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The Best '50s Spy Movies 

Ranker Film
Updated October 1, 2019 442 votes 225 voters 6.7k views 42 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite espionage films that were released in the 1950s

This collection of the greatest spy films of the 1950s represents some of the most beloved films of the genre. Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, the Red Scare, and a culture of betrayal and tension, the spy movies of the '50s are rife with secret pickups, double-crosses, surveillance, and murder.

 
What is the best 1950s spy film? Many fans of the espionage genre would make the case for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 masterpiece
North by Northwest. Featuring an all-star cast including Eva Marie Saint, Cary Grant, and James Mason, the film is regarded as one of the finest spy movies ever made. Hitchcock’s influence can be seen all over this list of the top 1950s spy movies, in such films as The 39 Steps, a remake of Hitchcock’s 1935 film of the same name.


Also on this list, you will find classics such as Pickup on South Street, The Man Who Never Was, and My Favorite Spy. Vote up the best '50s spy movies below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section. 

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list ordered by
1
North by Northwest is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Eva Marie Saint

Released: 1959

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

North by Northwest is a 1959 American spy thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. The screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman, who ...more

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2
The 39 Steps is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Sid James, Kenneth More, Joan Hickson

Released: 1959

Directed by: Ralph Thomas

The 39 Steps is a 1959 British thriller film produced by Betty Box, directed by Ralph Thomas and starring Kenneth More and Taina Elg. It is a remake of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film, loosely ...more

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3
5 Fingers is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Michael Rennie, Danielle Darrieux, Walter Hampden

Released: 1952

Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

5 Fingers, known also as Five Fingers, is a 1952 American spy film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and produced by Otto Lang. The screenplay by Michael Wilson was based on the book Operation ...more
4
Decision Before Dawn is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Richard Basehart, Hildegard Knef, Oskar Werner

Released: 1951

Directed by: Anatole Litvak

Decision Before Dawn is a 1951 American war film directed by Anatole Litvak, starring Richard Basehart, Oskar Werner, and Hans Christian Blech. It tells the story of the American Army using ...more
5
My Favorite Spy is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Bob Hope, Hedy Lamarr, Marc Lawrence

Released: 1951

Directed by: Norman Z. McLeod

My Favorite Spy is a 1951 comedy film starring Bob Hope and Hedy Lamarr. The movie was directed by Norman Z. McLeod.
6
A Bullet for Joey is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Edward G. Robinson, George Raft, Peter Hansen

Released: 1955

Directed by: Lewis Allen

A Bullet for Joey is a 1955 film noir directed by Lewis Allen and starring Edward G. Robinson and George Raft. The picture involves a gangster who sneaks into Canada to kidnap a scientist for ...more
7
The Man Who Never Was is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Clifton Webb, Stephen Boyd, Gloria Grahame

Released: 1956

Directed by: Ronald Neame

The Man Who Never Was is a 1956 war film directed by Ronald Neame.
8
Pickup on South Street ... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Richard Widmark, Thelma Ritter, Jean Peters

Released: 1953

Directed by: Samuel Fuller

Pickup on South Street is a Cold War spy film noir written and directed by Samuel Fuller and released by the 20th Century Fox studio. The film stars Richard Widmark, Jean Peters and Thelma ...more
9
Betrayed is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Clark Gable, Lana Turner, Victor Mature

Released: 1954

Directed by: Gottfried Reinhardt

Betrayed is a 1954 war drama film directed by Gottfried Reinhardt from a screenplay by Ronald Millar and George Froeschel, and starring Clark Gable, Lana Turner and Victor Mature. The music ...more
10
Night People is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Gregory Peck, Buddy Ebsen, Broderick Crawford

Released: 1954

Directed by: Nunnally Johnson

Night People is a 1954 motion picture drama starring Gregory Peck, Broderick Crawford, Anita Bjork and Buddy Ebsen, directed by Nunnally Johnson. It was co-written by Jed Harris, a noted ...more
11
Big Jim McLain is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
John Wayne, James Arness, Harry Morgan

Released: 1952

Directed by: Edward Ludwig

Big Jim McLain is a 1952 political thriller film starring John Wayne and James Arness as HUAC investigators hunting down communists in the post-war Hawaii organized labor scene. Edward Ludwig ...more

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12
Knock on Wood is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Danny Kaye, Torin Thatcher, Leon Askin

Released: 1954

Directed by: Norman Panama, Melvin Frank

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Knock on Wood is a 1954 comedy starring Danny Kaye and Mai Zetterling. Other actors in the film include Torin Thatcher, David Burns, and Leon Askin. The film was written and directed by Melvin ...more
13
Affair in Trinidad is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, Juanita Moore

Released: 1952

Directed by: Vincent Sherman

Affair in Trinidad is a 1952 film noir produced by Hayworth's Beckworth Corporation, released by Columbia Pictures, and starring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford. It is notable as Hayworth's ...more
14
Captain Carey, U.S.A. is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Alan Ladd, Russ Tamblyn, Francis Lederer

Released: 1950

Directed by: Mitchell Leisen

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Captain Carey, U.S.A. is a 1950 drama film starring Alan Ladd, Wanda Hendrix, and Francis Lederer. An American returns to post-World War II Italy to bring a traitor to justice. The film was ...more
15
Paris Playboys is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Paris Playboys Huntz Hall, Leo Gorcey, David Gorcey

Released: 1954

Directed by: William Beaudine

Paris Playboys is a 1954 comedy film starring The Bowery Boys. The film was released on March 7, 1954 by Allied Artists and is the thirty-third film in the series.
16
Jungle Heat is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Lex Barker, James Westerfield, Mari Blanchard

Released: 1957

Directed by: Howard W. Koch

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Jungle Heat is a 1957 action film directed by Howard W. Koch.
17
Ill Met by Moonlight is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Christopher Lee, Dirk Bogarde, Michael Gough

Released: 1957

Directed by: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell

Ill Met by Moonlight, also known as Night Ambush, is a film by the British writer-director-producer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and the last movie they made together through ...more
18
I Was a Communist for th... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Frank Lovejoy, Dorothy Hart, Philip Carey

Released: 1951

Directed by: Gordon Douglas

I Was a Communist for the FBI is a 1951 American film noir drama directed by Gordon Douglas, and featuring Frank Lovejoy, Dorothy Hart, Philip Carey, and James Millican. The film was based on a ...more
19
I Was an American Spy is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
I Was an American Spy Philip Ahn, Mark W. Clark, Ann Dvorak

Released: 1951

Directed by: Lesley Selander

20
Carve Her Name with Prid... is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Michael Caine, Paul Scofield, Jack Warner

Released: 1958

Directed by: Lewis Gilbert

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Carve Her Name with Pride is a 1958 British war drama film based on the book of the same name by R.J. Minney.The film, directed by Lewis Gilbert, is based on the true story of Special Operations ...more

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21
Diplomatic Courier is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Diplomatic Courier Charles Bronson, Tyrone Power, Karl Malden

Released: 1952

Directed by: Henry Hathaway

Diplomatic Courier is a 1952 thriller film directed by Henry Hathaway.
22
5 Steps to Danger is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Sterling Hayden, Werner Klemperer, Ruth Roman

Released: 1957

Directed by: Henry S. Kesler

5 Steps to Danger is a 1957 American Cold War spy film. It was directed by Henry S. Kesler, and starred Ruth Roman and Sterling Hayden, with a cast that also included Werner Klemperer, Richard ...more
23
Counterspy Meets Scotlan... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard Amanda Blake, John Dehner, Howard St. John

Released: 1950

Directed by: Seymour Friedman

Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard is a film directed by Seymour Friedman released on November 21, 1950.
24
FBI Girl is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Cesar Romero, Raymond Burr, Joi Lansing

Released: 1949

Directed by: William Berke

FBI Girl is a 1951 crime film about a female FBI employee who becomes involved in government plot involving corruption and murder. The film was directed by William A. Berke, and stars Cesar ...more
25
Orders to Kill is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Lillian Gish, Eddie Albert, Lionel Jeffries

Released: 1958

Directed by: Anthony Asquith

Orders to Kill was a 1958 British wartime drama film. It starred Paul Massie, Eddie Albert and Lillian Gish. It was directed by Anthony Asquith based on a story by Donald C. Downes.