A spy thriller can be fictional, physics-bending joyrides or tense historical dramas. Whatever fits your fancy, our list is a great place to start for spy thrillers streaming right now on Netflix.
Clear and Present Danger
One of the best Jack Ryan films and the last (so far) to star Harrison Ford, Clear and Present Danger sees Ryan given the role of CIA Acting Deputy Director (Intelligence) (DDI). Ryan soon discovers that people within the CIA are hiding the fact that they are secretly conducting a war against a Colombian drug cartel.
Directed by Philip Noyce, who helmed the first film starring Ford as Ryan, Patriot Games, the movie was released in August of 1994 to positive reviews, still holding an 81% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
With news of Ford returning to the role of Jack Ryan in the future, now is a good time to look back on his previous time with the franchise.
Also streaming on Netflix from director Phillip Noyce, this 2010 spy thriller starring Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt, falsely accused of being a Russian sleeper agent and on a mission to prove herself.
The spy thriller film was at one time set to star Tom Cruise, but he felt the character (then Edwin A. Salt) was too similar to Ethan Hunt and chose to do Knight and Day instead. That’s a good thing because Jolie now plays a version of the character that is much more interesting than what was originally planned.
Liev Schreiber, Daniel Olbrychski, August Diehl, and Chiwetel Ejiofor also star in this heart-racing thriller that received an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Mixing.
The Imitation Game
If spy thrillers get you thinking about car chases and gun battles, Netflix also has a different kind of espionage film. This biographical film tells the story of Alan Turing, whose work decoding German intelligence communications during World War II for the British government was crucial to Allied success.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and directed by Morten Tyldum, the spy thriller film costars Kiera Knightley as Joan Clarke, who was also instrumental in the decryption work, known as the Enigma project.
The highest-grossing independent film of 2014, it was nominated for eight Oscars and won for Best Adapted Screenplay. It also received several nominations for Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and BAFTAs, in addition to winning the Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award.
A Call to a Spy
This 2019 spy thriller A Call to Spy, available now on Netflix, draws attention to the often-overlooked work of women spies in World War II. It stars Sarah Megan Thomas, Radhika Apte, and Stana Katic as three women who worked in espionage for the British government during the war.
Produced by Sarah Megan Thomas and directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher, the highly fictionalized film nonetheless represents the important work done by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) organization developed by Winston Churchill, an elite group of women who aided the Allies.
In the film, Vera Atkins (Stana Katic), brings on American Virginia Hall (Sarah Megan Thomas), and Indian Muslim pacifist Noor Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte) to fight the Nazis in France.
The Gray Man
Returning to the action side of the spy thriller genre, Netflix also has this 2022 film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the brothers famous for their work on MCU films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Written by Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely, the movie is based on Mark Greaney’s synonymous 2009 novel. Starring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Dhanush, Alfre Woodard, and Billy Bob Thornton, the film kicks off a series of movies based on Greaney’s Gray Man novels.
Gosling plays “Sierra Six,” a CIA agent who is evading Lloyd Hansen (Evans), a former CIA agent who became a mercenary.
This 2021 spy thriller Operation Mincemeat, on Netflix now, is directed by John Madden, known for the Best Picture Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Ben Macintyre, it tells the story of World War II Operation Mincemeat, a British operation to disguise an Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943.
Starring Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, Penelope Wilton, Johnny Flynn and Jason Isaacs, the film premiered at the 2021 British Film Festival in Australia to positive reviews and currently holds an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film was also Paul Ritter’s final appearance and carries a dedication to the well-known English actor.