Author Guest Post: Bruce Hale

Top 10 Spy Movies (and TV Shows)

By Bruce Hale

At last, a way to justify my TV watching!  “I’m writing a spy series, dear — this is all research.”  In creating my newest book, PLAYING WITH FIRE, I watched a lot of spy movies and TV to get the feel for some of the genre’s conventions and characters.  Here, in no particular order, are my 10 favorites:

1. The Bourne Identity (PG-13) — Matt Damon wins the day with excellent, old-school spy stuff — lots of physical stunts (fewer gadgets), good acting, and heart-pounding car chases.  And the amnesia angle is a real kick.

2. Three Days of the Condor (R) — Great fun, with a regular-guy analyst (Robert Redford) thrust into the dangerous world of covert operatives and having to sink or swim.  Good chemistry between Faye Dunaway and Redford.

3. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (PG-13) — Let me preface this by saying I’m not a big Tom Cruise fan.  Nevertheless, Ghost Protocol is a slick, satisfying, and surprisingly funny caper — the best of the MI movies.  Great stunts.

4. Sneakers (PG-13) — A sly and sneaky high-tech thriller, with lots of humor and brains.  Robert Redford at his wry best heads a sharp and talented cast, including Dan Aykroyd and Sidney Poitier.

5. The Ipcress File (PG) — Very British, very anti-Bond in its working-class sensibilities.  Notable for Michael Caine’s insolent, oversexed, underappreciated Harry Palmer.  The trippy brainwashing sequence seems hilariously dated, and the pace occasionally lags, but overall, it’s a fun flick.

6. Goldfinger (PG) — One of the best of the Connery-as-Bond movies.  It’s got the introduction of the Austin Martin car, a woman with a ridiculous name (Pussy Galore), and some classic lines: “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”  How can you beat that?

7. Casino Royale (PG-13) — Here’s a Bond reboot that works.  Daniel Craig stars as a diamond-in-the-rough Bond who doesn’t give a rip how his martini is served.  Some great stunt work here — especially the parkour chase that opens the film — a healthy dose of humor, and loads of style.

8. Get Smart (TV series, not movie) — My favorite spy spoof of all times.  Conceived by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, Get Smart tweaks all the spy conventions in fine juvenile style.  And Don Adams is hilariously clueless as Maxwell Smart.

9. Burn Notice — A slick, smart-alecky, burned-spy TV show set in Miami.  Although the first seasons are stronger, nearly any episode is fun for its “spy instruction” interludes (“When you’re a spy, and you need to cause a diversion…”) and the interplay between the main characters.

10. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (PG-13) — Occasionally uneven, often hilarious spy spoof.  The first movie is the best of the Austin Powers trilogy, when both the enthusiasm and the jokes were fresher.

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