After a Moonraker space shuttle owned by Drax Industries is hijacked in mid-air, Bond (Roger Moore) is called in to investigate. He is, however, flying back from a mission in Africa on board a private jet. Unfortunately, the captain and flight attendant betray him and both parachute out of the plane leaving Bond to deal with Jaws (Richard Kiel). Bond is pushed out of the plane and free falls catching up with the pilot. He wrestles the parachute from him and puts it on continuing to free fall. Jaws attacks him again but Bond pulls the cord and his chute opens. Jaws pulls his but his doesn’t.
Once Bond reports to M’s office, Q and Minister of Defence Gray tell him that the shuttle is missing in Western Canada, somewhere over the Yukon Territory and that the Moonraker wasn’t found in the plane wreckage. Bond is charged with investigating the disappearance.
Bond meets the owner of the company, Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), who thinks Bond is there to apologise for the loss of the shuttle and doesn’t give Bond satisfactory answers when questioned about it. He is taken to meet astronaut Dr Holly Goodhead who shows him round the facilities but when she persuades him to try the g-force training vehicle someone tampers with the controls so it goes faster and faster. Bond, using one of his gadgets, manages to disable it but does notice Chang, Drax’s henchman, leaving the control room.
Later Bond seduces Corinne Dufour, Drax’s personal pilot, who makes no attempt to stop him when she finds him searching her boss’s office. He discovers and photographs blueprints for an electronic device and a larger pod made in Venice. They are seen by Chang leaving the office so next morning Drax invites him to a pheasant hunt but arranges for him to be killed. However, Bond kills the assassin. As Bond leaves Corinne arrives. Drax informs her that she is fired, releases his dogs and they kill her.
On arrival in Venice, Bond goes to the Venini glass works, the name on the blueprints, where he finds people employed in making containers like the ones on the blueprints. He joins the factory tour and sees Holly Goodhead.
On a gondola ride there is an attempt on his life but instead Bond’s gondola pilot is killed. Bond in turn kills the assassin, takes off on the motorised gondola and is chased by men in a powerboat. His gondola is also a hovercraft so he ends up riding into St Mark’s Square.
Later that night Bond returns to the laboratory and discovers two scientists working. Bond hides when he hears the scientists returning, leaving one of the vials. One of the scientists knocks it on the floor, it smashes, the liquid vapourises and the two scientists die. Chang appears and he and Bond begin a fight taking them into the Venini glassware museum which they proceed to destroy and up behind a glass clock overlooking a restaurant. During the fight Bond sees crates of pods destined for Rio de Janeiro. He eventually overcomes Chang and throws him headfirst through the clock killing him.
Bond seeks out Holly Goodhead at her hotel and they spend the night together and he discovers that she also has a ticket to Rio.
When Bond takes M and Minister Gray to the Drax labs the next day they find them cleared out with only Drax in his office remaining. Gray apologises and insists that Bond is taken off the case. Bond, however, gives M a vial and asks M to have it tested warning him to be very careful. He gives Bond two weeks off but Bond is going to Rio after Goodhead and the pods this time with an assistant, Manuela.
They discover another storage facility owned by Drax. During a carnival Manuala is approached by Chang’s replacement, the giant of a man with steel teeth, Jaws. He tries to kill her but, although Bond tries to protect her, she is saved by the carnival.
Bond goes for a ride on the cable car the next day and sees planes that belong to Drax Airfreight leaving a small airport. Holly Goodhead is also there and tells him they are leaving every two hours. They decide to leave but, unfortunately, Jaws is in the control room and stops their descent and tries to bite through the cable. While Bond and Goodhead try to escape Jaws goes up in the other cable car and when the two meet there is a fight. Bond and Goodhead escape by throwing a chain over the cable, hanging on to it and sliding down. Jaws tries to catch them up in his car and as Bond and Goodhead let go of the chain at the bottom Jaws’ cable car can’t stop and crashes into the control room. As Jaws tries to extricate himself from the wreckage he is helped by Dolly, a young woman with blond hair and large glasses and they fall in love. Meanwhile, Bond and Goodhead have been bound to gurneys by ‘ambulance men’ who picked them up after they dropped from the chain. Bond manages to escape but Goodhead doesn’t.
He then goes to new headquarters set up in Rio by M and Q and is informed that the vial contents come from a rare orchid found in the Amazon Jungle and, after modification, is deadly to humans but not animals. After being pursued down the Amazon by Jaws and other cohorts he escapes by hang glider as his boat goes over a waterfall. He lands in the jungle but is thrown into a pool with a python which he proceeds to kill with one of his gadgets. Jaws, however, is there to capture him and takes him to Drax’ control room. They are then taken to the conference room below the launchpad where Goodhead is trapped and are left there where they will be burnt alive during the launch. However, they escape, take on the identities of two crew members and board the last Moonraker.
They arrive at the hidden space station where Drax starts to implement his plan to pollute the atmosphere with the contents of the vials. This will, he proposes, exterminate all human life and he will repopulate it with the specially chosen couples that he has brought in the Moonrakers.
Bond and Goodhead deactivate the radar jammer, the station is then located by the British government and they send a team to deal with it.
Jaws finds Bond and Goodhead and takes them to Drax but Bond craftily makes Jaws aware that only ‘perfect specimens’ will be permitted by Drax to live. Jaws realises that this doesn’t include him and Dolly so he swaps sides and helps Bond. After a fight with the guards Bond finds Drax trying to escape and shoots him with a cyanide dart, pushes him into an airlock and launches him into space.
The British have arrived, dealt with the situation and leave as the station explodes. Bond and Goodhead leave on Drax’ shuttle and chase the pods destroying them with the laser cannon.
A successful mission leaves Bond and Goodhead enjoying a romantic orbit of the earth.