The spy film genre deals with the subject of fictional espionage, either in a realistic way (such as the adaptations of John le Carré) or as a basis for fantasy (such as many James Bond films). Many novels in the spy fiction genre have been adapted as films, including works by John Buchan, le Carré, Ian Fleming (Bond) and Len Deighton. It is a significant aspect of British cinema, with leading British directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed making notable contributions and many films set in the British Secret Service.
Spy films show the espionage activities of government agents and their risk of being discovered by their enemies. From the Nazi espionage thrillers of the 1940s to the James Bond films of the 1960s and to the high-tech blockbusters of today, the spy film has always been popular with audiences worldwide. Offering a combination of exciting escapism, technological thrills, and exotic locales, the spy film combines the action and science fiction genres, presenting clearly delineated heroes for audiences to root for and villains for them to hate. They may also involve elements of political thrillers. However, there are some that are comedic (mostly action comedies if they fall under that genre).
James Bond is the most famous of film spies, but there were also more serious, probing works like le Carré's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold which also emerged from the Cold War. As the Cold War ended, the newest villain became terrorism and more often involved the Middle East.
The spy film genre began in the silent era, with the paranoia of invasion literature and the onset of the Great War. These fears produced the British 1914 The German Spy Peril, centered on a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and 1913's O.H.M.S., standing for 'Our Helpless Millions Saved' as well as On His Majesty's Service (and introducing for the first time a strong female character who helps the hero).
In 1928, Fritz Lang made the film Spies which contained many tropes that became popular in later spy dramas, including secret headquarters, an agent known by a number, and the beautiful foreign agent who comes to love the hero. Lang's Dr. Mabuse films from the period also contain elements of spy thrillers, though the central character is a criminal mastermind only interested in espionage for profit. Additionally, several of Lang's American films, such as Hangmen Also Die, deal with spies during World War II.
Alfred Hitchcock did much to popularise the spy film in the 1930s with his influential thrillers The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1937) and The Lady Vanishes (1938). These often involved innocent civilians being caught up in international conspiracies or webs of saboteurs on the home front, as in Saboteur (1942). Some, however, dealt with professional spies as in Hitchcock's Secret Agent (1936), based on W. Somerset Maugham's Ashenden stories, or the Mr. Moto series, based on the books of John P. Marquand.
In the 1940s and early 1950s there were several films made about the exploits of Allied agents in occupied Europe, which could probably be considered as a subgenre. 13 Rue Madeleine and O.S.S. were fictional stories about American agents in German-occupied France, and there were a number of films based on the stories of real-life British S.O.E. agents, including Odette and Carve Her Name With Pride. A more recent fictional example is Charlotte Gray, based on the novel by Sebastian Faulks.
Also during the period, there were many detective films (The Thin Man Goes Home and Charlie Chan in the Secret Service for example) in which the mystery involved who stole the secret blue-prints, or who kidnapped the famous scientist.
The peak of popularity of the spy film is often considered to be the 1960s when Cold War fears meshed with a desire by audiences to see exciting and suspenseful films. The espionage film developed in two directions at this time. On the one hand, the realistic spy novels of Len Deighton and John le Carré were adapted into relatively serious Cold War thrillers which dealt with some of the realities of the espionage world. Some of these films included The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), The Deadly Affair (1966), Torn Curtain (1966), and the Harry Palmer series, based on the novels of Len Deighton.
In another direction, the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming were adapted into an increasingly fantastical series of tongue-in-cheek adventure films by producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli, with Sean Connery as the star. This direction was inspired by novelist Edgar Wallace's 1950s era British and German krimi genre, they featured secretive and flamboyant, super-villains, an archetype which would later become a staple of the explosion of spy movies in the mid-to-late 1960s. The phenomenal success of the Bond series lead to a deluge of imitators, such as the eurospy genre and several from America. Notable examples include the two Derek Flint films starring James Coburn, The Quiller Memorandum (1966) with George Segal, and the Matt Helm series with Dean Martin. Television also got into the act with series like The Man from U.N.C.L.E and I Spy in the U.S., and Danger Man and The Avengers in Britain. Spies have remained popular on TV to the present day with series such as Callan, Alias and Spooks. Spy films also enjoyed something of a revival in the late 1990s, although these were often action films with espionage elements, or comedies like Austin Powers. Today, spy films have trended away from fantasy elements in favor of realism. This trend can be seen in Syriana, the Bourne film series and the more recent James Bond films Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.
Some of the most popular films include:
One-shots, sequels and remakes
Some of the most popular television series include:
Benjamin "Benji" Dunn is a fictional character in the Mission: Impossible film series. He is portrayed by Simon Pegg.He is originally introduced in Mission: Impossible III in a minor role as an off-field technician, before becoming a main character in subsequent installments and being promoted to technical field agent.Death on the Run
Bersaglio mobile (internationally released as Death on the Run and Moving Target) is a 1967 Italian spy film directed by Sergio Corbucci. It was filmed in Athens. it was referred as a film directed with "whip-along style and dubious sense of humour".Eurospy film
Eurospy film, or Spaghetti spy film (especially when referring to Italian-produced films in the genre), is a genre of spy films produced across Europe, especially in Italy, France, and Spain, that either imitated or parodied the British James Bond series. The first wave of Eurospy films were released in 1964, two years after the first James Bond film, Dr. No, and in the same year as the premiere of what many consider to be the apotheosis of the Bond series, Goldfinger. For the most part, the Eurospy craze lasted until around 1967 or 1968. In Italy, where most of these films were produced, this trend replaced the declining sword and sandal genre.
Christopher Frayling, who estimated the number of Eurospy films at 50, felt that they passed on such traits to the Spaghetti Western as emphasis on the technology of death, such as special weapons, the anonymity of the protagonist, the "money = power" equation of the villains and humorous asides that released the audience's laughter after a violent sequence.For additional verisimilitude, these films often featured American and British stars in the lead roles. The heroes of the films were secret agents who were often given a name similar to "James Bond" (including "Charles Bind", "Charles Vine" and "James Tont"), and/or a code name matching, or similar to, James Bond's "007". Other Eurospy films made use of existing literary fictional spies, including Bulldog Drummond, Harry Palmer, Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, AKA OSS 117 (who was not based on James Bond but rather had helped to inspire James Bond), Francis Coplan and Rolf Torring.Foreign Agent
Foreign Agent is a 1942 American spy film directed by William Beaudine. It stars John Shelton, Gale Storm, and Ivan Lebedeff. A young woman in Hollywood foils the attempts of Axis spies to steal an invention.Harriet the Spy (film)
Harriet the Spy is a 1996 US family comedy film based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Louise Fitzhugh. The film stars Michelle Trachtenberg in her film debut, and is the directorial debut of Bronwen Hughes. Produced by Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies and Rastar, it was the first film produced under the Nickelodeon Movies banner and the first of two film adaptations of the Harriet the Spy books. In theaters, the pilot episode of Hey Arnold! called Arnold was shown before the film.Henry Cavill
Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill (; born 5 May 1983) is a British actor. He began his career with roles in the feature adaptations of The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) and I Capture the Castle (2003). He later appeared in supporting roles in several television series, including BBC's The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, ITV's Midsomer Murders, and Showtime's The Tudors. He has since appeared in numerous major Hollywood films, such as Tristan & Isolde (2006), Stardust (2007), Blood Creek (2009), and Immortals (2011).
Cavill gained prominence and international fame for portraying Superman in the DC Extended Universe, starring in Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and Justice League (2017). He went on to star in the action spy film Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018).I Spy (film)
I Spy (commonly styled I-SPY) is a 2002 American spy comedy film directed by Betty Thomas, and starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson. The film is based on the television series of the same name that aired in the 1960s and starred Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. The film was released in the United States on November 1, 2002.Jason Bourne
Jason Bourne () is a fictional character created by novelist Robert Ludlum. Bourne is the antihero in a series of novels and subsequent film adaptations. He first appeared in the novel The Bourne Identity (1980), which was adapted for television in 1988. The novel was adapted in 2002 into a feature film under the same name and starred Matt Damon in the lead role.
The character originally featured in three novels by Ludlum, released between 1980 and 1990, followed by nine novels written by Eric Van Lustbader since 2004. Along with the first feature film, The Bourne Identity (2002), Jason Bourne also appears in three sequel movies The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and Jason Bourne (2016), with Damon again in the lead role. Jeremy Renner stars in the fourth film of the franchise, The Bourne Legacy, released in August 2012. Damon stated in interviews that he would not do another Bourne film without Paul Greengrass, who had directed the second and third installments. Greengrass agreed to direct Damon in the fifth installment in the franchise, Jason Bourne. Greengrass jointly wrote the screenplay with editor Christopher Rouse.Last Man to Kill
Last Man to Kill (Italian: Un milione di dollari per 7 assassini, French: 1.000.000 de dollars pour 7 assassinats) is a 1966 Italian-French crime-spy film written and directed by Umberto Lenzi and starring Roger Browne, Erika Blanc and Dakar. The Italian title translates as A Million Dollars for Seven Killers. It was the fourth and last spy film directed by Lenzi.List of American films of 1966
This is a list of American films released in 1966.
A Man for All Seasons won the Academy Award for Best Picture.Madame Spy (1942 film)
Madame Spy is a 1942 American spy film directed by Roy William Neill and starring Constance Bennett, Don Porter and John Litel. The screenplay concerns an American intelligence officer who goes undercover and infiltrates a ring of Nazi spies.My Spy
My Spy is an upcoming American action comedy film directed by Peter Segal and written by Jon and Erich Hoeber. It follows a CIA agent (Dave Bautista) who must watch over a young girl (Chloe Coleman) after he is assigned to protect her family. The film is scheduled to be released in the United States in 2019.Ring of Spies
Ring of Spies (also known as Ring of Treason) is a 1964 British spy film based on the real-life case of the Portland Spy Ring, whose activities prompted "Reds under the bed" scare stories in the British popular press in the early 1960s.Sobhita Dhulipala
Sobhita Dhulipala is an Indian actress and model. She was adjudged Femina Miss India 2013 and represented the country at Miss Earth 2013
Dhulipala made her acting debut in Anurag Kashyap's thriller film Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016) and she went on to star in the Telugu spy film Goodachari (2018) and the Amazon Video drama series Made in Heaven (2019).Spy vs. Spy
Spy vs. Spy is a wordless comic strip published in Mad magazine. It features two agents involved in stereotypical and comical espionage activities. One is dressed in white, and the other in black, but they are otherwise identical, and are particularly known for their long, beaklike heads and their white pupils and black sclera. The pair are always at war with each other, using a variety of booby-traps to inflict harm on the other. The spies usually alternate between victory and defeat with each new strip. A parody of the political ideologies of the Cold War, the strip was created by Cuban expatriate cartoonist Antonio Prohías, and debuted in Mad #60, dated January 1961. Spy vs. Spy is currently written and drawn by Peter Kuper.
The Spy vs. Spy characters have been featured in such media as video games and an animated television series, and in such merchandise as action figures and trading cards.The Catcher Was a Spy (film)
The Catcher Was a Spy is a 2018 American biographical spy film directed by Ben Lewin and written by Robert Rodat, based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Dawidoff. It stars Paul Rudd as Moe Berg, a former baseball player who joined the war effort during World War II and partook in espionage for the U.S. Government. Mark Strong, Sienna Miller, Jeff Daniels, Tom Wilkinson, Giancarlo Giannini, Hiroyuki Sanada, Guy Pearce, and Paul Giamatti also star. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and was released on June 22, 2018, by IFC Films.The Devil Came from Akasava
The Devil Came from Akasava (German: Der Teufel kam aus Akasava) is a 1971 West German-Spanish adventure-spy film directed by Jesús Franco. It was based on a novel by Edgar Wallace called Keeper of the Stone.Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a 2011 Cold War spy thriller film directed by Tomas Alfredson. The screenplay was written by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, based on John le Carré's 1974 novel of the same name. The film, starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley, along with Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Ciarán Hinds, and featuring David Dencik, is set in London in the early 1970s and follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service.
The film was produced through the British company Working Title Films and financed by France's StudioCanal. It premiered in competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. A critical and commercial success, it was the highest-grossing film at the British box office for three consecutive weeks. It won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film. The film also received three Academy Awards nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and for Oldman, Best Actor.
The novel had previously been adapted into the award-winning BBC TV miniseries Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) with Alec Guinness playing the lead role of Smiley.
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