Great Classic Spy Movies

Posted on 2 Aug 00:00


People often have a curiosity about things related or unrelated to them and also have an interest in reasoning the motives behind the action, all these subjects are suitably answered through a spy/thriller movie that engages its viewer from the word go. And cinema has provided some exceptional, classic, and best spy movies of all time. Some of the great must-watch classic spy movies are mentioned below.


1)  The Ipcress File (1965)

A movie based on a novel called The Ipcress File by Len Deighton. It is a 1965 classic spy movie which has received a BAFTA award for best British film and has been nominated for the 100 Best British films of the 20th century. The Ipcress File is directed by Sidney J. Furie, a Canadian movie director, writer, and producer. The main lead is played by Michael Caine as Harry Palmer, Guy Doleman as Colonel Ross, and Nigel Green as Major Dalby and a host of other excellent actors. The plot revolves around the kidnapping of a famous doctor, Radcliffe, from a train and his security escort is killed during the abduction. Palmer is introduced to the story with the mission of rescuing Dr. Radcliffe because the other 16 top British scientists have left their jobs in the fear of being prosecuted. The rescue gets interesting when Palmer tries to catch the suspect, Eric Grantby but he is protected by his commander Housemartin.  Housemartin is later arrested, but before he can be questioned, he is killed by two impostors. The story keeps the audience constantly on edge with its brilliant screenplay by Bill Canaway.  Moreover, on Rotten Tomatoes, it rated 100%, which is very unusual.


2)  No Way Out (1987)

There are always secrets and mysteries in politics, we all have heard that, and it is exquisitely portrayed in the movie No Way Out (1987) based on a 1964 novel 'The Big Clock' by Kenneth Fearing. In the starring cast, is Kevin Costner as Tom Farrell, a U.S Lieutenant Commander, Gene Hackman as David Brice the Secretary of Defense, Will Patton as Scott Pritchard, and Sean Young as Susan Atwell. "He'll return. Where else does he have to go?” this phrase/dialogue stores too many secrets, twists and turns about the movie. The story is about the murder of a woman, her two lovers, and they all work at the Pentagon. Tom Farrell is being framed by his supervisor, David Brice with the help of a common friend Scott Pritchard. A murder conducted by Brice under the influence of rage and jealousy after learning of the affair between his lover Susan, and Farrell. The investigation involves the CIA and a setup involving a threat to national security to protect David Brice. But, the selfish Brice blames Scott Pritchard of the murder which results in Scott’s suicide. The climax ends when the audience learns that Farrell is a Russian spy.


3)  The Third Man (1949)

Talking about the classics, The Third Man is the greatest British film of all time voted by the British Film Institute in 1999. And in 2011, a poll by Time Out magazine ranked this movie as the second-best British movie ever. It was shot in black and white exemplary sequences and its title theme music was so iconic that it topped the international music charts in 1950. For the cast of the movie, director Carol Reed opted for Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins, Alida Valli as Anna Schmidt, Orson Welles as Harry Lime, and Trevor Howard as Major Calloway. The plot is about a murder in Vienna post World War II when Martins arrived for the job offered by his childhood friend Harry Lime but after his arrival, he came to know about the death of Harry Lime in a car accident. But the porter at Lime’s building tells a different that evokes Martin to investigate the death of his friend. He went to Calloway and asked to probe the murder and Calloway shares the crime Lime was running by stealing the meds and selling it in the black market that caused deaths to people. Lime was alive the whole time and everyone tried to capture him even Martin and in an encounter, Martin shot Lime to death. A perfect classic thriller indeed.


4)  The Lives of Others (2006)

Love and spying have a strong bond among them and this bond is thoroughly expressed in 'The Lives Of Others'. It was voted The best foreign-language Oscar winning movie. It is a German drama film. It has won seven Deutscher Filmpreis awards while setting a record for 11 nominations, it was nominated for the Best Foreign Language film at the 64th Golden Globe awards. The main leads of the movie are Ulrich Mühe as Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler, Martina Gedeck as Christa-Maria Sieland, and Sebastian Koch as Georg Dreyman. The movie takes place in 1984 when East Berlin was monitored by the agents of Stasi, GDR’s secret police. The plot is a Gerd Wiesler is asked to spy on the Dreyman, a loyalist of the communist party and his lover Christa-Maria. The conflict of loyalties of Wiesler results in him losing his job and career trying to protect Dreyman. This movie keeps the audience hooked throughout the film.


5)  North By Northwest (1959)

An American thriller with a twisting plot. It comprises of an amazing combination of crime, thriller, drama, and romance. This movie was the first  to feature kinetic typography (animated moving text) in the opening credits. The main leads are played by Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill, Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendall, James Mason as Phillip, and Vandamm Leo G. Carroll as The Professor. And, is directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The plot is about Thornhill whose identity has been mistaken for Kaplan, a made-up personality to bait Vandamm in releasing Eve Kendall. Thornhill initially tries to run away from the thugs and spies, but later, after learning the truth agrees to play the role until Kendall is released. It is a very edgy movie, a must-see!


6)  Three Days Of The Condor (1975)

It is a treat for political-thriller lovers as 'Three Days Of The Condor' is a delight to watch. This movie encompasses all the elements of a thriller and mystery. It was directed by Sydney Pollack. The editing is so amazing that  it was nominated for Best Film Editing at the Oscar Awards. The story is about a CIA researcher who is a book spy who is not knowledgeable of in-field operations. One day after returning from picking up lunch, he finds all of his teammates murdered. It is later learned that the CIA itself is involved in all these murders and trying to get rid of Joseph Turner (Robert Redford) who is now searching for the murderers. With the help of Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway) he unearths the truth and shares the entire story with The New York Times. This is one of Robert Redford's films.


7)  The 39 Steps (1935)

There won’t be any objection in calling this movie a thriller of a lifetime as its records show. It is ranked as the fourth-best film of the 20th century, 21st greatest British movie ever made, second-best-book-to-film-adaptation, and the 13th best British film ever, all these gems belongs to The 39 Steps which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It stars Robert Donat as Richard Hannay, Madeleine Carroll as Pamela, and Lucie Mannheim as Annabella Schmidt. A vacation turns into an escape fest from the police, assassins, and spies. Hannay accidentally bumps into Annabella, who is a spy, but is then killed in Hannay's presence to frame him as a murderer. Then he tries to find the place which Annabella told him about before dying. However in his quest to he has to face numerous obstacles and with Pamela, a woman he meets while on the run, he discovers the spies and methods of smuggling the Air Ministry secrets out of the country. For those who love lots of plot twists, this is a must-see movie.



Spy movies and thrillers keep the audience entranced with their ever changing plots. Additionally, these types of movies change our way of thinking and perceptions about the subject and forces the viewer to play guessing games until the very end of the movie.

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