The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Roger Moore

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Last week, we took a look at the career of master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, one of the most critically acclaimed directors in cinema history. This week’s subject was active at roughly the same time as Kubrick (albeit in front of the camera) and never really got his critical due, even though he remains a beloved figured to many…

Sir Roger Moore


Roger Moore James Bond

Good ol’ Rog. At eighty-seven years old Roger Moore is still active, with his latest autobiographical tome, ‘One Lucky Bastard’ having just hit bookshelves. It’s always upset me that Sir Rog never really got his due, with people consistently poking fun at his career as James Bond, or worse – ignoring him altogether. The recent Bond tribute at the Academy Awards was the perfect example. Watching that, you’d think the only guys to ever play 007 were Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. As a matter-of-fact, Moore played Bond more times than any other actor (seven films – although he ties with Sean Connery if you count NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN). In the mid-eighties, Moore was so popular that when OCTOPUSSY and NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN went head-to-head at the box office, Moore’s film outgrossed Connery’s by a wide margin (it helps that it was a way better film).

Roger Moore 007

While you could say Moore maybe played Bond longer than he should have, with him being fifty-seven when he bid the role adieu with A VIEW TO A KILL (the commercially triumphant OCTOPUSSY should have been his swan-song), by the time he called it a day Moore had grown into the part. Admittedly, his career as Bond got off to a rocky start, with his second film, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN being bad enough that it could have killed the franchise. Outside of Bond, Moore tended to stick close to the Bond-type, with his tuxedoed Bond send-up in THE CANNONBALL RUN instigating the still-active clause in the 007 contract forbidding actors playing the part to wear tuxedos outside the franchise. It’s worth noting that Moore was very famous before he ever played Bond, having become a household name on the wildly popular TV series THE SAINT, where he played the suave, Bond-like Simon Templar.

roger moore spy who loved me

After Bond, Moore only took the occasional acting role, including several he professes to regret in his bio (notably THE QUEST, with Moore saying Jean Claude Van Damme was one of the few people he’d never work with again under any circumstances). His most noteworthy non-Bond role took place offscreen, with Moore becoming deeply involved with Unicef as a Goodwill ambassador, raising millions and speaking out on a variety of issues including child trafficking. As much as he played the hero on-screen, Moore in real life turned out to be just as heroic a guy as 007, which makes him unique and worthy of people’s respect.

His Best Film


roger moore spy who loved me barbara bach

As noted above, Moore’s 007 career got off to a rocky start. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME was the first time the part was really tailored to his strengths, and Moore himself regards it as his best Bond performance. I’m inclined to agree. His fun-loving, eye-brow raising Bond probably owes more (Moore?) to David Niven than Sean Connery, but he’s tremendously effective, especially in the classy love scenes opposite Barbara Bach. One thing about Moore is that he had a way of making the ridiculous seem plausible (no other actor could have pulled-off MOONRAKER), and the crazier things got the more fun he seemed to be having. One bit I love is when Bond drives the Lotus Espirit out of the ocean and nonchalantly chucks a fish from the car onto the beach. He even pulls off some of the more serious bits, such as a brief mention of the former Mrs. James Bond, as well as the notion that his leading lady may eliminate him once the mission is over, thanks to him having iced her lover in the (great) opening teaser.

His Most Underrated Film


roger moore octopussy

I’m going to pick two for this category – one Bond, one non. The Bond pick is OCTOPUSSY. Admittedly I have a major soft spot for this film. I was very young when I saw it (on the ABC Sunday night movie sometime around 1990) but it’s always been one of my favorite Bond’s. I have a big poster for it in my apartment (along with two other Moore Bond posters, and a framed Moore portrait in the foyer), and I probably revisit it at least once a year. I get why some people have problems with it, as it’s rather jokey, with a cringe-worthy scene where Bond lets out Tarzan-yells while swinging on jungle vines. It also has the infamous bit where Bond is dressed up as a clown (a nod to his critics perhaps?) for much of the climax. Still, it’s such a fun movie. The Bond franchise often apes popular films of the time, and OCTOPUSSY was the producers’ nod to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. So, if you ever wanted to see what Bond would be like slapped into the middle of an INDIANA JONES movie, this is your chance. It’s also worth noting that TEMPLE OF DOOM is chalkful of Bond references, including a the infamous “money brains” scene, which is Spielberg/Lucas’ playful attempt to top a similar gross-out scene in OCTOPUSSY where Bond is offered “stuffed sheep’s head” (the villain makes a big show of plucking an eyeball from the sheep’s head and eating it – Moore’s reaction is fab).

roger moore richard harris richard burton the wild geese

The non-Bond is the surprisingly gritty THE WILD GEESE. While I take some issue with the fact that it was shot in apartheid era South Africa (against UN sanctions), the movie itself is a rough-and-tough mercenary tale. Moore plays a supporting part, with co-stars Richard Burton and Richard Harris having the lion’s share of the screentime. Still, Moore is very cool, and surprisingly tough. One great scene has Moore forcing a mobster to eat a poisoned bag-full of heroin, leaving him to die a slow death. It’s also fun to imagine all the hell raising that must have gone-on after each day after shooting. All three actors look consistently hung-over throughout, especially Burton, who looks way too drunk to be running around in the jungle with a machine gun. Moore is also really solid in a little-seen adventure movie called FFOLKES, where he plays a crusty, cat-loving sea captain pitted against a terrorist oli-rig hijacking.

His Most Overrated Film


roger moore jane seymour yaphet kotto geoffrey holder live and let die

One Moore-era Bond I never got the love for was LIVE AND LET DIE. It was Moore’s first stab at the role, and he really didn’t have the part down-yet. This isn’t helped by the fact that the script was likely written with a Connery-type hero in mind, and bits that would have seemed cool in Connery’s hands seem goofy when Moore does them (he’s especially bad at conveying Bond’s cruel streak – Moore doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body). Nonetheless, the movie is regarded as a classic by many, with it being one of the Bond’s to get the 4K treatment on the Blu-ray set, and it routinely shows up on “best of Bond” lists. Outside of the Paul McCartney theme song, the funky-ass score by Beatles’ producer George Martin, the alligator scene and Yaphet Kotto’s performance, LIVE AND LET DIE isn’t a great Bond. It’s actually pretty mediocre.

His Most Memorable Scene

As Moore got older, the decision was made to tailor the part to his age a bit better. As a result, starting with FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, Bond became almost a paternal figure (which I think I why I’ve always liked him in the part so much and distinguishes him from the others). This is exemplified by the fact that Bond consistently tires to talk his leading lady out of her quest for vengeance, and even is willing to spare the villain’s life at the end (although he’s promptly killed by Topol). The randy-ness was toned down a bit, while the action was kicked up a notch. In this one, Moore was asked to convey a grittier, angrier Bond. A good example is the cool-ass scene where Moore avenges an ally and lover by giving a helpless villain’s car a kick off a cliff, sending him to a grisly death.

His Top-Five Films


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roger moore the saint

At eighty-seven, Moore is mostly retired although he still does lots of interviews about Bond and has become a prolific memoir writer, similar to his old pal David Niven. Good on’ ya Rog!


About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.