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An Alternate ‘View’ on the Most Hated Bond Movie Ever

An Alternate 'View' on the Most Hated Bond Movie Ever

Of all the weird niche movie fandoms out there, Bond fans might be my favorite. They’re passionate and knowledgeable, but they’re also very accepting of opposing opinions. They recognize that the franchise has gone on so long, through so many different permutations, that there are different generations of Bond fans with different tastes. As obsessives go, they’re awfully relaxed. Maybe it’s all the martinis.

Not surprisingly, then, I’ve had a lot of fun discussing my picks for The Worst Bond Films Ever on Twitter, Facebook, and the comments section of the original piece. The conversations have been lively but not contentious. By far the most disagreement on my list was for Timothy Dalton’s “Licence to Kill.” While I’m a fan of Dalton’s Bond, I’ve never liked his second and final outing in the role — but a fair percentage of folks out there do. For some, it’s a nostalgia pick (it was the first Bond they saw, they watched it a million times on cable as kids, etc.). For others it’s one of the most pleasantly atypical films in the series: few gadgets, less womanizing, more drama, and character development. 

The most disagreement off my list — the movie that the most readers argued should have been included — was 1985’s “A View to a Kill,” the seventh and final Bond adventure featuring Roger Moore as 007. This did not surprise me at all. “A View to a Kill” is routinely ranked around or at the absolute bottom of every other list of the worst Bond films. It’s been that way for decades. My own Bond nostalgia dates to the mid-’90s, when Pierce Brosnan took over the role. In conjunction with one of his films (I forget which), Entertainment Weekly did their own ranking of the entire franchise from best to worst. I was an impressionable teen at the time, and I took the list as gospel; watching all the Bond movies (many for the first time) in the order they were ranked by EW. They put “A View to a Kill” dead last. Fifteen odd years later not much has changed; a few weeks ago, USA Today gave it the same dubious honor. Bond fans don’t agree on too much. They could spend eternity debating who was the best villain or the best Bond girl. Hating “A View to a Kill” is as close to a consensus as they get.

Most of their disapproval is reserved for Moore himself, who was 57 by the time he made “A View to a Kill,” and clearly too old to play a physically vigorous secret agent. On this fact, there’s very little argument — including from Moore himself, who later joked he was “only about 400 years too old for that part” in 1985. It’s beyond the point where it’s creepy for him to sleep with younger women; it’s just kind of sad (his main female co-star, Tanya Roberts, just turned 57 – in 2012). To paraphrase the classic Chris Rock routine, “A View to a Kill” Roger Moore is like the old man at the club. Everyone else of his generation has moved on, gotten married, had kids, gotten a desk job. But he’s still there in his bellbottoms every Tuesday for 70s Night. You don’t want to be the old man at the club.

Until recently, I agreed with the consensus. When I saw “A View to a Kill” as a teenager, I thought it was laughable. I never watched it again. So when I rented the film just prior to writing that “Worst Bond Movies” piece, I planned to refresh my memory, confirm my opinion, and find some material for a few old guy jokes (“Moore was so old he had to take Viagra an hour before shooting the action scenes just in case he wanted to fire his gun.”). Then I actually watched the movie and a very strange thing happened: I liked it. With a hero this decrepit, “A View to a Kill” could never rise to the status of a great Bond movie. But if the Moore of 1973 had starred in it? It might have been one of his very best.

Moore’s age doesn’t diminish the movie’s greatest strength: namely its deranged villain, played with typically delightful lunacy by Christopher Walken. His character is Max Zorin, a microchip manufacturer looking to increase his market share by destroying Silicon Valley with a cataclysmic earthquake. The marriage between the Bond franchise and Walken was a match made in heaven. By 1985, the franchise’s evildoers required less logic than charisma; theirs was not to succeed, or even to make much sense, but to scheme and cackle and threaten in the biggest and most entertaining way possible. Few men have ever been more suited to that task than Christopher Walken.

Zorin, it turns out, was the product of a former Nazi scientist’s experiments into the effects of steroids on pregnant women, a process that made him a psychotic genius. That’s as good an explanation for Walken’s peculiar speech patterns as I’ve ever heard, on or off screen. His particular skills as an actor are well-suited to Roger Moore’s Bond, whose connection to indexical reality was already tenuous at best. In “A View to a Kill” he could indulge all his weirdest impulses, and not seem out of place in the slightest. This is a world where James Bond drives a car that’s been sawed in half, and has a submarine that looks like an iceberg. In this context, why wouldn’t a microchip manufacturer talk like Christopher Walken and have an airship that can kill people with the flick of a switch?

It’s Walken at his most Walkenian: chuckles, pauses, and weird pro-NOUN-see-a-SHUNS. This YouTube montage assembling his best “View to a Kill” tics almost feels like an avant-garde short.

Zorin is aided in his quest to be the strangest and most memorable Bond villain of them all by his lover and henchwoman May Day, played with scene stealing relish by Grace Jones. She and Walken share two of the most pleasurably strange scenes in all of Bond (neither of which, shockingly, seem to be online). In the first, director John Glen gives us a little peak in to Zorin and May Day’s home life, which consists of what Will Ferrell’s character in “Zoolander” would have surely called “sex fighting” — a karate battle that quickly turns into fetishistic foreplay. In the second, Zorin and May Day admire San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge from the control deck of his dirigible. “What a view…” Jones says. “To a kill!” Walken cackles, indicating he knows exactly what movie he’s in — right down to its title.

Beyond Walken and Jones’ considerable contributions, “A View to a Kill” also contains a robust assortment of action sequences. In the cold open, Bond retrieves a microchip from the dead body of another British spy and then escapes from Siberian soldiers by turning a destroyed snowmobile into an improvised snowboard while the soundtrack illogically blares “California Girls” (a choice so inappropriate it’s almost inspired). Later, after May Day kills an informant with details on Zorin’s plan, Bond pursues her up the Eiffel Tower, and then through Paris as she tries to escape via parachute. There’s an incredible car chase with a whole series of jaw-dropping stunts, including a jump on to and off of the roof of a moving bus. Later, Bond is nearly arrested by the San Francisco police and he makes his getaway on a firetruck whose back half begins swinging wildly into traffic as Moore(‘s stunt double) hangs on for dear life.

So, yes, Moore is too old. And the less said about Tanya Roberts as the main Bond girl the better (that’s why I’ve only mentioned her once until now). “A View to a Kill” is certainly not on par with Sean Connery’s best Bonds, but it’s not really that much worse than Moore’s high points.  It’s less silly than “Octopussy,” and it’s got a much better villain than “Moonraker.” In this Bond fan’s view, it’s actually kind of underrated. And the Duran Duran theme song is great. Surely every Bond fan can agree with me on that.

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View was not that bad. I loved Walken in the movie. The perfect villain. And his death was awesome. The worst Bond is any of the Brosnan movies. I hate those movies. They are boring as shit.

Stanley Tatum

Zorin's death was one of the highlights of the film:

I can't believe they wanted Bowie to play Zorin. Walken was perfect for this.

Gerardo Valero

I still have my copy of the EW magazine you mention, it's got Pierce Brosnan on the cover with an orange background and some strange pose in which he pretends his finger is a gun.
Just seeing the title of this piece got me drooling Matt. You poke fun "License to Kill" over the "there's too many people" empty bushes but defend AVTK? What about when Roger Moore and Patrick Macnee are shown having taken the time to record a cassette of a conversation in which the former nags the latter, just so that they may confuse their eavesdroppers and have a moment of privacy in a balcony, in plain view of dozens of pedestrians ?!?!? Most action movies are aimed at younger audiences but I wonder how they could ever identify with Roger Moore plus Patrick Macnee! That’s like 120 years between the two and don’t get me started with the scene at the horse track with a MI6 group that looks like the population of a retirement home going on a field day.
I love Christopher Walken, in theory he should be a fantastic Bond villain, so one of life’s incomprehensible enigmas is how he could ever become such a bad one. On one hand you have Auric Goldfinger saying: “No Mr.Bond, I expect you to die?”, what do you have here? Max Zorin yelling: “power, more power!”.
And what about the robotic cat that Q develops? What possible spying purposes could it ever accomplish? It’s not like it can pass for the real thing. I’ve always wondered how it could ever climb the stairs to Tanya Roberts home.
I agree with you “Moonraker” is one of the worst films in the series but at least it is never boring. AVTK commits that cardinal sin throughout. I truly find it depressing. By the way, I’m sure I’ve seen it at least 15-20 times, don't ask me why.


I don't even remember much of the actual movie, aside from Walken and Jones, but that awesome Duran Duran video was on heavy rotation the summer of 1985, so I love it for that alone. "Bon. Simon Le Bon."

John A.

I wish I could go with you on this one, but Walken and the Duran Duran theme (which is one of the best in the series) are the only things I really like about "A View to a Kill." I don't hate it, but I don't hate any of them. Dislike, though? Sure, I do dislike it. "The Man with the Golden Gun" is at the bottom of my list (of the official ones, anyway), and that one also has a very strong villain in Christopher Lee's Scaramanga.


Beach Boys


I think A View To A Kill like so many of these Bond films of its time is very underrated. There is a tendency to underrate anything that does not have Sean Connery in the role of Bond. A View To A Kill gets perhaps the rawest deal. Like Octopussy and For Your Eyes Only and Moonraker, it underappreciated imo. What is positive and what is negative about it?

The positives outweigh the negatives. First up is what is easily one of the best pretitles of the Bonds. Great ski chase/shootout action. Easily the best to date at the time. Then we get to see Zorin, a very strong enemy played excellently by Christopher Walken. Next up, we get to see Zorin and some fun action scenes like the horse race and a great chase in Paris with Bond chasing rather than being chased for a change.

Of course, many elements of the plot come straight out of Goldfinger with Silicon Valley replacing Fort Knox. Bond defusing a bomb may have been too similiar to a scene in Octopussy even with the same music IIRC. The climax is very good too albeit Bond pursuing the villain after he has captured his girl is also borrowed from Octopussy the immediate predecessor. Zorin machine gunning down his own men while laughing shows us how deranged he is. Echoes of the JW Pepper character came in with the police chief involved in the fire engine chase scene.

Why does this film get picked out by many as the worst I don’t know. While it may not have the most original of storylines, it has great action and a great villain. Maybe some people so used to Roger Moore’s funnier Bonds could not take to him doing a more serious film. By and large, A View To A Kill is not a humorous film. Most humor is consigned to the part where Bond and his ally are undercover in the French chateau as well as the fire engine chase and the usual Q scenes.

Another possible reason for why films like this are underrated is because we are comparing them to today’s Bond.

Tony Zeno

Im sorry I have to disagree with “A View to a kill” being the worst bond film ever.. First off I am 41 years old an grew up with Roger Moore as James Bond. I remember being at someones house when I was about 8 years old they had HBO or the movie channel etc and were watch “For Your Eyes only” on the Mountain climbing scene where the henchman was trying to know out the rope stakes Bond was on.. I to this day remember the tension was causing me anxiety it was the first film to grab me in that way… “eyes only” is my favorite Bond movie ever and I like “A view to a Kill” While I respect Sean connery for his other work, his bond films are so slow paced and the effects of that time are garbage and moany of the Connery films are unwatchable.. Trust me try it. Let’s fast forward to the Craig Bond films, with a solifd opening from Casino Royale, the Franchise reboot looked promissing but each film after has been never as good.. Quantum of Solace was Garbage and even Spectre was bad.. My point is “A view to a kill” is much better a Bond film than it is given credit.. By far the worst Moore Bond film is “The Man with the GOlden Gun”


I have always liked AVTAK, and it has always been one of my favourite James Bond -films. But, to be honest, I’d rank it somewhere in the middle of every Bond-film. The title was taken from Ian Fleming’s short novel, “From a View to a Kill”, which would have not made into a film, because it was too short. (They did adapt Risico and The Living Daylights into films by extending them, and they turned out to be well.) But for AVTAK, they decided to make an original story, borrowing only Paris as the setting from the novel. The film is set in 1980’s and the story was strongly tied to the time, and it would still work for today’s standards. From Ian Fleming’s books, it can be read that James Bond was in his thirties in 1950’s, and later, researchers set Bond’s year of birth to 1920 or 1921 (11th November), so around 1984, when AVTAK gappened, Bond was 62 or 63 years old. Roger Moore was 57, so he was actually at the right age playing Bond, which added more realism to the film. Author John Gardner, who put Bond into 1980’s portrayed him having “gray at the temples”, so there is nothing wrong in Bond’s age in the film. AVTAK as a story is an expansion to the world Ian Fleming created, and it was one of the most serious Bond-films by Roger Moore, so, not only physically, but mentally, Bond was more realistic, too. AVTAK also had stronger enemy than Octopussy or The Living Daylights had, and the story had some interesting twists, too. If ranking the films by comparing or trying to fit them into Fleming’s timeline, the worst Bond-films are Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun and all Bond-films created after GoldenEye. Those filmed at the beginning of the 1970’s were only partly based on the books, and DoA had Blofeld, whom Bond hadn’t even met, or killed at the time the novel came out. After GoldenEye, Bond was absolutely too old for continuing as an agent, so that time, he had to retire, although Pierce Brosnan looked rather young in the film. AVTAK fitted into Fleming’s timeline, and was one of the most realistic Bond-films, not a very realistic one, but it had it’s standards, and one of them was that Roger Moore was at the right age playing Bond.


I grew up with Roger Moore as my James Bond. So he’ll always be my favorite. And of all of his films, I loved A View to a Kill the most. Christopher Walken was so fun in that movie. And I liked that Roger Moore was older. I mean why do all spies have to be young sexy models?

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