Moonraker (1979) is the eleventh instalment in the Bond franchise and stars Roger Moore as the suave secret agent for the fourth time.
The film is far removed from the eponymous novel, and it sees Bond tasked with investigating the theft of a space shuttle. His search leads him to industrialist Hugo Drax, who plans to destroy humanity and repopulate the earth with a genetically superior race. Bond must stop Drax’s nefarious plan before it’s too late.
Upon its release, Moonraker received mixed reviews from critics. While some praised the film’s thrilling action sequences and Moore’s charismatic portrayal of Bond, others criticized the plot as implausible and overly reliant on special effects.
However, audiences were more forgiving and the film was a box office success, grossing over $210 million worldwide, making it one of the more successful Bond films of the time.
Moonraker also features a star-studded cast, including Michael Lonsdale as the villainous Hugo Drax, Lois Chiles as Bond’s love interest CIA Agent Holly Goodhead, and Richard Kiel as back as the iconic henchman Jaws.
Kiel’s performance as the towering and seemingly indestructible Jaws was particularly well-received and the character has since become a fan favourite, and in Mooraker a twist awaits all Jaws and Bond fans.
Despite its mixed critical reception, Moonraker remains a beloved entry in the Bond franchise and a testament to the series’ enduring popularity. Its over-the-top action and science fiction elements have influenced countless films and TV shows in the decades since its release.
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at Moonraker‘s place in Bond history and explore why it continues to captivate audiences to this day.
A Drax Industries Space Shuttle loaned to the UK is hijacked in mid-air by an unknown assailant, leading to the destruction of the shuttle carrier aircraft. James Bond is called upon by M to investigate the case.
On his way to England, Bond is set up by a flight attendant, and he’s attacked by the flight captain. Bond manages to throw him out of the plane, but then his old foe from The Spy Who Loved Me, Jaws, pushes Bond out of the plane.
Bond then freefalls to the captain and steals the captain’s parachute. Jaws is also freefalling to try and kill Bond, but Bond manages to free himself and he lands safely, whereas Jaws freefalls all the way but lands on a circus tent.
In London, Bond is given the mission to find the hijacked space shuttle, but before he goes, Q gives him a wristwatch gadget that fires armor piercing darts and others that contain cyanide that will kill upon impact.
Bond travels to the Drax Industries spaceplane-manufacturing complex in California, where he meets the owner of the company, Hugo Drax, and his assistant, Chang.
Drax knows Bond is onto him so he tells Chang to cause some pain. Bond also meets Dr. Holly Goodhead, a NASA astronaut, and she tells him about the centrifuge chamber, while offering to let him try it out.
As he’s strapped in, Chang requests Goodhead to go and see Drax, so he can control the centrifuge chamber. He turns up to dangerous levels, but Bond manages to stop it by firing his wristwatch dart gun into the central computer.
Bond then meets Drax’s personal pilot, Corinne Dufour. He seduces her to get information out of her, and she helps him get the blueprints for a glass vial made in Venice. However, Drax discovers Dufour’s involvement and has her killed by his pet Beaucerons.
Drax attempts to have Bond killed again in his residence, this time during a round of pheasant hunting. Drax offers Bond a gun, and has a sniper hidden up a tree. As Bond goes to shoot the pheasant, he misses, which surprises Drax, but Bond actually shoots the sniper out of the tree, before leaving Drax’s Californian palace.
Bond then heads to Venice to follow the trail of the glass vial. There bond sees Dr. Goodhead near the glass factory. He’s then chased by Drax’s henchmen on through the Venetian canals.
Bond sees them off with some skilful driving of his powered gondola, and heads back to the glass factory later that night. There he discovers a secret biological laboratory where he learns that the glass vials are to hold a nerve gas that is deadly to humans but harmless to plants and animals.
Bond is then set upon by henchman Chang, and the two fight. Bond and Chang battle their way into the Venini glassware museum, causing extensive damage.
While fighting, Bond notices several crates of the large pods he’d seen at the laboratory labelled for Rio de Janeiro.
The fight continues to a glass clock, which overlooks a restaurant, and Bond throws Chang headfirst through the clock, causing him to land on a grand piano, resulting in his death.
Bond heads back to Dr. Goodhead’s hotel and works out that she’s a CIA Agent, and so the two agree to work together, starting out by spending the night in her hotel room and making love.
Bond leaves before Goodhead awakens as he has to meet M and Minister of Defense Sir Frederick Gray, who he has told about the laboratory. However, when they go there, the lab has been completely transformed into Drax’s lavish residence.
This causes emabrassment for the British government, and Bond is then sent on ”leave” by M, as he permits him to unofficially go to Rio de Janeiro to follow the trail of the glass vials.
Once Bond arrives in Rio, he’s tracked by a young woman, Manuela. She’s there to assist him, and they make love and she takes him to one of Drax’s Rio storage facilities. While there, Bond breaks in to have a look, but Manuela is approached by a carnival goer in a giant costume.
The giant costume turns out to be Jaws, who’s been hired by Drax after the death of Chang. Just as Jaws is about to kill Manuela, Bond fights him off before the giant is carried off by several other carnival attendees.
Bond then heads up to Sugar Loaf Mountain to observe Drax’s Airfreight and notcies planes are heading off regularly. He bumps into Goodhead up on the Sugar Loaf Mountain and they get the cable car down to carry on with their investigation.
However, the cable car is stop by Jaws, who then gets in another car to go up and kill Bond and Goodhead. As the two cable cars are side-by-side, Jaws jumps over and he and Bond fight on top of one.
Bond outwits Jaws once again and he and Goodhead escape using a chain as they zipline down the cable. Jaws gives chase in the cable car, but it crashes heavily into the station. Jaws gets up and dusts himself down as a young woman, Dolly, comes up and helps the giant – the two fall in love immediately.
Bond then heads to a meeting in Rio with M, Q and Miss Moneypenny. Here he learns that the toxin comes from a rare orchid indigenous to the Amazon jungle. He travels up there but comes under attack on the Amazon River from Drax’s forces.
A boat chase ensues and Bond blows a few of them up by lacing mines from his boat and using the guided torpedoes. However, Jaws is in one of the boats as they come to the edge of a waterfall, Bond uses the boats hang glider, but Jaws’ boat goes over the edge and he falls hundreds of feet down.
Bond lands in the jungle and is ushered into a tropical paradise with many beautiful women. There he walks into a trap and falls into a pool before a python is set upon him. Bond sues the wrist watch dart gun to see off the giant snake.
The hideaway turns out to be Drax’s launch base for his fleet of Moonraker spaceships. Captured by Jaws, Bond is taken to Drax and witnesses four Moonrakers lifting off. Drax explains that he stole back the loaned Shuttle because another in his fleet had developed a fault during assembly.
The 6 Mooraker shuttles are to go to a secret city in space, and before he launches Drax locks Bond and Goodhead in a room under the launch platform to be incinerated. They escape and get inside Moonraker 6, the last of the shuttles to leave.
The shuttles dock with Drax’s space station, which is hidden from radar by a cloaking device. Bond and Goodhead disable the device, and the United States sends a platoon of Marines aboard another shuttle to intercept the now-visible space station.
Jaws captures Bond and Goodhead, and Drax reveals his plan to destroy human life by launching 50 globes that would disperse the nerve gas into Earth’s atmosphere.
In the 6 Moonraker spaceships, Drax had transported several dozen genetically perfect young men and women of varying races to the space station. They would live there until Earth was safe again for human life, and their descendants would form a ‘new master race.’
Bond is next to Jaws and he realises that he and Dolly will not make Drax’s perfect race, and so he sides with Bond. A laser battle ensues between Drax’s forces and Bond, Jaws, and the Marines., who have just arrived.
Drax’s forces are defeated as the station is destroyed, as Drax tries to escape. Bond chases him and sends him into an airlock and blasts him into space to his death. Bond and Goodhead get in a Drax’s personal space pod to escape the space station.
As the whole space station goes up in flames, Jaws and Dolly find some champagne and the two share a toast. Meanwhile Bond and Goodhead are heading to earth in the space pod, and unexpectededly get a video connection to MI6.
At the moment, Bond and Goodhead are naked and sharing a zero gravity clinch, embarrassing M and the Minister of Defense yet again as the pictures are being beamed back to the White House and Buckingham Palace.
As the film finishes, word gets out that a giant and a small girl with glasses have survived a fall from the space station.
Roger Moore as Bond in Moonraker
Moonraker was Roger Moore’s fourth film, and by this time he was on a film-by-film contract. It’s not generally considered one of Moore’s best Bond films, but it has its moments.
It had its usual blend of suave, sophisticated and a bit of light ridicule. From the opening sequence where he jumps out of a plane without a parachute to the final showdown in space, Moore entertains.
There’s effortless banter with women to his droll quips in the face of danger. He maintains an air of confidence and composure even in the most precarious situations, and his witty one-liners are delivered with impeccable timing and precision.
He was often criticised, especially towards the end of his tenure, Moonraker was the middle, but Roger Moor and his raised eyebrows hurt nobody.
The thing with Moonraker, it all seemed a bit rushed. I guess travelling from London to California to Venice to Rio de Janeiro to the Amazon and then into space is a busy schedule. Especially if you have your wicked way with a few women and avoid a few attempts on your life.
Whatever people say about Roger Moore, and everyone has their critics, he was a good James Bond and although Moonraker is a bit OTT, it’s a good watch, at times.
Bond Villains in Moonraker
Hugo Drax is the main Bond villain Moonraker, a character shrouded in mystery and intrigue. A brilliant industrialist and entrepreneur, Drax is obsessed with his plan to destroy all human life on Earth and repopulate the planet with a new, genetically superior race.
His charisma and intelligence make him a formidable foe for James Bond, who must use all his cunning and skill to foil Drax’s diabolical scheme. Michael Lonsdale’s portrayal of Hugo Drax is nothing short of masterful.
Throughout the film, Lonsdale portrays Drax as a man who is completely convinced of his own superiority, both intellectually and genetically. He is cool and calculating, always one step ahead of Bond and his allies, and never losing his composure even in the face of danger.
His plan to start a new super race is one of the most elegant plans of any Bond villain, especially as he has a fleet of spaceships and a space station to breed them all.
Jaws is one of the iconic characters in the whole James Bond franchise. The 7ft 2in giant first stood in the way of Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me and was back again, this time working for different bosses, but all with the same agenda: to kill Bond.
Richard Kiel played Jaws and the towering figure with a menacing metal grin always had a penchant for violence. But in Moonraker he seems different. Sure enough he wants to kill Bond and even jumps out of a plane without a parachute to do it. He fails miserably but survives after landing on a circus tent.
He’s later hired by Hugo Drax, after his henchman Chang is killed, and Drax wants him to kill Bond. The scene where he and Bond fight on the cable cars is classic, especially when he bites the cable cord with his metal teeth.
He crashes in the cable car and meets the love of his life as he’s getting out of the rubble. A geeky looking spectacle-wearing, short blonde, called Dolly, is more than a match for 7ft 2in Jaws, and he’s smitten from now on.
He still takes time out of his love life to try and kill Bond, but the biggest surprise is when he turns on his boss and helps Bond. He realises only perfect looking people will survive his bosses cull, especially after Bond reminds him of his imperfections, and so he turns on Drax and helps Bond.
He and Dolly are in the space station as it is going up in flames, and they find a bottle of Bollinger and share a celebratory drink. We also hear Jaws speak for the first time, when he pours the champagne, and says to Molly, ‘Well, here’s to us.’
The two fall to earth in some shrapnel, but amazingly survive. But of course, this is Jaws we’re talking about.
Bond Girls in Moonraker
Initially, we’re lead to believe Holly Goodhead is a scientist and astronaut who works on Sir Hugo Drax’s Moonraker 5 space shuttle. But it turns out, Goodhead, who’s played by Lois Chiles, is an MI6 agent working undercover, and her mission is to gather intelligence on Drax’s insidious plans.
Their paths first cross when Goodhead introduces Bond to a centrifugal force chamber, and he accepts her invitation to test it out. But when Goodhead steps away, Drax’s henchman, Chang, alters the machine’s settings, nearly killing Bond.
Bond then bumps into her again in Venice where he’s investngating Venni Glass, a company linked to Drax’s schemes. He sees Goodhead there and discovering she’s actually a CIA agent.
She’s reluctant to work together, but they spend the night together, before Bond leaves before she awakens. They end up going to Rio to investigate, and she’s with Bond in the cable car when Jaws tries to kill them.
They’re later captured by Drax as he launches all of his Moonraker rockets to his space station, and both Bond and Holly Goodhead held captive under the launchpad of Moonraker 5, left to be incinerated.
They get out and hijack Moonraker 6 and make it to Drax’s space station among with the hundreds of other genetically perfect people. Bond and Goodhead manage to destroy Drax’s plan and along with it his space station.
They manage to escape the inferno by taking Drax’s personal space pod, and as they’re returning representatives of the US and UK governments are beamed pictures of the two to celebrate a job well done.
However, Bond and Goodhead don’t know about the live video link, and are actually floating around in the midst of making love in zero-gravity atmosphere, much to the embarrassment of the government officials.
Corinne Dufour is a Bond girl who actually works as the personal helicopter pilot of industrialist Hugo Drax. Portrayed by Corinne Cléry, Dufour picks Bond up from Los Angeles International airport and takes him on an aerial tour of Drax’s property before flying him to his opulent Californian estate.
After Bond’s meeting with Drax concludes, Dufour escorts him to meet with Dr. Holly Goodhead. While staying at Drax’s châteaux, Bond visits Dufour in her bedroom to gather information.
During their encounter, they become intimate, and afterwards Bond sneaks across the hall to investigate Drax’s study. Dufour wakes and follows him there, revealing where the safe is located. Bond takes photographs of the documents it contained.
Dufour is unfortunately seen by Drax’s henchman as she leaves the study. The next morning, Drax informs Dufour that her employment has been terminated due to her involvement in Bond’s safe-breaking. As she walks away, Drax sets his trained Beauceron dogs onto her. She flees into the woods, but the dogs maul her to death.
Played by Emily Bolton, we first see Manuela as she’s following James Bond while traveling to his hotel in the back of a Rolls-Royce at the Copacabana beachfront in Rio. Bond spots her and is suspicious immediately, but she quickly accelerates and drives past.
When Bond arrives at his hotel suite, Manuela is already there, mixing him a martini, shaken not stirred, and it turns out that she’s actually his contact in Rio.
They exchange a brief dialogue, where Manuela confirms that the C & W initials he found in Venice belong to a subsidiary of Drax Industries in Rio. She then seductively sits on the sofa, her open dress revealing her legs. Bond approaches, undoes her dress, and they make love.
Later that evening, they visit the C & W store in downtown Rio, where a carnival parade is taking place. Now employed by Drax, Jaws follows them, but he’s dressed as a giant clown to blend in with the carnival goers.
Bond explores the warehouse, while Manuela waits outside to ensure nobody sees him. But the street is dark and secluded and the giant clown approaches her and grabs her. Jaws then takes off his mask and is about to bite her to death, but Bond returns in time to push Jaws away.
The best scene in Moonraker is probably the opening scene. It’s full of drama, anxiety, and plenty of ridicule that only 1970s Bond films could get away with.
Bond is seen aboard a private jet, engaged in a passionate kiss with the air hostess. However, things quickly take a dangerous turn as the pilot, who is in cahoots with the hostess, attacks Bond with the intention of crashing the plane and killing him. A fierce struggle ensues, as Bond overpowers the pilot and pushes him out of the plane.
As Bond surveys the scene, he is caught off guard by the sudden arrival of Jaws, who without warning, pushes Bond out of the plane without a parachute. In a thrilling display of skill and agility, Bond freefalls through the air, expertly navigating his way to a mid-air altercation with the pilot who had taken a backup parachute.
Watch the scene
In a fierce battle for survival, Bond eventually manages to wrestle the parachute away from the pilot. However, his moment of triumph is short-lived as Jaws re-enters the fray, grappling with Bond in a desperate attempt to regain control of the parachute.
After a harrowing struggle, Bond finally manages to outwit Jaws, opening his parachute just in time to land safely on the ground, as Jaws freefalls all the way to earth only to be saved by a large circus tent.
It’s a breathtaking sequence, which need an astounding 80 takes to capture, and is a testament to the audacity of the production crew back then. And while Moonraker isn’t usually among people’s best Bond films, it was certainly one of the standout scenes, especially from the era, even if it was performed by stuntmen.
Moonraker may not be the strongest entry in the James Bond film franchise, but it is certainly one of the most audacious. The film’s bold decision to take Bond to space was a daring move that demonstrated the filmmakers’ willingness to push the boundaries of the series.
While some of the film’s plot elements and special effects may seem dated by today’s standards, the film remains an enjoyable adventure that offers some truly memorable scenes.
Despite the film’s flaws, Moonraker features some standout performances from its cast, particularly Roger Moore as James Bond and Michael Lonsdale as the villainous Hugo Drax. The film’s action sequences are also noteworthy, with highlights including the breathtaking opening skydiving scene and the thrilling climactic battle aboard Drax’s space station.
Overall, while Moonraker may not be considered one of the best Bond films, it is still worth watching for its audacious plot and memorable moments.