18 user 8 critic

The Looking Glass War (1970)

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


(as Frank R. Pierson)


(novel), (written for the screen by) (as Frank R. Pierson)

On Disc

at Amazon


Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

An American Actress with a penchant for lying is forceably recruited by Mosad, the Israeli intelligence agency to trap a Palestinian bomber, by pretending to be the girlfriend of his dead brother.

Director: George Roy Hill
Stars: Diane Keaton, Yorgo Voyagis, Klaus Kinski
A Murder of Quality (TV Movie 1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Taken from the book by John le Carre, George Smiley rallies to the aid of his former intelligence colleague, Ailsa Brimley, to investigate a mysterious letter from a junior master's wife at... See full summary »

Director: Gavin Millar
Stars: Denholm Elliott, Joss Ackland, Glenda Jackson
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 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
A Perfect Spy (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 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
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A young American agent living in Rome meets with a beautiful Swedish translator.

Director: Renato Castellani
Stars: Christopher Jones, Pia Degermark, Angelo Boscariol
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 Outfit (1973)
Crime | Thriller | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Earl Macklin robs a bank owned by the mob, serves his prison time and is released, only to start a private war against the crime outfit that owned the bank.

Director: John Flynn
Stars: Robert Duvall, Karen Black, Joe Don Baker
Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

A former British spy stumbles into in a plot to overthrow Communism with the help of a supercomputer. But who is working for whom?

Director: Ken Russell
Stars: Michael Caine, Karl Malden, Ed Begley
Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

The murder of a Soviet defector forces his old handler, British spymaster George Smiley, out of retirement. His investigation leads to an old nemesis, the Soviet spymaster known only as Karla. This will be their final dance.

Stars: Alec Guinness, Eileen Atkins, Bill Paterson
Certificate: GP Action | Adventure | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

In a vein similar to James Bond movies, British Agent Philip Calvert is on a mission to determine the whereabouts of a ship that disappeared near the coast of Scotland.

Director: Etienne Périer
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Jack Hawkins, Robert Morley
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 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
Drama | Romance | Thriller
    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.

Director: Fred Schepisi
Stars: Sean Connery, Michelle Pfeiffer, Roy Scheider


Cast overview, first billed only:
... Leiser
... The Girl
... LeClerc
... Haldane
... John Avery
... The Girl in London
... Undersecretary of State
... Johnson
... Avery's Wife
... Mrs. King
... Mrs. LeClerc
... East German Detective
Michael Robbins ... Truck Driver
... Taylor
... The Pilot


During the Cold War, the British Intelligence receives a blurred photograph from East Germany taken from Hamburg and Director LeClerc believes they are missiles. Their agent, Taylor King, who receives a film which might clarify the detail from a pilot in Finland, is found dead on the road, and the police believe he was accidentally killed in a hit-and-run. LeClerc meets the Polish defector Fred Leiser, who jumped overboard from a ship expecting to have asylum and stay with his British girlfriend who is pregnant, and decides to recruit him to cross the border and spy on the Eat German facility to check on the missiles. In return, he would have salary, insurance and political asylum. Leiser is trained by the agent and family man John Avery,and soon he finds his girlfriend has had ended the pregnancy. When Leiser crosses the border, he meets up with Anna, a local, and they stay together in the beginning of a dangerous journey where he is just a pawn in a war game. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Chris Jones, the wild one from "Wild in the Streets", takes you into the international gutter-fight! See more »


Action | Drama | Thriller


M | See all certifications »





Release Date:

8 February 1970 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A Guerra no Espelho  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)


| (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to the book "Anthony Hopkins: The Unauthorized Biography" (1994) by Michael Feeney Callan, Christopher Jones "was the walking embodiment of the Hollywood sourpuss. When he could, he avoided social drinking and meals with the crew or cast, was monosyllabic to the point of stupor and, says a technician, 'given to catatonia when everyone was making sense of a non-action action movie'. See more »


After Lieser slaps his girlfriend, he walks out of the room leaving the door open and the girl just stays still on the bed. When Avery goes to check if the girl is alright, the door is closed (so he knocks to get in) and the girl was in the same position she was before. See more »


Leiser: What's your name?
John Avery: You can't have my name, it's a breach of security.
Leiser: You know, I'm risking my life for you so I want a name, give me a name, I don't care. Any name!
John Avery: John.
Leiser: John. John.
See more »


Featured in Al Murray's Great British Spy Movies (2014) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

An Absolute Gem!
5 February 2004 | by See all my reviews

This is one of those rare film adaptations -- in fact, the rarest -- for here is a film that takes liberties with its source material yet still manages to equal (if not better) the original story by the master of realist spy fiction, John Le Carré.

Masterfully written and directed by Frank Pierson (the current head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and superbly acted from everyone on screen, THE LOOKING GLASS WAR is a timeless classic just waiting to be rediscovered by a generation of film lovers thanks to the modern miracle of DVD. One must -- MUST -- see this film in crisp, clear widescreen format, for Pierson and cinematographer Austin Dempster managed to provide the viewer with some of the most stunning, innovative and emotionally evocative imagery of the period. The musical score by Angela Morley (a.k.a. Wally Stott) has that gorgeous, jazzy summer holiday feel about it, which is just perfect for a gloomy existential spy film!

And as for the principal actors, Christopher Jones in particular, what can one say? Those who know what happened with Jones shortly after this film and his whereabouts today can not help but feel sad whenever watching this film. What a loss to world cinema? Jones left acting right at the cusp of the Great American Renaissance of the 1970s. The question is: What could have been? From the strength of his performance in THE LOOKING GLASS WAR as well as RYAN'S DAUGHTER, we can only painfully imagine. Then, in stark contrast, we have the other lead of the film: a young pre-international fame Anthony Hopkins. And here we see, of course, a superb actor growing with every performance. Fans of his must see this film for two things 1) Hopkins' youthful passion, delivering every line with unadulterated vigor, venomously spitting poison one second before whispering soothing words of solice the very next, and 2) witnessing perhaps the all-time greatest one-on-one, man-on-man, no-holds-barred, knock-down-slap-around fist fights ever captured on celluloid.

But I must end this review by again emphasising that this film is brilliant because it was written that way. Pierson adapted a wonderful novel, kept the important plot elements but discarded and invented his own characterisations, created almost all his own sharp, witty dialogue and yet, still, after all the changes, managed to make a film that was still faithful in spirit to what Le Carré wrote. That's why this film is so good.

Writing is everything!

Pierson's adaptation of THE LOOKING GLASS WAR is a lesson for every student of film to see how great novels can be turned into great films.

26 of 33 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 18 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Popular Sci-Fi Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular sci-fi movies and TV shows available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial

Recently Viewed