MAKICHUK: Ten spy movies for your holiday viewing

Pedro Armendáriz and Sean Connery in From Russia With Love.
Pedro Armendáriz and Sean Connery in From Russia With Love.Handout

Nothing more cool, than taking in an old spy movie over the Christmas/New Years holidays.

And with the technology we have now, it is easy to call up a movie on your big-screen television.

Some of these are available on Prime for just a few bucks — and you don't even have to leave your couch.

So let's have a look at my Top Ten Best Spy Movies Of All Time.

Not everyone will agree with this, but this is my take on the genre's most entertaining films.

Cary Grant in North By Northwest.
Cary Grant in North By Northwest.Handout

10. North By Northwest (1959)

On July 17 1959, Alfred Hitchcock unveiled his latest suspense thriller, North by Northwest, in theatres in Los Angeles.

The film, starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, was nominated for three Oscars at the 32nd Academy Awards. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.

"A packed audience at the preview loved every cliff-hanging moment of this Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Basically, it’s another cloak-and-dagger chase and, for the most part, it is done with tongue-in-cheek. But Hitchcock is such a master of suspense that not many frames have passed before the audience has achieved complete identification with the characters and is knowing the thrill of vicarious fear and the shared pleasures of love and passion. The story may not be real but Hitchcock makes it seem real."

Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.Handout

9. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

A guilty favourite I have to include!

Already a comedy star thanks to his run on Saturday Night Live and in the Wayne’s World films, Mike Myers would reach a shagadelic level of popularity with Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

The comedy, about a 1960s British spy with a libido as oversized as his cravate, follows the title character, a spy (played by Myers) who is frozen and then thawed out 30 years later to find his nemesis, Dr. Evil, also played by Myers.

A spoof of ‘60s spy films, Austin Powers represents Myers at the height of his (Austin) powers.

Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita.
Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita.Handout

8. La Femme Nikita (1990)

Some films, just get better with age. And this is one of them.

A clandestine anti-terrorist organization fakes the death of a convicted murderer and trains her in the fighting skills necessary to succeed in her new job. Naturally, chaos ensues, but this film is hardly predictable.

Luc Besson’s fourth feature as director grossed $5 million in the US.

It also spawned three English-language remakes: feature film The Assassin (1993) and two TV series — La Femme Nikita and Nikita.

Besson’s film didn’t result in long-term stardom for lead Anne Parillaud, but certainly launched a transatlantic genre stalwart in the director’s regular sidekick Jean Reno, who went on to star in Besson’s English-language Leon: The Professional (1994).

Michael Caine in The Ipcress File.
Michael Caine in The Ipcress File.Handout

7. The Ipcress File (1965)

Released in the same year as Sean Connery's fourth Bond outing, Thunderball, Michael Caine's Harry Palmer is the super cool, anti-007.

He shops in supermarkets, likes cooking omelettes are a speciality) and wants a pay-raise so that he can upgrade his kitchen utensils.

Tasked with investigating the brainwashing of sixteen British scientists, Palmer is kidnapped and subjected to the Ipcress conditioning method, in an attempt to turn him into a double agent.

Resisting the process, Palmer purposefully subjects himself to pain while chanting one of Caine's most iconic quotes: "My. Name. Is. Harry. Palmer!"

Eva Green and Daniel Craig.
Eva Green and Daniel Craig.Handout

6. Casino Royale (2006)

They said he would be a terrible James Bond. People railed against the producer's choice of Daniel Craig.

"Worst Bond ever" said the headlines. There were even fan petitions to stop the filming.

Well, all that ended, when Craig's sinewy hard body emerged from the water in the beach scene in Casino Royale — in fact, it melted away.

Suddenly, he become one of the best 007s ever. The film was a huge success and Craig took the role into a whole new direction.

While the casino scenes with co-stars Eva Green and Mads Mikkelsen are fabulous, one of my favourite Bond scenes of all time is the spectacular airport chase.

If you haven't seen this Bond film, you must do so!

Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible — Fallout
Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible — FalloutHandout

5. Mission Impossible — Fallout (2018)

When Tom Cruise asked his "safety guy" about a scene he wanted to do on the towering Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the latter said no, can't do it. Too dangerous.

So, what did Tom do? He got another safety guy! And the rest is history. That scene, by the way, is one of the most incredible you will ever see on film.

In probably the best of all the Mission: Impossible films, he has to stop terrorists cobbling together nuclear bombs with stolen plutonium. That's not the point, though.

The point is that Cruise is very obviously doing all the staggering stunts himself, including the much-vaunted HALO jump sequence.

He actually jumped out of a plane 106 times to get the freefall shots, and Fallout finds new ways to channel that visceral rush brilliantly.

Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby and Henry Cavill's Moustache join Cruise alongside a roll call of stars from previous impossible missions.

Matt Damon and Franka Potente in The Bourne Identity
Matt Damon and Franka Potente in The Bourne IdentityHandout

4. The Bourne Identity (2002)

Nothing better than a good Bourne movie and the first one is probably a good place to start.

A mysterious man is picked up by a fishing boat, bullet-riddled and suffering from amnesia, before racing to elude assassins and attempting to regain his memory.

The Bourne Identity is an action thriller that delivers — and then some.

Based on Robert Ludlum's story of an amnesiac spy, Doug Liman's Bourne Identity pressed the re-set button on the entire genre, with Daniel Craig's Bond films and even Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy taking inspiration from Bourne's brutal, close-quarter's combat style and gritty locations.

It was also the film that made us take Matt Damon — the angry kid from Good Will Hunting — seriously as a fully-fledged leading man.

In the film's dramatic ending, fellow assassin Clive Owen, delivers one of the most famous lines of the series, telling Bourne, "Look at us ... look at what they make you give."

Gary Oldman in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Gary Oldman in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.Handout

3. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

While I actually prefer the British television series of this John le Carré masterpiece, starring Alec Guinness, the film version is definitely well done and worth seeing.

The set-up is simple: "There’s a mole, right at the top of the Circus," John Hurt’s MI6 spymaster Control tells Gary Oldman’s George Smiley as he tasks him with catching a traitor leaking secrets to the Soviets.

All the key le Carré themes are here in this stripped-down but unhurried take on the novel — loneliness, frailty, decline — and Oldman’s vast armoury of tiny facial flinches and tics make him stand out even in an ensemble of Britain’s more cerebral leading men.

Alongside Hurt, there’s Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth and Mark Strong.

The grimy, grotty, shambling Britain of the 1970s is brilliantly evoked, the tailoring is impeccable, and the final montage, set to Julio Iglesias’ version of Somewhere Beyond the Sea, is as satisfyingly elegant a cinematic conclusion as you’ll see.

Sean Connery and Daniela Bianchi in From Russia With Love.
Sean Connery and Daniela Bianchi in From Russia With Love.Handout

2. From Russia With Love (1963)

As my co-worker at the Western Standard, Dave Naylor, will tell you, I am a James Bond fanatic.

So much so, that I purposely travelled to Istanbul, in part, to visit the film locations for From Russia With Love. Bucket list, total bucket list.

And what says Christmas better than a Bond film. I rewatched this recently, and it was as good the first time I saw it.

Possibly ... I say possibly ... the best of the 007 films, it is also one of Ian Fleming’s most serious Bond novels (1957), the fifth, by which time its author had tired of his fictional creation, on the last page, kills him off!

But, like Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, who tumbled to his death wrestling with his archenemy Moriarty at the Reichenbach, Fleming simply had to bring Bond back due to popular demand.

Co-star Robert Shaw is superb, as the infamous Grant — and the railcar fight scene, is still one of the best ever.

Orson Welles in The Third Man
Orson Welles in The Third ManHandout

1. The Third Man (1949)

My two favourite films of all time, are, The Third Man, and Casablanca. But lately, I've been leaning to the former.

It is nothing short of a masterpiece and I can watch it again and again and again — each time seeing something different.

Gotta love film noir, I mean, it just doesn't get any better.

Touted by the BFI as the "best British film of the 20th century," this tale of murder and smuggling in Allied-occupied Vienna remains one of the most stylish spy thrillers of all time.

From the famous "cuckoo clock speech" scene on the big Ferris wheel to Orson Welles' supposedly dead black marketer Harry Lime emerging from a shadowy doorway, to the final chase through the city's cavernous sewers, The Third Man is a film that has often been imitated, but never bettered.

Director Carol Reed insisted on shooting the majority of the film on location in post-war Vienna and the piles of rubble and bomb craters help define the film's almost apocalyptic appeal.

Scripted by Graham Greene (who occasionally worked as a British spy) the dialogue is to kill for, with a character named Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) warning Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) to "Leave death to the professionals."

Considered by many the best spy movie of all time, famed film critic Roger Ebert said, "Of all the movies I have seen, this one most completely embodies the romance of going to the movies."

— with files from Esquire

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