Spy Movies on Netflix

Spy Movies on Netflix

Want to feel like a secret agent for a day (or two hours)? Check out our favourite spy movies on Netflix.

When you think of espionage, chances are, the James Bond franchise or the Bourne movies come to mind. What did these movies get right? Was it the iconic gadgets and the (somewhat) glamorous world of secret agents who lurk in the shadows? Was it the irresistible pull of adrenaline-fueled missions?

The best spy movies rely on classic thriller tropes such as the ‘pursued protagonist’—think Octopussy (1983), when the film starts with a knife thrower chasing Agent 009—or decide to set their story within real-life socio-political events, with themes of war, surveillance, and national security at the helm.

That’s when the high stakes cannot be denied even by the viewers.

Here are five best spy movies on Netflix that will make you feel like a secret agent trying to put all the puzzle pieces together even though you are in your jammies with a glass of wine:

The Tourist (2010)

Comedy spy movies that do not border on absurdity should be a specific genre, and The Tourist should be at the top of this category. If you start this movie expecting a tight and serious spy thriller, you will be disappointed, for it is a charming homage to caper movies of the Sixties.

The French police are in hot pursuit of Elise (Angelina Jolie), a secret agent on the run. She boards a train to Venice and befriends Frank (Johnny Depp) so that the police are slightly derailed as they follow up on a red herring. Frank, a schoolteacher reading a spy novel – surprise, surprise – is attracted to her. Believing Frank to be Elise’s accomplice, every intelligence department after Elise is determined to catch Frank.

The plot twists keep coming, as do Frank's witty one-liners. The beautiful visuals of Venice do justice to the gangster spy film, which has all the elements of a vintage spy thriller, such as seduction, roof chases, boat chases, and, of course, galas interrupted by some good ol’ shooting.

Johnny English Reborn (2011)

This is the second part in a trilogy of capers by Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson, aka our beloved Mr. Bean) that will leave you in splits.

Johnny is tasked with stopping a group of international assassins who are targeting the Chinese Prime Minister in Hong Kong during a summit. What ensues is a series of well-landing jokes, misadventures, and an incredibly hilarious spoof of a scene from Casino Royale (2006), all without compromising on the action scenes and stunts one expects from a spy movie.

The supporting cast elevates the film. Pamela Thornton (Gillian Anderson) is riveting as MI7's head, and Colin Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya) is perfect as Johnny’s assistant.

Madras Cafe (2013)

Set during the Sri Lankan civil war, Madras Cafe covers the events leading up to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991. Major Vikram Singh (John Abraham) is a RAW agent tasked with conducting covert operations that would disrupt LTTE missions.

While in Jaffna, he meets Jaya Sahni (Nargis Fakhri), a war correspondent trying to broker peace with the rebels. Through the lens of Jaya’s journalistic sources combined with Vikram’s army resources, the movie explores the turning points and other vital junctures that led to the assassination.

This spy movie adequately captures the real-life aspects of genocide, rebellion and politics.

Director Shoojit Sircar succeeded in humanising intelligence officers as people who are not just assets for the government but have emotions and a moral compass that they must constantly confront when national security is at stake. The fact that this espionage thriller will leave you on the edge of your seat despite knowing that the mission fails, i.e., the Prime Minister gets assassinated, is a sign of tight storytelling and commendable performances.

The Coldest Game (2019)

What if avoiding a nuclear war was dependent on your chess skills? Would you play? Well, Joshua Mansky (Bill Pullman) had no choice in this Polish spy film.

After a game with a Russian chess master in Warsaw, Joshua becomes a forgotten chess icon who turns to alcoholism. But when he’s forced to re-enter the game, it’s chess with a side of espionage and military conflict.

This spy movie on Netflix focuses on the events surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is a captivating tale that marries the complexity of the game of chess with the convoluted nature of political relations. Bill Pullman’s screen presence is thrilling, and the visuals keep you hooked through the course of four high-stakes chess games.

Though this film may have historical inaccuracies, the narrative is quite beguiling.

Tenet (2020)

Spy thriller meets science fiction. This is the foundation on which Tenet was made. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, this is one of those spy films on Netflix that got polarised reactions.

An unnamed CIA operative, simply referred to as The Protagonist (John David Washington), has to navigate the shady world of espionage as part of a government organisation called Tenet. He has Neil (Robert Pattinson) by his side to assist him. 

Passing dangerous loyalty tests, figuring out time travel and complex spy gadgets, and shouldering the responsibility of saving humanity, leave The Protagonist (and us) with more questions than answers. Well, thank God for Reddit threads.

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