By Ross Miller
This week sees the release of Spy, an action comedy starring funny lady of the moment Melissa McCarthy that reunites her with her Bridesmaids and The Heat director Paul Feig. She plays Susan Cooper, an unassuming desk-bound CIA analyst who, after her expert agent partner (Jude Law) goes off the grid and the identities of all other field agents are exposed, volunteers to go on a dangerous undercover mission to recover a nuke from a global arms dealer. Featuring a great cast that also includes Jason Statham, Allison Janney and Miranda Hart, it’s as funny as you’d hope while also providing some surprisingly great action scenes.
To celebrate the film’s release we’re taking a look at some other great comedy spy movies. Note: some of the clips are NSFW.
Top Secret! (1984)
If you’re after not just comedy but a full on spoof take on the spy movie then this classic 1984 film will certainly do the trick. Val Kilmer stars as Nick Rivers, an American rock and roll singer in WWII who becomes involved in a Resistance plot to rescue a scientist imprisoned in East Germany. It comes from the team behind Airplane! and Naked Gun and like those films it’s full to the brim with sight gags, one-liners and ridiculous slapstick that are somehow clever and dumb in equal measure.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Mike Myers is on top form as his most recognisable character, the womanizing spy of the swinging ‘60s who gets cryogenically frozen before being thawed out some 30 years later on a mission to stop his nemesis Dr. Evil. It’s arguably the best lampooning of the Bond franchise around, thanks to a script that’s equal parts daft and clever, as well as the multiple character performances by Myers. If you like this one then check out the two sequels, The Spy Who Shagged Me and Goldmember.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
Sam Rockwell leads this very clever biographical crime comedy based on the memoirs of Chuck Barris, a charismatic game show host who also claimed to have been an assassin for the CIA. Featuring a supporting cast that includes George Clooney (also making his fantastic directorial debut), Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore, and with a script by Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), this is an intricately plotted, well-acted and knowingly funny take on the whole spy comedy subgenre.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)
This underrated spoof of the Eurospy genre and the OSS 117 series of books comes from director Michel Hazanivicius and stars Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, the team who brought us the Oscar-winning silent movie The Artist. Dujardin plays the titular secret agent who is assigned to go undercover as the head of a poultry firm in Cairo while he investigates Nazi hideouts, stops a fundamentalist rebellion and seduces local beauties. It’s hilariously silly from start to finish. A sequel, OSS 117: Lost In Rio, was also made.
Get Smart (2008)
Probably the closest to Spy in terms of tone and style of silly humour, this big-screen reboot of the 1960s TV series stars Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart, a highly intellectual but socially awkward agent who, along with the alluring Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), is tasked with stopping a terrorist attack by a Russian spy agency. It’s completely daft but it knows it, providing a consistently chucklesome experience with a couple of big belly laughs and some genuinely impressive set-pieces. Dwayne Johnson and Alan Arkin also get in on the fun.
Burn After Reading (2008)
Featuring an amazing ensemble cast that includes George Clooney, John Malkovich, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins and Tilda Swinton, this underrated Coen bros’ film is about ineptitude, cluelessness and heaps of red tape and paperwork back at the office. It explores what happens when a recently fired CIA agent loses a disk with sensitive information on it which ends up in the hands of two bumbling gym employees. It’s filled with memorable characters, clever plotting and the directors’ incomparable brand of quotable dialogue.
Who says all spy heroes need to be young, fit and magazine cover-friendly? That’s the question raised by this hugely entertaining action-comedy starring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren (she made our list of Unexpected Action Heroes as a group of Retired Extremely Dangerous CIA agents brought back into action to save the day. The cast clearly have a whale of a time and that carries over on-screen in a film that sports just as many funny one-liners as it does exciting action sequences.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
Following successes with the likes of Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, director Matthew Vaughn this year gave us his most outrageous movie yet. It centres on Gary “Eggs” Unwin (rising star Taron Egerton), a lad from a council estate who is whisked into a world of espionage by Harry Callahan (Colin Firth), a suave veteran agent of a highly secretive spy organization who aim to stop a megalomaniac (Samuel L. Jackson) hell-bent on world domination. It sort of thumbs its nose at the modern, ultra-serious Bond movies by providing the old-fashioned ridiculous plotting of the classics, insanely over-the-top action and plenty of knowing laughs along the way.