This week finds Clive Owen skirting danger across the globe in The International. We're
not sure yet where Owen's Interpol agent Louis Salinger should rank in the echelon of world-class men of action, but here's a tip of the martini to his latest action thriller, along with our top 10 picks
for the best movie spies ever.
By Chuck Walton
2009 Columbia Pictures
10. Val Kilmer as Scott in Spartan (2004)
Forget Batman, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid and Iceman. The most dangerous character on Val Kilmer's resume of dangerous characters is U.S. operative Scott, a no-nonsense professional who'll stop at nothing (and we mean nothing) when it comes to finding the heavies who've kidnapped the president's daughter. It's a great and scary perfomance in an underrated gem from writer-director David Mamet.
2004 Warner Bros. Pictures
9. Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
No list of the top movie spies ever could be complete without Mike Myer's grooviest contribution to the
genre, Sir Austin "Danger" Powers. The toothy grin, those velvet suits, his peculiar use of the English
vernacular...what's not to love?
1997 New Line Cinema
8. Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita (1990)
Long before Jennifer Garner started whopping butt on TV's "Alias," Anne Parillaud showed just how fatale her
femme could be as Nikita, the ex-herion addict-turned-French operative in Luc Besson's stylized actioner. She's the killer with a heart of gold...or something.
1991 Samuel Goldwyn Company, The
7. Robert Redford as Joe "The Condor" Turner in Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Redford starts off as a bookwormish CIA agent in the '70s spy thriller Three Days of Condor, but
when the baddies wipe out his co-workers in a bloody office massacre, watch out. Even Max Von Sydow's nefarious,
double-dealing assassin has something to fear from this Condor.
1975 Paramount Pictures
6. Robert De Niro as Sam in Ronin (1998)
Forget the Bob De Niro of recent fare (i.e. - Righteous Kill). Not that long ago, he was a credible
badass. Basking in the glow of his post-Heat success, the legend gives his best "you lookin' at me"
glares as ex-operative, gun-for-hire Sam in John Frankenheimer's last
great spy movie, Ronin.
1998 United Artists
5. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Harry Tasker in True Lies (1994)
He's the Terminator in a tuxedo, and surprisingly, the concept works. Aided heavily by supportive, clueless
wife Helen Tasker (Jamie Lee Curtis in fine Fish Called Wanda form), Schwarzenegger's Tasker is
basically a James Bond redux...007 if he settled down...and spent more time at the gym.
1994 Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
4. Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission:Impossible (1996)
Fifteen years into his Hollywood career, Tom Cruise finally decided to become an action hero. His big-screen
version of Ethan Hunt was the perfect mid-'90s hero...sleek, efficient and perfectly capable of riding a
speeding, CGI-modeled train without getting his deluxe crewcut mussed.
1996 Paramount Pictures
3. Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan in A Clear and Present Danger (1994)
The three reasons why Harrison Ford is immortalized in all of our collective psyches as the definitve action hero: Indiana Jones, Han Solo, and Jack Ryan. Alec Baldwin may have originated the role, but it was Ford who brought a serious degree of weight to the character. In Danger,
Ryan's integrity is so ironclad that he can take the president to task and sound convincing.
1994 Paramount Pictures
2. Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
The most popular modern movie spy is Matt Damon's Jason Bourne. He takes no lip, and he gets the job done. He's
young enough to be relatable to Gen Y audiences, and still manly enough to pull in older audiences.
Plus, he keeps it real. No wisecracks, no frilly outfits, no overly neat fight scenes...just some good
old-fashioned, bone-crunching efficiency.
2007 Universal Pictures
1. Sean Connery as James Bond in Dr. No (1962)
While the movie character has encompassed several worthy successors (Daniel Craig being a fine addition), Connery's portrayal is the template. He's smart, he's debonair, and most importantly, he's dangerous. The
cliche's true. Girls want him. Guys want to be him. Now roll theme music...