With the possible exception of one-off Bond George Lazenby, Roger Moore had arguably the most difficult job of all the screen 007s – he had to put his own mark on Ian Fleming's spy after Sean Connery had done so much to define the role. In that regard, Moore's tenure was definitely mission accomplished.
Indeed, nobody could claim that Moore tried to imitate his predecessor – and for that reason he's probably the most divisive of the six actors to play Bond. While Connery played MI6's most universal export with a ruthless edge, Moore brought a lightness of touch to his movies, a mix of easy charm and mastery of the double entendre.
He also played 007 in more official Bond movies than anyone else, from 1973's Live and Let Die to 1985's A View to a Kill. His seven-film run is undeniably a mixed bag, though there's at least one bona fide classic in there (The Spy Who Loved Me) alongside some undeniable stinkers.
The Moore era is also home to some of the greatest and most spectacular stunts in the entire Bond franchise, so whether you think Moore is the best James Bond or not, there's no question his adventures have the capacity to thrill. Here, then, is every Roger Moore Bond movie ranked, from worst to best.
7. A View to a Kill
It was a case of one movie too far for Roger Moore in 1985's A View to a Kill, his final outing as 007.
Moore was more or less the same age David Niven had been when he played an older Bond in 1967 spoof Casino Royale, so it’s no longer possible to pretend – as the movie frequently does – that he’s still a secret agent in his prime. Alas, the leading man's advancing years are one of the less significant issues with a film so bad it’s frequently unintentionally funny.
A View to a Kill has two saving graces. The first is Duran Duran’s theme song, which is up there with the franchise’s best. The other is Christopher Walken, who hams it up spectacularly as Max Zorin, a mad industrialist plotting to wipe out California’s Silicon Valley – his unconventional delivery can make even the most mundane lines of dialogue worth listening to. Nonetheless, you have to question the wisdom of a guy who tries to flee the scene of the crime in a very slow airship with his name emblazoned across the side. Did he really think he was going to get away with it?
At the climax of Moonraker’s predecessor, The Spy Who Loved Me, the familiar end-of-credits message says "James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only". And that was indeed the plan until Star Wars (find out how to watch the Star Wars movies in order) kickstarted a Hollywood-wide obsession with outer space. Even 007 booked himself an unlikely ticket into orbit.
In truth, Moonraker is a very ordinary cover version of The Spy Who Loved Me (same director, one of the same writers) that substitutes missing space shuttles for AWOL submarines. The tone is also silly rather than funny – the double-taking pigeon in Venice is a low-point for the franchise – with Roger Moore’s famous raised eyebrow getting more of a workout than ever. Returning muscle Jaws (Richard Kiel) is totally defanged when he finds romance, too, which is a waste of such an iconic character. The biggest disappointment, however, is the special effects – although the film came out two years after Star Wars, the visuals really aren't in the same league.
5. The Man with the Golden Gun
This movie is named after its villain and rightly so – Christopher Lee’s elite assassin Francisco Scaramanga is easily the best thing about this middling Bond outing. The Dracula star was famously the step-cousin of 007’s creator, Ian Fleming, and he delivers a performance of charming menace as a professional killer who just happens to have a golden bullet with Bond’s name on it.
Otherwise, The Man with the Golden Gun is a messy affair. Britt Ekland’s British field agent Mary Goodnight is two-dimensional and embarrassingly written (even by the not-brilliant standards of the 1970s and women in 007 movies), while Bond’s second encounter with Sheriff JW Pepper (in Thailand?!) defies explanation.
On the plus side, the film does feature one of the series’ greatest ever stunts, when a car barrel rolls over a river – though someone thought it was a good idea to soundtrack the spectacular set-piece with a swanee whistle. Who knows why?
By the time Octopussy was released in 1983, adventure had a new name and it wasn’t James Bond. But 007 didn’t just have to live up to the Steven Spielberg-powered action of Indiana Jones (read our Steven Spielberg movies ranked article) – he was also competing against himself as Sean Connery returned to the role in unofficial quasi-Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again.
And it showed. Octopussy comfortably won the Bond v Bond box office battle, and this run-of-the-mill yet entertaining entry in the series would have been a much more fitting sign-off for Moore than the risible A View to a Kill. Less grounded than predecessor For Your Eyes Only, it sees the star back in his element as the tone veers back towards the tongue-in-cheek territory his Bond traditionally calls home. Unfortunately that means the film’s portrayal of India – potentially a thrilling backdrop for the movie – leans way too heavily on lazy stereotypes. Ironically, the second Indiana Jones film, Temple of Doom, also slipped up in similar ways.
An unspectacular entry in the series, then, but a decent way to pass the time.
3. For Your Eyes Only
When Casino Royale kicked off the Daniel Craig era, a major talking point was the way it brought the franchise back-to-basics after the invisible cars and giant space lasers of Die Another Day. However, it wasn’t the first course correction in 007’s history because For Your Eyes Only had already brought the franchise back down to earth after the excesses of Moonraker.
While Craig’s "blunt instrument" was the perfect fit for Casino Royale, this is a case of (almost) the right movie with the wrong Bond. Moore was by no means a cert to make a fifth outing as 007, so the movie could easily have served as a reintroduction to a grittier new take on the character.
That may explain why the film – helmed by former editor/second unit director John Glen, who’d go on to direct all five '80s Bond movies – is a strange mish-mash of unexpected seriousness and outlandishly silly moments. This is the one where Bond drops a Blofeld lookalike down a chimney and misses a call from then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Go figure.
Still, the revenge-driven plot is a good fit for the character and many of the stunts –particularly a phenomenal free-climbing sequence – have stood the test of time. For Your Eyes Only is also notable as the only Bond film without an M, after original actor Bernard Lee died early on in production.
2. Live and Let Die
After Sean Connery chose to permanently revoke his licence to kill (until his "unofficial" return in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, anyway), Roger Moore was anointed the big screen’s third 007. The producers were initially hoping for Connery’s return, though, and that’s clear in a script that’s edgier and less self-consciously comedic than Moore’s subsequent outings in the role. In fact, this is arguably the only Bond movie where Moore comes close to convincing as a ruthless government assassin.
Viewed through modern eyes, many elements of Live and Let Die feel like a clunky, sometimes insensitive attempt to cash in on the success of the Blaxploitation genre in the early ’70s. Clifton James’ Louisiana cop JW Pepper also veers dangerously close to caricature territory. In the positives column, returning Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton keeps things pacey, while Paul McCartney’s theme tune subverts the traditional formula spectacularly, and is arguably the franchise’s best.
And here's one for the trivia buffs... Live and Let Die is the only film between 1963’s From Russia With Love and 1999’s The World is Not Enough not to feature a scene with Desmond Llewelyn’s ubiquitous gadget specialist Q.
1. The Spy Who Loved Me
A Bond adventure so big it prompted the construction of the vast 007 Stage at London’s Pinewood Studios, The Spy Who Loved Me is our top choice in this Roger Moore Bond movie ranking.
In many ways, it’s a retread of Sean Connery’s You Only Live Twice (director Lewis Gilbert returned behind the camera) but it’s also the only flick where Moore’s tongue-in-cheek delivery gels perfectly with the blockbuster spectacle. That’s clear from a spectacular pre-credits sequence where 007 skis off a cliff and interrupts his freefall by unfurling a union jack parachute – Carly Simon’s classic "Nobody Does it Better" theme song couldn’t be better placed.
While Bond films are often accused of being formulaic, The Spy Who Loved Me proves that – when it’s on song – it’s a formula that works. Main villain Karl Stromberg’s scheme to build a new underwater civilisation chimes perfectly with the movie’s over-the-top vibe, while Richard Kiel’s silent Jaws is one of the franchise’s best henchmen. KGB agent Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) is an excellent foil for Bond. And, with the possible exception of Goldfinger’s Aston Martin DB5, the submersible Lotus Espirit S1 is 007’s greatest ever car.
For more Bond-based content, read up on how to watch the James Bond movies in order. Alternatively, you can get our thoughts on the best James Bond gadgets ever, or read our definitive rankings of every Sean Connery James Bond movie and every Pierce Brosnan James Bond movie.
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Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.