Sir Roger Moore died on Tuesday at 89 years old. Thirty-two years ago, Moore ended his run as James Bond with his seventh film in the series, A View to A Kill.
Roger Moore’s last Bond appearance might be especially memorable for sports fans; James Bond seemingly invents extreme snowboarding, then surfs on a lake.
Silliness like the above nicely crystallizes the style of the Bond series during Roger Moore’s 12 years as 007. Moore may not be remembered quite as synonymously with the character as Sean Connery, who was Moore’s predecessor (save a one-film stint for Australian George Lazenby).
However, until Daniel Craig took up the mantle in 2006, Roger Moore was the only Bond actor from England. Connery is Scottish, Timothy Dalton was born in Wales, and Pierce Bronsan is Irish. Moore brought a certain gravitas to the role unlike any other 007.
7. The Man With The Golden Gun
The plot concept behind The Man With The Golden Gun is an intriguing one: The world’s greatest secret agent meets his match when faced with the world’s most prolific assassin. Bonus points for the casting of Christopher Lee as assassin Francisco Scaramanaga, the movie’s eponymous villain.
Lee, who died in 2015, made his place in cinematic history in much the same manner as Moore, playing an iconic role. Lee donned the cape as Dracula in the Hammer Studios series, and is the quintessential Dracula for my money.
Despite an exciting concept and excellent casting for the lead villain, The Man With The Golden Gun is drenched in mid-1970s cheese. Scaramanga’s henchman, Hervé Villechaize, is perhaps best known for his role Tattoo on the TV series “Fantasy Island.” Bond also finds himself in a martial arts tournament that feels like it’s only in the film because the previous year’s Enter The Dragon was a success.
6. A View to a Kill
From ’70s cheese to ’80s cheese, Roger Moore ended the longest James Bond 12 years after he began. Though Daniel Craig spent nearly a full decade as 007, the cultural differences in the early half of the 1970s and the mid-1980s are far more contrasting than the mid-2000s and mid-2010s.
To that end, the film opens with my personal favorite Bond theme, performed by Duran Duran. MTV’s popularity had erupted by 1985, and “A View to a Kill” was in heavy rotation on the network. The music video ties into one of the film’s early scenes…which is kinda weird.
A View to a Kill‘s plot — which has Christopher Walken as an undercover KGB agent seeking to dominate the world’s computer market — is a bit convoluted. At 57, Moore’s time as Bond was quite apparently at the end. Coincidentally, Connery reprized the role just two years earlier in the unofficial Never Say Never Again, a story centered on an aging Bond trying to recapture his past magic. Connery was five years younger for that film than Moore was for A View to a Kill.
The casting of Walken does compensate somewhat, and the movie also features Grace Jones at the height of her cinematic popularity. She was just a year removed from Conan The Destroyer, which also featured basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain. The Stilt’s role in that movie spawned this iconic image:
In another coincidental twist, co-star Tanya Roberts was freshly removed from Conan ripoff, The Beastmaster.
You know what’s great about you English? Octopussy. I must have seen that movie…twice.
Octopussy may be best remembered for its not-at-all-subtle pun title and the above Homer Simpson quote, but it’s an enjoyable Roger Moore-led entry in the Bond series with surprisingly dark undertones, given the campiness of the Bond series for much of Moore’s tenure.
Bond investigates a fellow MI6 agent murder’s, leading him to a plot to use black-market nuclear weapons against NATO members. This plot device was especially heavy in 1983, given that same year, U.S. and Soviet hostilities reached a boiling point not seen in 30 years.
By the late 1970s, films like Star Wars, Alien and Superman: The Motion Picture set the pace at the box office. Innovations in filmmaking opened up entirely new worlds — worlds that the Bond franchise sought to enter with Moonraker.
Moonraker highlights much of what critics of the Roger Moore era of Bond films dislike, and cranks it up to 11. Personally, it’s a formula I appreciate, as Moonraker cranks up the tongue-in-cheek to 11. Thumbs up for also beating Superman 2 to the punch with the villainous Drax, who could be called a Zodd rip-off — were this movie not released a year earlier.
3. For Your Eyes Only
An entry removed from the supreme campiness of Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only marked a more serious approach to the Bond mythology.
The plot centers around a rebel hero of sorts, “The Dove” Milos Columbo. The presentation of the villain feels somewhat like an artistic interpretation of Che Guevara, had the Cuban revolutionary lived into the 1980s, taken a global approach and adopted a more diabolic mindset.
I make the Guevara comparison, as the movie’s inclusion of Cuban influence in a larger alliance of communist renegades — including an East German Olympian. The use of Olympic athletes central to the plot serves as another example of Bond imitating current events. Political tensions between the Americans and Soviets led to the U.S. boycotting the Moscow Games of 1980, a few months after the historic hockey showdown between the two nations in Lake Placid.
2. Live and Let Die
Roger Moore’s debut as James Bond ranks among his best appearances. Moore took the reins following two different reboots: First, George Lazenby succeeded Connery in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a movie from which 2006’s Casino Royale borrowed plot points; and then in 1971 when Connery returned for the wildly entertaining Diamonds are Forever.
Moore stepped in for the 1973 vehicle, and immediately owned the role in a wholly unique way. He exudes charisma throughout a story that takes Bond to unique locales the series has yet to revisit like New Orleans and New York.
Aside from Javier Bardem, Yaphet Kotto plays perhaps the most sinister and believable Bond villain. Paul McCartney provides the film’s theme, which I would venture to say is the most popular Bond track.
1. The Spy Who Loved Me
In 1977, the perfect mix of elements from the Moore era came together for the excellent The Spy Who Loved Me. Moore’s third foray as Bond is wildly over-the-top, sure. But it’s also the most iconic entry from his tenure, featuring the giant henchman Jaws; Bond collaborating with Russian agent KGB Agent Triple-X; and quintessential Bond villain Stromberg.
Stromberg’s shark aquarium remains one of the signature visuals from any Bond film.
Moore also seemed to hit his stride as Bond by this point, conveying more confidence and toughness than at any other time in his stint as 007.