Film, Venue

10 great spy films

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Originally derided, OHMSS has been steadily reappraised down the years and is now (rightly) considered one of the best Bond films. With Diana Rigg stealing the show, an amazing alpine location and the most emotional conclusion to a 007 adventure, it was ahead of its time and blew us away. – Rohan Gotobed

MI: Ghost Protocol 

Reinvigorating the genre, this fourth installment is as close to a perfect spy film as you’ll ever watch. Simon Pegg injects some welcome comic relief into a franchise which had previously taken itself a bit too seriously. Memorable set pieces include the opening prison escape, the Kremlin and – of course – the world’s tallest building. – Dan Struthers

The Bourne Identity 

The Bourne Identity, directed by Doug Liman, is one of the great spy thrillers. It creates riveting suspense as Jason Bourne’s true identity is revealed, while also delivering spectacular action scenes like the Paris car chase,  the Jason Bourne  vs. Clive Owen showdown, and many expertly choreographed fight scenes. – Alex Caesari 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an elegant thriller that finds its many rapturous twists and turns in the subtlety of an expression or a modest exchange, where others of its genre rely on guns and explosions. With stellar performances from Gary Oldman et al, this is a complex and enigmatic masterpiece. – Edward Whitbread

License to Kill

Perhaps one of the most underrated and under-appreciated entries in the James Bond canon, Timothy Dalton shines in a film that takes a darker turn from previous instalments. Robert Davi’s villain is particularly menacing and cold-blooded, and the film contains multiple gritty and violent action sequences. This is certainly not a Bond film for kids! – Oscar Huckle

Kingsman: The Secret Service

A sort of sugar rush Bond, Kingsman rosily tints Connery suaveness like a time-served spy fan. From the Red Herring and Inside Man to Tech-Heavy Shootdown, Kingsman celebrates cliché with balletic visual spectacle, blaring a colourful silliness that fits this grinning pastiché better than its index of tailor-made suits. – Charlie Nicholson

Austin Powers

Away from the stone cold seriousness of James Bond, here comes sex-crazed sixties spy Austin Powers. Powered with memorable phrases such as ‘’oh behave!”, “mojo”, and adding “shag” to anything and everything, we are suited and booted for an oozing of grooviness. Not to mention antics from The Fat Bastard and pinkie-smooching Dr. Evil. – Elodie Mayo 

Johnny English 

Peter Howett’s 2003 comedy plays into and pokes fun at the Spy film genre. Rowan Atkinson plays a half-rate spy tasked with protecting the Crown Jewels from John Malkovich’s Pascal Sauvage. Playful yet gripping, Johnny English will make you cringe and laugh – a British comedy classic worth watching – Matthew Nixon.

Spy Kids

Robert Rodriguez orchestrates the best family spy film from both sides of the American border. Its McDonalds microwaves and super-spy treehouse are by now fond memories of every millennial’s noughties tweenhood; as are the giant thumb-shaped people and insane gadgets that make Carmen and Juni the envy of every kid in the playground. – Hattie Griffiths

The Manchurian Candidate

Capitalising on 60s’ red paranoia, this political thriller transforms a US war veteran into a brainwashed communist spy, plagued with woozy nightmares that threaten to breach Hollywood storytelling convention. Keeping its cards (namely the Queen of Diamonds) close to its chest, Frankenheimer directs mounting tension towards a terrific finale. – Gus Edgar


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June 2022
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