Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)

TV Mini-Series  |   |  Drama, Thriller
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 8.7/10 from 4,680 users  
Reviews: 84 user | 19 critic

In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced out of semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.

0Check in

On Disc

at Amazon

10 Best Action Heroes

We consulted IMDb's Highest-Rated Action-Family Films to came up with 10 scene-stealing action figures your kids can relate to, look up to, and be inspired by.

Visit our Family Entertainment Guide

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 30 titles
created 19 Feb 2011
a list of 31 titles
created 07 Jan 2012
a list of 27 titles
created 12 Apr 2012
a list of 33 titles
created 30 Jan 2013
a list of 35 titles
created 14 Apr 2014

Related Items

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979– )

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979– ) on IMDb 8.7/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

User Polls




Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Smiley's People (TV Mini-Series 1982)
Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

Called out of retirement to settle the affairs of a friend, Smiley finds his old organization, the Circus, so overwhelmed by political considerations that it doesn't want to know what ... See full summary »

Stars: Alec Guinness, Eileen Atkins, Bill Paterson
A Perfect Spy (TV Mini-Series 1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

This is the story of Magnus Pym, from his childhood to the end of his career in middle age. As a young man, there is little doubt that his father Rick was the most influential character in ... See full summary »

Stars: Ray McAnally, Rüdiger Weigang, Alan Howard
Drama | Thriller
    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.

Director: Martin Ritt
Stars: Richard Burton, Oskar Werner, Claire Bloom
The Sandbaggers (1978–1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9/10 X  

The missions of an elite British Intelligence covert operations unit.

Stars: Roy Marsden, Ray Lonnen, Jerome Willis
Drama | Mystery | Thriller
    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.

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Stars: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy
Certificate: M Action | Thriller | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

From the John le Carre novel about a British spy who sends a Polish defector to East Germany to verify missile sites.

Director: Frank Pierson
Stars: Christopher Jones, Pia Degermark, Ralph Richardson
Edge of Darkness (TV Mini-Series 1985)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

The mysterious murder of an environmental activist leads her straight-laced father, an Inspector of the local police force, through a haunting revelation of the murkiness of the British ... See full summary »

Stars: Bob Peck, Joe Don Baker, Charles Kay
I, Claudius (TV Mini-Series 1976)
Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9/10 X  

The history of the Roman Empire as experienced by one of its rulers.

Stars: Derek Jacobi, John Hurt, Siân Phillips
Reilly: Ace of Spies (TV Mini-Series 1983)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

A dramatization of the missions and adventures of the greatest spy in British history.

Stars: Sam Neill, Michael Bryant, Norman Rodway
Callan (1967–1972)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

David Callan is the top agent/assassin for the Security Service (British counterintelligence), but he is an embittered man who performs his duties "for Queen and country" under duress. This... See full summary »

Stars: Edward Woodward, Russell Hunter, Lisa Langdon
Drama | Musical | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  

Tormented and bedridden by a debilitating disease, a mystery writer relives his detective stories through his imagination and hallucinations.

Stars: Michael Gambon, Patrick Malahide, Joanne Whalley
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A British agent sets out to uncover the hidden facts behind a British government employee's suicide.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: James Mason, Maximilian Schell, Simone Signoret


Series cast summary:
 George Smiley (7 episodes, 1979)
 Peter Guillam (7 episodes, 1979)
Anthony Bate ...
 Sir Oliver Lacon / ... (7 episodes, 1979)
George Sewell ...
 Mendel (7 episodes, 1979)
Bernard Hepton ...
 Toby Esterhase (5 episodes, 1979)
 Bill Haydon (5 episodes, 1979)
Hywel Bennett ...
 Ricki Tarr (5 episodes, 1979)
Terence Rigby ...
 Roy Bland (4 episodes, 1979)
 Jim Prideaux (4 episodes, 1979)
Michael Aldridge ...
 Percy Alleline (4 episodes, 1979)
Alec Sabin ...
 Fawn (4 episodes, 1979)
 Control (3 episodes, 1979)
Duncan Jones ...
 Roach (3 episodes, 1979)
Daniel Beecher ...
 Spikely (3 episodes, 1979)
John Wells ...
 Headmaster (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Compton ...
 Bryant (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Moorey ...
 Lauda Strickland (2 episodes, 1979)


George Smiley has been retired for about a year when he finds a friend from the Circus, his old outfit in British Intelligence, sitting in his living room. He is taken to the home of an advisor to the Prime Minister on intelligence matters, where he finds evidence that one of the men in the senior ranks of his old agency is a Russian spy. Smiley is asked to find him, without official access to any of the files in the Circus or letting on that anyone is under suspicion. With only a few old friends, his own powers of deduction, and secrecy as weapons, Smiley must unearth the spy who turned him out of the Circus. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Thriller

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

29 September 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Az áruló  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (7 parts)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This production was hit by a series of strikes. See more »


In episode 5, Fawn's hair is shaggy and hangs over his ears. A day later (in episode 6) it is short and trim. He's been guarding the kidnapped Toby Esterhase for the intervening period, so he could hardly have run out and got it cut. See more »


[Lacon has arrived late for a conference]
Oliver Lacon: I'm sorry. Traffic. I should've walked.
Bill Haydon: I think you and Percy between you are contriving to keep me off the streets.
See more »

Crazy Credits

SPOILER: The closing credits scroll over a scene of Oxford, which is chronologically where the spy was recruited in the story. See more »


Referenced in Conan: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Rabbi (2011) See more »


Nunc Dimittis
Composed by Geoffrey Burgon
Sung by Paul Phoenix and the Boys of the St Paul's Cathedral Choir
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

If only...
9 June 2005 | by (Illinois) – See all my reviews

The BBC is to be commended for making 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' (as well as 'Smiley's People') into fine adaptations for television.

Being very familiar with all three of the 'Karla' novels I have a few, very minor, quibbles as to casting and editing, but nothing that gets in the way of great enjoyment of the finished product.

Guinness was born to play Smiley, as others have already noted. I can't get enough of his laconic humor and monk-like habits. Simply with subtle, hardly discernible facial expressions, Guinness intimates vividly the mysterious, dangerous past Smiley has endured... and all the vile things he's had to do in the cause of, as he would put it, what is Right. Alexander Knox is fabulous as the "little serpent" Control, "No man's child" as Smiley's says of him. There are other "perfectly" cast parts in this adaptation. Anthony Bate's smarmy, infuriating Lacon is absolutely hateful at his every appearance, just as he is supposed to be; a sign of the masterful nuance of Mr Bate's performance. I also like Bernard Hepton's Toby Esterhase, though he exhibits more humor than the character actually possesses in the book.. but what a fine actor he is.

Michael Aldridge plays Percy Alleline as an exquisite, bureaucratic boob who will do anything, in the modern political way, to get to the top, purely for ego reasons. I also found Ian Richardson's Bill Hayden to be a fine fit between actor and character. Some of the smaller roles are done very well too. Fawn, played by one Alec Sabin, is the spitting (mental) image of the character as described in the book. A quiet, diminutive killer.

All of the acting is first rate but the actors are often a far cry from the physical descriptions in the books. Beryl Reid is wonderful as Connie Sachs, though not LARGE enough. Her scene is so fore-shortened in the film script that it hardly matters anyway. The same can be said of Ian Bannen who turns in perhaps my favorite performance in the whole thing, after Guinness's Smiley. But Bannen does not fit the description of Jim Prideaux very closely. However he is fully inside the character of the poor man he's portraying that it hardly matters if his hair is the wrong color.

The only bit of miscasting (in my opinion) was that of Michael Jayston as Peter Guillam. Jayston is too po-faced and humorless, overplaying the underlying traumatic neurosis Guillam has endured in his career. Jayston's limitations stand out slightly next to his co- horts but he's good enough to hold his own, up to a point. And he does rise to the occasion when the part demands something more substantial from his character, but Michael Byrne, the Peter Guillam in 'Smiley's People', seems much more in line with LeCarré's character from the books.

The great disappointment of the 'Smiley' series is that the BBC balked at filming in Hong Kong, choosing instead Lisbon. It works but it would have been so much better as LeCarré originally envisioned the story. By the same token it is a great loss to our lives that they skipped 'The Honourable Schoolboy' altogether, choosing to jump ahead to 'Smiley's People'. I assume that filming in Hong Kong (primarily), Vientiene, Bangkok, Phnom Pehn and Saigon was financially too daunting. A great shame all the same, especially when they had such a fine Jerry Westerby as Joss Ackland in 'Tinker, Tailor...'

In sum... the Smiley mini-series is a keeper to watch again and again.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
How does Smiley find out Merlin is fake? spirofantasio
Its 'The Little Things' that keeps me watching it over and over.... Don-91
Who would play Smiley now? rleather
Scenes in Brno l_grds
one of the best spy movie/mini-series here is a list of others ... Renard-4
Alexander Knox. In Memoriam. l_grds
Discuss Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: