Film The Best '50s Spy Movies  

Ranker Film
245 votes 183 voters 4.1k 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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North by Northwest is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
North by Northwest Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Eva Marie Saint 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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5 Fingers is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
5 Fingers Michael Rennie, Danielle Darrieux, Walter Hampden 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

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The Man Who Never Was is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
The Man Who Never Was Clifton Webb, Stephen Boyd, Gloria Grahame The Man Who Never Was is a 1956 war film directed by Ronald Neame.

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A Bullet for Joey is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
A Bullet for Joey Edward G. Robinson, George Raft, Peter Hansen 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

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My Favorite Spy is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
My Favorite Spy Bob Hope, Hedy Lamarr, Marc Lawrence My Favorite Spy is a 1951 comedy film starring Bob Hope and Hedy Lamarr. The movie was directed by Norman Z. McLeod.

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Decision Before Dawn is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Decision Before Dawn Richard Basehart, Hildegard Knef, Oskar Werner 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

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Pickup on South Street is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Pickup on South Street Richard Widmark, Thelma Ritter, Jean Peters 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

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Affair in Trinidad is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Affair in Trinidad Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, Juanita Moore 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

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Knock on Wood is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Knock on Wood Danny Kaye, Torin Thatcher, Leon Askin 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

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The 39 Steps is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
The 39 Steps Sid James, Kenneth More, Joan Hickson 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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Night People is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Night People Gregory Peck, Buddy Ebsen, Broderick Crawford 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

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Big Jim McLain is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Big Jim McLain John Wayne, James Arness, Harry Morgan 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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China Gate is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
China Gate Nat King Cole, Angie Dickinson, Lee Van Cleef China Gate is a 1957 Hollywood Cinemascope war film written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller and released through 20th Century Fox.

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Betrayed is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Betrayed Clark Gable, Lana Turner, Victor Mature 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

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Jungle Heat is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Jungle Heat Lex Barker, James Westerfield, Mari Blanchard Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Jungle Heat is a 1957 action film directed by Howard W. Koch.

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The Scarlet Coat is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
The Scarlet Coat Anne Francis, George Sanders, Michael Wilding The Scarlet Coat is an Eastmancolor CinemaScope 1955 American historical drama and swashbuckler directed by John Sturges, based upon the events in the American Revolution in which Benedict ...more

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Sea Devils is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Sea Devils Rock Hudson, Yvonne De Carlo, Bryan Forbes Sea Devils is a British–American historical adventure film, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Rock Hudson, Yvonne De Carlo, and Maxwell Reed. The story is based on Victor Hugo's novel Toilers ...more

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I Was a Communist for the FBI is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
I Was a Communist for the FBI Frank Lovejoy, Dorothy Hart, Philip Carey 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

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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

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Captain Carey, U.S.A. is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Captain Carey, U.S.A. Alan Ladd, Russ Tamblyn, Francis Lederer 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

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Orders to Kill is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Orders to Kill Lillian Gish, Eddie Albert, Lionel Jeffries 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.

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Foreign Intrigue is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Foreign Intrigue Robert Mitchum, Ingrid Thulin, Lauritz Falk Foreign Intrigue is a 1956 film starring Robert Mitchum The film is written, produced and directed by Sheldon Reynolds, who had produced a television series called Foreign Intrigue in 1951. ...more

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World for Ransom is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
World for Ransom Dan Duryea, Reginald Denny, Gene Lockhart World for Ransom is a 1954 American film directed by Robert Aldrich, who was uncredited for his work. Many of the actors and sets used in the film were from the Dan Duryea television show China ...more

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Ill Met by Moonlight is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Ill Met by Moonlight Christopher Lee, Dirk Bogarde, Michael Gough 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

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The Man Between is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
The Man Between Claire Bloom, Hildegard Knef, Geoffrey Toone The Man Between is a 1953 drama film directed by Carol Reed.

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Stopover Tokyo is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Stopover Tokyo Joan Collins, Robert Wagner, Edmond O'Brien Stopover Tokyo is a 1957 film directed by Richard L. Breen.

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Bowery Battalion is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Bowery Battalion Huntz Hall, Leo Gorcey, William "Billy" Benedict Bowery Battalion is a 1951 comedy film starring The Bowery Boys. The film was released on January 24, 1951 by Monogram Pictures and is the twenty-first film in the series.

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FBI Girl is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
FBI Girl Cesar Romero, Raymond Burr, Joi Lansing 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

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Paris Playboys is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Paris Playboys Huntz Hall, Leo Gorcey, David Gorcey 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.

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5 Steps to Danger is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
5 Steps to Danger Sterling Hayden, Werner Klemperer, Ruth Roman 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

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Shack out on 101 is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Shack out on 101 Lee Marvin, Keenan Wynn, Terry Moore Shack Out on 101 is a 1955 American film noir directed by Edward Dein starring Terry Moore, Frank Lovejoy, Keenan Wynn and Lee Marvin.

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My Son John is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
My Son John Helen Hayes, Dean Jagger, Van Heflin Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial My Son John is a 1952 American drama film, starring Robert Walker as a man whose parents suspect he may be working as a Communist spy. It was directed by Leo McCarey. The film received an Oscar ...more

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Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard Amanda Blake, John Dehner, Howard St. John Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard is a film directed by Seymour Friedman released on November 21, 1950.

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Diplomatic Courier is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Diplomatic Courier Charles Bronson, Tyrone Power, Karl Malden Diplomatic Courier is a 1952 thriller film directed by Henry Hathaway.

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Carve Her Name with Pride is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Carve Her Name with Pride Michael Caine, Paul Scofield, Jack Warner Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Carve Her Name with Pride is a black-and-white 1958 British war drama film based on the book of the same name by R.J. Minney. Set during World War II, the film is based on the true story of the ...more

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David Harding, Counterspy is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
David Harding, Counterspy Howard St. John, Alex Gerry, Raymond Greenleaf David Harding, Counterspy is a film directed by Ray Nazarro released on July 13, 1950.

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Clipped Wings is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Clipped Wings Huntz Hall, Leo Gorcey, David Gorcey Clipped Wings is a 1953 comedy film starring The Bowery Boys. The film was released on August 14, 1953 by Allied Artists and is the thirty-first film in the series.

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Fort Algiers is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Fort Algiers Yvonne De Carlo, John Dehner, Henry Corden Fort Algiers is a 1953 film directed by Lesley Selander.

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The Shanghai Story is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
The Shanghai Story Edmond O'Brien, Richard Jaeckel, Philip Ahn The Shanghai Story is a film directed by Frank Lloyd that was released in 1954.

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I'll Get You is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
I'll Get You George Raft, Clifford Evans, Frederick Piper Escape Route, released in the United States as I'll Get You, is a 1952 British thriller film directed by Seymour Friedman and Peter Graham Scott and starring George Raft, Sally Gray and Clifford ...more

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This Can't Happen Here is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
This Can't Happen Here Alf Kjellin, Signe Hasso, Ulf Palme This Can't Happen Here is a 1950 Swedish film directed by Ingmar Bergman.

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Down Among the Z Men is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best '50s Spy Movies
Down Among the Z Men Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe Down Among the Z Men is a B/W 1952 British comedy film starring The Goons; Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe.