ByMichelle Ko, writer at Creators.co
Loves reading, writing, and everything film. Will be posting about lesser-known movies with a focus on indie production and Asian cinema.
Michelle Ko

With the summer blockbuster surge comes yet another addition to the spy genre in the form of [Jason Bourne](tag:3774734), but if you’re tired of the big names, and at times formulaic plots, many indie flicks offer equally outstanding if different interpretations of going undercover. Here are five spy movies that will not disappoint: one more action-based, another exploring excruciating morals and yet others boasting strong and intense plot lines.

5. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Is All About The Fun And Chic Side Of Espionage

Somewhat similar to the major spy thrillers but lighter, younger and funnier, [The Man From U.N.C.L.E.](tag:44548) features some good old-fashioned action and light-hearted CIA-KGB animosity for an entertaining watch. If you’re looking for a relaxing viewing experience without the usual disappointment after a crappy movie, this is the right choice.

Favorite quote:

"Kodachrome. The colors are so real, you can almost taste it."

4. The Lives of Others Recreates The Horrors Of A Totalitarian State

What are our boundaries of empathy and humanity, and how invested are we willing to be in the lives of others? These are the questions that drive this movie against a backdrop of Stasi-controlled East Berlin where no liberal thought is safe, not even within the walls of your own home. Deeply moving and thought-provoking, The Lives of Others makes up for its lack of action with intense drama and highly authentic portrayal of the GDR to bring to life a spy whose weapon is not guns but tapped wires.

Favorite quote:

"The state office for statistics on Hans-Beimler street counts everything; knows everything: how many pairs of shoes I buy a year: 2.3; how many books I read a year: 3.2; and how many students graduate with perfect marks: 6,347. But there's one statistic that isn't collected there, perhaps because such numbers cause even paper-pushers pain: and that is the suicide rate."

3. Munich Blurs The Line Between Titillation And The Obscenity Of War

In the aftermath of the 1972 Munich massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes, the secret service assembled a team of avengers to hunt down the Palestinians allegedly involved. Cut off from all official ties with their government, the team hunted down the assassins one by one across the world, trading friends for enemies and the living for the dead. This Spielberg classic has everything you’d expect from the genre from the constant thrill to high-stake intelligence and action, but also a well-constructed plot and deep reflections.

Favorite quote:

"We deposit money from a fund that doesn't exist into a box we don't know about in a bank we've never set foot in. We can't help you because we never heard of you before."

2. Lust, Caution: Conflicts Of The State, The Body And The Mind

When a student-turned-spy from the KMT government tries to lure an agent who works for the Japanese puppet state, she finds herself falling into the trap of lust and desire she had set up. Slick and always on the brink of crisis, the plot drives her to the slippery slope where she juggles choices between love, loyalty, patriotism, or her life. A must-see, Lust, Caution made a huge splash when it first came out with its erotic beauty and great cast, winning director Ang Lee his second Golden Lion and actress Tang Wei domestic backlash but ultimate recognition.

Favorite quote:

"Then you must be very lonely," she says. "But I'm still alive," he replies.

1. Infernal Affairs Makes You Question Your Identity

Have the police force and a local gang each plant a spy in the ranks of their mortal enemy, and you’re at the entrance of the complex and chilling world of Infernal Affairs. When a crisis reveals the existence of both spies, the two struggle to survive as they navigate the conflicting interests of different parties. At the end of the day, this is a story about finding one’s way back into the light with a name and an identity, things you and I take for granted every day.

Favorite quote:

"What thousands must die, so that Caesar may become the great."


Apart from guns and explosions, spy movies can be a reservoir for intriguing stories, great acting and highly aesthetic visuals. More importantly, it prompts questions of what we stand for and the lengths we're prepared to go for them from creative angles, making the genre ever more interesting.

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