After writing about Sean Connery and my favorite Bond films he starred in, I will rank Roger Moore’s Bond films.
Moore was a dapper gentleman, perfect for the wide lapels and long sideburns of the 1970s. It’s hard to think of Connery in The Spy Who Loves Me or Moore in Goldfinger. The Bond stories were tailored to the man. Moore had enough physicality for the role, although when he passed age 50, he faded fast. Moore’s Bond was more of a seducer and relied on his dry wit. Before Bond, Moore had a very successful run as Simon Templar, The Saint, he was already experienced with suave, roguish characters of intrigue.
Let’s go in reverse order.
# 7. A View to a Kill (1985)
Ugh. This one is really bad. Nothing works in this film. Moore was 58 at the time and had not aged very well. His Bond was clearly over the hill, but the filmmakers tried hard to hide it. The story was not interesting and the production was a notch below Octopussy. The film was a paint by numbers affair, totally lacking in originality or believably. Duran, Duran for the theme song? Enough said.
#6. Live and Let Die (1973)
Also directed by Guy Hamilton, Bond in Harlem and voodoo. I supposes this film made as much sense as Bond in Las Vegas. A great theme song by Paul McCartney & Wings to introduce the new James Bond era. I like the boat chase and the escape from the alligators. Beyond that, not much to see here.
#5 . The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
I like the film now, although it is not a great film. Christopher Lee was an intriguing villain, but he was more creepy than menacing. The story did not make much sense. Director Guy Hamilton later said he was sorry he made the film, he was not impressed with the result. The locale and the chase scene with the AMC automobiles was entertaining, as well as the appearance of Sheriff J.W. Pepper. The film feels like a series of unrelated scenes patched together, some are good on their own, but overall, just an average good film. Small wonder the film made very little money in America.
#. 4 Octopussy (1983)
This is actually a very well-made film, but I never warmed-up to the plot. John Glen, who was part of the Bond crew as editor, was now in the director’s chair. This Bond film continued the more grounded in reality approach and focused on a plot to explode a nuclear bomb. Back to the East/West heart of the spy game. The circus sequence and India locale are highlights. Moore should have stopped with this film.
#. 3 Moonraker (1979)
The producers were aware of the success of Star Wars and putting Bond in outer space with laser guns seemed like a good idea. This film wants to be serious and campy at the same time, which is not possible. Michael Lonsdale makes one of the worst and most boring villains, and Lois Chiles is also one of the worst Bond girls. She has no chemistry with Moore. Is it better than Octopussy? Not really. I just enjoy the silliness that Moonraker offers.
#2. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
After the silliness of Moonraker, this Bond story was more serious and realistic. The mountain climbing sequence is quite good, and the Greek locales are a nice touch. The bobsled and skiing sequences are very appealing, as is the underwater action. Julian Glover is so-so as a villain and Lynn Holly-Johnson’s attraction to the much older Bond is a little creepy. That aside, it is one of Moore’s better Bond films.
#1. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The best of the Moore Bond films and director Lewis Gilbert did a great job of realistic action with campy humor, a tough balancing act. Barbara Bach is one of the best Bond girls and Curd Jergens a very fine villain. The music was handed over to Marvin Hamlisch, who gives it a more contemporary sound, and co-wrote the theme song that Carly Simon sang. The opening ski stunt is one of the best openings for a Bond film. The Middle East locations are quite stunning. This was the hippest 1970s Bond film, and it was a lot of fun. Richard Kiel makes his first appearance as “Jaws” the huge man with the metal teeth and a bad attitude. Yes, that’s silly, but he carries it off.
Where does Moore rank as a Bond? Right in the middle. Most of his films were not great, they seemed to be reaching for something and missing. By this time, Bond was a product, a brand to be sold to the public. The films were prefab concoctions, a title from Fleming, a little from this novel, a character from that short story and a whole bunch of pop culturisms, if I can coin a phrase. Each time, the concepts had to be larger, the threat to the world more outlandish and the jokes catchier.
Moore negotiated a great contract, even though the producers were always circulating word that they were looking at Burt Reynolds or someone else for the role. Moore was affable and looked good in a tailored suit. His hair was well-coiffed and stayed in place during a fight. The films were lighter than most of Connery’s film, but Diamonds Are Forever seemed to set the mold for Moore’s Bond. Connery ushered in the Moore era.
The 1970s were about having a good time and Moore brought that easy going quality to the films. The 1980s were a more serious time as the Bond series sought to regain some traction as action films over fantasy. Moore managed to pull it off, mostly, but he was less convincing as he aged.