30 Spy/Espionage films from Hollywood and Beyond

Spy fiction is as old as the times. These tales of tale of deceit, deception, and tension continue to be staple of filmed entertainment. Spy films broadly fall under two categories of relative realism (such as the adaptations of John Le Carré) or as fantasy thriller (such as James Bond). There are numerous sub-genres mixing elements of film-noir, comedy, romance and murder mystery with varying degrees of success.
Starting from the silent era, spy films perhaps reached their peak during and immediately after World War II. Cold war spy thrillers relied more on building up tension as opposed to action to entertain. Post cold war films have grown to reflect social tensions and international challenges relevant today. The genre has been visited by some of the best directors of our times and and it is difficult to come up with any rankings or classification. The list should be treated as nothing more than a collection of personal favorites are not as per any ranking. Comments and suggestions are welcome.
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1.
Spies (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
The mastermind behind a ubiquitous spy operation learns of a dangerous romance between a Russian lady in his employ and a dashing agent from the government's secret service. (178 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ Fritz lang's silent master piece was the genesis of formula that formed staple of numerous later spy films. For example a secret agent known by a number, and a beautiful foreign female agent who comes to love the hero. ” - shanksinha
 
2.
Secret Agent (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
After three British agents are assigned to assassinate a mysterious German spy during World War I, two of them become ambivalent when their duty to the mission conflicts with their consciences. (86 mins.)
“ Early Hitchcock classic ” - shanksinha
 
3.
North by Northwest (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive. (136 mins.)
“ Features perhaps the single most recognizable image of American cinema, carry grant running from a crop duster biplane. ” - shanksinha
 
4.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A former prisoner of war is brainwashed as an unwitting assassin for an international Communist conspiracy. (126 mins.)
 
5.
From Russia with Love (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
James Bond willingly falls into an assassination ploy involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE. (115 mins.)
Director: Terence Young
“ A James Bond film focused more on traditional spy craft. ” - shanksinha
 
6.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
British agent Alec Leamas refuses to come in from the Cold War during the 1960s, choosing to face another mission, which may prove to be his final one. (112 mins.)
Director: Martin Ritt
“ Adaptation of novel by John le Carré. Portraying the moral uncertainty of espionage world. Grim and realistic. ” - shanksinha
 
7.
The Ipcress File (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
In London, a counter espionage agent deals with his own bureaucracy while investigating the kidnapping and brainwashing of British scientists. (109 mins.)
Director: Sidney J. Furie
“ Michael Caine is excellent as Harry Palmer a somewhat slippery British operative. Cold war classic. ” - shanksinha
 
8.
Funeral in Berlin (1966)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A British agent is sent to Berlin to receive a Communist defector, but the true situation turns out to be rather more complicated. (102 mins.)
Director: Guy Hamilton
“ A worthy sequel to Ipcress File, more of a comedy in large parts, but with a clever story. Follow on films are utter crap. ” - shanksinha
 
9.
Topaz (1969)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
A French intelligence agent becomes embroiled in the Cold War politics first with uncovering the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and then back to France to break up an international Russian spy ring. (143 mins.)
“ Based on a book by Leon Uris. One of better Hitchcock spy films, minus the usual Hollywood starpower. ” - shanksinha
 
10.
A Dandy in Aspic (1968)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
Double-agent Alexander Eberlin is assigned by the British to hunt out a Russian spy, known to them as Krasnevin... (107 mins.)
Director: Anthony Mann
“ Anthony Mann's unfinished project. Depicts the story from an opposite viewpoint. ” - shanksinha
 
11.
The Kremlin Letter (1970)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
During the Cold War a Naval Intelligence officer endowed with a powerful photographic memory is transferred to the CIA to participate in a covert operation in Moscow. (120 mins.)
Director: John Huston
“ Underrated cold war spy thriller with elements of film noir. ” - shanksinha
 
12.
The Serpent (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
A soviet diplomat hatches a complicated plan to enable him to defect to the West. (124 mins.)
Director: Henri Verneuil
“ Intriguing European spy flick. ” - shanksinha
 
13.
The Conversation (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered. (113 mins.)
“ A disturbing Psychological thriller set in the murky world of espionage. ” - shanksinha
 
14.
Three Days of the Condor (1975)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A bookish CIA researcher finds all his co-workers dead, and must outwit those responsible until he figures out who he can really trust. (117 mins.)
Director: Sydney Pollack
“ Sydney Pollacks's instant and enduring classic. ” - shanksinha
 
15.
Telefon (1977)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A Russian officer is sent to USA to try and stop sleeper agents who will mindlessly attack government entities when they hear certain coded words. (102 mins.)
Director: Don Siegel
“ Charles Bronson's action oriented cold war spy thriller. ” - shanksinha
 
16.
The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
The true story of a disillusioned military contractor employee and his drug pusher childhood friend who became walk-in spies for the Soviet Union. (131 mins.)
“ An unglamorous look at the banality of espionage world and the ordinary nature of people who enter it. Based on true story of Christopher John Boyce. ” - shanksinha
 
17.
No Way Out (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A coverup and witchhunt occur after a politician accidentally kills his mistress. (114 mins.)
Director: Roger Donaldson
“ A slick and tight film by Roger Donaldson, who made some other interesting espionage films like The Recruit (2003). ” - shanksinha
 
18.
The Russia House (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
An expatriate British publisher unexpectedly finds himself working for British intelligence to investigate people in Russia. (123 mins.)
Director: Fred Schepisi
“ Another John le Carré story. Filmed on location in Soviet Union, beautiful visuals and underrated style. ” - shanksinha
 
19.
The Patriots (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
At 18, Ariel Brenner leaves Paris and his family to live in Israel. He secretly joins the Mossad, the Isreali secret service... (138 mins.)
Director: Eric Rochant
“ Portrays from a revisionist point of view, the ambiguous ways of spy craft for a Mossad agent, where loyalties and ideologies are never constant. ” - shanksinha
 
20.
The Tailor of Panama (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
A tailor living in Panama reluctantly becomes a spy for a British agent. (109 mins.)
Director: John Boorman
“ Another John le Carré story. ” - shanksinha
 
21.
Spy Game (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Retiring CIA agent Nathan Muir recalls his training of Tom Bishop while working against agency politics to free him from his Chinese captors. (126 mins.)
Director: Tony Scott
“ Tony Scott's slick presentation of classic spy world. One of the definitive spy films, has a grandiose feel to it. ” - shanksinha
 
22.
The Quiet American (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
An older British reporter vies with a young U.S. doctor for the affections of a beautiful Vietnamese woman. (101 mins.)
Director: Phillip Noyce
“ Graham Greene's classic and moving story, set in the backdrop of the growing American involvement in Vietnam in the initial years. Michael Caine shines as always, and some really good piece of acting from Brendan Fraser. ” - shanksinha
 
23.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A man is picked up by a fishing boat, bullet-riddled and suffering from amnesia, before racing to elude assassins and regain his memory. (119 mins.)
Director: Doug Liman
“ An adrenalin rush from start to finish. It is actually an action film, the sequels more so. The first one however, still has elements of the traditional skulduggery of the spy game. ” - shanksinha
 
24.
Double Agent (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
A North Korean diplomat defects to the South during the Dold War, but the South Koreans have their suspicions as to whether he is an actual defector or a double agent. (123 mins.)
Director: Hyeon-jeong Kim
“ A Korean spy thriller, with a plausible plot concerning a North Korean defector. Like most Korean cinema, it is is good. ” - shanksinha
 
25.
Wolf (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Based on a true story. In the 70's, during the last stages of Franco's dictatorship, Txema, a basque construction worker... (125 mins.)
Director: Miguel Courtois
“ Based on real life story of Mikel Lejarza a Spanish intelligence operative who was a long term infiltrator in ETA. Story of a real life legend. ” - shanksinha
 
26.
Traitor (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
When straight arrow FBI agent Roy Clayton heads up the investigation into a dangerous international conspiracy, all clues seem to lead back to former U.S. Special Operations officer, Samir Horn. (114 mins.)
“ A sensible film with sensible storyline. Spying in the times of war on terror, where enemies are less well defined. Don Cheadle given a powerhouse performance. ” - shanksinha
 
27.
Farewell (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
The French intelligence service alerts the U.S. about a Soviet spy operation during the height of the Cold War, which sets off an unfortunate chain of events. (113 mins.)
“ Excellent French cold war film. Set during the last days of the cold war. ” - shanksinha
 
28.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6. (122 mins.)
Director: Tomas Alfredson
“ A retro cold war spy film based on John le Carré famous book. Captures the essence of the times and lives gone forever. ” - shanksinha
 
29.
Page Eight (2011 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) is a long-serving MI5 officer. His boss and best friend Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon) dies suddenly... (99 mins.)
Director: David Hare
“ A look in to the contemporary espionage scene and its political dynamics. A world devoid of agendas, morality and heroes. Bill Nighy is brilliant. ” - shanksinha
 
30.
Möbius (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
An FSB officer falls in love with his agent, an American woman, who works as a trader in a Russian bank. (103 mins.)
Director: Eric Rochant
“ Slow burning, some time melodramatic but always interesting spy story, Jean Dujardin shines as always! ” - shanksinha