Film & TV
Since the days of classics like Get Smart and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., spy shows have evolved dramatically. Today, there are dramatic and comedic–and even animated–spy shows. They may not have too much in common, but they all pay homage to the classic spy story with secret identities, complicated missions, and operations that test the hero’s limits. Here are the best spy shows streaming now.
A miniseries that’s equally as addicting as it is easy to binge, London Spy is the story of a Danny, a party boy, who must delve into the world of espionage in order to uncover the truth behind his lover’s death. It turns out that the man he thought he knew was actually working for MI6, the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service. Now Danny finds himself trapped in a very dangerous world.
Related: 7 Spy Novels for Fans of Ian Fleming
Tom Rob Smith, best known as the writer of American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace is also behind this love story turned spy drama. With his entrancing writing, you’ll be quickly drawn into the mystery and drama of the spy world.
The Assets is a miniseries based on Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed. Aldrich Ames was a Soviet mole in the CIA whose betrayal led directly to the deaths of at least 11 Soviet intelligence officers who were spying for the United States. The Assets seamlessly incorporates real-life events into a television drama.
The show was unfortunately cancelled after one season, but luckily all eight episodes are available on Netflix. From the very first episode, you’ll find yourself transported back into the 1980s and the height of the Cold War.
An adaptation of the 1990 film of the same name, Nikita is the story of a young spy and an assassin who has turned on the organization that made her. As a teenager on death row, Nikita was recruited by Division, a secret U.S. government-funded organization. Division faked her death and gave her a new life, training her to spy, sabotage, and assassinate. When Nikita broke protocol by falling in love with a civilian, Division assassinated the man she loved.
Nikita’s mission: avenge his death and redeem herself after the horrible things she did as an agent for Division. A rogue agent with in-depth knowledge of the organization’s secrets and expertise in their training, Nikita poses a serious threat, but the question remains: will Nikita succeed in bringing down the black ops organization? With Maggie Q playing Nikita, this spy show will certainly keep you glued to the screen.
Spies of Warsaw
Based on the novel of the same name by Alan Furst, Spies of Warsaw is the story of Jean-François Mercier, a French spy posing as a military attaché at the French embassy in Warsaw at the beginning of World War II. David Tennant, well known for his roles in Doctor Who, Jessica Jones, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, stars as Mercier.
When the series begins, it’s 1937, and Germany has not yet officially declared war. Mercier, a widower and World War I hero, is very focused on his assignment, but none of his superiors are willing to hear his reports that Germany is about to wage war. But the series isn’t all work–Mercier falls for Anna Skarbek, a lawyer for the League of Nations who is in a relationship with a Russian writer.
MI-5, also known as Spooks, follows a team of MI5 agents. The unit, which specializes in counterterrorism, works out of a top secret office called The Grid. The series explores dirty politics and the dark side of the spy world and shows how the team, headed by Harry Pearce, navigates this complicated world of espionage.
This beloved show ran for 10 seasons in England and features many of the isle’s most beloved actors. If you still can’t get enough, check out Spooks: The Greater Good, a film that picks up where MI-5 left off and Spooks: Code 9, a spinoff of the original series geared to a slightly younger audience.
Archer may be an incredibly satirical spy show, but it is a spy show nonetheless. Deriving much of its inspiration from the James Bond franchise, the animated show is the story of Sterling Archer, a secret agent, and his very dysfunctional team. The eight agents work for the International Secret Intelligence Service, known as ISIS–wonder if that was intentional?
As the series progresses, the seasons begin to take on a somewhat anthological format, developing new arcs and changing settings. The ninth season premiered this past April, and there are plans for a tenth season as well.
Another spy show for those with a taste for humor, Spy is the story of Tim Elliot, who is stuck in a dead-end job, locked in a vicious custody battle, and headed nowhere fast. When he decides it’s time for a change and quits his job, Tim applies to a data processing position. Little does he know, he is actually taking the entrance exam for MI5 and suddenly finds himself in the world of espionage.
As Tim progresses through training, he realizes that he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. Spy is fantastically funny and wildly entertaining.
Set in the middle of the Cold War, The Americans is the story of Elizabeth and Philip Jennings and their children. A seemingly average American family, the Jennings have a huge secret: They’re KGB officers. Just to make life a little more interesting, their neighbor is an FBI agent who specializes in counterintelligence.
At the heart, The Americans is the story of a family just trying to live a normal life– but with parents who are deep-cover spies, that’s not so easy. The Americans is the perfect mix of a family drama and spy show and has earned its place as one of the best shows of all time.
Annie Walker is a young CIA trainee who is shocked when she is picked to carry out an assignment as a field agent. Her mastery of languages is cited as the reason for her quick promotion, but it seems as if her superiors have ulterior motives.
Annie is soon thrown into the world of a secret agent, with only her intuition and Auggie Anderson, a blind tech operative, to guide her. Covert Affairs follows Annie over the course of five seasons as she evolves from a bright-eyed trainee to an experienced and talented field agent.
The Night Manager
Based on John le Carré's novel of the same name, The Night Manager is the story of Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier who has found himself the night manager at a luxury hotel in Egypt. He becomes involved with a mission to take down Richard Roper, an international arms dealer, but when the woman with whom he is working is found dead, he removes himself entirely from the operation.
Four years later, Jonathan is working at a hotel in Switzerland when he comes across a package addressed to Richard Roper. When he reports the package, he is recruited to spy on Richard Roper. Jonathan must develop a secret identity in order to infiltrate Roper’s inner circle and keep his new criminal activities a secret from his colleagues and his girlfriend. With an all-star cast including Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, David Harewood, Tom Hollander, and Elizabeth Debicki, The Night Manager is a must-see.
Featured still from 'The Americans' via FX