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100 Greatest Spy Movies

By HistoryNet staff 
Originally published by American History magazine. Published Online: December 02, 2009 
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Michael Caine in 'Funeral in Berlin.' Courtesy Paramount/The Kobal Collection
Michael Caine in 'Funeral in Berlin.' Courtesy Paramount/The Kobal Collection
The editors of American History magazine have compiled a list of the 100 Greatest Spy Movies ever made. The covert operation resulted in a great deal of collateral damage, and now they need your help to narrow those 100 down to … the single Greatest Spy Movie of All Time!

Your cover for this mission will be to pose as An Englishman Abroad. From 13 Rue Madeleline, turn North by Northwest past Casino Royale and climb The 39 Steps of The House on 92nd Street. Go through The Torn Curtain. Give The Ipcress File to Our Man Flint and The Odessa File to The Falcon and the Snowman. From there, Smiley's People will slip you out of the country; look for them in a Pickup on South Street.

La Femme Nikita sends you her regards From Russia With Love.

Click here to go to our forums and accept your 100 Greatest Spy Movies mission. Scroll down to Qualification Rounds A, B, C. and D. Be sure to vote in all four, selecting eight movies in each. After each list you'll find a short synopsis of every movie on it. You can also leave comments about your favorite films, films you think should have been on the lists but aren't and those you wouldn't have included on the lists. Preliminary voting ends December 10!

If you aren't already registered on our forums, click here. We don't spam, and we don't sell or trade information.

For detailed information on each film, plus data on "Reel vs. Real Spies," look for 100 Greatest Spy Movies, available on newsstands December 8.

14 Responses to “100 Greatest Spy Movies”

  1. 1
    Skidawg says:

    I did something wrong when I initialy signed up yesterday, but I cannot get back to the same point. I believe I signed in as a spy in from the cold. HELP PLEASE!!!!!

  2. 2
    @gent M says:

    I agree with most of the list; not necessarily with the order they are listed. However, there are two glaring omissions: "The Good Shepherd" & "No Way Out". There are easily two films that aren't really spy films that could be dropped in favor of these two.

  3. 3
    @gent M says:

    A few more that were missed would include, "Spartan", "The Innocent", and "Game, Set, Match"…………..

  4. 4
    tom says:

    You should have included 'Cloak and Dagger' in the list…

  5. 5
    BigD says:

    Totally agree with the inclusion of "No Way Out". Also, I would drop "The Lady Vanishes" from the list all together (and maybe "The Parallax View" with it; didn't find it all that compelling.) and definitely promote "LaFemme Nikita (original French)". Otherwise, I was happy to see some forgotten classics on the list, i.e., The Ipcress Files, The 39 Steps, 13 Rue Madeleine… Good stuff!

  6. 6
    rstringer says:

    There are a good number of films listed. I do see a few did not make it on the list such as OSS117 with Jean Dujardin, Pont of no return with Bridget Fonda — yea she can take me out. If im correct I did'nt see The Hunt for Red October. and Shining Through. I really enjoy these movies.

  7. 7
    mietraching says:

    Thanks for the effort. Most interesting, but there are – in my opinion – four glaring omissions: The Day of the Jackal (original version);The Boys From Brazil; The Eagle Has Landed; Where Eagles Dare. I'd put Jackal in the top ten.

  8. 8
    daveed says:

    Very interesting and comprehensive list of my favorite movie genre. Definitely gave me a list of films to see. But would it have killed the editors to refrain from spoilers? A simple warning beforehand would suffice.

    These films' appeal is based on suspense and plot twists, and many of the reviews completely spoil it by revealing key plot points. For example, "Point Blank." Jeez…

  9. 9
    dabigz says:

    I would say the movie "Who?" should be in the top 100. It is so creepy, it's difficult to watch.

  10. 10
    Ross says:

    I recall a English spy movie where a british officer impersonates a German General and becomes the head of supply./ his contact i believe is a watchmaker in switzewrland and the contact code wasthe fact he collected nuremberg egg clocks or watches. it was one of the best war spy movies i can vagley remember seeing but the name escapes me and if anyone know about it i would love to here from you.

  11. 11
    Tomm says:

    I'm looking for a wwll spy movie that was in black and white. The only scene that I can remember right now is when three or four of the american spys were in a German restruant eating and on of the male starting eating his food with his right hand in stead of cutting his food with the left hand and eating left handed. He noticed what he had done wrong and changed hands but people noticed what he had done and called the soldiers. Can anybody help

    • 11.1
      Chet says:

      I love that part. But that is all I remembered about the movie, and I had to look it up. I think it's in an old movie from 1946 called "O.S.S.", starring Alan Ladd.

  12. 12
    DAVE PFAFMAN says:


  13. 13
    donald daniel says:

    The best spy movie I have ever seen is not in your list, "the gay diplomat"
    from 1931.

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