The Best Spy Movies (Outside The Bond Franchise) And How To Watch Them

Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Most people would likely agree that there are no spy movies more important or influential to popular culture than the James Bond franchise, which consist of 25 (technically 28) films from over the past several decades. Therefore, we believe the 007 movies deserve their own streaming guide and have opted to reserve this guide for other action-packed, thrilling, and even ridiculous cinematic treats the genre has offered so far. The following are our picks for the best spy movies (without James Bond) and where you can find them.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) hanging off a train in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Mission: Impossible Movies (1996-Present)

A secret agent (played by Tom Cruise) and his crew take on assignments of an unusually high-risk nature, which often require going rogue, enduring death-defying stunts, and wearing very convincing masks as a disguise.

Why they are some of the best spy movies: Inspired by a hit TV series of the same name, the Mission: Impossible movies (which consists of seven chapters with an eighth installment on the way) have become an unstoppable beast of their own by redefining how viscerally exciting and emotionally investing spy flicks can be.

Stream the Mission: Impossible movies on Paramount+.
Buy the Mission: Impossible movies (1-6) on Blu-ray on Amazon.
Buy Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Ben Affleck in Argo

(Image credit: Universal)

Argo (2012)

During Iran’s hostage crisis in 1979, a CIA agent (played by Ben Affleck) hatches a plan to safely transport six Americans out of Tehran by having them pose as a sci-fi movie production crew.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: Affleck also directed Argo – a pulse-pounding Best Picture Oscar winner inspired by an astonishing true story.

Rent or buy Argo on Amazon.
Buy Argo on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Robert Redford in Three Days Of The Condor

(Image credit: Paramount)

Three Days Of The Condor (1975)

A CIA researcher (Robert Redford) is thrust into the field and left struggling to figure out who to trust when he suddenly finds his colleagues dead.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: Director Sydney Pollack’s Oscar-nominated thriller, Three Day of the Condor – adapted from James Grady’s novel, Six Days of the Condor – is a masterclass in paranoid suspense that served as an inspiration for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, according to Joe and Anthony Russo.

Stream Three Days of the Condor on Pluto TV.
Rent or buy Three Days Of The Condor on Amazon.
Buy Three Days Of The Condor on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Erica Bana in Munich

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Munich (2005)

Five men participate in a covert operation to hunt and kill those responsible for the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: One of the more underrated movies directed by Steven Spielberg, Munich, is one of the more powerful examples of a spy thriller – not just for its fact-based origins and spine-tingling suspense, but its strong moral commentary.

Rent or buy Munich on Amazon.
Buy Munich on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Matt Damon on The Bourne Identity

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

The Jason Bourne Movies (2002-2016)

The adventures of an amnesia-stricken American (Academy Award winner Matt Damon) after discovering that he is a government assassin.

Why they are some of the best spy movies: Based on the novel series by Robert Ludlum, the Jason Bourne movies (including The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Jason Bourne, which Damon returned for after Jeremy Renner starred in the spin-off, The Bourne Legacy) are considered a turning point for the spy genre and great action movies for their gritty, immersive realism.

Stream The Bourne Identity on Peacock.
Stream The Bourne Supremacy on Peacock.
Stream The Bourne Ultimatum on Max.
Stream The Bourne Legacy on Peacock.
Rent or buy Jason Bourne on Amazon.
Buy the Jason Bourne movies on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Bruce Willis in RED

(Image credit: Summit Entertainment / DC)

RED (2010)

A former black-ops agent (played by Bruce Willis) puts his old crew back together to help him figure out who is trying to kill him.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: From director Robert Schwentke, RED is a great non-superhero-related comic book movie that imagines what becomes of a spy’s life after they have decided to retire.

Stream RED on Peacock.
Rent or buy RED on Amazon.
Buy RED on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde

(Image credit: Focus Features)

Atomic Blonde (2017)

In Cold War-era Berlin, an MI6 agent (played by Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) is assigned to go undercover and locate a list of double agents.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: Based on the 2012 graphic novel, The Coldest City, Atomic Blonde was considered the female-led answer to the John Wick movies upon release for its breathtaking fight choreography and the fact that it is made by many of the same people, including director David Leitch.

Rent or buy Atomic Blonde on Amazon.
Buy Atomic Blonde on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Gene Hackman in The Conversation

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Conversation (1974)

A surveillance expert (Academy Award winner Gene Hackman) begins to suffer a moral crisis when he discovers signs of a young couple’s impending assassination.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: While the 1975 Best Picture Oscar went to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II, the writer and director could have taken home the top prize for The Conversation – remembered today as one of the best movies of the 1970s for its high-wire suspense and nearly prophetic themes of privacy and paranoia.

Rent or buy The Conversation on Amazon.
Buy The Conversation on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Harrison Ford in Clear and Present Danger

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Clear And Present Danger (1994)

The CIA’s newly appointed acting Deputy Director of Intelligence (Harrison Ford) becomes embroiled in a surreptitious war between the U.S. government and a Colombian drug cartel.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: To many fans, Ford is the best actor to play Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, and director Phillip Noyce’s adaptation of Clear and Present Danger shows more than enough evidence as to why.

Stream Clear and Present Danger on Max.
Rent or buy Clear and Present Danger on Amazon.
Buy Clear and Present Danger on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Cary Grant in North by Northwest.

(Image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

North By Northwest (1959)

An average man (Cary Grant, who was an early choice to play James Bond at one point) undergoes a heart-racing journey dodging bullets and even planes when international operatives mistake him for an American spy.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: Alfred Hitchcock was a master of suspense in all forms, and his Oscar-nominated take on espionage, North by Northwest, is especially unique for – in addition to also being a film noir movie classic – being one of the sole spy films on this list in which the protagonist is not actually secret agent, but, in this case, an advertising agent. 

Rent or buy North By Northwest on Amazon.
Buy North By Northwest on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Scharzenegger in True Lies

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

True Lies (1994)

A secret agent (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) sees his worst fears come true when a misunderstanding causes his work life to boil over into his family life and unintentionally ropes his unsuspecting spouse (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) into the insanity.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: If Schwarzenegger was a Brit, he could have made a pretty good Bond, as he demonstrated in one of the best James Cameron movies, True Lies – a funny, relentless burst of energy from beginning to end.

Stream True Lies on Hulu.
Buy True Lies on Amazon.
Buy True Lies on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery (1997)

A swinging secret agent (played by Mike Myers) and his arch enemy, Dr. Evil (Mike Myers), both suffer a massive clash with ‘90s culture and with each other after 30 years in cryogenic slumber.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: The spy genre has been parodied numerous times, but director Jay Roach’s Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery – which Myers also wrote – may be the finest example, thanks to refreshingly ridiculous characters and surprisingly quotable jokes that helped it garner a cultural impact nearly as prevalent as the very films it ridicules.

Rent or buy Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery on Amazon.
Buy Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery on Blu-ray on Amazon.

The Spy Kids cast

(Image credit: Dimension Films)

Spy Kids (2001)

Twelve-year-old Carmen (Alexa Vega) and 8-year-old Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabarra) must rescue their secret agent parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) from a TV personality (Alan Cumming) who has been turning spies into bizarre creatures for his children’s program.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: From a child’s perspective, espionage is all jetpacks, sunglasses, and not an ounce of the harsh reality the job requires, which writer and director Robert Rodriguez took to heart when crafting the first of the Spy Kids movies – a delightfully fun and visually dazzling family-friendly adventure.

Stream Spy Kids on Max.
Rent or buy Spy Kids on Amazon.
Buy Spy Kids on DVD on Amazon.

Gary Oldman looking dour while telling a story in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

(Image credit: Focus Features)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

A veteran spy (Academy Award winner Gary Oldman) is forced out of retirement to investigate a rogue agent's claim that a mole is hiding in plain sight among them.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: John le Carré’s 1974 novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, was published when Cold War-era paranoia was still highly prevalent, but director Tomas Alfredson's deliciously suspenseful, star-studded adaptation is no less intense in the way it reminds audiences that espionage is nothing like the movies.   

Rent or buy Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on Amazon.
Buy Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Secret Service

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

A young man (Taron Egerton) is recruited into a secret organization by a veteran (Colin Firth), who is investigating an eccentric, yet shady, tech billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson).

Why it is one of the best spy movies: A film that reflects a child’s imaginative perception of espionage as authentically as Spy Kids, but is certainly not for children’s eyes, is Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ comic book series, Kingsman: The Secret Service – an off-beat, action-packed, and a bit gory instant classic with a mind-blowing ending.

Rent or buy Kingsman: The Secret Service on Amazon.
Buy Kingsman: The Secret Service on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo in The Man From UNCLE

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Debonair American secret agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is reluctantly partnered with gruff KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) during the Cold War.

Why it is one of the best spy movies: With sleek gadgetry, hilarious action sequences, and an unbridled sense of elegance, Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of the 1960s series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., is an invigorating re-ignition of the Sean Connery-era with a scenery-chewing performance by Cavill that should be seen as his 007 audition tape.

Rent or buy The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on Amazon.
Buy The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on Blu-ray on Amazon.

What do you think? Are these the kind of espionage flicks you rely on to save your day, or should we have kept our eyes open for more?

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.