James Bond, The James Bond Films
The most famous superspy of all is famous for a reason. He’s survived car chases, trainwrecks, and he always gets his man. He puts his own personal safety aside for the sake of the mission, and the mission usually involves taking down a villain trying to conquer the world. He even survived being played by George Lazenby. James Bond is the daddy of all movie spies, and it’ll be a long time before a movie spy comes along that doesn’t get compared to him.
Alec Leamas, “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”
Spying in the real world doesn’t usually come with the glitz and glamour associated with James Bond. So many novels and films attempt to deflate that famous world and replace it with something more realistic, something sadder. That’s certainly the case with “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” but the titular spy played by Richard Burton is one of the great movie spies. Where Bond is suave, Leamas is weary, beaten down by an environment in which good people die and love won’t save anybody – in fact, it might get you killed. He doesn’t have a nice tux or iconic theme music, but he’s still one of the most memorable movie spies ever.
Derek Flint, “Our Man Flint” and “In Like Flint”
Taking a step out of the real world and then taking a dozen or so more steps for good measure, Derek Flint is conceived as a parody of Bond. But as played by James Coburn, the movie spy who’s suave enough to communicate with dolphins takes on a life of his own. Flint has a sense of humor that most spies lack, and the “Flint” movies were made in an era when it was possible to be cool and funny at the same time. Plus, come on, he can talk to dolphins.