The 1985 James Bond film "A View to A Kill" features Roger Moore in his final performance as 007, Christopher Walken as Max Zorin and Grace Jones as May Day, his enforcer.

While my question focuses on the title, the line 'a view to a kill' also appears in a line of dialogue between Zorin and May Day.

May Day: "What a view..."
Zorin: "...To a kill.

What does 'a view to a kill'mean?

up vote 37 down vote accepted

The original title is derived from a foxhunting song. From the James Bond Wikia page:

The title itself is adapted from Ian Fleming's short story "From A View to a Kill", contained in the For Your Eyes Only collection of short stories released in 1960; however the title is where the similarity between short story and the film end [...] At the end of Octopussy during the famed "James Bond Will Return" sequence, it listed the next film as "From A View to a Kill", the name of the original short story; however, the title was later changed a few months before filming for unknown reasons. The original title "From A View to a Kill" was taken from a version of the words to a traditional hunting song "D'ye ken John Peel?": "From a find to a check, from a check to a view,/From a view to a kill in the morning".

[Foxhunting glossary:

A Find: Discovering the fox's trail;
A Check: Losing the trail again (when the hounds lose the scent);
A View: Visually spotting the fox;
A Kill: Self-explanatory.]

So the truncated title basically means having the prey in your sights before killing it. Though there were other Bond films with actual hunting scenes in them (like Moonraker), A View To A Kill has none, but it'd be easy to guess what role each character plays in this analogy: The rich Zorin as the foxhunter, May Day as his trusty hound and Bond as their prey. (And, as you specified in your question, the title was forced into the actual dialogue, probably to justify its existence.)

Max Zorin is actually planning to destroy Silicon Valley. The exchange between Zorin and May Day happened as they were in a blimp over San Francisco Bay. Zorin's answer to May Day can be translated as their view from the blimp itself is literally "To a kill."

As for the title of the movie itself, "A View To A Kill" is an abridged title derived from the Ian Fleming short story "From A View To A Kill".

In 1959, The "London Daily News" published an original Ian Fleming short story (conceived as a plot for an abandoned James Bond TV show) called "Murder Before Breakfast". Fleming felt the title did not capture the essence of the story and re-titled it "From A View To A Kill" when it was included in his "For Your Eyes Only" collection of five James Bond stories in 1960. Fleming found the inspiration for this new title from John Woodcock Grave's 1820 Cumberland Hunting Song, "D'Ye Ken John Peel". It read in part: "From the drag to the chase. From the chase to the view. From the view to a death in the morning..." Fleming adapted the third stanza for his short story title.

As with all Bond movies, the title must posess the key elements of the Bond theme in just a few words. Sex, danger, glamour and international destinations are just a few of the examples that the movie title needs to convey.

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