the same name, is an imposing presence in all of her scenes, notably walking away from Bond at gunpoint under the assumption that he cannot bring himself to pull the trigger.
The series has had few female villains and though Sedova channels the most well-known of these, Rosa Klebb, in many ways, a modern interpretation could certainly work.