The Best '50s Spy Movies

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. 

Ranked by
  • North by Northwest
    Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason
    • Released: 1959
    • Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Betrayed
    Clark Gable, Lana Turner, Victor Mature
    • Released: 1954
    • Directed by: Gottfried Reinhardt
  • China Gate
    Nat King Cole, Angie Dickinson, Lee Van Cleef
    • Released: 1957
    • Directed by: Samuel Fuller
  • 5 Fingers
    James Mason, Danielle Darrieux, Michael Rennie
    • Released: 1952
    • Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • My Favorite Spy
    Bob Hope, Hedy Lamarr, Francis L. Sullivan
    • Released: 1951
    • Directed by: Norman Z. McLeod
  • Affair in Trinidad
    Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, Alexander Scourby
    • Released: 1952
    • Directed by: Vincent Sherman
  • The 39 Steps
    Kenneth More, Taina Elg, Brenda De Banzie
    • Released: 1959
    • Directed by: Ralph Thomas
  • Big Jim McLain
    John Wayne, Nancy Olson, James Arness
    • Released: 1952
    • Directed by: Edward Ludwig
  • The Man Who Never Was
    Clifton Webb, Gloria Grahame, Robert Flemyng
    • Released: 1956
    • Directed by: Ronald Neame
  • Carve Her Name with Pride
    Michael Caine, Paul Scofield, Jack Warner
    • Released: 1958
    • Directed by: Lewis Gilbert
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  • Night People
    Gregory Peck, Broderick Crawford, Anita Björk
    • Released: 1954
    • Directed by: Nunnally Johnson
  • Pickup on South Street
    Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter
    • Released: 1953
    • Directed by: Samuel Fuller
  • Sea Devils
    Rock Hudson, Yvonne De Carlo, Bryan Forbes
    • Released: 1953
    • Directed by: Raoul Walsh
  • FBI Girl
    Cesar Romero, Raymond Burr, Joi Lansing
    • Released: 1949
    • Directed by: William Berke
  • Paris Playboys
    Huntz Hall, Leo Gorcey, David Gorcey
    • Released: 1954
    • Directed by: William Beaudine
  • Knock on Wood
    Danny Kaye, Mai Zetterling, Torin Thatcher
    • Released: 1954
    • Directed by: Norman Panama, Melvin Frank
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  • Ill Met by Moonlight
    Christopher Lee, Dirk Bogarde, Michael Gough
    • Released: 1957
    • Directed by: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell
  • Decision Before Dawn
    Richard Basehart, Gary Merrill, Oskar Werner
    • Released: 1951
    • Directed by: Anatole Litvak
  • A Bullet for Joey
    Edward G. Robinson, George Raft, Peter Hansen
    • Released: 1955
    • Directed by: Lewis Allen
  • I Was an American Spy
    Philip Ahn, Mark W. Clark, Ann Dvorak
    • Released: 1951
    • Directed by: Lesley Selander
  • Orders to Kill
    Eddie Albert, Paul Massie, Lillian Gish
    • Released: 1958
    • Directed by: Anthony Asquith
  • The Shanghai Story
    Edmond O'Brien, Richard Jaeckel, Philip Ahn
    • Released: 1954
    • Directed by: Frank Lloyd
  • 5 Steps to Danger
    Ruth Roman, Sterling Hayden, Werner Klemperer
    • Released: 1957
    • Directed by: Henry S. Kesler
  • Foreign Intrigue
    Robert Mitchum, Geneviève Page, Ingrid Thulin
    • Released: 1956
    • Directed by: Sheldon Reynolds
  • The Man Between
    James Mason, Claire Bloom, Hildegard Knef
    • Released: 1953
    • Directed by: Carol Reed