James Bond. Okay, we’re done. That’s right, unless we get the 007lb gorilla out of the room right up front, you wonderful readers will be arguing ad nauseum about his placement and where/when he will fall on this list. Naturally, he takes number one. No question…and therefore, no suspense. Indeed, the truth remains that, within the entire espionage subgenre, there is no greater onscreen spy than Mr. Licensed to Kill himself. Whether he takes the persona of Sean Connery (still the upper most of the topper most) or Daniel Craig, Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan (the less said about Timothy Dalton, the better), Bond is the best, there is no questioning the conceit. In fact, there is probably no other character in any medium whose had the longevity, the impact, and the lasting appeal of the ultimate ‘60s jet setting secret agent.
So where does that leave the rest of the cinematic spies? Clearly, lower down the talent totem pole and jealous of the affection someone like Bond mandates. Scholars have shuffled through the character’s complicated oeuvre, measuring out his effectiveness and abilities in decades long debates and almost every movie to come down the pipeline since has modeled at least some aspect of their narrative approach or aesthetic from those crackerjack counterculture entertainments. Take the new to DVD/Blu-ray release of The Double. In an effective if minor thriller, Richard Gere plays a retired CIA agent brought back in to help the FBI track the identity of a Russian hitman named ‘Cassius.’ Of course, in the land of backstabbing and mixed allegiances, it could be anyone…and it all follows the formula that Bond and his creative buddies set down years before.