9 great spy movies you can stream after Black Widow


This weekend sees the long-awaited theatrical and Disney Plus release of Black Widow, the standalone Marvel movie that finds Scarlett Johansson as Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff on a globe-trotting adventure to redeem her past and save the world. On top of being the next installment in the MCU, Black Widow is only the latest entry in the time-honored genre of spy-action thrillers, which spans venerable Bond movies and the daredevil Mission Impossible series, to more idiosyncratic, non-franchise one-offs.

If you’re still hankering for some more fast action, globetrotting escapades, and exaggerated explosions, here are nine great spy movies to watch over the weekend.


The American

george clooney runs up stairs in rome in The American Photo: Focus Features

Am I already breaking the rules by picking an assassin movie? Yes, but it’s an extremely spy flavor. In 2010, George Clooney starred as an aging man with a gun who was ready to hang up his scope. Very few people saw the movie, and based on the movie’s “D-” Cinemascore in exit polls, those who did were caught off guard. Instead of a slick, Bourne-esque espionage thriller, The American was a Euro-mood piece in which photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn descended deeper and deeper into Clooney’s ice-cold gaze. Set in Rome, the film is steamy and noir-ish, finding exhilaration in the assassin’s attempts to complete one last job with as little emotion as possible. But for all the seriousness and atmosphere, there’s still a pulpy, page-turner quality to the film’s second half — think of the whole package as Bond for the art house crowd. —Matt Patches

The American is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video

The Bourne Identity

Speaking of slick, deliver-what-you-promise movies, Doug Liman’s 2002 adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s 1980 spy novel is still a pulse-pounding action thriller that boasts an iconic performance from Matt Damon as the amnesiac assassin-turn-fugitive Jason Bourne, and with some of the most engrossing action choreography and cinematography you’ll see anywhere. After being picked up in a fishing boat riddled with bullets and with no clue as to his identity, Jason Bourne finds himself in a deadly cat-and-mouse with his former handlers who believe he is a loose end that needs to be tied up. The first in the critically-acclaimed Bourne trilogy, The Bourne Identity is a contemporary spy thriller classic. —Toussaint Egan

The Bourne Identity is available to stream on Peacock

The Conversation

Gene Hackman as Harry Caul forlornly playing the saxophone in a ransacked apartment in The Conversation Photo: Paramount Pictures

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation is a paranoia-inducing murder thriller starring Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, a surveillance expert — one who does actual spying! — whose professional integrity and personal morality are put in direct opposition when he suspects that he has eavesdropped on a couple who he believe are going to be murdered. Drawn into a plot of veiled conspirators and unsavory violence, Harry must search for the truth behind what he has witnessed while staying alive. Over the journey, Coppola creates an aura of paranoia with each passing scene, and David Shire’s piano score is a mood. —TE

The Conversation is available to stream on Hulu

Hanna

Saoirse Ronan pointing a gun in Hanna Photo: Focus Features

Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright’s action thriller Hanna stars Saoirse Ronan as a 15-year-old girl trained from birth to become an assassin by her surrogate, ex-CIA asset father Erik (Eric Bana). When the pair are discovered by Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), the CIA handler charged with recovering Hanna and her father, she’s forced to face startingly revelations about her past and existence as she attempts to stay one step ahead of her pursuers. Featuring a bangin’ soundtrack produced by The Chemical Brothers, Hanna is a lean and mean spy thriller that hits the mark. (The Amazon series it inspired, maybe less so.) —TE

Hanna is available to stream on Peacock

I Spy

Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy drive away from an explosion in 2002’s I Spy Photo: Columbia Pictures

With Eddie Murphy’s career in revival mode after Dolemite and Coming 2 America, and Owen Wilson blowing up once again with Loki, now is the time to revisit this action comedy with two charming leads riffing like hell. Based on the 1960s television series of the same name, Betty Thomas’ 2002 buddy spy comedy I Spy stars Wilson and Murphy as a covert spy and famous boxer who are forced to team up and go undercover to prevent an infamous gun runner from selling a stolen stealth bomber on the black market. —TE

I Spy is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

IMF super spy Ethan Hunt scales the side of a building in Dubai with magnetic gloves Photo: Paramount Pictures

Is Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol the best Mission Impossible movie? That’s debatable. But is it the funniest Mission Impossible movie? No question. The 2011 entry from director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) finds Tom Cruise’s super spy Ethan Hunt and his IMF colleagues disavowed in the wake of a horrific attack on the Kremlin. Tasked with clearing their names and bringing the true culprits to justice, Hunt and IMF technician-turned-field operative Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) are joined by intelligence analyst William Brandt (Avengers star Jeremy Renner) and handler Jane Carter (Paula Patton) as they globetrot from Moscow to Dubai and Mumbai on the trail of a rogue nuclear terrorist known only as “Cobalt.” The big set-piece scene of Ethan scaling the side of a skyscraper is an exquisitely nail-biting performance of mounting tension and hilarious comedic timing. —TE

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is available to stream on Paramount Plus

Skyfall

Daniel Craig as James Bond (007) on a motorbike in Skyfall Photo: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Sam Mendes’ 2012 turn at the venerable spy action franchise is a scintillating, melancholic turn for the series, probing at the interiority of James Bond’s history and allegiances in a way that no previous installment (save for maybe On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) has done before. Skyfall follows Daniel Craig as he reprises his role as everyone’s favorite MI6 operative, going toe-to-toe with former agent Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) as he mounts a globe-spanning plot to bring the organization to its knees and enact vengeance on Bond’s handler M (Judi Dench) for abandoning him years ago. (Oh, and if you want your classic Bond fix, you’ll have to rent them — none of the classic 007 movies are streaming at the moment.) —TE

Skyfall is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video

Sneakers

Photo: Universal Pictures

Sneakers is the feel-good crime comedy of the 1990s. With a cast to rival Ocean’s 11, including Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, and David Strathairn, matches old-school career criminals with whiz-bang hackers on a quest to procure a Thing. But the Thing an the plot machinations aren’t really the hook here — Sneakers is like a big, ’90s hangout movie full of retro tech and a dash of cynical Cold War sentiment. The banter is witty, the plans are elaborate, and by the end, the Republican National Committee will become completely defunded. If you’ve seen every heist movie masterpiece, it’s finally time to open your heart to the chill alternative of Sneakers. —MP

Sneakers is available to stream on HBO Max

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Some of the cast of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy seated around a table. StudioCanal

The platonic ideal of the spy movie can be found in Tomas Alfredson’s take on John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The film, like its characters, takes care to hide its heart, but it’s ultimately a tremendously warm film, defying its muted palette and Cold War setting. George Smiley’s (Gary Oldman) search for a double agent within the British secret service is a slow burn rather than a smash and grab, with clues as to its final revelation buried in the music and the small moments between characters rather than in any broad, obvious strokes. —TE

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is available to stream on HBO Max


Black Widow on Disney Plus

Prices taken at time of publishing.

The latest movie from Marvel Studios will stream at home on Disney Plus Premier Access for an extra fee