Top Espionage Movies, Part 3

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) / Director: John Frankenheimer / Stars: Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh

Chinese Communists have brainwashed a scion of an American political dynasty (Harvey) who was captured in the Korean War, and sent him back to the U.S. as a covert assassin controlled by his wicked stepmother (the brilliant Angela Lansbury). Another former prisoner may know how to save him, however (the also great Frank Sinatra). Perhaps the greatest and most thrilling of all conspiracy films, based on the Richard Condon novel. The remake with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep couldn’t capture the original’s menace.

Syriana (2005) / Director: Stephen Gaghan / Stars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Christopher Plummer, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Peet, Alexander Siddig

A politically-charged examination of the Middle East-based oil industry and the way it distorts the destinies of nations and individuals. Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Clooney.

Spy Game (2001) / Director: Tony Scott / Stars: Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Charlotte Rampling

The title (sort of) says it all as retiring CIA agent Nathan Muir (Redford) calls on decades of spycraft experience to outwit his Agency colleagues in the life-or-death game of freeing his protégé Tom Bishop (Pitt) from Chinese captors.

The Ghost Writer (2010) / Director: Roman Polanski / Stars: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams

A ghostwriter (McGregor) hired to complete the memoirs of a former British prime minister (Brosnan) uncovers dangerous secrets.

Argo (2012) / Director: Ben Affleck / Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman

An espionage thriller based on the true story of a highly imaginative operation to extract six Americans hiding in the Canadian embassy after Tehran fell to Islamic revolutionaries in 1979. Winner of the Best Picture Oscar, although Affleck oddly wasn’t even nominated for Best Director.