July 22, 2010

MRQE Rewind: Best Spy Movies

When the news broke that the FBI tracked down and arrested members of an alleged Russian spy ring, I couldn't help but think of the then-upcoming Salt, especially when photos turned up of the alleged "femme fatale." Maybe--just maybe--this might have been the most genius movie marketing job ever pulled. Unfortunately (for my "out-of-the-box" thinking)--but fortunately (for the sake of national security)--the news was merely life on the verge of imitating art. With Salt opening this weekend, and with our Cold War fears now coming back (like everything else from the '80s), we shake and stir the espionage genre, ranking the best-reviewed spy movies. This week's ranking includes Bond, Bourne, some spies hunting aliens, and two of the best Hitchcock thrillers. Before you check out the full list, indulge in a few gems below -- yeah, baby!

30. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
MRQE Metric: 66

What better way to kick off the list? Austin Powers certainly is the grooviest flick on the list, and one that goes on to spoof some of the most iconic characters and plot devices of the genre--namely those from the early '60s James Bond movies with Sean Connery. Contrary to popular belief, Dr. Evil is not based off of Mike Meyers' former boss, Lorne Michaels, but rather from the villain in You Only Live Twice. Dr. Evil's plot to hijack nuclear warheads for "one…million dollars" was totally ripped from Thunderball. And--of course--who could forget such colorful character names as Alotta Fagina?

Enjoy this classic scene…

26. The Bourne Identity (2002)
MRQE Metric: 68

A spy who cannot remember… Robert Ludlum's best-selling 1980 spy novel hit the big screen in 2002, with Matt Damon taking the lead as Jason Bourne. Featuring some of the greatest action sequences of the year, including a thrilling car chase through Paris, The Bourne Identity thrilled critics and audiences in the summer of '02. We first encounter Bourne aboard a ship off the coast near Marseille, and we follow him as he uncovers his true identity, and the people who are tracking him down. Bourne was a breakout role of sorts for Damon, who prior to the movie wasn't really considered an action star. Damon later paired up with director Paul Greengrass for the two even more thrilling Bourne sequels (both of which make the list). A fourth Bourne movie was announced in June, but there has yet to be any official word as to whether Damon or Greengrass will be returning.

Matt Damon discovers who he is...

16. Men in Black (1997)
MRQE Metric: 74

An addition from the so-called "spy-fi" arm of the genre, Men in Black finds Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as secret agents protecting Earth from intergalactic scum. Based off of the comic book series of the same name, Men in Black was a summer hit, in a time when summer blockbusters were defined by the addition of Will Smith to the cast. However, Jones and Smith almost didn't make the flick. Clint Eastwood was originally considered for the role of Agent K, while Chris O'Donnell was the first pick for Agent J. After they both turned down the roles--and after David Schwimmer also passed on Agt. J--Jones and Smith were eyed. With Steven Spielberg as producer promising a better script, Jones and Smith felt confident in accepting the roles. The success of Men in Black, led to a 2002 sequel, which underperformed the original in both quality and in the box office (while the sequel was a box office success that year, it didn't have the same return as the original).


5. Goldfinger (1964)
MRQE Metric: 84

How could we make a list of the best spy movies, and not include Bond . . . James Bond? In fact, Mr. Bond appears not once, but five times on our list! Maybe he should appear more, but that would be unfair to all the other spies. Goldfinger remains as the best-reviewed film of the franchise--from the notorious death of Bond girl Jill Masterson by gold paint, and the famously named character Pussy Galore, to some of the franchise's most iconic villains, Goldfinger and his manservant Oddjob (with his lethal hat), it's hard to argue why. The plot, to steal gold from Fort Knox, finds Bond stateside working with the C.I.A. to thwart Goldfinger's attempt at grabbing the one metal he loves most of all. Goldfinger became the first Bond movie to be classified as a "blockbuster" at the box office. In fact, it's success grew so fast that was included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest grossing film of all time, though the film has since been eclipsed by the likes of The Dark Knight and Avatar.

Who could forget this classic scene and famous line?

3. Notorious (1946)
MRQE Metric: 87

Sure, we got James Bond, but no spy movie list is complete without the films of all-time thrill-master Alfred Hitchcock. His best spy thrillers took the numbers 6, 3, and 1 spots; but here we're highlighting Number 3, Notorious. Truly one of Hitchcocks's most notable, Notorious is a post-World War II espionage love triangle. Of course, with the sexy back-drop of Rio de Janerio, how can love not be in the air? The entangled story of Alicia (Ingrid Bergman), Devlin (Cary Grant), and Alex (Claude Rains), begins when Devlin, an American government agent, recruits Alicia, a daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, to infiltrate a group of Germans in Brazil. Alicia soon falls in love Devlin, and things get complicated when he needs to convince her to seduce Alex, one of the aforementioned Germans and a friend of her father's. Alicia ends up marrying Alex in an attempt to uncover his past. We won't spoil the ending, but love truly prevails.

The Notoriously long kiss...

There's more iconic films to be had than just these five. Head over to MRQE to see all 30 of the Best Spy Movies.

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