This morning I clicked on a 9.27.16 Cinemaholic piece, written by Ashes Roy, titled “The Ten Best Movies About Spies and Secret Agents.” I expected I would get a piece out of strongly disputing some of the picks. To my surprise I partly agreed save two or three plus the order of the rankings. Without making a big deal out of it here’s my amended list with an understand that I’m focusing on movies about intelligence tradecraft — the chess games spies play in order to acquire and act upon important information.
10. Michael Winner‘s Scorpio (1973) — I realize this is mostly a flimsy B-level programmer, but I had to include it due to a brilliant third-act “hit” sequence in which Burt Lancaster puts two bullets into a CIA chief;
9. Anton Corbijn‘s A Most Wanted Man (2014);
8. Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty;
7. The two BBC George Smiley/Alec Guiness miniseries, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979 — which translates into a mild ixnay for Thomas Alfredson’s 2011 feature version) and Smiley’s People (1982);
6. Sydney Pollack‘s Three Days Of Condor (1975);
5. Tie between Alfred Hitchcock‘s Notorious (1946) and North By Northwest (1959);
4. Doug Liman‘s The Bourne Identity (2002);
3. Carol Reed‘s The Third Man (1949);
2. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck‘s The Lives Of Others (2006);
1. Martin Ritt‘s The Spy Who Came In From Cold (1965)
The Cinemaholic/Roy piece lists John Frankenheimer‘s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) as a fifth-place choice. I don’t regard this classic Kennedy-era thriller as a spy film. It’s a political-cultural satirical piece about ’50s paranoia and commie-hunting with an undercurrent of perverse black humor. In short it’s way too rich and multi-levelled to be labelled as a spy flick.