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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  16 December 1965 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 9,643 users  
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
See  »

Did You Know?


In the room in East Germany where Leamas is interrogated by Fiedler, the wallpaper is of English design ("Marigold" by William Morris). 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 »


Control: We have to live without sympathy, don't we? We can't do that forever. One can't stay out of doors all the time. One needs to come in from the cold.
Alec Leamas: I'm an operator, Control, just an operator.
Control: There's a vacancy in Banking Section which might suit you.
Alec Leamas: Sorry, I'm an operational man. I'll take my pension. I don't want a desk job.
Control: You don't know what's on the desk.
Alec Leamas: Paper!
Control: [after taking a long sip from his tea cup] I want you to stay, uh, out in the cold... a little longer.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

One of the best films ever made
11 June 2006 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I have unreserved enthusiasm for this film having watched it on many occasions and yet to find a fault. Indeed it only gets better. It is so atmospheric, with Director Martin Ritt, his designers and photographers, all superb. You really feel you are either in a typical 1960's corner shop in London, a prison in East Germany or a communist safe-house in Scandanavia.

It has always been my view that once it is established the leading actor in any film is on top form, which certainly applies to Burton and the script is accepted as good, then it is the support actors who determine whether a film is going to reach excellence. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold has an absolutely first-class range of actors at the very top of their profession. The casting is magnificent and each of them has a meaningful part to play in this film, enabling them to bring their own special qualities to every role.

The list of talent is endless and includes Claire Bloom playing the naive young communist, Nan, who befriends Leamas, Michael Hordern, Robert Hardy, Sam Wanamaker, Peter Van Eyck who was very good as Hans Dieter Munt, the very sinister head of the East German Secret Police, the brilliant Cyril Cussack and Bernard Lee. My own particular favourite in the film, however, is the excellent Oskar Werner who portrays Fiedler, Deputy to Munt, who despite this and his fanatical belief in communism, is suspected and despised by his own organisation because he is Jewish.

But of course it is Burton who is the central part to the film and he plays the downbeat spy, Alec Leamas, to perfection, in what must be one of the best performances of his film career. Burton is Leamas and Leamas is Burton. He is brilliant and I cannot imagine the author of the book, John Le Carre, being anything than very impressed with Burton's interpretation of his character.

The film is well worthy of being watched either by those who have not seen it before, or by others who have to appreciate it once again. It is of course from a by-gone era when communism was an ideology followed by millions and opposed by many millions more besides. It was perceived by many as a fight to the death, hence the tension which Martin Ritt and his team magnificently captures.

It may well be a film depicting another era but I have no doubt there will be many operators just like Alec Leamas in our modern-day secret service, just as cynical about making a living in the seedy world in which they inhabit. The story comfortably defies the passing of time, while the quality of acting will be appreciated indefinitely such is the very high standard.

Michael Dixon, Sunderland, England.

27 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Recent Posts
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 mr Marble
Hard to comprehend whenim64
Can't follow the story... Euan1234
Poor image quality on DVD fahyr
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