Retired spy, looking for some movies to watch
April 20, 2011 10:55 AM   Subscribe

I really like spy movies where the main character is trying to retire/extricate themselves from The Company. I've seen a bunch from the library, but which ones have I missed?

All-time favorites:

→ Hopscotch
→ Spy Game
→ Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum

Just-watched and enjoyed:


Not a lot of parameters here, just looking for spies who don't want to play the game anymore, but must one last time. Oh, ok, it doesn't have to be a spy, and other agencies (MI6, KGB, etc.) are welcome as well—any other professionals who have similar trouble would work just fine. Thank you for your suggestions!

Book suggestions welcome also.
posted by carsonb to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The American
posted by dougrayrankin at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2011

Best answer: The Prisoner
posted by ghharr at 10:57 AM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Prisoner
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:58 AM on April 20, 2011

posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:58 AM on April 20, 2011

John Le Carre's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is probably the progenitor of this espionage subgenre. There's a movie adaptation from 1965 starring Richard Burton, but the novel is far superior.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:01 AM on April 20, 2011

Best answer: The Firm
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:03 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also John Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy starring Alec Guinness.
posted by nightwood at 11:04 AM on April 20, 2011

Response by poster: Excellent suggestions so far, thanks!

I'll add that I've enjoyed the Mike Franks story arc on NCIS too. TV shows welcome.
posted by carsonb at 11:09 AM on April 20, 2011

posted by 3dd at 11:36 AM on April 20, 2011

Best answer: The Billion Dollar Brain
posted by rhizome at 11:41 AM on April 20, 2011

The President's Analyst, which includes the best twist on The Company ever.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 11:49 AM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Eiger Sanction - professional assassin so not quite a spy, but it's Clint Eastwood!

Casino Royale - spoof of Bond coming out of retirement.

Enemy of the State - Gene Hackman's character comes out of retirement/hiding.

For TV Burn Notice, has burned/retired spies.
posted by grapesaresour at 11:52 AM on April 20, 2011

Best answer: Definitely The Prisoner as others have mentioned (disclaimer: I have only seen the original series, not the recent remake), Scorpio, The Black Windmill, Three Days of Condor, Enemy of the State, The Constant Gardener (The character is technically a government official and not a spy, but it's a superb film).
posted by baronessa at 12:06 PM on April 20, 2011

Best answer: Oldie but goodie -- Three Days of the Condor.
posted by bearwife at 12:06 PM on April 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Not a movie, but the Spooks/MI-5 BBC series is excellent. There are several regular characters that suffer with their job choice and duties, and we get to watch how those situations get resolved.
posted by ilona at 12:15 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is not quite what you are asking for, but someone on Metafilter got me to watch Sandbaggers and I loved it. I feel the need to pay it forward.
posted by wittgenstein at 12:26 PM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

wittgenstein, where did you see Sandbaggers? I ask because your link to the Netflix page lists it as unavailable, both on dvd and for instant viewing.

Also, OP: this isn't a movie, but the comic book series Queen & Country (which was inspired by Sandbaggers) is all about British spies, some of whom are often considering retirement.
posted by nushustu at 12:36 PM on April 20, 2011

In the same 70s paranoia/conspiracy vein as Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View. If you can tolerate Warren Beatty's 70s hair.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:36 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nushustu -- I actually got all three seasons from Netflix and watched them this year. That's really weird. Maybe they are getting new copies of them?
posted by wittgenstein at 1:47 PM on April 20, 2011

This is an interesting piece on how John Drake became The Prisoner's Number Six (if you accept these are the same character).

Maybe slightly spoilerish, but that page lists a couple of episodes where Drake begins to doubt his superiors.

Just watch that whole show. McGoohan is fantastic.
posted by Harry at 1:47 PM on April 20, 2011

Alias! TV show, not a movie. Basic premise? Jennifer Garner thinks she's working for the good guys, but she finds out that she's actually working for the bad guys, so she joins the real good guys, and then she goes back to work with the bad guys--most of whom think they're actually good guys--pretending that she doesn't know they're actually bad guys in order to take them down. Ha!
posted by colfax at 2:31 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sneakers! Robert Redford's character is technically an ex-superhacker turned computer security expert, but when the NSA requests that he and his team recover a universal codebreaker, they engage in some very spylike hijinks -- kidnappings, impersonations, puzzle solving, double crosses, the works. It reminds me a lot of the Mission: Impossible movies, actually, and was pretty funny, too.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:57 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is sort of left-field, but the tv show "Burn Notice" has a lot of those themes, but from the opposite angle. At least it's the same from the "untangling a web of hidden motives and agendas" standpoint. It's not the best show in the world, but might poke the spot you are looking for.
posted by gjc at 5:21 PM on April 20, 2011

Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer.
posted by plokent at 5:29 PM on April 20, 2011

Smiley's People, the follow-up to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, is also very good. Love, love Alec Guiness in this.
posted by Bron at 7:53 PM on April 20, 2011

Best answer: Smiley’s People is epitome in the context of who both men were. A duel dualism of extrication/ retirement. The Russia House involves the best of extrication but does not fit the criteria. (most good ES stories involve this plot line in one form or another)
I will add Harry Palmer, for irony and for who I think you would get a kick out of.

The Cutout, by Francine Mathews. She was an analyst with Central Intelligence. Extrication with a twisty twist.

Not quite the criteria again, but The Poet Game by Salar Abdoh is chilling, a tough starter for a read.
posted by clavdivs at 7:20 PM on April 24, 2011

duh, The Company. Molina is great in that.
posted by clavdivs at 7:22 PM on April 24, 2011

Response by poster: I thought of two other movies that fit my criteria but aren't spy flicks: Out of the Past and A History of Violence.
posted by carsonb at 10:59 AM on April 26, 2011

Response by poster: (Oh, and I've marked as best answer the movies I've seen before but couldn't think of while writing the question, and also good suggestions after I watch the movie. =o)
posted by carsonb at 11:01 AM on April 26, 2011

No Way Out
posted by Ellemeno at 11:24 PM on May 2, 2011

posted by spinto at 9:33 AM on May 3, 2011

Response by poster: I'll add The Tourist to the list.
posted by carsonb at 10:00 PM on March 19, 2012

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