Who Are The Top 15 Best Movie Spies?

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

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

Haywire - Gina Carano

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

Salt - Angelina Jolie

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

Inglourious Basterds - Diane Kruger

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

Austin Powers - Mike Myers

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?

Kingsman: The Secret Service - Colin Firth

#10. Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

Once upon a time, if we knew Colin Firth had this kind of action presence, he would have made a hell of a James Bond. But if that happened, we may never have gotten Harry Hart. The member of the Kingsman is not only dashing and polite, but shows that he can kick anybody's ass, even if they're driven by a chip that's controlling their aggression from space. Plus, he's the only one who isn't smug as hell when it comes to bringing the rough-around-the-edges Eggsy into the secret service.

#9. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as John and Jane Smith in Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Since these two are much deadlier as a duo, we get a twofer from John and Jane Smith. After bringing Jason Bourne to the party a few years earlier, director Doug Liman journeyed into remake territory for a much more fun round of spy action. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are both funny and lethal in this flick that's quite an entertaining blend of genuinely good action and solid comedy. Whenever I see this movie I always thinks it's a shame that Adam Brody didn't go on to have a more successful film career, but I digress. For better or worse, we also wouldn't have the power couple of Pitt and Jolie if it wasn't for this movie.

#8. Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills in Taken

Taken - Liam Neeson

Bryan Mills may be a retired CIA operative, but that doesn't stop his special set of skills from coming in handy when his daughter gets kidnapped. We'll ignore the fact that Taken 2 and Taken 3 are just absolutely pieces of garbage, because Liam Neeson was such a force to be reckoned with in the mindlessly fun first installment. Not since Scream has a single phone call exchange been so memorable on the big screen. Even though the character of Bryan Mills may be responsible for an onslaught of mediocre action thrillers starring Liam Neeson that followed, he still deserves to be honored. And stop taking his family members.



#7. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Harry Tasker in True Lies

True Lies

It's hard to believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger has only played a spy once, but he's always been busy as a Terminator, cop, detective, solider, assassin or father tracking down Turbo Man. You have to give credit to a spy who can not only stop an international terrorist, but also save his struggling marriage to Jamie Lee Curtis. Remember when James Cameron used to have fun with movies like this? Now he's off saving space whales on Pandora or whatever the hell the next dozen Avatar movies are about.

#6. Sean Connery as John Mason in The Rock

The Rock

This may not have been the first spy played by Sean Connery that you thought would make the list, but how can you not include the only operative who ever escaped the former island prison Alcatraz? Plus, let's not forget why Mason was in prison to being with. As a British agent, he stole microfilm containing some of the darkest secrets kept by the United States, including who was responsible for assassinating John F. Kennedy. There's actually an interesting theory that's made the rounds online that John Mason is actually an aged James Bond, which makes The Rock even more fun when you think about it.

Three Days of the Condor

#5. Robert Redford as Joe "Condor" Turner in Three Days of the Condor

Perhaps the most bookish spy of the bunch, Robert Redford made Joe Turner, a CIA analyst with the codename Condor, a surprising hero. It's a pretty impressive feat to go from scouring books, magazines and newspapers for hidden messages to surviving pursuit by the very agency that employs you. This is a certified spy classic from the late Sydney Pollack, a spy thriller of a different, much more paranoid time when everyone suspected the government of watching their every move. Oh, wait...

#4. Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger

Jack Ryan - Harrison Ford

Even though Jack Ryan has been brought to life by several actors, it's obviously Harrison Ford who makes the character memorable and worthy of this list. Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger are easily Jack Ryan's best adventures on the big screen (The Hunt for Red October deserves some love too), and Ford made for a grounded American hero, both to his country and his family. Even if The Sum of All Fears and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit aren't memorable films, Jack Ryan still stands out as one of the most skilled spies the big screen has ever seen.

#3. Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible Franchise

Mission Impossible - Tom Cruise

Ethan Hunt is framed as a mole, goes on the run, reveals the real double agent and goes back to the same organization that branded him a terrorist. And that's just the beginning of this super agent's story. Even though we don't know much about Ethan Hunt, all we really need to know is that he's a daring, effective leader of the Impossible Mission Force and will stop at nothing to get the mission done, even if it means hanging outside of the tallest building in the world or slingshotting across skyscrapers. Hunt will next take on an anti-IMF and hang outside of a flying cargo plane. For Hunt, the mission is never impossible.


#2. Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity Franchise

The Bourne Supremacy

There's nothing more deadly than a spy who doesn't know he's a spy until he starts snapping necks. Jason Bourne doesn't know who he is, which almost makes him even deadlier since he's got nothing to lose. He also knows how to use a book and a towel to beat someone senseless. Bourne doesn't exactly go looking for trouble, and he actually ends up telling those in pursuit to stay away in order to avoid conflict. But his covert agency forces Bourne to bring the fight to their doorstep, and he doesn't hesitate to take down everyone and everything trying to keep him from moving on from his dark past. After The Bourne Ultimatum, I'm anxious to see where Jason Bourne goes next.

#1. Agent 007: James Bond

James Bond

Yeah, this is a no-brainer. After 24 movies, dozens of books and countless missions, you can't really deny that 007 is the greatest spy of all-time. Bond has the greatest gadgets, girls and cars. He's seen several iterations, all with their own flare. Sean Connery is probably unanimously the best James Bond, but Daniel Craig is certainly giving him a run for his money, and even Roger Moore is a great representation of 007. Bond is cause for a genre all his own besides just being a series of spy movies. There are people who have never seen a single James Bond movie who still know his name, and that's reason enough to be the best spy of all-time.

That's all for my Top 15 Movie Spies. But now it's your turn to argue. Which spies do you think deserved to make the cut? Who are your favorite spies from cinema?