Samuel Brace on the highest-grossing spy movies in history…
The spy genre is without question one of the most beloved in movie history, producing countless classics with varying styles, aesthetics, and demographics in mind. The genre has also gone onto provide us with some of cinema’s most iconic characters, fictional heroes and villains, that have gone onto transcend not just the genre in their notoriety but the medium of film.
The latest blockbuster to enter the spy scene is Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth film in the franchise, and next vehicle for Tom Cruise’s spy hero Ethan Hunt. Mission: Impossible – Fallout is receiving rave reviews from critics and being hailed as one of the greatest action films in recent memory. Will Fallout’s critical success translate into box office triumph? It’s hard to say, the two don’t always, or even often, align. While we wait on the numbers, why don’t we have a look at some movies in the genre that managed to conquer the box office? Looking at the US market and live-action films only, let’s have a look at the five highest-grossing spy movies in history and see what Fallout will have to contend with upon its upcoming release.
5. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Some may be surprised to learn that Mission: Impossible is the only franchise to have two films featured on this list – quite the achievement considering some of the major series the spy genre is known for. 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was the series’ first entry in five years, its fourth overall, and sees Ethan Hunt and the IMF implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing the team to go rogue in order to clear their name. Directed by Brad Bird, Ghost Protocol was well received by critics and fans, scoring a 73 on Metacritic and 7.4 on IMDb.
US Box Office: $209,397,903
4. Austin Powers in Goldmember
On the other end of the genre’s spectrum and the only entry in this list from the classic spy spoof franchise Austin Powers, is the series’ third offering: Austin Powers in Goldmember. Designed as a loose parody of a number of James Bond movies, Goldmember continues the absurd comedic style the series became known for and saw Mike Myers return once more as the titular British spy to take on the villain Goldmember and the infamous Dr. Evil. Directed by series regular Jay Roach, Goldmember was received somewhat favourably, scoring a 62 on Metacritic and 6.2 on IMDb.
US Box Office: $213,307,889
3. Mission: Impossible II
Ethan Hunt returns once more to the list of the five highest-grossing spy movies ever, here in his second outing in the M:I series with the aptly named Mission: Impossible II. Released four years after the first movie (itself an adaptation of the popular television series of the same name), the film sees Cruise’s Ethan Hunt looking to destroy a chemical weapon obtained by a rogue IMF agent who is looking to start a pandemic. Mission: Impossible II was directed by the legendary John Woo in 2000 and received a mixed response from fans and critics with a 59 on Metacritic and 6.1 on IMDb.
US Box Office: $215,409,889
2. The Bourne Ultimatum
The only entry from the beloved Bourne franchise in the top five, The Bourne Ultimatum, released in 2007, is seen by many as not only the pinnacle of the series but one of the genre’s best ever offerings. Continuing a very loose adaption of Robert Ludlum’s seminal novels, the visceral action thriller sees Matt Damon’s amnesiac former secret agent uncover his true origins while furiously dodging CIA assassins. Directed by Paul Greengrass, returning to the chair following The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum was universally acclaimed by both audiences and critics, scoring an 85 on Metacritic and 8.0 on IMDb.
US Box Office: $227,471,070
Perhaps the biggest surprise upon analysing the five highest-grossing spy movies ever is learning that the genre’s most famous member James Bond, only appears once. He does top the list, however, in the vastly popular Daniel Craig outing Skyfall, released in 2012. The spy epic sees Bond up against a formidable foe as MI6 comes under attack and his loyalty to M, the agency’s head figure, tested to the extreme. Directed by Sam Mendes, Skyfall proved a sensation around the world and was met with acclaim in all corners with an 81 on Metacritic and 7.8 on IMDb.
US Box Office: $304,360,277