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The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

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The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

Old 01-22-10, 07:43 AM
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The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

The editors of American History have published a standalone special, The 100 Greatest Spy Movies. I've put the list in spoiler quotes to streamline the reading of this thread. There are a handful of TV miniseries included, and one cop-out (see #16), and while rankings are debatable I think it's a pretty solid list.

Spoiler:
  1. The Third Man (1949)
  2. North by Northwest (1959)
  3. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1965)
  4. Goldfinger (1964)
  5. Our Man in Havana (1959)
  6. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
  7. Smiley's People (1982)
  8. Pickup on South Street (1953)
  9. The Lives of Others (2006)
  10. Notorious (1946)
  11. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979)
  12. Munich (2005)
  13. The Ipcress File (1965)
  14. Three Days of the Condor (1975)
  15. The 39 Steps (1935)
  16. The Bourne Series (2002-2007): Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum
  17. Dr. No (1962)
  18. The Man Who Never Was (1956)
  19. The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)
  20. Sabotage (1936)
  21. The Conversation (1974)
  22. Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983)
  23. Breach (2007)
  24. 13 Rue Madeleine (1947)
  25. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
  26. Funeral in Berlin (1966)
  27. Secret Agent (1936)
  28. Black Book (2006)
  29. Ministry of Fear (1944)
  30. The Company (2007)
  31. Spies (1928)
  32. The Quiet American (2002)
  33. The Looking Glass War (1969)
  34. Army of Shadows (1969)
  35. Syriana (2005)
  36. The Professional (1981)
  37. The Deadly Affair (1966)
  38. Lust, Caution (2007)
  39. From Russia with Love (1963)
  40. Eye of the Needle (1981)
  41. Saboteur (1942)
  42. The Russia House (1990)
  43. The Odessa File (1974)
  44. The War Is Over (1966)
  45. The Parallax View (1974)
  46. Casablanca (1942)
  47. Watch on the Rhine (1943)
  48. Torn Curtain (1966)
  49. The House on 92nd Street (1945)
  50. Mission: Impossible (1966)
  51. Across the Pacific (1942)
  52. The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
  53. Hopscotch (1980)
  54. The Counterfeit Traitor (1962)
  55. Marathon Man (1976)
  56. Sneakers (1992)
  57. The Fourth Protocol (1987)
  58. Duplicity (2009)
  59. Ninotchka (1939)
  60. 5 Fingers (1952)
  61. Our Man Flint (1966)
  62. Enigma (2001)
  63. The Kremlin Letter (1970)
  64. Operation: Crossbow (1965)
  65. The Lady Vanishes (1938)
  66. The Confession (1970)
  67. The Eiger Sanction (1975)
  68. Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
  69. O.S.S. (1946)
  70. Body of Lies (2008)
  71. Billion Dollar Brain (1967)
  72. Hangmen Also Die! (1943)
  73. Casino Royale (2006)
  74. An Englishman Abroad (1983)
  75. Europa (1991)
  76. Hell and High Water (1954)
  77. Clear and Present Danger (1994)
  78. Spy Game (2001)
  79. The Guns of Navarone (1961)
  80. The Conformist (1970)
  81. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
  82. The Secret Agent (1996)
  83. Mackintosh Man (1973)
  84. The Venetian Affair (1967)
  85. Modesty Blaise (1966)
  86. Mata Hari (1931)
  87. Traitor (2008)
  88. The Iron Curtain (1948)
  89. The Spy in Black (1939)
  90. The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)
  91. The Good German (2006)
  92. Burn After Reading (2008)
  93. Ice Station Zebra (1968)
  94. The Osterman Weekend (1983)
  95. The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
  96. Triple Agent (2004)
  97. 17 Moments of Spring (1973)
  98. La Femme Nikita (1990)
  99. All Through the Night (1941)
  100. Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within (1998)


Incidentally, the magazine itself is basically comprised of little more than complete story summaries. I was greatly disappointed by not only the inclusion of ending spoilers, but the absence of any insightful commentary about why a given film was included or ranked where it was.

Last edited by Travis McClain; 01-22-10 at 08:59 AM.
Old 01-22-10, 08:52 AM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

That's one of the most ridiculous lists I've ever seen. Apparently any film that has a spy in it for one second qualifies as a spy film, even submarine thrillers like ICE STATION ZEBRA and HELL AND HIGH WATER, WWII commando films like GUNS OF NAVARONE, a conspiracy thriller like PARALLAX VIEW and even romantic dramas like CASABLANCA and a romantic comedy like NINOTCHKA (a 1939 film listed erroneously as 1979). It's all over the place! Why have genre distinctions at all if you can mix and match at will so easily?

And it's got GOLDFINGER at #4 and one of the best Bond films, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, at #39?! And DR. NO, THUNDERBALL and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE are not even on the list?! What, are you kidding me? GOLDFINGER is, IMNSHO, the weakest of the Connery Bonds. And this after years of watching and re-watching them.

And don't get me started on DUPLICITY!

Last edited by Ash Ketchum; 01-22-10 at 08:56 AM.
Old 01-22-10, 08:54 AM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

I stopped reading when I saw that From Russia With Love wasn't in the Top 10.
Old 01-22-10, 08:58 AM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum
That's one of the most ridiculous lists I've ever seen. Apparently any film that has a spy in it for one second qualifies as a spy film, even submarine thrillers like ICE STATION ZEBRA and HELL AND HIGH WATER, WWII commando films like GUNS OF NAVARONE, a conspiracy thriller like PARALLAX VIEW and even romantic dramas like CASABLANCA and a romantic comedy like NINOTCHKA (a 1939 film listed erroneously as 1979). It's all over the place! Why have genre distinctions at all if you can mix and match at will so easily?

And it's got GOLDFINGER at #4 and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE at #39?! And DR. NO, THUNDERBALL and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE are not even on the list?! What, are you kidding me? GOLDFINGER is, IMNSHO, the weakest of the Connery Bonds. And this after years of watching and re-watching them.

And don't get me started on DUPLICITY!
To be fair, the Ninotchka year is my mistake; I double-checked the magazine and they have it right. Yes, the list is fairly liberal about what counts as a spy movie but then, in their defense, spies have always worn a lot of hats, from glorified detectives to commando operatives. I also agree that they completely botched the Bond movies; for my money, From Russia with Love remains the best of the entire canon. Although, I will disagree with you about Goldfinger, which I will gladly take over the rest of the Connery-era Bonds.
Old 01-22-10, 06:16 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

I'm glad of what's included, although Ronin should definitely be on the list and the rankings are a bit bad.
Old 01-22-10, 06:36 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

In what way is the Third Man a spy film?

I take issue with Northy by Northwest and The 39 Steps being on the list. These are suspense thrillers. Hitch's famous "MacGuffin" in these films is that spies are "up to something" but no spying or actual espionage takes place. Just because the macguffin is some intangible "secret" that spies are smuggling out of the country doesn't mean it's a spy film.

Last edited by Mabuse; 01-22-10 at 06:42 PM.
Old 01-22-10, 07:07 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

I really enjoyed Black Book...glad to see it made the list.
Old 01-22-10, 08:03 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

Not much fun on that list ....except for the Bond films and Our Man Flint. We need a little GOTCHA! or IF LOOKS COULD KILL.
Old 01-22-10, 11:44 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

No XXX? FAIL!

I would like to have seen True Lies in there somewhere.
Old 01-23-10, 12:55 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

GOLDFINGER is, IMNSHO, the weakest of the Connery Bonds. And this after years of watching and re-watching them.
Perhaps if Diamonds are Forever did not exist. I think that Goldfinger solid, classic Bond, though prefer Russia, Thunderball, and also Twice even more.
Old 01-23-10, 01:22 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

No "Spy Hard", no sale!

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Old 01-23-10, 01:39 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

Originally Posted by Shannon Nutt
No "Spy Hard", no sale!
I remember seeing Spy Hard with my brother and a friend the same night we saw Mission: Impossible (whatever night it opened). We timed it so we could eat something between showings. By the end of the night, we'd decided that even though Spy Hard was just another spoof with Leslie Nielsen, at least we didn't need a flowchart to understand who did what and so we preferred the parody to the real thing.
Old 01-23-10, 02:04 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

The Tailor of Panama should definitely be on the list.
Old 01-23-10, 02:24 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

Originally Posted by Cellar Door
The Tailor of Panama should definitely be on the list.
That was my second thought, right after, "From Russia with Love is only #39?!"
Old 01-23-10, 06:22 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

Syriana is not a spy movie.
Old 01-23-10, 06:31 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

Get Smart
Old 01-25-10, 01:32 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

I still don't understand how The Third Man their number one pick is a spy movie. This list has a lot of great films on it, but as a list IT SUCKS.
Old 01-25-10, 01:57 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum
And DR. NO, THUNDERBALL and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE are not even on the list?!
Dr. No is 17 on the list. Although I'd rathaer have From Russia With Love placed far above it, no way are the admittedly entertaining Bourne films better than either.
Old 01-25-10, 02:21 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

I like "Goldfinger", but there is no way it is a better spy movie than FRWL.

I know this a stupid list that has no actual merit, but still, FRWL at #39???
Old 01-25-10, 08:30 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

I've looked into it a bit more and discovered that the rankings were determined via a tournament of polls on the website for American History. I haven't looked into the results or comments, but I can tell you this: We need a magazine special for all the hard work Woody did last year on various tourneys. And our magazine would include comments about the selections and not just overlong summaries that spoil the endings!
Old 01-25-10, 09:46 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

Very surprised Breach and Traitor were included. Maybe will check them out.

Munich didn't feel like a spy movie. It was all assassinations, they didn't even really interact with their targets, aside from just killing them.

No Way Out should have been ranked and quite highly. I don't get the love for North by Northwest, thought it was boring, but maybe will give it another viewing.
Old 01-27-10, 01:34 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

No Way Out is not on this list?!
Old 01-27-10, 02:54 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

I'm not even close to facetious when I'm saying Spies Like Us should be on that list. An obvious comedy, even an absolute farce at times, it had much more spycraft, infiltration, and espionage than The Third Man or North By Northwest.

And the Bourne films blow. There, I said it.
Old 01-27-10, 02:57 PM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

Originally Posted by Hokeyboy
And the Bourne films blow. There, I said it.
If by "blow" you mean "kick all kinds of ass," then, yes, I agree.

I also agree that The Third Man, great film though it is, ain't a spy movie.
Old 01-28-10, 12:38 AM
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Re: The 100 Greatest Spy Movies

The Bourne movies are fantastic, and definitely deserve to be on this list.

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