35 Of The Best Female Spy Movies Ever Made


Female spies aren’t just Bond girls in bathing suits. Following the release of The 355, I want to share a list of my favorite female spy movies.

Since I was a little kid, I was obsessed with female spies because they were sexy, fierce, and deadly. I love a good female spy movie and the latest has all the ingredients to make a great femme fatale feature: problematic male mentors, complicated love triangles, lots of action, bottles of hair dye, an arsenal of deadly weapons, and impeccable fashion.

The 355 stars Jessica Chastain, Fan Bingbing, Lupita Nyongo, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, and Sebastian Stan. In honor of its release, I’m going to share a completely biased list of my favorite female spy movies.


Universal Pictures

I Sebastian Stan a good female spy movie. (Yes, I did that.)

35.

Duplicity (2009)


Relativity Media/Universal Pictures

Almost every leading actress you can think of has played in a movie about spies. Loveable southern girl Julia Roberts is Claire Stenwick, a CIA officer who plots to leave her job with a fellow CIA officer and use their skills to carry out a long con against two corporate giants. They always find a way to make spy movies with women a love story.

34.

Hanna (2011)


Focus Features

As a girl raised in the wilderness, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is trained by her ex-CIA dad (Eric Bana) as an assassin, and of course, the CIA is not okay with it. The CIA arrives at their front door, ready to take them out. Leading the hunt is a senior CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). It would be an honor to be chased by Ms. Blanchett.

33.

The Tourist (2010)


Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Releasing

Of course, it’s a remake of a French film, Anthony Zimmer. It features resident spy actress Angelina Jolie as Elise Clifton-Ward a British woman being followed throughout Paris by a French inspector and police because of her connection to her lover Alexander Pearce, an elusive thief. They really can’t help themselves with making it revolve around romance, can’t they?

32.

Ava (2020)


Vertical Entertainment

Ava Faulkner (Jessica Chastain) is an assassin getting over a severe addiction, but she doesn’t let it get in the way of beating the brakes of everyone that comes in her path. But, when Ava starts asking too many questions, the upper management gets nervous and wants to fire her permanently.

31.

Red Sparrow (2018)


20 Century Fox

A formerly famous ballerina’s (Jennifer Lawrence) career-ending injury sees her change career paths into a sexpionage (it’s a real thing) for Russian Intelligence. It’s based on actual, badass women and is clearly the foundation for Marvel characters like Black Widow. However, this movie is not for children AT ALL.

30.

Anna (2019)


Lionsgate

Luc Besson, the director of La Femme Nikita, returns to form with this modern action thriller. Anna (Sasha Luss), a beautiful young Russian woman, accepts the KGB’s offer to work as an assassin under a handler named Olga, played Helen Mirren. I’m serious; the casting directors in Hollywood aren’t really expanding their choices. I’m obsessed with Ms. Mirren, but this film didn’t do as well as other spy films with her involvement.

29.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)


Sony Pictures Releasing

Hollywood couldn’t even wait for Bin Laden’s body to be buried before turning it into a movie. The film is a fictional depiction of the decade-long manhunt for the terrorist network leader following Maya (Jessica Chastain), a CIA intelligence analyst who will stop at nothing to take down everyone involved with the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. 

28.

Spy (2015)


20 Century Fox

Director Paul Feig brings in his frequent collaborator, the hilarious Melissa McCarthy, for a comedy take on the average female-led spy film. Agent Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is a 40-year old CIA desk employee pulled into action on the field when she volunteers to track dangerous arms dealing terrorists. Unbeknownst to literally everyone, she is actually a pretty awesome spy.

27.

Female Agents (2008)


TFM Distribution/Revolver Entertainment

It’s a French historical drama that follows a team of female resistance fighters during World War II. Louise Desfontaines (Sophie Marceau), a member of the French Resistance, is recruited by the Special Operation Executive and commands a team of badass women, including a seductive cabaret dancer, an explosive chemist, deadly prostitute, and a Jewish radio operator.

26.

Allied (2016)


Paramount Pictures

Brad Pitt has a thing for sneaky, little wives who are secretly spies. A Canadian Intelligence Officer (Pitt) falls in love with a drop-dead gorgeous French Resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) while masquerading as a married couple in 1942 Casablanca. Of course, they run into a bit of marriage trouble when it’s brought to his attention she may not be who she seems.

25.

Red Joan (2018)


Lionsgate

One of the most prolific actresses in the world, Dame Judi Dench, steps away from being James Bond’s babysitter to star in this film based on a novel inspired by the life of Melita Norwood. Norwood was a secretary for the British government who supplied nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. What are you doing, M?

24.

The Debt (2010)


Focus Features/Miramax

It’s a remake of the 2007 Israeli thriller Ha-Hov about three retired Mossad agents. One of the agents, Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain, Helen Mirren), must face the consequences of her unfinished past as a spy. This film solidified a place in my heart for these phenomenal actresses as spies.

23.

Black Book (2006)


A-Film Distribution

Paul Verhoeven’s war drama follows a young Dutch-Jewish singer Rachel Stein (Clarice van Houten), who becomes a spy after being faced with devastating tragedy from World War II at the hand of the Nazis. The film is based on actual events and is one of the most expensive and successful Dutch films ever made.

22.

Black Panther (2018)


Marvel Entertainment/Walt Disney Studios

You must be crazy if you think I wouldn’t include this movie on the list. The formidable King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) was just your average super-powered, crime-fighting feline superhero without his good friend and love of his life, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). She was an undercover spy for Wakanda fighting for enslaved women in Nigeria. Nyong’o trained in mixed martial arts for the film and, of course, set herself up for a role in The 355.

21.

Miss Bala (2019)


Sony Pictures Releasing

The adaptation stars Gina Rodriguez as Gloria Fuentes, a scorned makeup artist from Los Angeles who trains to take down an infamous cartel when her best friend is kidnapped. The film is a remake of a 2011 Mexican film loosely based on a true story. It’s a true definition of a ride or die friend.

20.

The Avengers (1998)


Warner Bros.

These aren’t the avengers you’re looking for. It’s a film adaptation of the 1969 British television series about secret agents Emma Peel (Uma Thurman) and John Steed (Ralph Fiennes). The pair take on a mission to stop Sir August de Wynter (Sean Connery), an evil scientist hell-bent on controlling the world’s weather. You have to love these little cameos by famous James Bond actors like Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton.

19.

Charlies’ Angels (2000)


Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Releasing

This action-comedy is a continuation of the 1970’s TV show. Natalie Cook (Cameron Diaz), Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore), and Alex Munday (Lucy Liu) are “Angels.” The Angels are three kick-ass private investigators with a sense of humor who work for an unseen millionaire named Charlie and his trusted assistant Bosley (Bill Murray). If you’re a millennial, you probably know at least one or two iconic moments from this film.

18.

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)


Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Releasing

It’s the much-anticipated sequel by people like me who can’t get enough of the silly action-packed comedy. This time around, the returning Angels is joined by Bosley’s replacement (Bernie Mac) to assist in retrieving titanium rings that contain the names of everyone listed in the witness protection program. It’s so original, right?

17.

Fair Game (2010)


Summit Entertainment

It’s a film based on two memoirs from husband and wife, Valerie Plame and Joseph C. Wilson. Once again, Hollywood is out here making movies about stuff that happened five seconds earlier. The film follows Plame (Naomi Watts), a member of the CIA who must deal with the fallout of her husband leaking information about the 2003 US administration fabricating the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

16.

Mata Hari (1931)


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The original pre-Code era drama film is loosely based on the life of the real Mata Hari, an exotic dancer executed for espionage during World War I. The film star legendary Great Garbo as the spy who secretly masquerades as a beautiful exotic dancer. A film of this time of ridiculous censorship really pushed the limits.

15.

Ghost In The Shell (1995)


Production I.G/Bandai Visual Manga Entertainment

I had to find a way to incorporate one of the most iconic anime films of all time. The neo-noir cyberpunk thriller is an adaptation of the original manga following Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg agent hunting down a dangerous hacker known as the Puppet Master. Fun fact: I misspelled Motoko’s name one time, and the fandom dragged me through the street. I’ll never forget it.

14.

Lust, Caution (2007)


Focus Features

It’s a sexy espionage period film based on a 1979 novella of the same name. Award-winning director Ang Lee depicts the story of Chia Chi (Tang Wei), a young woman who plots to assassinate a high-ranking government official by luring him into a honey-trap. It’s supposedly based on actual events of a Chinese spy’s unsuccessful assassination attempt.

13.

Spy Kids (2001)


Dimension Films

I wanted to include every entry on this list, but I’ll go with the original. Two kids are forced into a life of espionage when their retired spy parents are captured by a sinister TV show host and an evil scientist developing an army of pint-sized minions. Carmen Cortez (Alexa Vega) and her little brother, Juni, are their parents and the spy agency’s last hope.

12.

The Operative (2019)


Vertical Entertainment

It’s based on the Hebrew novel The English Teacher. A former intelligence officer (Diane Kruger) contacts her old spy buddy to help her get out of the game, but of course, he has to check the receipts to make sure she is worth the trouble. I personally believe this film laid the groundwork for Kruger’s entry into her ruthless character in The 355.

11.

Kim Possible: So The Drama (2005)


Buena Vista Television/Walt Disney Television

Don’t act surprised. You can’t tell me that this entire franchise wasn’t iconic. Originally meant to be the series finale, this animated hit show feature film saw crime-fighting Kimberly Ann Possible (voiced by Christy Carlson-Romano) go up against her evil nemesis Dr. Drakken and his fierce sidekick, Shego. Call me, beep me, if you want to reach me.

10.

Charlotte Gray (2001)


FilmFour Productions

It’s an adaptation of the 1999 Sebastian Faulks novel of the same name. In World War II France, a Charlotte Gray (Cate Blanchett) is recruited for the British Special Operations Executive, undergoing rigorous training to work with the French resistance in Nazi-occupied France. Grey is an amalgamation of various, real-life female SOE agents.

9.

Black Widow (2021)


Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Motion Pictures

It’s the long-awaited solo film of one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s veteran Avengers. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is a Black Widow who abandoned her dark past for the hero’s life. Still, everything she built falls apart when she is reunited with her younger sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). It took them long enough to give her a movie, and it was worth the wait.

8.

Get Smart (2008)


Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s based on the Mel Brooks and Buck Herny television show of the same name. The action-comedy is about an analyst for a top-secret intelligence agency who hopes to become a field agent one day. When the agency is attacked, he finally gets his chance and is partnered with a seasoned agent and my unsuspecting favorite princess, Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway).

7.

Point of No Return (1993)


Warner Bros.

The Point of No Return is a remake of the 1990 Luc Besson film La Femme Nikita. This version follows Maggie Hayward (Bridget Fonda), a violent drug addict sentenced to death for murdering a police officer. Instead of a death sentence, she is taken in by a secret government agent and given a makeover to become a trained assassin. 

6.

Harriet The Spy (1996)


Nickelodeon Studios/Paramount Pictures

It’s based on the 1964 Louise Fitzhugh novel of the same name. The coming-of-age comedy stars Nickelodeon legend Michelle Trachtenberg as Harriet Welsch, a young girl who aspires to be a spy and writer. Of course, her intentions are misguided when she uses her remarkable talents to pry into the lives of everyone in the town, including her best friends. This movie is what set me on the path of female spy fandom.

5.

Atomic Blonde (2017)


Focus Features

Based on The Coldest City’s graphic novel, top MI6 spy Lorraine (Charlize Theron) recounts her mission to recover to secret microfilm document concealed in a wristwatch. Except “recovering” to Lorraine means consistently getting in bone-breaking fights with everyone in Berlin. It’s a high-octane, action-packed film that pays homage to the raw intensity of female-led spy movies that came before.

4.

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)


New Line Cinema

An action spy thriller created by then powerhouse couple director Renny Harlin and Geena Davis. An amnesiac schoolteacher (Davis) in a small town living with her boyfriend and daughter was discovered on a beach eight years ago. When unexpected events begin to slowly jolt her memory, it becomes apparent that she might be a deadly spy with a dark past and many enemies. In one of his earlier roles, the film stars a hilarious Samuel L. Jackson solidifying him as one of the best co-stars in an action duo.

3.

Salt (2010)


Sony Pictures Releasing

After being accused of being a Russian sleeper agent, Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) runs from her CIA buddies to clear her name. No one is who they seem in this film of espionage, betrayal, and unconditional love. Initially, the film was set to star Tom Cruise but was written with Jolie in mind. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched this movie. I want to be either Tomb Raider or Evelyn Salt when I grow up.

2.

Mr. And Mrs. Smith (2005)


20th Century Fox

I’m starting to believe Angelina Jolie might actually be a spy at this point. It’s the film that broke Jennifer Aniston’s heart and started the good years of Brangelina. Jane Smith (Angelina Jolie) is a sexy spy who falls in love with a rival sexy spy (Brad Pitt), and neither one is aware of the other’s secret identity. What happens when everything is laid out on the table, and they’re forced to kill each other? I give you a hint, a lot of sexy spy stuff.

1.

La Femme Nikita (1990)


Gaumont Film Company

Luc Besson’s French action thriller set the groundwork for many remakes, adaptations, and variations that made it on the list. The violent junkie Nikita (Anne Parillaud) is sentenced to life in prison but is secretly brought in by a top-secret intelligence agency to become a deadly assassin. Many iconic scenes and homages were created about this movie, so I have to give it props. It was a great film, but of course, everyone in Hollywood had to make their own version five seconds later.



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