With conversation raging about who should be the next Bond, the passing of the baton presents ample opportunity for audiences to reflect on past 007s and celebrate what each of them bought to the series. Sean Connery is, for many, the most definitive. Daniel Craig the most brutal and exciting while Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton each offered their own unique spins on the character. And yet, it is Roger Moore whose Bond portrayal is arguably the most important to securing the franchise’s longevity.
The third actor to portray Bond after Connery and a one-off performance from George Lazenby, Moore’s Bond debut re-invigorated the franchise with a new lease on life as it offered emphatic proof that Bond movies could be successful without Connery portraying the spy. Ranging from the slapstick, silly, and sloppy to the stunningly suspenseful and spectacular, Roger Moore’s Bond era was defined by its erratic inconsistency born from a fearless sense of innovation and narrative flare.
7 ‘Octopussy’ (1983)
An uneasy blend of comedy and action with aspirations of offering tongue-in-cheek callbacks which resulted in an awkward self-parody, Octopussy was certainly not shy of being experimental with the Bond formula, but it struggled to find many aspects which worked. Plodding along at an at-times painfully slow pace, it tracks Bond’s investigation into a shady circus operation which turns out to be harboring a nuclear threat.
The second last of Moore’s Bond films, Octopussy failed to resonate with audiences or critics and has come to be viewed as one of the franchise’s worst installments. Its eagerness to mock Bond only undermined the character and signaled the beginning of the end of Moore’s tenure, with the actor being 56 at the time of filming.
6 ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ (1974)
Roger Moore’s Bond era got off to a fast start with 1973’s Live and Let Die, but sadly the franchise wasn’t able to maintain that rejuvenated momentum with its sequel. Bloated with narrative fluff and a misguided sense of tradition, it struggled to find a spark as Moore drew criticism for his uninspired performance which was unable to elevate the largely bland script.
Also bogged down by a lack of inventiveness, an underwhelming array of gadgets, and glaring chauvinism (even for its time), The Man with the Golden Gun found its few strengths in its supporting characters. Sir Christopher Lee was superb as master assassin Francisco Scaramanga while Britt Ekland did what she could to make her abhorrently written Bond girl pop off the screen, but the film struggled to offer much more for audiences to enjoy.
5 ‘A View to a Kill’ (1985)
While an improvement on Octopussy, Moore’s farewell to the Bond franchise wasn’t exactly an outing to remember. Following 007’s investigation into a mad industrialist’s scheme to destroy Silicon Valley, A View to a Kill was yet another underwhelming entry for what was a dwindling Bond franchise, but it was one that at least was willing to embrace the self-parody that had crept into the saga.
The film wasn’t helped by an almost 60-year-old Moore’s efforts to deliver the action, but it did have some other characters who were noteworthy. Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin has a typical eccentricity for a Bond villain, but his tech-based plot is interesting to revisit retrospectively while Grace Jones’ Mayday still stands as one of the franchise’s most iconic characters.
4 ‘Moonraker’ (1979)
How does one even begin to summarize and evaluate a serious action movie as ridiculous as Moonraker? The most narratively ambitious Bond movie to date, its blending of spy movie mayhem with elevated accents of end-of-the-world science-fiction villainy made for a highly theatrical experience which could be either praised or panned for its ludicrous plot.
Following Bond as he investigates a hijacked space shuttle, most of the film transpires in space as an immensely powerful industrialist orchestrates the destruction of all human life. A memorable highlight of the franchise’s penchant for spectacular gadgetry, incredible set pieces, and high-stakes action, Moonraker is Bond at its most spectacularly imaginative.
3 ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (1981)
The immediate successor to Moonraker, it is plain to see the producers wanted to abandon the franchise’s erring towards science-fiction fantasy and return to its roots. This resulted in For Your Eyes Only being one of Moore’s most grounded and somber Bond movies with its entertainment value steeped in espionage thrills, blockbuster action, and underlying theme of revenge.
It follows Bond as he searches for a missing weapons command system with help from the vengeful daughter of a murdered marine archeologist. While never skimping on the fun-fuelled entertainment spectacle, For Your Eyes Only is defined by its distinctly grittier tone which sees it stand as one of Moore’s best Bond movies in the eyes of franchise traditionalists.
2 ‘Live and Let Die’ (1973)
Not only a sensational Bond debut for Roger Moore but the film which proved the Bond franchise could thrive in life after Connery, Live and Let Die successfully ushered in a new era for 007. Set largely in New York City and New Orleans, it follows Bond as he investigates the deaths of fellow British agents leading him to the small Caribbean Island of San Monique.
While a slightly different take on Bond – one who boasted a nonchalant wit and an elevated sense of humor as his deadliest weapons – Moore was still able to exhibit the slick style that made the character an instant icon. In fact, he made such an impact that the film’s less than impressive villain and at-times convoluted story were easily overlooked in lieu of the protagonist’s captivating presence.
1 ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1977)
The best of Roger Moore’s Bond films, The Spy Who Loves Me showcases so many integral elements of an old school Bond movie being done incredibly well. The action is scintillating, the story lively and pacy, it boasts one of the franchise’s best Bond girls, and, while its major villain isn’t the most striking antagonist, it did introduce Richard Kiel as the iconic evil henchman Jaws.
It also flaunted a razor sharp wit which, when paired with its cunning self-awareness, ensured its adventurous plot concerning stolen nuclear warheads was constantly underscored by a sense of fun and excitement. While its inflection of absurdity would prove to be what eventually derailed Moore’s tenure as Bond, the flare of ridiculousness worked a treat in this case and is a major reason why The Spy Who Loved Me is celebrated as his greatest Bond picture.
NEXT:10 Best Sean Connery Movies That Aren’t ‘James Bond’