Theres one big problem with compiling a list of great spy movies: How exactly do you define a spy movie? Do the spies have to be employed by a government agency? Does the action have to be international, or can it be domestic, even local? Do the characters have to engage in deception and/or information-gathering, or can they mainly be assassins, like James Bond or Jason Bourne? Is the assassin film its own separate genre? If movie characters have nothing to do with international politics but engage in surveillance and deception and other classic spy activities, can their story be grouped within the spy movie category?
James Bond wouldnt spend five seconds contemplating any of that. Hed be too busy quaffing martinis with a diplomats wife and telling a dealer to pass the shoe. Hes represented on this list of great spy movies, along with grittier, more mundane depictions of espionage, deceit and international mayhem. I included a couple of TV programs as well as movies, because the genres emphasis on character and atmosphere makes it especially well-suited to the small screen.