A Former Spy Offers His Top 5 Spy Films

Courtesy of Penguin Random House; Gillian Shaw
Frederick Forsyth and the cover of his upcoming memoir, 'The Outsider'

Upon the release of 'Bridge of Spies,' 'The Day of the Jackal' author Frederick Forsyth, 77, whose new memoir 'The Outsider' details his own past as an MI-6 operative, reveals his favorite screen depictions of a world he knows well.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Frederick Forsyth, 77, the acclaimed author of such bestselling spy thrillers as The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File and The Devil's Alternative has just published The Outsider, a memoir about his life.

It turns out Forsyth’s real-life story is as thrilling as his books: the youngest pilot in the RAF, a celebrated journalist in such global hotspots as East Berlin, Nigeria during its civil war and Ireland, and an operative for British Intelligence. Along the way, arms dealers in Germany threatened him, the Israelis sold him secrets and the British had him smuggling packages across the Iron Curtain.

In conjunction with the release of The Outsider and the opening of the new Steven Spielberg-Tom Hanks thriller Bridge of Spies, Forsyth picked his five favorite spy movies for THR:

1. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965)

"It was the first movie that said there is no glamour in espionage. It's grubby, dishonorable people doing dishonorable things, with trickery and deception and lying through your teeth. And it's got a magnificent performance by Richard Burton."

2. The Ipcress File (1965)

"Back then, spy movies presumed that anybody who was a British spy would [have] a beautiful, posh accent, and suddenly here was this insolent cockney, Harry Palmer [Michael Caine], which was groundbreaking."

3. Funeral in Berlin (1966)

"When I was a journalist, I was the only Western correspondent in East Berlin in the year after the wall went up [in 1961]. Funeral in Berlin was about an agent [played by Caine] being pitted against the East German regime on the other side of the wall. It was memory lane for me to see famil­iar streets, Checkpoint Charlie and the wall."


Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor.

4. Three Days of the Condor (1975)

"I'd always watch [Robert] Redford. [And] the wonderful John Houseman plays the director of the CIA. Houseman is actually a Romanian refugee. Where he learned English, God knows, because he always spoke with this extraordinary accent straight out of Oxford University."

5. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

"The story was a groundbreaker because one of the team of spies was a traitor. Which one? In real life, James Jesus Angleton [the CIA's counterintelligence chief from 1954 to 1975] became convinced there was a high-ranking traitor inside the CIA. He went to his grave convinced."

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