This weekend Melissa McCarthy enters secret agent territory as the unlikely hero Susan Cooper in the action comedy Spy. And while the trailers seem to indicate that she’s probably not the best woman for the job, she did get us thinking about the best spies in the business.
There have been plenty of spies on the big screen, from James Bond to Jason Bourne, and I decided to count down the Top 15 Best Movie Spies that we’ve seen throughout the years. However, you won’t find the likes of real-life spies whose life stories have been adapted for film. Instead, this is a collection of fictional spies from the movies. So with that out of the way, let’s count down the Top 15 Movies spies after the jump.
Writer’s Note: After this piece was published, a commenter shot the idea of spies in the Harry Potter franchise into my brain. Therefore, I would like to point out that had my mind been in the right place while writing this piece, I would have included Alan Rickman as Severus Snape in this countdown for sure. Carry on.
#15. Michelle Trachtenberg as Harriet M. Welsch in Harriet the Spy
Undoubtedly the least deadly spy on this list, the precocious amateur spy played by Michelle Trachtenberg had plenty of 90s kids snooping around their neighborhoods with binoculars and notebooks (yeah, real notebooks with paper!). What’s great about Harriet the Spy is that it’s not one of those films that was geared towards kids that loses its luster as you grow up. In fact, it’s still pretty relevant and touching, with some wonderful lessons about friendship and bullying. As Nickelodeon’s first movie, this flick from my childhood holds a special place in my heart, and so does Harriet M. Welsch.
#14. Gina Carano as Mallory Kane in Haywire
When you take an MMA fighter like Gina Carano and turn her into a government operative by the name of Mallory Kane, you’re going to get some damn good ass-kicking. It also helps that Gina Carano happens to be one of the most gorgeous deadly weapons the spy genre has ever seen, but that’s just icing on a very lethal cake. This is easily one of Steven Soderbergh’s most underrated films, and if you need a reason to watch it besides Carano being a dangerous vixen, the cast also includes Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas.
#13. Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt in Salt
It doesn’t get much more bad ass for Angelina Jolie (at least not until higher up on this list) than taking a role that was originally meant for a man and turning it into an outlandish action role for a woman. Tom Cruise was actually approached to play this role, but he already saw plenty of action as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible by the time this project came around. The film isn’t perfect by any means, but Jolie’s character is one tough woman who doesn’t go down without a hellacious fight. And they didn’t even need to use a cheesy “salt in the would” line at all in the script.
#12. Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark in Inglourious Basterds
There was probably no harder time to be a spy than during World War II. But Bridget von Hammersmark, an actress turned double agent, put her life at risk in order to get secret information to the British in order to help bring down Hitler and his Nazis. Aside from using her high profile as a great German actress to stealthily pull the information she needed, von Hammersmark was also the one responsible for coming up with Operation Kino, the plan assassinate most of the German High Command. It takes balls to take a stance like that, and this woman had more than many men at the time.
#11. Mike Myers as Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery
Despite being oblivious to the fact that Liberace was gay and having bad teeth, Austin Powers is actually a very competent spy. Able to use his mojo to get many jobs done and blow up the heads of robotic women, Powers is the only spy who literally has Danger for a middle name. Not too many spies get to travel through time and keep up their shagadelic profile, but Austin Powers has inexplicable charm. Women wanted him and men wanted to be him. Need I say more?