Why Roger Moore Is Considered One of the Best Bonds

Roger Moore’s tenure in the James Bond franchise is often regarded as one of the least favored by many fans. However, if we base our judgment solely on his first film, “Live and Let Die,” there’s a compelling argument to be made that he’s among the best Bonds. This movie is infused with Bond’s signature elements in every aspect of its presentation, featuring stunning locations, thrilling action sequences, and a soundtrack that will keep you on the edge of your seat (is “Live and Let Die” perhaps the best Bond theme ever? Most likely!). What sets this film apart is that it introduces a different approach.

Moore’s portrayal of Bond is more personality-driven than any previous iteration, relying on clever wit rather than sheer physical strength and athleticism. While this approach would eventually be taken to extremes in later films, in his debut, Moore strikes the perfect balance. Unlike other actors’ initial portrayals of Bond, Moore’s first outing doesn’t necessarily foreshadow what’s to come. As Moore’s subsequent Bond movies would become increasingly campy and less self-aware, “Live and Let Die” gains even more appreciation in hindsight.

When “Live and Let Die” hit theaters in 1973, the James Bond franchise had already established itself with seven Eon-produced Bond films, two actors, a rich history of classic material, and two decades of Ian Fleming’s literary contributions. Sean Connery had portrayed Bond in six Eon films, initially taking on the role from 1962 to 1967, but he temporarily stepped away, paving the way for the second Bond actor, George Lazenby, to make his mark in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” a highly regarded but somewhat underrated 007 film.

Connery returned to play Bond once more in 1971’s “Diamonds Are Forever,” but that marked the end of his tenure in the role. By this point, James Bond had become an integral part of popular culture, leaving Roger Moore with little room for error. After all, Connery had already come out of retirement from the role once—let’s not make him do it again, Roger!

Roger Moore Was a Perfect Fit for James Bond

“Live and Let Die” was a monumental success, ensuring Roger Moore’s place as James Bond for the next twelve years. The film was directed by Guy Hamilton, a seasoned Bond director with classics like “Goldfinger” and “Diamonds Are Forever” under his belt. In this installment, Bond investigates the murders of three fellow agents, leading him to become the target of the global crime lord Kananga, also known as Mr. Big, portrayed by Yaphet Kotto. Bond’s pursuit unravels a world of crime, drug trafficking, and the occult orchestrated by his latest adversary.

By the time of “Live and Let Die,” the Bond series had already embraced its fair share of camp, and while this film may not be as campy as “A View to a Kill,” it was a significant step in that direction. However, the film’s level of cheesiness, while evident, adds to its charm rather than detracting from it. Any eye-rolling moments are primarily associated with Moore’s performance, as he enters the series with a unique style. Nevertheless, the rest of the film largely adheres to the template set by Connery and Lazenby, with Moore offering a mostly impeccable performance.

Roger Moore Is the People’s Bond

Roger Moore’s portrayal of Bond emphasizes his wit and charisma over physical combat. While many James Bonds are enjoyable to watch because of their incredible fighting abilities, they aren’t the stereotypical macho action heroes of the 1980s. To secure the role of Bond, an actor needs a considerable amount of personality, and in this regard, Moore might outshine them all. He brings humor, a laid-back attitude, and a sense that nothing is too daunting for him. He even exudes a certain level of culture not as strongly present in his predecessors and successors. There’s a single image that encapsulates this Bond’s essence: he’s leisurely smoking a cigar while suspended from a hang glider, calmly awaiting his moment to strike against his enemies. If there ever was a James Bond you’d want to have a drink with, it’s Roger Moore’s version. He’s undoubtedly the most relaxed and laid-back of all the Bonds.

Guy Hamilton Might Be the Quintessential Bond Director

That being said, despite the lackluster fight sequences, James Bond still needs to engage in a few physical altercations. In Moore’s portrayal, these action scenes aren’t particularly thrilling. Moore’s punches seem slow, and he’s rarely seen performing any of his stunts, and even when he does, it appears to be in slow motion. Nevertheless, the film boasts some enjoyable action sequences, particularly a thrilling boat chase scene through a Louisiana bayou. The credit for the success of these scenes lies more with director Guy Hamilton than Moore. Hamilton has an excellent eye for Bond films, knowing how to capture massive stunts, build tension effectively, and showcase exotic locations beautifully. The scene where Bond has to evade an army of alligators and crocodiles will undoubtedly keep you on the edge of your seat. Still, it transitions to a more relaxed atmosphere as our hero peacefully fishes off the back of a boat with a vast blue ocean stretching out to the horizon. Much like Hamilton’s work in Goldfinger, Live and Let Die stands out as one of the best-looking James Bond movies.

‘Live and Let Die’ Has a Stellar Supporting Cast

The supporting cast in Live and Let Die features a remarkable group of actors. Kananga, also known as Mr. Big, is a truly enjoyable Bond villain. While his plan to distribute self-produced heroin worldwide might not be the most riveting, Yaphet Kotto’s commanding physical presence makes up for it. The film also provides classic Bond henchmen, such as the robot-armed Tee-Hee (Julius W. Harris) and the face-painted voodoo cult leader Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder).

The movie’s main Bond girl, Solitaire (Jane Seymour), is one of the more intriguing characters in the entire franchise. Her involvement with the occult and her use of Tarot cards add a fascinating and unconventional element to her character. However, like many other Bond girls, she isn’t given much room for character development. The same can be said for Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), Bond’s other brief love interest. While there are attempts to provide her with more character depth, she also falls into the stereotypical Bond girl role, exhibiting helplessness and a tendency to shriek uncontrollably at the sight of a snake.

How Does Roger Moore’s Debut as James Bond Compare?

Comparing Live and Let Die to other Bond actors’ first films, Roger Moore’s debut suggests a strong run to come, but it ends up falling short as his films progress. His Bond films closely resemble Pierce Brosnan’s in terms of performance and movie quality. Both actors start with strong debuts, followed by sequels that vary in quality from cheesy to boring, and then finish their runs with ridiculously cheesy yet entertaining entries (Die Another Day serves as an example of this mixed reception).

However, Brosnan outperformed Moore in terms of action scenes. While Live and Let Die is generally considered a better film than Sean Connery’s Dr. No, Connery’s performance in Dr. No is often regarded as superior to Moore’s in Live and Let Die. Furthermore, Connery’s acting and movie quality improved with each installment, which contrasts with Moore’s series trajectory where his films gradually lost their appeal.

Timothy Dalton’s debut, “The Living Daylights,” marks a significant departure from the direction Roger Moore’s Bond films took in the series. It was released two years after Moore’s “A View to a Kill,” and it introduced a darker and more serious portrayal of James Bond. While it’s unfortunate that Dalton only had the opportunity to play Bond twice, he boasts the best batting average of any actor who portrayed 007 more than once (apologies to George Lazenby). “The Living Daylights” not only fulfills its promise of a grittier Bond but also predates Daniel Craig’s critically acclaimed and gritty approach in “Casino Royale,” which many consider one of the best movies in the entire Bond series.

Speaking of George Lazenby, he delivered a fantastic performance in his first and only Bond movie, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Lazenby played Bond as a somber and emotionally damaged character, foreshadowing the Vesper Lynd arc in the recent Bond films. Although his portrayal was exceptional, it would have been interesting to see more of him in the role.

While “Live and Let Die” is undoubtedly Roger Moore’s best James Bond movie, it’s also important to acknowledge that it set a high standard that his subsequent Bond films struggled to meet. The film’s strengths, including great action, a fun cast of characters, an exciting plot that spans the Western Hemisphere, and Moore’s charming portrayal of Bond, make it shine brightly. Unfortunately, the subsequent entries in Moore’s run couldn’t maintain the same level of quality. Despite this, “Live and Let Die” remains a memorable debut that initially promised a string of great sequels, setting a unique and easy-going tone for 007, thanks to Roger Moore’s excellent performance.