I want to watch all the spy movies. Which ones should I watch?
August 25, 2015 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Any recommendations for espionage movies? I somehow let a decade and a half go by relatively movie-less. I do have Netflix, but please don't limit your recommendations if Netflix doesn't have it. Classics are fine, too. Thanks so much!
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah to Media & Arts (68 answers total) 80 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Bourne Trilogy is certainly worth watching.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:21 PM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


All Mission Impossible movies. 2nding Bourne.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:22 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Watch the two BBC miniseries Tinker Tailor Solider Spy and Smiley's People. Just think of them as a 6 hour movies.
posted by caek at 7:23 PM on August 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


Spy Game with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt is a lot of fun.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 7:24 PM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


The latest edition of Man from U.N.C.L.E. is in theaters if you haven't seen that yet!
posted by Hermione Granger at 7:28 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Regarding Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol is the best. Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation is quite good as well. Mission Impossible 3 is good. The first Mission Impossible doesn't hold up in terms of how they use the internet and the CGI. Mission Impossible 2 is the worst.

Recent James Bond films are good. (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall)
posted by saturdaymornings at 7:31 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]




If you're going sequential by release Spy Game was quite good.
posted by sammyo at 7:37 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's a tv series rather than a movie, but I really liked The Game.
posted by juv3nal at 7:39 PM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's more inside-baseball in that it deals with internal politics at MI5, but Page 8 is really good. Plus, Bill Nighy.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:43 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Ipcress File

Once you've seen a whole bunch of them, see Spy. It's hilarious.
posted by misfish at 7:44 PM on August 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


A seventies classic: Three Days of the Condor.

A more modern one: Ronin.
posted by mark k at 7:44 PM on August 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


Once you've watched all of the Bonds, you need to see Kingsman (2015).
posted by bonehead at 7:47 PM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


November Man was astonishingly good. Safe House might fit your bill? Salt was amazing. All spies.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:49 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's more inside-baseball in that it deals with internal politics at MI5, but Page 8 is really good. Plus, Bill Nighy.

Judy Davis also!
posted by juv3nal at 7:55 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


You must see Where Eagles Dare, a classic WWII spy/caper with Richard Burton and a youngish Clint Eastwood.
posted by norm at 7:56 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


If TV series are OK, MI-5 (original UK Title: Spooks).
posted by matildaben at 8:19 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Loved Spy. So much funnier than I expected. If you want to go with the sillier side, you gotta see Our Man Flint, In Like Flint, and The President's Analyst.
posted by ph00dz at 8:50 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Several classics listed above I heartily second. The most recent one I was impressed with was A Most Wanted Man, one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last movies.
posted by sapere aude at 8:53 PM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]




+1 Ronin - Car chase rivals Bullit and French Connection.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:58 PM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sneakers
The Conversation
The Parallax View
Marathon Man (ish)
posted by rhizome at 9:01 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Americans is the best show on TV.
posted by chrchr at 9:03 PM on August 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


I was also impressed with A Most Wanted Man.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:14 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


seconding all of these:
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (either the Oldman/Cumberbatch version or the Alec Guiness version)
- Smiley's People
- The Conversation
- The Manchurian Candidate (the original)
- The Spy Who Came In From the Cold
posted by xbonesgt at 9:42 PM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hopscotch with Walter Matthau. More comedy than thriller, but lots of fun. Some good tradecraft, gorgeous European scenery, great Mozart soundtrack all during the early 80s Cold War paranoia.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 9:46 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Notorious
posted by ogooglebar at 9:58 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: These are wonderful suggestions! I watched Hopscotch the other day (and loved it) which is what got me wanting more spy movies. I just now watched November Man. You've all got my evenings filled for a while. Thanks, everyone!

And if there are more, keep 'em coming!
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 10:09 PM on August 25, 2015


The Eiger Sanction
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:11 PM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I only learned about the BBC TV Show "The Sandbaggers" a couple years ago, but it's one of the best shows I've ever seen, and set in the offices, and in the field, among agents of the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, SIS, which most of us know as MI-6. It's not James Bond, but it's got about 15% action and 85% character-driven dialogue, suspense, intrigue among people living in the amoral calculus of the cold-war-era clandestine services. Sooo good.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:51 PM on August 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


Charade. Possibly more classic thriller/mystery than spy film, but there's some turn and counter turn espionage stuff. One of my all-time favorites.
posted by Catenation at 11:07 PM on August 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


Argo, based on the true story of the CIA's attempt at extracting Americans who escaped the Iranian Embassy at the start of the hostage crisis.

Charlie Wilson's War, the story of a congressman and a CIA agent who began the US fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Gotcha!, a 1985 (and showing it) comedy-action teen movie starring Anthony Edwards and Linda Fiorentino, about a college student who finds himself in the midst of an act of espionage.

A miniseries called "The Company," based on the bestseller, is a historical fictionalization of the CIA during the cold war. The book is a great read, and the Miniseries was very good indeed. I bought it for under $10 on DVD at Amazon not long ago.

Tom Hanks has an upcoming Spielberg movie "Bridge of Spies" should fit the bill nicely. I can't believe it was written by the Coen bros.

Dan Ackroyd/Chevy Chase comedy "Spies Like Us" from the 1980s has to be considered a classic. It's just too funny all over.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:10 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies starring Jean Dujardin.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 11:37 PM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Spies of Warsaw is on Netflix and is excellent. Page 8 also has two sequels that collectively make up the Worricker Trilogy, and they're all really good.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:06 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Enemy Of The State, and pretty much every other film listed above.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:19 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Seconding The Ipcress File, for a very 60s, yet anti-James Bond kind of spy character, Harry Palmer. There are a couple sequels from the 60s that end up with a rather over the top Billion Dollar Brain. There were apparently a couple more Harry Palmer movies from the 90s, but I've never seen them.

Also seconding the Worricker Trilogy, Page 8, Turks And Caicos, and Salting the Battlefield. Excellent performances from the likes of Bill Nighy, Judy Davis, as mentioned, also Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Ewen Bremner, and a particularly brittle performance by Winona Ryder in the second movie.

The Good Shepherd I think is an under appreciated spy flick that seemed to have slipped by a lot of people.

The Conversation is a brilliant movie about a surveillance specialist and his unsavory work.

The Third Man is a classic kind of proto-Cold War spy picture.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:51 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Burn After Reading is a great spy comedy by the Coen bros.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:54 AM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Day of the Jackal is a good early 70s thriller about a mysterious assassin hired to kill Charles de Gaulle.

There are two worthwhile movies based on the book, Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team:

Sword of Gideon from 1986,

...and the better known Munich from 2005.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:12 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Lives of Others is a stark depiction of Stasi practices at their height.

The Baader Meinhof Complex depicts the notorious Red Army Faction.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:29 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Falcon and the Snowman is my favorite anti-spy movie. It's like the opposite of James Bond: incompetence, bureaucracy, no glamour at all. But played as tragedy, not farce. I think it's become more relevant in the age of Wikileaks.
posted by thetortoise at 1:41 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Quiet American from 2002 centers around a British journalist in 50s Vietnam as the country slowly falls apart, befriended by an American aid worker who turns out to be more than he says. Contrast with the 1958 version.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:46 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Body of Lies with Russell Crowe, Leo DiCaprio, and Mark Strong.

2nding Sandbaggers. Don't let the 80s production values put you off.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:58 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you're interested in watching TV shows about espionage, The Americans is amazing. I am working my way through the first season of Person of Interest right now and finding it quite watchable.
posted by orange swan at 4:06 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


For much lighter fare, Jumpin' Jack Flash is still fun after all these years.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:12 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm going to put forth a bit of a left field suggestion and go for Cypher which is a sci-fi ish film about industrial espionage.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:41 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hanna (The super agent is teenage girl -- that might sound gimmicky on paper, but it's really good.)
Duplicity (Corporate espionage.)
posted by paper chromatographologist at 5:52 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not a movie but early adolescent me used to love the Brit tech-spy-crime series Bugs.
posted by PenDevil at 6:14 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Enigma. Not the greatest trailer, but a great film.

But mainly you want to check out my friend Chris East's Spy 100 collection, because he's really done all the work for you.
posted by Naberius at 6:28 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Sandbaggers. (And if anyone knows where I can download some English-language Sandbaggers subtitles for someone who is hearing impaired, please let me know.)
posted by pracowity at 6:44 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seconding Charade and Kingsmen. Kingsmen is totally bonkers, but the most fun I've had watching a spy film in a long time.
Farewell is excellent.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 7:11 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Lady Vanishes (1938). There is a 1979 version but it is much inferior. As j_curiouser says the 1935 version of The 39 Steps is also excellent. I would also say the 1978 version isn't bad. Don't bother with the 1959 version.

Since I've brought up Hitchcock I'll pick out some others:
Secret Agent (1936) features the female lead from 39 Steps and a young Gielgud.
Saboteur (1942 - not Sabotage) is concerned with German saboteurs in the US in WW2, very much in a propaganda vein. Not Hitchcock but another of the greatest UK directors, Michael Powell has something going in the same direction in 49th Parallel, though strictly this is not a spy film, its concerned with German sailors attempting to escape Canada to the US to be repatriated and crosses into the same territory.
Lifeboat (1944) is a pretty tense psychological thriller, with a spy responsible for putting the cast in the eponymous vessel, but who?
Obviously if you haven't seen North by Northwest you need to do so immediately.
posted by biffa at 7:15 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


There is also the film Spooks: The Greater Good starring Kit Harrington, which is a spin off from the TV show that matildaben suggested.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:18 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


True Lies
posted by blue_beetle at 7:20 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess it depends on what kind of spy movie you're looking for. Although james bond, austin powers and derek flint are fun to watch. They're not gritty and realistic enough for me to be considered 'spy' movies. Part of the draw is the feeling of paranoia of who is siding with who when there are no 'good' guys. You might have different tastes.

2nding The Lives of Others. Especially if you're getting bored of the sexy side of spying. This is a more realistic view of spying and the bureaucracy and real people who did it.

2nding The Conversation

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is an interesting "spy" movie.
posted by kookywon at 7:44 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Torn Curtain. Aside from the horrible casting of Julie Andrews it is a rather good Hitchcock Cold War thriller. There's an excellent fight scene where Hitch wanted to show just how difficult it is to kill someone.
posted by Gungho at 8:11 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eye of the Needle!!!
posted by futz at 8:18 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I very much liked The Thomas Crown Affair remake with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo. More of a heist movie than a spy movie though.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:42 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I saw someone else mentioned the BBC version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The 2011 version for the big screen is entertaining and Netflix has it!

A fun anecdote: a friend of a friend was attending a course at Oxford and got to meet some retired bigwig from MI6. When asked over dinner what Hollywood film captured what it was really like to be a spy, Tinker, Tailor was the bigwig's immediate reply.
posted by pinetree at 10:33 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm going to work my way down this list myself!

Most of my favorites have been mentioned already (particularly the 4 Bourne movies, which I love), but seconding Salt, and adding The Assignment, an oldie but goodie. Also loved RED and RED II.

If you're up for more caper-style movies, I recommend the Thomas Crown Affair (both, but I really like the remake), all 3 Ocean Eleven movies and The Italian Job.
posted by widdershins at 11:11 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


he Ghost Writer.

I'm going to work my way down this list myself!

Me too!
posted by Room 641-A at 2:17 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you have ever seen the Swedish detective series Wallander, some of the episodes have a very espionage-y kind of feel. One of Henning Mankell's consistent themes is a secret nazi past surfacing in contemporary seemingly respectable establishment lives and this gives a political grounding to the stories. Anyway there are three different dramatised versions of Wallander available, all are good but my favorite is the series starring Krister Henriksson. It's on iTunes. Series 1 Ep 1, Before the Frost, is pretty striking, and Series 3 Ep 27, The Troubled Man, is a lot more like a spy film than many other things I've seen on television. It's grimdark, moody, cynical stuff, human and compelling.

Oh, The Maltese Falcon.
posted by glasseyes at 2:25 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Continuing biffa's theme of oldies but goodies there's a Billy Wilder film, Five Graves to Cairo which might be a war film, might be an espionage film *shrug* but certainly is a good film.
posted by glasseyes at 2:36 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


We just watched the Worricker trilogy and loved the shit out of it. Cannot recommend it higher.

State of Play is not technically spies - it's investigative journalists - but it involves a lot of spy-y elements, scratches that same particular itch. The BBC miniseries is much better than the movie, but the movie isn't bad.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 8:35 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]




Once you've watched the originals, go to The Man Called Flintstone.
posted by plinth at 6:27 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Just popping in to thank everyone, I appreciate it!
The Eye of the Needle and 3 Days of the Condor are fantastic! Many, many more to go!
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 4:40 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The KGB, the Company, and Me (YTL 60 minutes), an episode of the WGBH/PBS program NOVA which basically re-enacts the story published in the non-fiction book "The Cuckoo's Egg" by Clifford Stoll. In the mid 1980s, Cliff Stoll was an Astronomy post-grad at UC Berkeley who caught a suspicious usage of his server that turned out, ultimately, to be a hacker in East Germany working for the KGB. Fascinating stuff, and Stoll is a charming and slightly daffy hippie protagonist, who plays himself in this show.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:51 PM on August 28, 2015


The Spook Who Sat By the Door
posted by PHINC at 2:13 AM on September 2, 2015


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