From subterfuge to surveillance, the double cross to the double agent, the shady world of espionage has been the setting for some of the most twisting plots and intrigue in cinematic history.
Spying techniques have come a long way since the old 'cutting eye-holes in the newspaper' trick, with smart tech and slick gadgets. This collection offers cloak and dagger to computer hacking and a mistaken identity assassination attempt.
Watch your back! The world of espionage presents skullduggery like no other.
There’s James Bond, 007, of course, but you can also feel a shiver with a Cold War drama, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; enjoy a vintage classic with North by Northwest; mark the first collaboration between Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger with The Spy in Black; behold the extraordinary Oscar winner The Lives of Others; and for a lighter take on the genre watch Cottage to Let.
See if you agree with the Simply HE's editor's favourites below, and browse the complete collection here.
As Russia is making headline news once again, it would be remiss of us not to feature this film as our James Bond offering. Whilst Trump’s America no longer views Russia as one of its foes, Bond, on the other hand, is less than convinced. This is Sean Connery’s second outing as Bond. His first was of course Dr No.
In the 1965 film, Richard Burton's disgruntled secret intelligence officer Alec Leamas sums up his profession:
"What the hell do you think spies are? Model philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They're not. They're just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me …civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten up their rotten little lives."
Leamas is one of John le Carre many less-than-glamorous spies that populate the author's work and their film and TV adaptations.
See also Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Steven Spielberg's fact-based Cold War drama, set in 1950s New York, stars Tom Hanks and an Oscar-winning Mark Rylance.
A lawyer is hired to represent a Soviet spy in a showcase trial designed to demonstrate the fairness of the US justice system. In the face of public condemnation, he argues against the death penalty, a stance that years later leads to his involvement in an exchange of prisoners in East Germany.
“I've got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don't intend to disappoint them all by getting myself 'slightly' killed".
Cary Grant delivers some of the best lines in a ‘spy’ movie yet, in what could arguably be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films. Grant plays Roger Thornhill, an innocent advertising man forced to go on the run from a shadowy organisation in a case of mistaken identity.
The winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2006 is a stunner! It's a gripping psychological thriller from Germany about the monitoring of East Berlin residents by agents of the Stasi, the GDR's secret police, set during 1984.
Ulrich Muhe is unforgettable as the meticulous secret policeman who finds himself questioning the cause to which he has devoted his life – eavesdropping into the lives of others, in this case a celebrated playwright and his girlfriend. How he faces his dilemma is both intelligently presented and emotionally satisfying to watch. It is simply amongst the best films ever made.
Michael Caine's Harry Palmer is the anti-007, in this adaptation of Len Deighton's spy thriller! He loves cooking, especially omelettes, enjoys shopping in supermarkets and is hankering to update his kitchen. Whilst investigating the kidnapping of sixteen of Britain's most renowned scientists, intelligence officer Palmer is kidnapped and forced to undergo the IPCRESS method, in an attempt to condition him into becoming a double agent.
Fascinating fact: Harry H Corbett was originally considered for the role of Harry Palmer!