Top 21 Best Spy Movies of All Time | Secret Agent Films

Best Hollywood Spy Movies: Spy thriller films are often enchanting and there’s no way you will take your eyes off the screen even for a split second.

The main element behind the success of a spy film is precision during the mission, the agency setup, and more importantly the wit of the main spy in the film. If you follow this genre, you will observe that the quality of Hollywood Spy Thrillers is raised to a whole new level with superb graphics and special effects.

While the earlier Best Spy films relied too much on the dialogues and hand combats, modern-day Spy Thriller Movies depend on the use of technology and the number of gadgets used by the spy.

Best Spy Thriller Movies of All Time

Over the years, Hollywood has delivered many spy thriller Movies. The popularity and the captivating features of many of these films turned them into big franchises today.

Today, we wait for most spy thriller movies to watch James Bond, Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne, and others in action. Their extravagant lifestyle, duel with death, and brilliant action stunts encourage you to become a spy.

So, if you are eager to experience such an adventurous and secretive lifestyle but don’t want to risk your life; then begin watching the following secret agents spy thriller Movies one by one.

Bond Series (25 Films)

Bond films Best Hollywood Spy Movies

There’s no way I can begin this list without mentioning the Bond film series. Based on Ian Fleming’s novels, the films in Bond series revolve around James Bond, an MI6 agent. Although the central character is portrayed by different actors throughout the series, the theme of the film and the character traits remain constant throughout the series.

Only recently, Daniel Craig as James Bond turned out to be a bit different from the rest. Current James Bond is more agile, hardcore, and lives on the edge all the time. At the time of writing this article, a total of 25 films have been produced in the Bond series and six actors have played the central character of James Bond.

Mission Impossible Series (7 Films)

Mission Impossible series tom cruise

The next in line in this list of secret agents Spy thriller Hollywood films is the MI or shall I say Mission: Impossible film series. The film series is based on the TV series of the same name that aired for 7 seasons between 1966 and 1973. The film follows an IMF team led by Ethan Hunt who is tasked with impossible missions.

While the TV series emphasizes on the ensemble cast, the Mission: Impossible film series revolves around Ethan Hunt.

Bourne Series (5 films)

Bourne identity and bourne series on identity theft

Unlike the Bond and Mission: Impossible film series, the Bourne series tells the story of a CIA assassin who takes on the CIA after discovering their programs that turn men into assassins with no memories of the past. The film series is actually based on the lead character Jason Bourne created by Robert Ludlum in his Bourne novel series.

The first three films in the series are based on Robert Ludlum’s novel of the same name. Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne and featured in 4 movies out of 5 in the Bourne series. The 4th film features Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, a trained CIA assassin who eventually gets in trouble following Jason Bourne’s actions in the third film.

The 39 Steps (1935)

The 39 Steps best Hollywood spy movies of all time

Loosely based on the adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, the 1935 film The 39 Steps tells the story of an ordinary London civilian who finds himself in the middle of a spy mission after he is accused of killing a counter-espionage agent.

While on the run with an attractive woman, the man must prove his innocence and prevent the 39 steps, a spy organization, from stealing British military secrets. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the film features Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll in the lead roles.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

bridge on river kwai

Directed by David Lean, the 1957 British-American epic war film Based on World War 2. The Bridge on the River Kwai is a fictional episode under the setting of the historical construction of the Burma Railway in 1942-43.

Featuring William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guinness, and Sessue Hayakawa in pivotal roles, the film is based on Pierre Boulle’s 1952 novel titled Le Pont de la Riviere Kwai.

Spy Game (2001)

Spy Game best Hollywood spy thrillers

Featuring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt as CIA agents, the 2001 American spy film Spy Game follows a rescue mission led by a veteran CIA executive to save his own recruit and once a friend.

Directed by Tony Scott, the film basically tackles the bureaucracy that prevails in the large Intelligence Agencies across the globe like CIA. The film is less action-packed but contains a lot of thriller moments during the rescue operation.

Munich (2005)

Munich best Hollywood spy movies of all time

The 2005 historical drama Munich is based on the book Vengeance written by George Jonas who accounts the details of the coveted Israeli assassination campaign under the codename Operation Wrath of God.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film features Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, and Hanns Zischler as the team unofficially assigned with the task of eliminating the eleven Palestinian terrorists involved in Munich Massacre at 1972 Summer Olympics.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy best detective and spy films of all time

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a 2011 spy film based on the novel of the same name penned by John le Carre. The film follows a secret mission led by the British secret service to find a mole at the top of their agency who is actually a Soviet double agent.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson, the film features an ensemble cast of Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciaran Hinds and David Dencik.

Ronin (1998)

Ronin best spy thrillers movies of all timeRonin best spy thrillers movies of all time

Directed by John Frankenheimer, Ronin is an American action spy thriller film featuring Robert De Niro in the lead role. The 1998 film follows a mission led by ex-special operatives to steal a huge metal briefcase from a heavily armed convoy.

The film is famous for its amazing and realistic car chase sequences and the complicated plot where the real mission is unveiled.

Kingsman Series

Kingsman film series on spy and detectivesKingsman film series on spy and detectives

Kingsman film series is a spy action-comedy series featuring a British secret service agency known as Kingsman.

The first film basically introduces the characters and follows the recruit and training of Eggsy Unwin, a street unemployed boy. Kingsman film series is based on the comic book series titled The Secret Service created by Scottish writer Mark Millar and English writer Dave Gibbons.

Body of Lies (2008)

Body of Lies best movies on secret agents

Directed by Ridley Scott, Body of Lies is an action spy thriller film featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Russel Crowe, and Mark Strong in the lead roles. The film revolves around a mission led by the CIA and Jordanian Intelligence to catch a terrorist.

However, the difference in tactics and the target’s escape causes rifts between the two agencies. The rest of the film showcases how the CIA and Jordanian Intelligence use lies against each other to eventually capture the terrorists.

Salt (2010)

Salt best films on secret agents and spies

Salt is a 2010 spy action thriller film featuring Angelina Jolie in the titular character. Directed by Phillip Noyce, the film tells the story of Evelyn Salt, a CIA Agent who is accused of being a Russian sleeper agent within the CIA.

The rest of the film shows how she escapes and tries to clear her name while trying to prevent a World War.

Bridge of Spies (2015)

Bridge of Spies best films on secret agents and spies

Bridge of Spies tells the true story of an understanding between the United States and the Soviet Union where a U.S. Air Force pilot shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960 is released in exchange for Rudolf Abel, a convicted KGB spy.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film features Tom Hanks as the lawyer James B. Donovan entrusted with the exchange negotiation. The name of the film represents the bridge that connects Potsdam and Berlin where the real exchange took place.

Knight and Day (2010)

Knight and Day best spy films of tom cruise

Knight and Day is a Secret agent spy action comedy featuring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in the lead roles. Directed by James Mangold, the film tells an exciting of two strangers and how their life gets entangled with each other while they fight for their lives.

Cruise plays a secret agent Roy Miller on the run from CIA, whereas Diaz plays a classic car restorer. The film is known for its action stunts and enthralling chase sequences.

True Lies (1994)

True Lies best spy movies of all time

Featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in the lead roles, True Lies is a 1994 spy action comedy film directed by James Cameron. The film tells the story of a spy who lives a double as his family is unaware of his real profession. True Lies is an interesting movie that depicts the life of a secret agent in a comical way.

Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Three Days of the Condor best spy films

Three Days of the Condor is an interesting film based on the novel with a slightly different title, Six Days of the Condor penned by James Grady. Featuring Robert Redford in the lead role, the film tells the story of Joseph Turner, a bookish CIA researcher who is now the target of a freelance assassin who is working for the CIA. Turner must fight against all odds and save himself while the entire CIA is after him. Whether he survives or not forms the rest of the story.

Notorious (1946)

Notorious 1946 best films on spy

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious is a 1946 spy film noir. Featuring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains in the lead roles, the film tells a tale of a love triangle between the three lead characters who are actually spies. You must watch this classic to experience Hitchcock’s mastery when it comes to filmmaking. Notorious is one of the Best Hollywood Spy Thrillers of all Time.

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

The Hunt for Red October best spy agents movies

Featuring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin as rivals, The Hunt for Red October is a must-watch spy thriller film set during the late cold war era. Directed by John McTiernan, the film revolves around the Typhoon-class nuclear missile submarine named Red October led by Soviet submarine Captain Marko Ramius, played by Sean Conner who wants to defect to the United States. When CIA analyst Jack Ryan successfully hypothesizes Raimus’s plan and informs his superiors. Whether the US fleet destroys Red October or the US Government accepts Raimus’s defection forms the rest of the story.

Also Read: Best Hollywood Movies on Heist

The Day of the Jackal (1973)

The Day of the Jackal best spy filmsThe Day of the Jackal best spy films

Based on the 1971 novel of the same name penned by Frederick Forsyth, The Day of the Jackal is a political thriller film directed by Fred Zinnemann. The film features Edward Fox and Michael Lonsdale in the lead roles as rivals in the film. Edward Fox plays a professional British assassin who goes by the code name Jackal. When a French militant group hires Jackal to assassinate the French President, the French security brings the best detective and Deputy Police Commissioner Claude Lebel, played by Michael Lonsdale. You must watch the move to know what happens next!

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero Dark Thirty best secret agents film

Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatic adaptation of the most famous coveted operation to find and kill the al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, who was the main conspirator behind the 9/11 attacks in the United States. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the film is based on the greatest manhunt of history.

Argo (2012)

Argo 2012 spy thriller film of hollywood

Argo is a 2012 American spy film directed by Ben Affleck. The screenplay of the film draws inspiration from the novel titled The Master of Disguise written by CIA operative Tony Mendez, and a Wired article titled, “The Great Escape: How CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran” authored by Joshuah Bearman. Ben Affleck also acts in the film playing the lead character Tony Mendez who rescued six U.S. diplomats from Tehran under the guise of filming a Sci-Fi film. The film is based on the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis.

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