The Best Spy Movies to Stream Right Now

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch these movies.

misison: impossible
Tom Cruise in 'Mission: Impossible' | Murray Close/Getty Images
Tom Cruise in 'Mission: Impossible' | Murray Close/Getty Images

Like a secret agent slipping behind enemy lines to gain access to top secret intel, the spy movie wears many disguises. In recent years, the genre has taken the shape of the spectacle-filled blockbuster (Mission: Impossible – Fallout), the hyper-violent throw-down (Atomic Blonde), or the Oscar-winning historical thriller (Argo). The spy movie can be a groovy comedy about a time-traveling swinger (Austin Powers) or a kids' cartoon about birds (Spies in Disguise). You never know when the film you're watching could pull off a rubber mask and reveal itself to be a spy movie.

But perhaps the more pressing question is this: Are you watching a good spy movie? Those are the movies we wanted to note on this list, which draws on John le Carré adaptations, Hitchcock nail-biters, and franchise names like a certain martini-loving 00 agent with a new movie (finally) dropping this fall. With a genre this tricky and nimble, we didn't feel the need to list all the great ones, but consider this a helpful passageway into a streaming world of deception, paranoia, and intrigue. Luckily, it won't self-destruct when you get to the end.

black book
A-Film Distribution

Black Book (2006)

It's no surprise that Paul Verhoeven, the wildly talented filmmaker behind twist-filled '90s genre hits like Basic Instinct and Total Recall, would have a knack for the subversive spy film. For his first Dutch project since leaving for Hollywood in the '80s, the director delivered this taut, sly nail-biter that follows a young Jewish woman (Carice van Houten) as she infiltrates the Nazis as part of the Dutch Resistance. Drawing on Hitchcock's espionage classic Notorious and his memories of growing up during the violent chaos of World War II, Verhoeven skillfully mixes old school suspense and a keen understanding of moral complexity for a thriller that offers shocks and pleasure in equal measure.
Watch it now on IMDb TV via Amazon Prime

bourne identity
Universal Pictures

The Bourne Identity (2002)

Given the financial success of the franchise and the creative influence of the series' frantic style, it's easy to forget that Jason Bourne was once an underdog. Released in the same summer as The Sum of All Fears, a reboot of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan character starring Ben Affleck, The Bourne Identity, a loose adaptation of a Robert Ludlum novel, had a troubled production plagued by rewrites and reshoots. But all that tinkering paid off, launching Matt Damon's career as an action star and revitalizing the spy thriller for a modern audience. The first two sequels are just about as good as the original, too.
Watch it now on Peacock

bridge of spies
Touchstone Pictures

Bridge of Spies (2015)

Anyone who knocks this prisoner-swap story as one of Steven Spielberg's "boring" movies should be ashamed! Ashamed! Balancing the chill of Cold War-era paranoia with the paced warmth of a Frank Capra picture, Bridge of Spies again asks Tom Hanks to throw back to a different kind of leading man role, where slick words got you everywhere and patriotism meant sticking up for your fellow American. With little shared screen time, Hanks and Oscar winner Mark Rylance build a relationship that resonates through every turn in this accomplished drama. Just don't expect Spielberg to cater to your attention span.
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

burn after reading
Focus Features

Burn After Reading (2008)

The Coen Brothers followed up their No Country for Old Men Best Picture win at the Oscars by turning sharply back to comedy. Burn After Reading is absurd and acerbic, a political hoopla revolving around a prized MacGuffin—a CD containing government secrets!—that isn't a MacGuffin at all. A gaggle of "serious" actors, most notably Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, and Coen stalwarts Frances McDormand and George Clooney, shoot for the stratosphere as they weave through the mad, mad, mad, mad world of Washington, DC. And because this is a Coen Brothers movie, blood spills freely as everyone from personal trainers to CIA spies sink deeper and deeper into confusion. An ode to empowered idiocy, complete with a dildo chair.
Watch it now on IMDb TV via Amazon Prime

the conversation
Paramount Pictures

The Conversation (1974)

If you think domestic surveillance is spooky, imagine how it feels for the guy on the other end of the microphone. Starring Gene Hackman in his prime, Francis Ford Coppola's subdued thriller builds paranoia out of an overheard conversation and the lengths to which one private investigator goes to uncover its meaning. Hackman’s Harry Caul can only get so close to his subjects, and Coppola plays by similar rules, making sound as essential to the viewing experience as the moving image. Wildly influential, this one will have you looking over your shoulder for days.
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

danger diabolik
Paramount Pictures

Danger: Diabolik (1968)

The only movie Italian filmmaker Mario Bava ever directed for a major Hollywood studio, Danger: Diabolik adapts an Italian comic series about a master criminal who plans and pulls off elaborate heists with his girlfriend, forever evading the law enforcement authorities sent to capture him. The film takes place in an unspecified European nation, where Diabolik (John Phillip Law) lives in his cave-like lair and makes fools of the rich and powerful by stealing their jewels and crashing their press conferences. When he's targeted by a police inspector after stealing a bunch of emeralds for his girlfriend Eva (Marisa Mell), he has to save her from a bunch of gangsters while also pinching the government's enormous block of solid gold. Campy and ridiculous, the movie wasn't much of a success when it opened, but it has since gained a cult following for its costumes, its eye-catching scenery, and Bava's masterful use of filming tricks and matte paintings to make cheap special effects look like blockbuster sets.
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

enemy of the state
Buena Vista Pictures

Enemy of the State (1998)

Tony Scott's frenzied riff on the paranoid thriller, with Will Smith as an in-over-his-head labor lawyer and Gene Hackman as the jaded operative helping him evade the watchful eye of the government, is as relevant as it is fun. The rapidly unfolding conspiracy touches on the overreach of the NSA and the pernicious nature of a surveillance state while providing all the explosions, car chases, and shootouts you'd expect from a star-studded '90s blockbuster. It's an ideal mix of smart and slick, with a cast filled with familiar faces like Regina King, Jack Black, Seth Green, Jon Voight, and Phillip Baker Hall. A couple years later, Scott took another shot at the genre with Spy Game, a thriller starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, and while it has some great scenes, we're partial to this one.
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

United Artists

Goldfinger (1964)

Obviously, reasonable minds can differ on the best James Bond movie. Maybe you enjoy the rough-hewn, high-adrenaline pleasures of the Daniel Craig era or have a personal preference for the well-coiffed, occasionally goofy excess of the Roger Moore period. You could be into Pierce Bronsan or Timothy Dalton or George Lazenby. But those early Sean Connery movies, particularly the first three, are essential to understand the appeal of Ian Flemming's roguish secret agent. From Russia with Love is fantastic entertainment and Dr. No kicked off the whole series, but we've gotta go with Goldfinger, a movie packed with clever ideas, droll one-liners, and innovative set-pieces, for the purposes of this list.
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

Relativity Media

Haywire (2011)

Who knew Steven Soderbergh had a classic action movie in him? The Sex, Lies, and Videotape director teamed up with MMA fighter Gina Carano for this kinetic spy thriller. While the script has plenty of surprises, it’s the tightly choreographed, music-free fight scenes—a brawl with Channing Tatum at a diner, a hotel room rendezvous with Michael Fassbender, and an epic throw-down against Ewan McGregor on a beach—that make this essential, ass-kicking viewing.
Watch it now on HBO Max

the hunt for red october
Paramount Pictures

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

Tom Clancy's CIA nerd-turned-action-hero Jack Ryan has popped up in a number of film and TV projects over the years. Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Chris Pine, and, most recently on Amazon, John Krasinski have all rolled up their sleeves to play the put-upon analyst with varying degrees of creative and commercial success. (Ford's 1994 entry Clear and Present Danger remains a pretty solid hang.) But the first Clancy adaptation remains the one to beat: The Hunt for Red October pits Alec Baldwin's fresh-faced Ryan against Sean Connery's stern Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius in a battle of wits. Coming off the killer one-two-punch of Predator and Die Hard, director John McTiernan helms this Cold War Naval showdown with a steady, patient hand.
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

the lives of others
Sony Pictures Classics

The Lives of Others (2006)

Even outside of the spy genre, surveillance is key to the moviegoing experience: You're watching events unfold and, on some level, the characters on screen don't know they're being watched. Few movies examine the tricky ethics of observing and being observed with the same level of craft as The Lives of Others, a German drama about a Stasi Agent in '80s East Berlin assigned to spy on an acclaimed playwright. The agent, played with startling restraint by Ulrich Mühe, must log hours of recorded conversations, wearing a giant pair of headphones as he waits for any sign that the people in the apartment below are actually engaging in the suspicious activity they've been suspected of. It's an often unnerving study of secrecy.
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

the man from uncle
Warner Brothers

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Soundtracked by cheeky jazz flute riffs and a zippy, stylish sensibility, Guy Ritchie's adaptation of the classic spy show stars Henry Cavill as American agent Napoleon Solo and (the disgraced) Armie Hammer as his reluctant Soviet counterpart Illya Kuryakin, pitting them against a Nazi plot to build nuclear warheads during the Cold War arms race. Aided by a plucky young car mechanic (Alicia Vikander), the trio investigates the rich Vinciguerra family, igniting the ire of villainess Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), whose henchmen pursue them through Rome. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. bombed at the box office, but has since developed a following of fans thoroughly entertained by the movie's wry humor and the hilarious chemistry of its three constantly bickering leads, hoping for the arrival of an endlessly teased (and unfortunately unlikely) sequel.
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

mission impossible
Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images

Mission: Impossible (1996)

The Mission: Impossible franchise is on its seventh installment, set to be released in 2022, but it's important to remember where it all began, because that first movie freakin' rules. Even though Ethan Hunt's stunts have gotten more ludicrous over time, Brian De Palma's original remake of the 1960s television series is still just as thrilling. Starting with a brilliant misdirect where Tom Cruise's Ethan watches as his whole crew is killed in an IMF sting, the secret agent goes on the run, eventually teaming up with Vanessa Redgrave's slippery arms dealer Max. You know the set-pieces that make this thing churn—the exploding fish tank, the drop into Langley, the train chase—all just immaculately staged as you remember.
Watch it now on Paramount +

north by northwest
Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

North by Northwest (1959)

The Hitchcock classic is, of course, best known for trying to decapitate Cary Grant in a cornfield with a crop duster. But if you've never seen this case of mistaken identity and government subterfuge all the way through, it's well worth your time. Grant plays Roger Thornhill, who is sent on a wild adventure after being accidentally pegged as an agent named George Kaplan. But that's just the beginning of the twists and turns that besiege Roger as he goes on the run from James Mason's Phillip Vandamm alongside the gorgeous Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), who has some secrets of her own. It all ends in the magnificently thrilling climax set on Mount Rushmore. If you're looking for more great Hitchcock spy thrillers, HBO Max and the Criterion Channel are also currently streaming The 39 Steps, Foreign Correspondent, The Lady Vanishes, and Sabotage. After North by Northwest, you'll want to watch them all.
Watch it now on HBO Max

Photo by United Artists/Getty Images

Ronin (1998)

The first thing you might remember about Ronin is it features some of the most exciting, heart-pounding car chases ever put to film. But the movie constructed around those sequences, which follows Robert De Niro's ex-CIA hardass Sam and a crew of skilled professionals attempting to steal a suitcase, is just as gripping. Filmmaker John Frankenheimer, who also directed the paranoia classic The Manchurian Candidate, takes a no-nonsense approach to the material and the script, co-written by David Mamet, is filled with gruff, clever bits of spy movie wisdom that help evoke the cut-throat world these characters move through. As Jean Reno's French fixer observes at one point, "Everyone's your brother until the rent comes due."
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

the russia house

The Russia House (1990)

After playing James Bond for years, an older, grayer Sean Connery popped up in this splendid John le Carré adaptation about a jazz-loving, sweater-wearing publisher getting looped into a game of espionage involving the CIA, MI6, and a mysterious manuscript penned by a Soviet physicist. In classic spy movie fashion, Connery's publisher falls for Michelle Pfeiffer's message-carrying Katya along the way. The low-key cloak-and-dagger maneuvering is delightful—the movie has one of the better "how to be a spy" training montages—and the script, courtesy of playwright Tom Stoppard, is laced with mischievous wit, boozy asides, and dry observations about the relative tedium of spycraft.
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

Universal Studios

Sneakers (1992)

When you think of hacker movies, you're probably picturing a bunch of guys in black trench coats and turtlenecks and tiny little sunglasses staring at glittering cascades of text on screens, saying stuff like, "I'm in," and "Oh, child's play." Sneakers has none of these things, but is delightful nonetheless, mostly due to its diligently analog approach to hacking. The hackers in Sneakers, a group of misfits led by Robert Redford, work as a team of security specialists, breaking past the firewalls of banks and security companies and notifying them of any weak points. When agents claiming to be from the NSA find out about their shady pasts, they're blackmailed into breaking into a dangerous facility and retrieving a digital weapon said to be Russian in origin. When the "sneakers" find out who they're really working for, they realize they have to pull off an impossible heist to make sure the technology doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
Watch it now on HBO Max

the third man
Selznick Releasing Organization

The Third Man (1949)

Movies don't get much more influential than Carol Reed's The Third Man, a stylish British noir that evokes a whole world of post-war espionage, intrigue, and deception. With a script by Graham Greene, the novelist known for spy stories like Our Man in Havana and The Ministry of Fear, the latter of which was adapted into a brilliant Fritz Lang movie in 1944, the film tracks hard-drinking pulp author Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) as he arrives in bombed-out Vienna after receiving an invite from his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). With each twist and turn, Reed ups the tension and draws you in, marrying the often cynical, bleak material with black-and-white photography that can take your breath away.
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

thee days of the condor
Paramount Pictures

Three Days of the Condor (1975)

One of the funnier aspects of Three Days of the Condor is that dashing Robert Redford is cast as a bookish, unnoticeable CIA analyst when he obviously looks like '70s Robert Redford. Luckily, as the plot springs into action and the paranoia kicks in, sending Redford's Joseph Turner on a mad dash through New York with Faye Dunaway's Kathy, the actor gets more than a few chances to fall into super-spy hero mode. Sydney Pollack's direction is slicker than some of the other Watergate-era thrillers like The Conversation or The Parallax View, but the movie skillfully evokes the unease and terror of being caught up in a conspiracy you can't quite fully grasp or understand.
Rent it now on Amazon Prime

tinker tailor soldier spy
Focus Features

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

If a season of 24 took place in the smoky, well-tailored underground of British intelligence circa 1973, it might look a little like this precision-made John le Carré adaptation from Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson. Even if you can't follow the terse and tightly-woven mystery, the search for a Soviet mole led by retired operative George Smiley (Gary Oldman), the ice-cold frames, and stellar cast will suck you into the intrigue. It's very possible Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch are reading pages of the British phone book, but egad, it's an absorbing movie that rewards your full concentration.
Watch it now on HBO Max

top secret
Paramount Pictures

Top Secret! (1984)

Before there was Mike Meyers in Austin Powers or Melissa McCarthy in Spy, there was Val Kilmer in Top Secret! This gag-packed spoof from The Naked Gun and Airplane! filmmaking team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker is a parody of Elvis movies and WWII dramas, laced with absurd songs and the crew's usual over-the-top humor, but it also functions as a purely entertaining spy picture. Perhaps even more than Airplane!, Top Secret! is the rare parody where you almost feel like you could remove the jokes and still be caught up in the plot. Then again, why would you ever want to remove so many great jokes?
Watch it now on Paramount +

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