Spy movies are full of intrigue and double-dealing. You never know what’s what and who’s playing for which side for sure until the end. These are the 20 best spy movies ever made so you can learn espionage from the masters.
20. Atomic Blonde
This 2017 action spy thriller based on a 2012 graphic novel “The Coldest City” focuses on a spy looking for a list of double agents on the eve of the Berlin Wall’s collapse in 1989. I was actually in Germany for that and have some pics of me chipping away at the Berlin Wall as a kid. Charlize Theron and James McAvoy were sadly not to be seen.
19. The Conversation
The Conversation is a 1974 neo-noir classic starring Gene Hackman as a surveillance expert with a moral dilemma. Francis Ford Coppola directs this ahead-of-its-time look at the pitfalls of a surveillance state.
18. Army of Shadows
A WWII film about the French Resistance gives a sobering look at the reality spies face, no matter who they’re working for. It’s movies like this that really show how “snitches get stiches,” as informants are killed for the sake of the movement. Information is power, and you’d do well to learn these lessons in today’s politically charged atmosphere.
17. Burn After Reading
An all-star cast, including Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and more team up in this 2008 ensemble Coen Brothers spy movie about a former CIA analyst’s memoirs that fall into the hands of two opportunists who soon find themselves in way over their heads.
16. The Bourne Identity
Jason Bourne has amnesia, but it’s not stopping him from pulling off insane feats of self-defense and even speaking different languages. He’s clearly a spy, and someone clearly wants him dead, but Bourne didn’t go down easily – he lasted from 2002 until snowflakes tried to cancel Matt Damon.
15. The Lives of Others
This 2007 German movie shows East Berlin citizens being monitored by the Stasi in 1983. It’s the brand of mass monitoring we’re dealing with as a modern society.
Steven Spielberg produced and directed this 2005 historical drama which follows the spy retaliating in secret for a brutal mass murder of 11 Israeli athletes and their coach at the 1972 Olympics. When an eye for an eye is justice, who’s the real hero?
12. North by Northwest
This 1959 Alfred Hitchcock suspenseful classic stars Cary Grant as a New York ad executive mistaken for a government agent. He’s hunted across the country relentlessly by a ruthless spy organization hell bent on killing him.
11. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Mike Myers created a cultural revolution with this 1997 story of a 1960s British secret agent who follows his nemesis Dr. Evil (also Myers) through time. He’s offensively out of place with his shagadelic machismo, and now that the smoke died down a bit, we can all appreciate the humor of this 007 spoof more.
10. True Lies
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, and a young Alyssa Milano are your average family. Except Harry is a secret agent hunting down a jihadist with a nuclear weapon and plan to destroy the east coast. Even back in 1994, Cameron foresaw the terrorist threats to NYC.
GoldenEye will always be the best Bond movie, not so much from the stiff performance from Pierce Brosnan or the mid-90s style. The accompanying Nintendo 64 game (which released two years later in 1997) is the grandfather of today’s first-person shooter (FPS) games. I will always have fond memories of the movie scenes depicted in that game.
Robert De Niro is part of an international team of ex-intelligence operatives recruited to steal a valuable briefcase. Compiling every Quentin Tarantino cliche (no, he’s not involved in the movie) into one film didn’t make for a box office hit, but it’s a watchable spy film.
7. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
This 2011 Cold War spy thriller focuses on a Hungarian general who’s killed before revealing the identity of a Soviet spy. A veteran agent is dispatched to find the mole within the British ranks to stop the Russians from stealing vital secrets.
6. Mission: Impossible
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has been succeeding at impossible missions since 1996, and he’s still going strong in this spy action film series based on a classic TV spy series. The films have earned a combined total of nearly $4 billion so far, so don’t expect to see them slow down anytime soon.
5. The Hunt for the Red October
Russians are always the spies in Tom Clancy novels, and this adaptation is the first time America really fell in love with Jack Ryan, played by Alec Baldwin in 1990 before Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Chris Pine, and John Krasinski took a crack at it.
4. Kingsman: The Secret Service
Twentieth Century Fox released this action spy comedy in 2014 to great commercial and critical success. This secret league of secret agents can handle anything the world throws at them.
Sneakers is an underrated 1992 classic film about a team of hackers who test corporate security and find themselves dealing with rogue NSA agents. Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, Sidney Poitier, and River Phoenix round out an all-star cast.
2. The Manchurian Candidate
This 2004 political thriller remake features Denzel Washington as a Gulf War veteran Major with nightmares about his fellow squad-mate, who’s now running for Vice President. It turns into a global-level conspiracy with brainwashing technology
1. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie shine as a married couple who turn out to be spies for competing agencies. They’re tasked with killing each other but end up finding the dead spark in their relationship instead. Both are at the prime of their hotness in this 2005 spy action comedy.