Spies

Spectre
Spectre

With a spate of interesting spy films released in recent years, this collection looks at spies and spying in all its forms; from the whimsy of schoolchildren and coming-of-age tales through to historical accounts of The Cold War and modern parodies of the genre. We look at gadgets and gizmos, twists and turns, and different styles of filmmaking from 80 years of cinema to provide recommended titles for all ages.

Spy Kids

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration84 mins

Spy Kids(2001)

Family espionage caper about the children of two retired spies who have to rescue their parents from the villainous Fegan Floop.

Spying isn’t just for adults; kids can make equally good secret agents, as demonstrated in this lighthearted family adventure which is packed full of the trademark fun that characterised the rest of the franchise.

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Operation Third Form

CertU

Age group7–14

Duration56 mins

Operation Third Form(1966)

This Children’s Film Foundation film transports the conventions of a spy thriller into the escapades of London schoolboys in the 1960s.

London schoolboys from the 1960s take on the spy genre in this release from the Children’s Film Foundation, an organisation which made films about Britain aimed at young people from the 1950s through to the 1980s.

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Harriet The Spy

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration97 mins

Harriet The Spy(1996)

Excellent adaptation of the much-loved book about a girl who writes down everything she sees.

Based on the children’s book of the same name, this lively adaptation – looking at both the drawbacks and upsides of being a child – sees the world through the eyes of an inquisitive 11-year-old girl and would-be sleuth.

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Stormbreaker

CertPG

Age group11–14

Duration89 mins

Stormbreaker(2006)

Action thriller about a teen who has been trained to be a super spy by his uncle, whose death leaves him pitted against a sinister billionaire.

Anthony Horowitz – writer of modern Sherlock Holmes and James Bond books – adapted his own novel for the screen with Stormbreaker, about teenage MI6 agent Alex Rider. Featuring a cast that includes Stephen Fry, Ewan McGregor, Bill Nighy and Mickey Rourke, this is a great example of a young-adult take on the espionage scene.

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Johnny English Reborn

CertPG

Age group11–16

Duration97 mins

Johnny English Reborn(2011)

There have been as many Bond spoofs as Bond movies, but that doesn't stop this one from being an enjoyably daft diversion.

Rowan Atkinson puts his goofy English charm and physical humour to great effect in this spy spoof sequel, a warm send-up of the Bond movies and similar action heroes for audiences of all ages.

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Dr. No

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration105 mins

Dr. No(1962)

The beginning of the long-running franchise sees Bond in the Bahamas, trying to stop the mysterious Dr. No from sabotaging the US space programme.

Arguably the best-known spy of them all, Dr. No saw James Bond hit the big screen for the first time. 007 was first inhabited by Sean Connery who for many still defines the character’s style, suaveness and sex appeal. Not all of the elements were in place, however; interestingly, in this film Bond relies on his wits over gadgets to get the job done.

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Mission Impossible

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration105 mins

Mission Impossible(1996)

Breathtaking action film about the leader of an elite team of intelligence operatives, who falls under suspicion when a mission goes wrong.

Brian De Palma’s game-changing thriller starring Tom Cruise as secret agent Ethan Hunt, adapting the much-loved 1960s American TV Show. Featuring spectacular action sequences and mind-bending plots, the character led the way for spy films heading into the 21st century.

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Bridge of Spies

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration135 mins

Bridge of Spies(2015)

A lawyer negotiates the release of an American spy plane pilot in exchange for a Soviet agent being held in the United States during the Cold War.

Steven Spielberg brings his experience and knowhow to the field of spies, setting the true story of agents on opposites sides at the height of the Cold War. Mark Rylance, hitherto a renowned stage actor, won an Oscar for his role in this film exploring tense and complex political negotiations.

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The Conversation

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration113 mins

The Conversation(1974)

Harry Caul is an industrial spy, but he begins to suspect his subjects are in danger, in this intense and paranoid thriller.

Harry Caul is approached by large corporations to spy on their employees in Francis Ford Coppola’s timeless drama. The Conversation is a masterclass in suspenseful, restrained filmmaking. It captures the feeling of global paranoia due to strained international relations combined with emerging technology, and so strongly resonates with modern society.

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Spectre

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration148 mins

Spectre(2015)

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends 007 on the trail of a sinister espionage operation known as SPECTRE.

Sam Mendes’ second Bond film, Spectre, sees Daniel Craig’s 007 revisit his past and come face-to-face with an old foe. The film nods at classic Bond titles whilst putting a fresh twist on the adventures, with impressive visual effects and an emphasis on new age technology.

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Spy

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration115 mins

Spy(2015)

Action comedy about a CIA analyst who volunteers for an undercover mission to stop an arms dealer from selling a nuclear weapon to terrorists.

Comedy director Paul Feig and leading lady Melissa McCarthy reunite for their third outing together, this time in the form of a spy parody. The movie inverts expectations at every turn – from image to casting – with the intelligent but clumsy desk-op Susan Cooper thrust headfirst into the midst of car chases and covert missions.

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Salt

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration95 mins

Salt(2010)

Glossy, fast-moving spy thriller starring Angelina Jolie as a CIA operative on the run.

Angelina Jolie’s respected and authoritative Evelyn Salt goes on the run in this action-heavy thriller, with the release of this big-budget blockbuster opening the door to tougher female characters in subsequent years, found in films such as Hanna, The Hunger Games and Mad Max: Fury Road.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration122 mins

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy(2011)

It's 1970s Cold War Britain and someone is leaking secrets to the Russians. Cue a tangled web of lies, deceit and creeping paranoia.

Swedish director Tomas Alfredson transports John le Carré’s classic novel to the big screen with an all-star cast including Gary Oldman in the role of central character, George Smiley. This understated, stylish production is rooted in the themes of loyalty, patriotism and guilt that characterise the author’s work in this gripping drama.

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The Lives Of Others

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration137 mins

The Lives Of Others(2006)

Highly-acclaimed Oscar-winning drama about corruption and surveillance in Communist East Germany.

Often likened to The Conversation, The Lives of Others is a critically-acclaimed German film set in 1984 which sees a Stasi officer employ surveillance on a lauded and supposedly loyal playwright. It’s a picture full of ethical dilemmas with no easy answers, creating a particularly rich and immersive viewing experience.

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