/Answers: The Greatest Movie Spies (Who Are Not Named James Bond)

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. Tying in with the release of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, this week's edition asks "Who is your favorite movie spy (who is not named James Bond because that's the easy answer and you have to try harder than that)?"

Ethan Anderton: Ethan Hunt from the Mission: Impossible Franchise

What can be said about Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt that hasn't already been illustrated in the five Mission: Impossible movies we've seen so far? Not only has Hunt proven himself to be one of the most resourceful agents, but as a point man, he's always leading the team and putting himself in the most danger. Hunt has faced being framed as a mole; a deadly virus (which we don't talk about much); a seemingly unstoppable terrorist with ties to a mole inside the IMF itself passing around some kind of doomsday device; the dissolving of the IMF by the government, and a rogue organization that basically touted itself as the anti-IMF.

Throughout all these dangerous missions, Ethan Hunt has taken on unbelievable tasks, hanging from outside cargo planes and the tallest building in the world, breaking into some of the most secure, heavily guarded facilities on the planet (he broke into the CIA headquarters, the Vatican and the Kremlin!), and is always prepared to fix any glitch in the mission when the inevitable curveball is thrown their way.

But what's great about Ethan Hunt is that he knows that he couldn't do all these things without a team surrounding him. As fantastic of a spy Ethan Hunt is on his own, he would be nothing without his team to help him through every impossible mission thrown his way. At the risk of sounding like a cat poster or a self-help book, you can never underestimate the value of teamwork, and that's really what makes Ethan Hunt the best spy in the business.

Vanessa Bogart: Harry Tasker from True Lies

In 1994 James Cameron graced us with the American (-ish)  spy that we so longed for. Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is the perfect mix of James Bond, Rambo, and your dad. He juggles it all. While James Bond only has to worry about his string of sexy one-night affairs, Harry Tasker has to keep his spy life a secret from his teenage daughter, Dana (Eliza Dushku), and his loving wife Helen (Jaime Lee Curtis).

To his suburban neighbors, Harry Tasker is boring salesman. He uses far away conferences as a cover for all of his missions, but the constant traveling puts a strain on his relationships at home. When Helen becomes slightly enraptured by the over-the-top Bill Paxton, Harry finds himself facing two of the biggest evils known to this great nation: terrorists and used car salesman. Though he may have been a little ignorant to the effect his traveling was having on his family, he jumps into high gear to save his marriage...but can he also save America?

Of course he can! He is Harry Tasker! He chases terrorists on horseback, he is a perfect shot with any gun (and by guns I mean both firearms and his guns), he can sweep any girl off their feet but he wouldn't dare cheat, and the man seriously knows how to tango. I really couldn't be more in love with Harry Tasker. He is the spy you want to take home to meet your folks. He is a red-blooded, American(-ish), hero. He lets nothing stand in his way. He will fly a jet to save his daughter from the top of a skyscraper and still manage to deliver a hero's one-liner as he fires the main terrorist attached to a missile into a helicopter filled with more terrorists. Because, America. Harry Tasker for president!

Chris Evangelista: Harry Caul from The Conversation

The spy I've chosen isn't your typical movie spy. He has a few gadgets, but they're not exactly mind-blowing. And he doesn't wear sharp clothes, unless you count a translucent raincoat as sharp (which I sort of do, to be honest). My favorite movie spy is Harry Caul from Francis Ford Coppola's haunting The Conversation. Harry is an independent surveillance expert; a professional eavesdropper who happens to record a potential murder plot. As played by Gene Hackman, Harry is the antithesis of the cool, collected, dashing spy. He's a neurotic, paranoid mess who isn't sure who to trust. As a neurotic, paranoid mess myself, I can really relate to that. I'm never going to be James Bond, and hell, I'm never going to be Gene Hackman. But I'm pretty sure I could be Harry Caul. Now all I need to do is find me one of those translucent raincoats.

Hoai-Tran Bui: Illya Kuryakin from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

While Man From U.N.C.L.E. boasted two dapper spies, it's Armie Hammer's KGB agent Illya Kuryakin who steals the show. Carrying a constant sneer at the prospect of working with Henry Cavill's CIA agent Napoleon Solo while rocking a flattering black turtle neck, Illya accomplishes the nearly impossible mission of being a suave spy with a heavy Russian accent without veering too far into cartoonish impressions. And he does it with panache.

It's less the action scenes of the movie that makes Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Hammer's performance in the Guy Ritchie film so fun – it's the small, petty moments between the three main characters. The trivial bickering between Illya and Napoleon forms a strong chemistry between the two characters that holds together the sometimes too-sleek film. The scene where Illya and Napoleon argue over Gaby's (Alicia Vikander) wardrobe is one of the most delightful scenes, especially when Illya pauses to glare at Napoleon and practically spits the line, "It doesn't. Have. To. Match." And the chemistry between Illya and Gaby is credit to the two actors, who give life to somewhat staid, if quippy, dialogue. Hammer's naturally gigantic stature looks slim and elegant in action, but next to the minuscule Vikander, he adopts an almost clumsy gait — making their scenes together all the more endearing.

Yes, I've listed off some pretty shallow reasons for the reasons that Illya is a great spy, but to me a great cinematic spy isn't based on his ability to shoot a target or land a punch. It's the electricity behind the performance, and the memorable moments in which the spy defies convention that keep me coming back. (Psst Ritchie. I'm still waiting for Man From U.N.C.L.E. 2.)

Lindsey Romain: Harriet from Harriet the Spy

As a kid, I nursed a soft spot not for slick action spies, but for girls who looked and thought like me. I was a Nancy Drew addict, and, naturally, a huge fan of Harriet the Spy, which I still consider something of a young adult masterpiece. Michelle Trachtenberg is excellent as Harriet, a plucky New York pre-teen who gets off on the everyday habits of her neighbors, from the grocery delivery people at her local market to a man in an old warehouse apartment who hoards cats. Her "spying" – which she documents adamantly in a series of notebooks – extends to her friends and classmates, an innocent enough activity until a popular girl steals them and reads them aloud, which sets the world against Harriet and her many curiosities. Her best friends abandon her, her parents force her into therapy, and her moral core is tested – by others, but never by her.

Harriet is really more of a budding investigative journalist than an operative, but her adolescent devotion to the word "spy" is why I'll still put her in with the James Bonds of the world. She uses her physicality as a tool and a weapon, only she's a little girl, not an intimidatingly large force. That's what good spies do, and Harriet is slavish in her practices. She has a set routine so stringent that her friends know not to bother her, her journals are meticulous and organized (what kid didn't want to run out and buy several composition notebooks and No. 2 pencils after watching this film?), and she never flinches in her belief that what she's doing is not only important for the world, but important for her – it's her way of processing the world that's so thrown out of focus by absent parents and classmates who don't appreciate her neuroses. I know Harriet is, in part, why I became a writer and journalist, so entranced was I by her way of thinking, her prowess, and her dedication to the craft that I found it tempting – and eventually hard not to – to emulate.

Jacob Hall: Lorraine Broughton from Atomic Blonde

Look, picking a character from 2017 for this list makes me feel like a straight-up garbage person because the past century of movies are filled with great movie spies with long-lasting legacies. And yet, I'm obsessed with Charlize Theron's Lorraine Broughton, the lead of Atomic Blonde who ventures to Berlin during the tail end of the Cold War and grapples with all kinds of shady figures before cracking their skulls. I adore her. I want more of her.

In many ways, Lorraine feels like the female version of James Bond. "What if 007 was a woman and did literally everything else he does, including seduce beautiful women and beat the stuffing out of small armies of henchmen?" And yet, she is also an evolution of Bond: a proudly queer, proudly female badass whose every decision is informed by her unique perspective and specific physical traits. She fights like a woman (lots of elbows and kicks!), a style that couldn't be more different than your typical male pugilist. She's perfectly capable of seducing men and women, doubling Bond's effectiveness. And, as Atomic Blonde's best action scene displays, she's not invulnerable – watching her catch her breath and recover during a fight turns out to be more thrilling than watching a male action hero breeze through a battle without breaking a sweat.

Lorraine Broughton is a character who deserves a dozen sequels.

Ben Pearson: Susan Cooper in Spy

Not enough people have seen Spy, Paul Feig's 2015 action comedy starring Melissa McCarthy. And I get it: the trailers were underwhelming, and the film was not far removed from McCarthy starring in nonsense like Tammy and Identity Thief. But Spy is her best movie yet, and Susan Cooper – McCarthy's CIA desk-jockey-turned-field-agent character – is the best, most well-rounded character McCarthy has ever played.

Susan Cooper has spent her entire career remotely guiding a slick super agent through dangerous missions, but when he's assassinated, she's chosen to save the day because no one will recognize her in the field. The character knows she has what it takes to get the job done, but is constantly undervalued by everyone she knows, including her boss (who makes her go undercover as a sweater-loving cat lady) and arrogant field agent Rick Ford (the wonderful Jason Statham, who you'll see elsewhere on this list). Part of the reason Cooper is such a great character is because she's determined to prove herself not only to the bad guys, but to the good guys as well; she's fighting a major uphill battle, and comes through in a clutch.

Susan Cooper doesn't make this list solely because she's a great McCarthy character – her spy bonafides are also legit. She holds her own in a big knife fight and slips into multiple personas throughout the movie, nearly all of which are hilarious – especially when she takes on the identity of a brash, foul-mouthed bodyguard (which sounds hacky and stupid, but is thankfully a joy to behold). By the end, she's reached full-on Black Widow status, taking part in hand-to-hand fight sequences and kicking ass with the best of them. If you skipped this movie a couple of years ago, do yourself a favor and check it out as soon as you can.

Matt Donato: Rick Ford from Spy

My favorite secret agent who's not James Bond? There's no debate past Jason Statham's "Agent Rick Ford" from Paul Feig's funny-for-days Spy. Note, he's not the titular hero – as you'll recall, Melissa McCarthy stars as new-to-the-force Susan Cooper. Ford assumes that Cooper will be helplessly inept in the field, so he stalks her with professional intent. Always two steps behind, either screwing up or saving the day.

So how does this make Rick Ford the greatest movie spy of all time? Because he's jumped from a high-rise building using only a raincoat as a parachute and broke both legs upon landing; and still had to pretend he was in a f***ing Cirque du Soleil show. Because he's swallowed enough microchips and s*** them back out again to make a computer. Because he had this arm [points to left arm] ripped off completely and re-attached with this f***ing arm [points to right arm]. Because he drove a car off a freeway on top of a train while it was on fire. Not the car, he was on fire.

I'm sorry, but has James Bond put the bottle down long enough to do any of that?!

Rick Ford is the kind of agent who's always there, whether you want him or not. He makes a habit out of doing things that people say he can't do: walk through fire, waterski blindfolded, take up piano at a late age. Imagine Dos Equis' mascot – this self-proclaimed "Most Interesting Man In The World" – and add an even greater sense of danger. That's Rick Ford. Immune to 179 different types of poison, a known fact because Ford ingested them all at once while deep undercover in an underground poison-ingesting crime ring. A man who –


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