The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  16 December 1965 (USA)
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Reviews: 95 user | 60 critic

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.



(novel), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Rupert Davies ...
Hans-Dieter Mundt (as Peter Van Eyck)
Beatrix Lehmann ...
Tribunal President
Old Judge
Tom Stern ...
CIA Agent
Niall MacGinnis ...
German Checkpoint Guard


Alec Leamas, a British spy is sent to East Germany supposedly to defect, but in fact to sow disinformation. As more plot turns appear, Leamas becomes more convinced that his own people see him as just a cog. His struggle back from dehumanization becomes the final focus of the story. Written by John Vogel <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




Drama | Thriller


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

16 December 1965 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Spion, der aus der Kälte kam  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film's title was spoofed in Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966) which translates literally into English as "The Spies who came in from the Frozen Custard", or more commonly, "The Spies who came in from the Semi-Cold". The word 'semifreddo' in the Italian language version's title is a jokey reference to the name of an Italian ice cream dessert called semifreddo which literally translates into English as 'semi-cold'. See more »


In his defense speech of Mundt, the East German defense attorney (played by George Voskovec) says "Smiley was indeed Leamas's friend. He was also a planner in the section called Satellite Four... which operates behind the Iron Curtain." The term "Iron Curtain" would not have been used by officials in East Germany or any of the Soviet bloc countries to refer to the east-west divide. It was originally created by Winston Churchill and the phrase "behind the Iron Curtain" became a derogatory description of the east bloc countries and their socialist systems. The term "Iron Curtain" was seen as serving to keep people in and information out, and people throughout the West used the metaphor in that context. See more »


Alec Leamas: I'm a man, you fool. Don't you understand? A plain, simple, muddled, fat-headed human being. We have them in the West, you know.
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User Reviews

the Cold War's bleak aesthetic
23 March 2004 | by (Balto.-WDC Metro area) – See all my reviews

Back during the Cold War, people actually bought into the bleak misery that was brinkmanship & actors actually took chances, & their agents let them.

Richard Burton is Alec Laemmas, John Le Carre's reluctant spy, whose disillusionment is turned against him to save one last informant: hard to believe that Mr. Burton was then still in the throes of his public romance with Liz Taylor. Grim's the word here: from the opening Checkpoint Charlie Berlin scene to the Dutch shores to the East German countryside--the Cold War's done nobody any favors. Moreover, this harsh treatment of spies & their back-stabbing, double-dealing ways was made just after Ian Fleming's suave James Bond had become a pop movie icon (Bond's "M," Bernard Lee, as a grocer here ["T'get a proper credit, y'need a banker's reference."], gets the crap pummeled outta him by Burton).

Anyway, "Spy" is movie stripped of glamor: everyone gets usurped by people with power. Burton's Laemmas is sent to salvage the good guys' chief informant, a senior GDR official; Claire Bloom's Commie idealist Nancy is called to East Germany under the ruse of cultural exchange, to aid in the hoax. Oscar Werner is mesmerizing ("Were you present for ziss...Sanksgiving?") as the no. 2 man in the Abteilung, on the trail of no. 1, Peter van Eyck, until Laemmas shows up to thwart his plans.

If old cold warriors were only half as conniving as they appear here, whither did they go after the fall of the Soviet Union? Something to which nobody with nanogram of sense has paid much attention.

32 of 52 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Who would like to see an remake of this? overfiend1976
Can't believe George Smiley was such a cold hearted b#$tard... sn939
Disturbing plothole The_TJT
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Poor image quality on DVD fahyr
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