Spy movies have excited film fans for many years

Richard Carter | 8/24/2011, 3:40 p.m.
"Last night I dreamed a deadly dream, beyond the Isle of Skye. I saw a...
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"The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1934/1956)--Two versions of Hitchcock's espionage classic, first with Leslie Banks, Edna Best and Peter Lorre, and updated with James Stewart and Doris Day. Both build to a clash of cymbals in an Albert Hall assassination.

"The Man Who Never Was" (1956)--This is the most famous true-life spy story of WWII. Pulsating with suspense, it's my all-time fave. Starring Clifton Webb, Josephine Griffin, Robert Flemyng and Gloria Grahame, with a truly sinister Stephen Boyd. The peak.

"Morituri" (1965)--Marlon Brando, as a profligate anti-Nazi, is coerced by the Brits into sabotaging a German cargo ship captained by Yul Brynner. Striking black-and-white cinematography. With Trevor Howard, Wally Cox and Janet Margolin. Searing suspense.

"North by Northwest" (1959)--A cross-country Hitchcock thriller starting with an assassination at the United Nations in New York and ending atop Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason are at the top of their games.

"Operation Crossbow" (1965)--A sizzling story of volunteers attempting to short-circuit Hitler's missile program and the "New York rocket." Great work by George Peppard, Jeremy Kemp, Lili Palmer, Tom Courtenay, Anthony Quayle and Sophia Loren.

"Saboteur" (1942)--Heart-pounding Hitchcock as innocent dupe Robert Cummings battles Nazi spies. With Priscilla Lane, Otto Kruger, Alan Baxter and Norman Lloyd, who falls from atop the Statue of Liberty in memorable finale. Simply not to be missed.

"Stalag 17" (1953)--An Oscar was awarded to William Holden for the best WWII prison camp film, with Peter Graves as a sly German spy. The Billy Wilder-directed gem co-stars Don Taylor, Robert Strauss, Sig Rumann, Harvey Lembeck and Otto Preminger. Funny and great.

"The 39 Steps" (1935)--In a Hitchcock grand chase, Robert Donat is framed for murder and pursued in Scotland. Featuring Madeleine Carroll, Peggy Ashcroft and John Laurie. Explains Mr. Memory at London Palladium: "The 39 Steps is an organization of spies..."

"13 Rue Madeleine" (1946)"--James Cagney effectively sheds his gangster persona as a doomed Secret Service agent dispatched to WWII France. Supported by Walter Abel, Annabella, Frank Latimore, Sam Jaffe and a terrifying Richard Conte. Startling ending.

"Triple Cross" (1966)--British safecracker-turned-double agent Christopher Plummer spars with Nazis--including Yul Brynner and Gert Frobe--in a scorching true story. Seductive Romy Schneider co-stars. Did he work for the Brits or the Germans?

There they are, my A-No.-1, top-of-the-heap spy flicks. In a genre replete with an embarrassment of cinematic riches, there will be more to come.