So you like watching movies with spies. Well, you’re not alone. I also like watching the best espionage movies, especially if are based on real events.
That’s why I’ve put together a collection of what we believe are the 15 best spy movies of all time. The movies we listed here are in no particular order but I tried to cover the most sound examples within the genre.
From big-budget explosion-driven action thrillers to far more subdued slow-burn cold-war era suspense flicks, I’m sure you can find a few tales of espionage here worth watching.
#20 Syriana (2005)
Syriana is a 2005 film produced by George Clooney, who also stars in the film. The screenplay is adapted from ex CIA operative Robert Baer’s memoir See No Evil.
The film focuses on petroleum politics and the global influence of the oil industry, whose political, economic, legal, and social effects are experienced by a Central Intelligence Agency operative (George Clooney), an energy analyst (Matt Damon) in an Arab state in the Persian Gulf.
#19 Bridge of spies (2015)
Bridge of spies it’s Tom Hanks’ Best performances ever as he plays the lawyer, James B Donovan who defends an alleged KGB spy, Rudolf Abel, in the US courts.
Being hated by people for doing this, he does not lose faith in doing his job, and later He is eventually called upon to negotiate an exchange of Rudolf with a US pilot, Francis Powers, who was caught in the USSR.
#18 Red Sparrow
Red Sparrow stars Jennifer Lawrence in the lead who plays a Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova that faces a bleak and uncertain future after she suffers an injury that ends her career.
Soon she has no choice but to turn to the secret government program called Sparrows. She turns into a Sparrow, learns to get things done by any means necessary and right when you expect nothing better could happen, the movie hits you with an insane twist that will blow your brains away!
#17 The Tailor of Panama (2001)
British intelligence recruits a well-connected tailor to serve as their man in Panama: he finds his life destroyed when he unwittingly endangers his friends, family and adopted country when his fabricated intelligence leads to a U.S. invasion.
#16 The Catcher was a spy (2018)
“Catcher” stars Paul Rudd as real-life pro baseball player Moe Berg, whose sporting career was perhaps overshadowed by his bizarre overqualifications: He graduated Princeton, Magna Cum Laude, and was fluent in multiple languages. He made regular guest appearances on highfalutin trivia shows. And to top it all off, he was a spy for the U.S. government during World War II.
#15 The Debt (2010)
#14 The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
After two British Secret Intelligence Service agents are murdered at the hands of a cryptic neo-Nazi group known as Phoenix, the suave agent Quiller (George Segal) is sent to Berlin to investigate. There, he begins an affair with Inge Lindt (Senta Berger), a beautiful young teacher. However, their lives are put in danger after Quiller is kidnapped and taken to Phoenix’s headquarters, where he meets Oktober (Max von Sydow), the mysterious leader of the group.
#13 Spy Game (2001)
Spy Game appeared in 2001 with Brad Pitt and Robert Redfort. We see how a CIA agent learns, before retiring from activity, that his protégist is in difficulty. He’s proposing to save him after he’s been imprisoned in a foreign prison. This one has only 24 hours to live.
#12 Ronin (1998)
Starring Robert DeNiro, Jean Reno, Sean Bean, and more – this flick covers what we believe is an underrepresented group amongst spy movie characters. We mean, of course, high-level hired mercenaries (not gangsters). It has one of the best chase sequences of any movie not primarily considered a car flick.
#11 Beirut (2018)
Beirut’s action set in 1982 during the Lebanese Civil War, the film stars Jon Hamm as a former U.S. diplomat who returns to service in Beirut in order to save a colleague from the group responsible for the death of his family.
#10 The Life Of Others (2006)
An East German security officer receives the mission to spy on a playwright suspected of subversive plans against the communist regime. It does not last long until the security becomes fascinated by the world that is discovered by the microphones placed in the writer’s house.
#9 Breach (2007)
Breach is an American spy thriller film directed by Billy Ray. Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillippe), a low-level surveillance expert with the FBI, believes he is accomplishing his dream of becoming a full-fledged agent, with his unexpected promotion and assignment to work with renowned agent Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper). However, he soon learns the reason for his promotion is to gain Hanssen’s trust and find proof that he is a traitor to the country.
Robert Hanssen’s espionage was described by the Department of Justice as “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history.
#8 Body of lies (2008)
Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the best man U.S. Intelligence has on the ground, in places where human life is worth no more than the information it can get you. In operations that take him around the globe, Ferris’ next breath often depends on the voice at the other end of a secure phone.
#7 The angel (2018)
The Angel, directed by Ariel Vromen, is the true story of Ashraf Marwan, who was Egyptian President Nasser’s son-in-law, and special advisor and confidant to his successor Anwar Sadat, while simultaneously one of Israeli Intelligence’s most precious assets of the 20th century.
#6 Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
The Americans were relieved when they found out that the most wanted terrorist in the world, Osama Bin Laden, was eliminated. The film comes to make light on this ultra-secret mission, which led to the capture of the leader of Qaeda.
#5 Argo (2012)
Based on real events, the dramatic thriller Argo presents an undercover, life-and-death operation to rescue six Americans. The actions took place during the Iranian attack soldier with hostage-taking, the film focusing on the lesser-known role that the CIA and Hollywood played, declassified information many years after the event.
Does this story get your attention? You should check the Discovery Channel’ s documentary: Argo – the inside story. The reporters had access to official documents and talked with people involved in the operation. Here you can watch it:
#4 Bourne (2002 – 2016, film series)
The Bourne films are a series of American action thriller films based on the character Jason Bourne, a CIA assassin suffering from dissociative amnesia who must figure out who he is.
The story begins with the salvation from the sea of a man who has only a few bullets stuck in the back and an account number tattooed on the balance.
Disoriented and cautious, he tries to discover who he is and why his life has taken such a twist. When she meets Marie Kreutz, Bourne offers 10000 dollars to take him to Paris. The woman accepts the money and begins a journey that will change her life forever…
Here are the movies from the series: The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012), Jason Bourne (2016).
In April 2018, USA Network ordered a pilot for a series titled Treadstone. The series will explore the origins of the Treadstone program and its sleeper agents associated with the agency. According to IMDB, the show will be first aired on Oct 15, 2019.
#3 Thinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the screening of John Le Carré ‘s namesake novel. The book appearing in 1974 represents the author’s prospect of real events, consisting of the unmasking of five KGB moths from British intelligence services – Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt, John Cairncross, and Kim Philby – in the years 1950-1960.
For his artistic performance, the film received three Oscar nominations.
The action takes more on strategy, backstage games and patience than on the usual chases with luxury cars and spectacular weapons that could print a fast-paced, pleasing to the general public. The jargon in the sphere of espionage that abundantly spice up the dialogues, the multitude of characters, difficult to preserve in the viewer’s memory, and the fragmentation of the action, in which events are intersecting from different spaces and moments, such Parts of a puzzle, make Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy a movie that calls public intellect more than average Hollywood production.
#2 James Bond movies
The James Bond film series is a British series of spy films based on the fictional character of MI6 agent James Bond, “007”, who originally appeared in a series of books by Ian Fleming.
Notable titles: From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), License to Kill (1989), GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Casino Royale (2006), Skyfall (2012), Spectre (2015).
There is a new upcoming movie that will be released in April 2020 – No time to Die with Daniel Craig being the Bondman.
Watch below a title teaser of Bond 25 – No time to Die:
#1. The Good Shepherd (2006)
The Good Shepherd (2006) is claimed to be a realistic story, although romanced, about the establishment and evolution of the American Central Intelligence Agency and its precursor, the OSS (Office for Strategic Studies) and is considered to be one of the best espionage movies.
The plot of the film centres around the descent of Americans from the Cuban Gulf of pigs, specifically on the famous operations dubbed The Brilliant Disaster (Jim Rasenberger in the eponymous volume), the CIA’s failure to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba.
Many of the characters have been considered as having real bases: Edward Wilson, the hero played by Matt Damon, was identified with James Jesus Angleton, founder of the CIA counter-Intelligence division; Phillip Allen (William hurt) appears to be, in reality, Allen Dulles, OSS agent, and director of the CIA during the invasion of the Bay of Pigs; Bill Sullivan (Robert De Niro) was compared to General William Donovan, the head of the OSS at the time of World War II. Dr Fredericks (Michael Gambon) is inspired by Alan Turing, a British mathematician who helped break the Enigma code during the second world war.
The film was able to stir even a public response from the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA’s assessment is that, overall, the film brings services to the pioneers of the agency, who do not deserve such treatment. They were true patriots (…); Mistakes were made during this period, but there were also successes (…), and the film does not even suggest them.
Conclusion on best espionage movies
So there you have it: our top 20 best espionage movies list. It’s your time now. Vote for your favourite spy movie.
It’s not on the list? Let me know in the comments.