Top 10: Best Spy Movies of All-Time

For years we as moviegoers has been transfixed by smoothing talking (or rough and fierce) spies as they uncover a web of lies and take down villainous organizations before they take over the world.  Movies have depicted these gentlemen and women spies as some of the most skilled humans on Earth, making their characters even more interesting.  But which of these movies rank as the best spy movies of all-time?

#10: The Bourne Identity (2002)

Paul Greengrass proved that Matt Damon could be a serious action star in this tenacious first installment to the Bourne franchise.  Greengrass practically invented the quick-cutting action style that many movies try to rip off today (of which many fail).  The film acted as a renaissance to the spy genre as there hadn’t been a successful dark spin to a spy story in quite some time.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 83%

Metacritic Score: 68

MovieBabble Score: A-

best spy movies

image via Hollywood Reporter

#9: From Russia With Love (1964)

Far more gritty and grounded than many of the Bond films, From Russia With Love is an interesting look into the Cold War Era with another great turn from Sean Connery as 007.  The film displays a great villain played by Robert Shaw that adds to the dread.  The film worries much less about gadgets and gizmos and relies on telling a solid story, which it does in spades.

The main test of a film is that it stands the test of time, and From Russia With Love has certainly accomplished this feat.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 96%

Metacritic Score: N/A

MovieBabble Score: A

best spy movies

image via Den of Geek

#8: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

The best film in the Bourne franchise, The Bourne Ultimatum does what few third films in trilogies have done by improving on the first two.  Matt Damon continues to grow into his role to give us more of the great, quick action that we loved from the first two films in combination with a deeper emotional pull as he is being hunted by the very organization that hired him in the first place.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 93%

Metacritic Score: 85

MovieBabble Score: A

best spy movies

image via Cinema Sins

#7: Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation (2015)

I’m starting to believe that Tom Cruise is not human considering what type of stunts he attempts.  Rogue Nation surprisingly improves upon Ghost Protocol with a story that has no shortage of intrigue while adding some of the most incredible stunts ever put to film.  Cruise’s stunts both entertain and frighten you, whether it be holding his breath for over three minutes under water or hanging off the side of a plane.

But that’s not all Rogue Nation has to offer.  The plot line of an anti-IMF going against Ethan Hunt and his team only increases the odds that are seemingly always stack against the team.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 93%

Metacritic Score: 75

MovieBabble Score: A

best spy movies

image via YouTube

#6: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

Kingsman parodies the most absurd of the Bond movies a large amount of fun and wit, allowing Matthew Vaughn’s unhinged sentimentality to be on full display as the body count continues to rise.  Some were turned off to the film because it reached levels of absurdity rarely met by other films, but that was the entire point of movie as it tipped its cap to the spy films of old.

If nothing else, Kingsman proved that Matthew Vaughn is an incredible action director, creating memorable fights like the bar fight and the devilishly great massacre at the extremist church to the tune of Free Bird.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 74%

Metacritic Score: 58

MovieBabble Score: A

best spy movies

image via Uncommon Courtesy

#5: North by Northwest (1959)

Over a half century later, North by Northwest is still incredibly watchable and entertaining.  Carey Grant shines as Roger Thornhill, capturing the chaotic nature of his situation while remaining suave.  The film has had a serious influence on the genre and has been parodied many times because of that impact (Family Guy being one of the most recognizable).  Alfred Hitchcock is known for his twisted story lines, which propels this paranoia filled mystery to one of the best spy movies ever made.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 100%

Metacritic Score: N/A

MovieBabble Score: A+

best spy movies

image via YouTube

#4: Argo (2012)

The film that returned Ben Affleck to prominence in Hollywood, Argo is a suspenseful, fascinating retelling of the Iran hostage crisis and the film industry’s role in the return of Americans back to the states.

The script may have alter some facts in the actual story to provide a greater dramatic heft to the third act, but that doesn’t affect the well-written characters and the true emotion that Argo exudes.  The film is definitely worthy of its Oscar for Best Picture as well as its place among the best spy movies.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 96% 

Metacritic Score: 86

MovieBabble Score: A+

best spy movies

image via NPR

#3: Skyfall (2012)

After the disappointment that was Quantum of Solace, Daniel Craig rebounded as 007 and gave us one of the best Bond films to date.  The film features one of the best villains in Javier Bardem’s Silva.  If you weren’t disturbed by Silva, you’re most definitely lying.

The film adds to the deeper emotional levels of the film with pulsating action to boot.  Skyfall delivers both the bombastic, massive set pieces that we expect with clever, smaller scale conflicts.  The “recreation” of Home Alone adds a fun little twist to the massive endings of many action flicks.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 93% 

Metacritic Score: 81

MovieBabble Score: A+

best spy movies

image via Den of Geek

#2: Goldfinger (1964)

The best work by Sean Connery, Goldfinger gives us the Bond that we have fell in love with since 1964.  Connery expands upon the titular spy with adding some of the characters’ trademarks (Shaken, not stirred).

Additionally, the main villain, Goldfinger himself, remains iconic with his signature quirks and means of villainy.

If you love James Bond, then you have Goldfinger to thank for all its influence on the character (and the spy genre for that matter).

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 96%

Metacritic Score: N/A

MovieBabble Score: A+

best spy movies

image via Alamo Drafthouse

#1: Casino Royale (2006)

After many grew tired of the zaniness of the Pierce Brosnan Bond films, 007 needed face lift.  Thankfully, Daniel Craig and director Martin Campbell were there to pick up the slack.

If you strip away the aura of Bond from Casino Royale, it is still one of the best spy movies to date.  There’s non-stop action, suspense, and great story line that never ceases or falls into a lull.

Mads Mikkelsen turns in one of the best villainous performances of the past quarter century.  You understand why he’s evil and why he acts the way he does.  The best villains are the ones that are the most understandable.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 95%

Metacritic Score: 80

MovieBabble Score: A+

best spy movies

image via Plugged In

Thanks for reading!  What are some of the best spy movies from your perspective?  Comment down below and let your thoughts be heard!

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Nick Kush

A current young professional, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

28 Responses

  1. Did you see the recent film adaptation of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.? It really blew me away and was exactly what I wanted from a spy movie

    • Nick Kush says:

      I thoroughly enjoyed that movie! I didn’t find it as transcendent as you did, but I really, really liked it!

  2. plotracer says:

    This list is the one which totally matched up with my mind. Nothing contradicts. Honest reviews up above..

  3. I remembered The 39 Steps, Where Eagles Dare.

  4. DK Fennell says:

    No George Smiley movies? John le Carré wrote about spies; Ian Fleming wrote about action heroes. What about The Spy Who Came in From the Cold? Maybe this was written by someone unfamiliar with Cold War politics was about and why spy movies were once more than shoot-em-ups.

  5. Good list. I would have included Counterfeit Traitor starring William Holden

  6. Great list. Casino Royale is my favourite modern Bond film. Interesting you choose Rogue Nation over the original Mission Impossible (1996) as I would say Rogue Nation is more action blockbuster than spy film and the original had a bit more espionage stuff in it and complex double-crosses.

    I love some of the Cold War spy films too which are more talky and character driven such as: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) and Ipcress File (1965). Plus the recent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) was complex but so stylish and the ensemble cast was amazing.

    Arguably the best spy film of recent times is the impeccable Lives of Others (2006); that is just incredible.

  7. shahzodav says:

    I really like all the movies from the list! Too bad there aren’t that many movies with female spies, though, I’d be up for some Jamie Bond or Queensladies, hehe.

  8. Very solid list! Works for pretty much everyone ― ?

    Although I would’ve add The Ipcress File and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy up there ― ?

    Cheers mate!

  9. A great list! ‘North by Northwest’ is one of my favorites. I also love Hitchcock’s ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much.’

  10. Pretty solid list overall, but I’d rank Skyfall ahead of Casino Royale because of the completeness and fullness of its story.

    • MovieBabble says:

      If you asked me to rank this list next week I might feel the same way! They’re both so great it’s honestly a matter of which film is more fresh in my mind lol

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