The Ten Sneakiest Spy Movies

spy vs spy

Check that shadow over there… what’s behind that crate… is that envelope safe… maybe you should purposely spill your drink… These are all situations in which any given spy could find him or herself; dangerous, tense, deadly. However few of us in the real world are actually spies, so the only way you’re gonna really see what a life of espionage is like is to watch it happen in a movie or a great TV series. Spy movies have sort of taken a back burner lately to the more forced horror flick or teenage romance yarn and are unfortunately reduced to Bond and Bourne flicks. Yet, going back over the years, one can really find some gems from the heyday of true Spy movies. So in celebration of Matt Damon’s new Bourne-esque flick, Green Zone, here are ten of the finest Spy Movies of all time.


Notorious – 1946
Alfred Hitchcock

Because her father was a German spy who has committed suicide in prison, Government agent T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant) recruits Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) to become an undercover agent. She has fallen in love with Devlin and is trying to repay her father’s moral debt to America, the country she loves and feels her father has betrayed. Her assignment in Rio de Janeiro involves resuming an acquaintance with a wealthy German businessman, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Raines), who has been attracted to her. She is to infiltrate his circle of German scientists. Against the wishes of his mother, Sebastian and Alicia to marry. Sebastian soon suspects Alicia of being a U.S. spy and his mother plots to eliminate her because she has become a woman who knows too much.


The Lives of Others – 2006
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

A look at the horrifying, sometimes unintentionally funny system of observation in the former East Germany. In the early 1980s, the successful dramatist Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his longtime companion Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), a popular actress, are big intellectual stars in the socialist state, although they secretly don’t always think loyal to the party line. One day, the Minister of Culture (Ulrich Mühe) becomes interested in Christa, so the secret service agent Wiesler is instructed to observe and sound out the couple, but their life fascinates him more and more…


Pickup on South Street – 1953
Samuel Fuller

On a crowded subway, Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) picks a purse that belongs to Candy (Jean Peters). Within the bag, although he does not know it at the time, is a piece of top-secret microfilm that was being passed by Candy’s ‘consort’, a Communist agent. Candy discovers the whereabouts of the film through Moe Williams (Thelma Ritter), a police informant. She attempts to seduce McCoy to recover the film, fails, and instead falls in love with him. The desperate agent exterminates Moe and savagely beats Candy. McCoy, now goaded into action, confronts the agent in a particularly brutal fight in a subway.


Smiley’s People – 1982 (TV Series)

Called out of retirement to settle the affairs of a friend, Smiley (Alec Guinness) finds his old organization, the Circus, so overwhelmed by political B.S. and murder that he doesn’t even want to know what happened. He begins to follow up the clues of his friends’ past days, discovering that the trails lead to a high person in the Russian Secret service, and a secret important enough to kill for. Smiley continues to put together the pieces a step ahead or a step behind the Russian killers.


The Manchurian Candidate – 1962
John Frankenheimer

After Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) returns from the Korean War as a decorated hero, the other members of his platoon can’t really remember what he actually did to win his medal. Two of the soldiers start having recurring nightmares, and one of them decides to investigate Raymond’s current activities. What dark and sinister secrets are being withheld by the Government and the Army? Really dark ones…


Our Man in Havana – 1959
Carol Reed

Jim Wormold (Alec Guinness) is an expatriate Englishman living in pre-revolutionary Havana with his teenage daughter Milly. He owns a vacuum cleaner shop but isn’t a very successful salesman, so he accepts an offer from Hawthorne (Noel Coward) of the British Secret Service to recruit a network of agents in Cuba. Wormold hasn’t got a clue where to start but when his friend Dr. Hasselbacher (Burl Ives) suggests that the best secrets are known to no one, he decides to manufacture a list of agents and provides fictional tales for the benefit of his masters in London. Soon, the unraveling…


Goldfinger – 1964
Guy Hamilton

Bond (Sean Connery) is back! His next mission takes him to Fort Knox, where Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) and his henchman are planning to raid it and obliterate the world’s economy. To save the day once again, Bond will need to become friends with Goldfinger, dodge killer hats (compliments of Oddjob), and avoid Goldfinger’s personal pilot, the sexy Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). She might not have feelings for Bond, but will 007 help her change her mind? It’s Bond, what do you think?


The Spy Who Came in From the Cold – 1965
Martin Ritt

When a fellow British agent is killed at Checkpoint Charlie right before his eyes, Alec Lemas (Richard Burton), head of the Berlin station, returns to London headquarters. There his boss, Control (Cyril Cusack), inquires if he is tired, burnt out, ready to come in from the cold – as it were. Control suggests that there is a vacancy, a desk job, that might interest him, but Alec declines adamantly. Thus, Control immediately mentions that he has something out of the ordinary in mind for a man called Hans-Dieter Mundt (Peter van Eyck), who in 1959 posed as a member of an East German steel mission.


North By Northwest – 1959
Alfred Hitchcock

Middle-aged Madison Avenue advertising executive Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for a government agent by a gang of spies. He gets involved in a series of misadventures and is pursued across the States by both the spies and the government whilst being helped by a beautiful blonde, Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint).


The Third Man – 1949
Carol Reed

An out of work pulp fiction novelist, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), arrives in a post war Vienna divided into sectors by the victorious allies, and where a shortage of supplies has lead to a flourishing black market. He arrives at the invitation of an ex-school friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles), who has offered him a job, only to discover that Lime has recently died in a peculiar traffic accident. From talking to Lime’s friends and associates Martins soon notices that some of the stories are inconsistent, and determines to discover what really happened to Harry Lime.