honorable mentions: Chuck Barris from Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Austin Powers (the awful sequels dropped him to six)
5. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in
The Spy: Ethan Hunt and his team of agents, led by Jon Voight back before everyone got tired of him. He’s set to catch a bad guy only to find it was all an elaborate mole hunt, and now almost all his friends are dead and the spooks think he’s responsible. What follows is a big mad dash to clear his name with a little attractive-older-lady-flirting thrown in on the side.
The Villain: In the end, the mole inside the company is Jon Voight, and he’s got a couple of followers (including ultracool Jean Reno) ready to do battle along side him. Of course you don’t really know this until about halfway through, so it’s a bit of a spoiler but you should already know about that anyway.
The Top Play: I’m always partial to the beginning operation when the whole team is still intact and fully functioning. But part of that affinity also comes from seeing them all get killed in crunchy, fiery, stabby ways. A big highlight. Also that Hannah was hot.
The reason it’s worth your buck: Way better than its followers, due most in part to a more focused development of characters and story, this movie’s best character will always be Eugene Kittridge (“What’re we gonna do, Barnes? Put a guy at th’airport?”) Ving Rhames played his typical laid back, cool fat guy type deal, and even Emilio Estevez makes a brief appearance. Ultimately, this movie helped set the bar in modern spy movies along with Goldeneye, and it’s definitely worth a watch.
The Spy: Avner, the Mossad agent who gets assigned the olympian task of tracking down the plotters behind Black September's attack in 1980. He's the son of a hero, and runs his cool little team of top secret agents, going from city to city killing the terrorists. If that's not enough stress, he's got a wife at home with a baby he's never met, and his team of hunters soon become hunted themselves.
The Villain: Everything's not so black and white in this movie. Yea, the guys behind Black September are definite bad guys, but Avner and his pals aren't really sure the guys their hunting were behind it; all the get are names of alleged terrorists. There's definitely more than one bad guy floating around, so be on the look out.
The Top Play: This one's easy. When they execute the naked chick.
The reason it’s worth your buck: Spielberg is always worth your buck, and this movie is a sure thing also. Foreign locales, 70's/80's influences, and hitmen. What else do you need?
3. John & Jane Smith (Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie) in Mr. & Mrs. Smith
The Spies: John & Jane Smith, a once passionate couple married for five or six years that is growing increasingly boring. She runs her team of hot chicks out of a fancy office skyscraper, equipped with the latest gadgets and guns necessary to get the job done. He works in a crappy two room office with Vince Vaughn and an old secretary. Both don’t know the other is a spy until they are assigned the same target and figure it out from there.
The Villain: You don’t really know at first. Then you find out that’s it’s both of their bosses trying to wipe them up for shacking up. Admittedly, the villains are kinda lame.
The Top Play: The no holds barred brawl inside the house was definitely a highlight in the movie. I’d love to be set loose in a huge house with lots of guns, but watching the both of them do it will have to do for now.
The reason it’s worth your buck: It’s funny, the chemistry was obviously heavy, and it ended up being a pretty damn good movie no matter what my indie-loving sister says. Go fucking watch it.
2. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) in The Bourne Identity
The Spy: Ever since being fished out of the Mediterranean, CIA agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has been suffering a pretty bad case of identity crisis. At r-tard speed, amnesiac Bourne pieces together vital clues to his life while trying to avoid a team of hit men out to punch his clock.
The Villain: The CIA brain trust led by Chris Cooper and Brian Cox enlists the talents of several freelance superagents to terminate Bourne; a job easier contracted than carried out. Coolest enemy agent goes to Clive Owen's The Professor.
The Top Play: The movie, directed by Doug Liman, has all the usual plot hooks — car chases, footraces and fistfights — but my favorite is the final deadly game of spy vs. spy between Bourne and The Professor in and around the old farmhouse. That scene always leaves me wanting to play Big Buck Hunter.
The reason it’s worth your buck: A deep cast including Cooper, Cox, Owen, and the likeable-at-first Franka Potente will keep you riveted in the downtime between all the pulsating action sequences. What's more, Damon sheds his crybaby-pussy image; this was the movie that saw his stock first rise.
1. James Bond (Fierce Brosnan) in Goldeneye
The Spy: The spy to end all spies, it has to be James Bond. And since I wasn’t close to being born in time to see the dinosaur Bond movies with Sean Connery, this one was my first big dose of James Bond and still the best dose in my opinion. Bond is every guy’s wish: nice cars, lots of girls, guns and gadgets, good looks and a cool accent. Bond is the ultimate benchmark in cinematic spies, and with the character’s 22nd movie approaching, it’s not hard to see why he’s stayed around so long.
The Villains: One of the best sets of Bond villains, this movie covered all of its bases. Cool, calculating former 00 Agent Alec Trevelyen (Sean Bean), hottest Bond girl ever Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), and grizzled veteran officer General Ouromov (don’t know his name). Even the Janus corporation and mass chaos plot were better than expected at the time. It’s hard to match a good villain up with Bond, but the writers knocked this one home.
The Top Play: The best part has to be Bond’s encounter with Valentine (Robbie Coltrane). A memorable Bond character who also appeared in The World Is Not Enough, Valentine had plenty of history with Bond (mostly bad), and now Bond needed his help. It was a great set up, the execution was great. Even Minnie Driver popped in for a cameo as a mistress with a lousy singing voice. Though no big explosions went off, great lines were everywhere in this scene.