The true story of a group of Cambridge University Students who are recruited to spy for the Soviet Union in the early 1930s.

On Disc

at Amazon




3 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

The Company (TV Mini-Series 2007)
Drama | History | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Real-life figures from the Cold War era mix with a fictional story based on a group of CIA operatives and their counterparts in the KGB, MI6, and the Mossad.

Stars: Chris O'Donnell, Alfred Molina, Michael Keaton
The Assets (TV Mini-Series 2014)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

CIA counter-intelligence officer Sandy Grimes works to save Soviet intelligence officers from being exposed by a mole inside her organization.

Stars: Jodie Whittaker, Paul Rhys, Harriet Walter
The Game (TV Mini-Series 2014)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A Cold War spy thriller that tells the story of invisible wars fought by MI5.

Stars: Tom Hughes, Jonathan Aris, Victoria Hamilton
North Square (TV Series 2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A closed legal world steeped in tradition.

Stars: Phil Davis, Kevin McKidd, James Midgley
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

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.

Stars: Alec Guinness, Michael Jayston, Anthony Bate
Perfect Strangers (TV Mini-Series 2001)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Attending a distant family reunion reveals more than was expected.

Stars: Michael Gambon, Lindsay Duncan, Matthew Macfadyen
The Forsyte Saga (TV Mini-Series 2002)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Chronicles the lives of three generations of the upper-middle-class British family, the Forsytes, from the 1870s to 1920.

Stars: Damian Lewis, Rupert Graves, Gina McKee
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
Life in Squares (TV Mini-Series 2015)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

An intimate and emotional drama for BBC Two about the revolutionary Bloomsbury group.

Stars: Eve Best, Ed Birch, Phoebe Fox
Code of a Killer (TV Mini-Series 2015)
Biography | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

The story of Alec Jeffreys' discovery of DNA fingerprinting and its first use by DCS David Baker in catching a double murderer.

Stars: John Simm, Anna Madeley, David Threlfall
The Grid (TV Mini-Series 2004)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A team of American and British counter-terrorists are tasked with stopping a terrorist cell who's operating on a global level.

Stars: Jemma Redgrave, James Remar, Piter Marek
State of Play (TV Mini-Series 2003)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

A thriller set in London, in which a politician's life becomes increasingly complex as his research assistant is found dead on the London Underground and, in a seemingly unrelated incident, a teenage pickpocket is shot dead.

Stars: John Simm, Kelly Macdonald, Bill Nighy


Series cast summary:
 Guy Burgess (4 episodes, 2003)
 Kim Philby (4 episodes, 2003)
 Donald Maclean (4 episodes, 2003)
 Anthony Blunt (4 episodes, 2003)
Stuart Laing ...
 Jack Hewit (3 episodes, 2003)
Darrell D'Silva ...
 Henry (2 episodes, 2003)
 Melinda Maclean (2 episodes, 2003)
 Colonel Winter (2 episodes, 2003)
 Otto (2 episodes, 2003)
 Guy Liddell (2 episodes, 2003)
 Julian Bell (2 episodes, 2003)
Colin Higgins ...
 Porter (2 episodes, 2003)
 James Angleton (2 episodes, 2003)
 The Queen (2 episodes, 2003)


The true story of a group of Cambridge University Students who are recruited to spy for the Soviet Union in the early 1930s.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | History

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



Release Date:

9 May 2003 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Cambridge kémei  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(4 parts)

Sound Mix:


See  »

Did You Know?


Actor Tom Hollander has appeared in such espionage movies as Hanna (2011), Enigma (2001), and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015), as well as the later BBC television spy series, The Night Manager (2016), an adaptation of a John le Carré 1993 novel of the same name. See more »


Anthony Blunt is given a sporran by "Queen Mary". The Queen he is seen conferring with several times is Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother. See more »


Anthony Blunt: You kept your socks on.
Julian Bell: My Aunt Virginia gave them to me. They're hers. "Whatever you do, don't take the socks off. Not under any circumstances."
Anthony Blunt: I'm in bed with Virginia Woolf's socks.
See more »


Version of Philby, Burgess and Maclean (1977) See more »


Where or When
written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Spy Story for Sunday Night
6 July 2003 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

This is a lightly fictionalised account of how four tewwibly well brought up English boys betrayed their country to the Soviet Union. Philby's father had been a distinguished diplomat and Arabist and McLean's a cabinet minister. All had public school educations and had been undergraduates at the same Cambridge college. They set off into promising careers in the foreign office and security services and were Soviet agents from the start. Their great coup was to give the Soviets enough details about the atomic bomb to speed up their program to build one by a couple of years, but it was at the expense of blowing McLean and Burgess's cover (they escaped to Moscow in 1951), and Philby being fired from MI6. He joined them in Moscow in 1963. Blunt, by now the Keeper of the Queen's Pictures was then interrogated; he confessed, and was let go.

It's one of the really great spy stories of the 20th century. This version concentrates on the personal dynamics. The amount of contact the spies had with each other after Cambridge seems to be much exaggerated (pretty bad security), but gives us the picture of the gang of four against the Establishment. The women are interesting too. Philby was a ladies' man to whom Donald McLean's American wife Melinda (Anne-Louise Plowman) was attracted. They later lived together in Moscow. Blunt and Burgess were both gay, but friends rather than lovers.

The Establishment, in the person of Lord Halifax (James Fox), Ambassador to Washington, found it difficult to believe that 'people like us' could do such things and started looking for the atomic spy in the embassy kitchens. One or two western counter-intelligence operatives including the CIA's formidable James Jesus Angleton nearly nabbed them, but with Philby tipping them off (and duchessing Angleton), Burgess and McLean made it safely to Moscow.

With four hours to play with all the characters are richly drawn. Tom Hollander's Guy Burgess is a drunken dirty little sod who somehow manages to be witty and charming as well. It was great cover for a spy. As Donald McLean, Rupert Penry-Jones is the Golden Boy who feels himself unworthy, and sees communism as the way to redemption. Toby Stephens as Kim Philby gives us the cleverness, the deviousness and the angst as well, especially in the Spanish episode.(I'm afraid us Philbys are a devious lot, but we bleed, we bleed). Samuel West's Blunt has the occasional hint of emotion, but basically is a cold fish. Art, it seems is his life. He does get on tewwibly well with the Queen.

Seventy years on, it's not so much why they did it, but why they kept it up that mystifies. Given their location close to the heart of British Intelligence and hence knowing as much as anybody outside about what really went on the Soviet Union, it's extraordinary that Philby and McLean in particular continued on right up to 1951 (Blunt was more or less inactive after 1945). It is suggested here that Ms McLean did try to get her husband to give up spying but there's no real explanation as to why he persisted. Perhaps he still believed. Anyway, truth or fiction is hardly the point here - Sunday night is not for history lessons. This is a familiar tale well told, visually splendid and not too taxing. The real story, I suspect, is far too complex for even the most adroit (or left) TV producer. An earlier TV account,"Philby Burgess and McLean" (1977) is also worth watching, if you can find it.

45 of 48 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Is Peter Moffat a Stalinist? pert990
Tom Hollander perfect KMitford
Why Wasn't Anthony Blunt Sent to Prison juliemary2
The 19th of February SirinJulia
Disorganised Trancer_UK
This the best thing ever!! appie_1989
Discuss Cambridge Spies (2003) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: