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Top 25 Best CIA Movies Of All Time
Kritika-Updated Jan 17, 2023
The CIA is possibly the most powerful detective agency in not only the US but also the whole world.
Naturally, people have always been curious about their operations and work. Time and again brilliant filmmakers and actors have participated in giving us amazing detective and crime shows revolving around the operations and workings of the CIA and other similar intelligence services.
However, my list here today purely focuses on CIA movies only and contains some of the best CIA movies ever released.
Therefore, if you are a fan of criminal investigations and detective stories, you are in the right place.
25. Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)
The plot of Sicario begins with a Mexican drug cartel who were smuggling terrorists freely across the US borders threatening the entire nation’s safety.
Naturally, the CIA had to get involved. This time, it was CIA agent Matt Graver who was tasked with the job of stopping the cartel.
Since the operation was highly extensive and risky, he decided to ask another mysterious operative named Alejandro Gillick. Alejandro’s methods were different from Matt, he even ended up kidnapping the drug Kingpin’s daughter which greatly heightened the tension between the two opposing parties.
The girl’s father and the two CIA agents now got involved in a dangerous game involving a hostage situation.
Both parties must now decide how far they are willing to go with the girl as bait.
24. Mile 22 (2018)
The plot of the movie Mile 22 revolves around the dangerous mission undertaken by CIA operative James Silva. He forms a paramilitary team for the sake of carrying it out successfully.
They are to go to an American embassy located in South-East Asia. An informant holding highly sensitive information that can put a lot of things into jeopardy is supposedly hiding out in the embassy.
Silva and his team must pick him up from the embassy as covertly as possible and escort him safely to an airfield so he can be flown to safety as fast as possible.
However, the challenge lies in the fact that this highly covert mission involves a large distance – a total of 22 miles.
They must traverse this entire distance while trying to keep the informant safe from not only street gangs and criminals but also from the US military.
23. Monsters of Man (2020)
Monsters of Man depicts the classic struggle between man and machine in a rather brutal manner. It all began when a rogue CIA agent was adamant about pursuing an unsanctioned mission.
To aid his mission, he conspired with an AI company that built robots. The deal was that the company would help him out by launching several of their robots in a suspected drug processing camp situated in the Golden Triangle.
The robots were supposed to wipe out the criminals making the CIA’s job easier. In return, the company would be able to boast a significant achievement showing investors that their robots were indeed worth investing over.
However, once the robots were actually launched everything started going haywire. The robots started attacking and killing innocent villagers as well whilst the doctors stood and watched in horror.
22. The Forever Prisoner (2021)
The Forever Prisoner is essentially a documentary film that shows the various methods used by the CIA to uncover and extract information.
At the center of this film is a man named Abu Zubaydah who was a highly valuable captive under the CIA.
The plot then moves on to show the various tactics used by the CIA to uncover information and secrets from its prisoners.
Zubaydah was captured by the CIA soon after the tragic incident of 9/11. He was held captive in the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison cell.
While it was impossible to conduct a direct interview with someone in such a high-security prison, the filmmakers found other methods of communication.
Most of Zubaydah’s messages were relayed through hand drawings and a series of brief entries.
21. Without Remorse (2021)
The story of Without Remorse centers around a troubled CIA agent named John Kelly. He is a senior chief in the NAVY who has been involved with certain assassins in the past.
In order to take their revenge on him, the assassins murdered his pregnant wife. Kelly is now roaming about thirsty for revenge, adamant to pay back his wife’s murderers in kind.
During his revenge ploy, Kelly ends up discovering highly sensitive information about a grand plot and gets involved in something much larger than he had initially imagined.
In order to complete his mission, Kelly joined forces with another fellow NAVY Seal and a suspicious CIA operative.
Prior to this, Kelly had also helped rescue the CIA operative whose abductors were the Russian Military itself.
20. No Time to Die (2021)
You can always count on a James Bond movie to bring some high-class soy action. Despite being a Bond movie, it does not have much to do with the activities of the organization known as MI6.
It takes place after Bond retired from active spy duty and was enjoying a relaxing and peaceful life in the country of Jamaica.
However, his peace did not last too long. He was soon contacted by an old friend from the CIA who wanted his help on a highly sensitive mission failing which could cause catastrophic damage.
Both of them were to join forces to save an abducted scientist. The scientist possessed an invaluable and highly dangerous piece of technology that could have detrimental consequences in the wrong hands.
However, things were not as they seemed; the scientist they were out to rescue turned out to be more treacherous than they had expected.
19. The 355 (2022)
The 355 is an extremely rare CIA movie as it has an all-female main cast. While films have given us multiple amazing female spies, we scarcely get to see the entire main cast of a CIA movie being female.
The trouble began when a highly dangerous and powerful weapon was stolen and fell into the wrong hands. CIA agent Mason Brown must now make a difficult decision to salvage this tricky situation; she is forced to join hands with rival CIA agents to recover this weapon.
This includes agent Marie from Germany (who also used to work with the MI6 at one point), psychologist Graciela from Colombia, and a highly skilled tech expert named Khadija.
As the four embark on this high-risk mission, they come across a mysterious woman named Lin Mi Sheng. She is highly shrewd and the four must stay alert to stay one step ahead of her.
18. The Report (2019)
The main character of the film The Report is a Senate staffer by the name of Daniel Jones. One day Daniel’s boss asks him to take on the responsibility of a highly sensitive investigation.
He was asked to take a detailed look into the interrogation and detention programs of the CIA and the methods used by them to interrogate captives.
This movie has a theme similar to the documentary film “Forever Prisoner” and examines the gruesome treatment of prisoners after 9/11.
Needless to say, the premise of the film is based on real events. Once Daniel begins his investigation into the CIA’s methods, he uncovers horrifying information.
He finds solid evidence of illegal torture methods being used. He also discovers how the CIA habitually destroys evidence to hide information from American citizens.
17. American Made (2017)
The story of American Made has been inspired by the actual life story of a TWA pilot named Barry Seal.
At a time when there was an ongoing threat of an imminent Communist attack, the CIA asked Barry to help them out on a reconnaissance mission.
He was to monitor the growing communist threat that was rising in Central America and get back to the CIA with important information regarding their activities.
Being involved in the CIA’s mission drastically changed Barry’s life; he had to become a drug runner, a gun smuggler, and even a money launderer as a result of his covert mission.
This movie has received a lot of critical acclaim because of how it was able to portray a real story realistically without employing too much gore or violence in the plot.
16. Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)
The film takes place in Libya a year after the assassination of their political leader Muammar Gaddafi. After the sudden loss of its political leader, Libya fell into mass chaos and unrest.
There used to be about 20 US military outposts spread across the entire country however, after the death of Gaddafi all of it converged into just a single, unofficial CIA base in the town of Benghazi.
Thus the US agents were now drastically reduced and left in a restless country. The plot moves into motion when a group of Libyan militants surround the US base in CIA and start attacking those within.
This incident took place exactly a year after the devastating 9/11 incident.
15. Kill the Messenger (2014)
Kill the Messenger is another classic story about a whistleblower whose life was destroyed by the higher authorities for their honest actions.
The film is based on a real story regarding the life of a journalist named Gary Webb. Gary had uncovered some damning evidence that proved that the CIA was allowing the flow of crack and cocaine in the back neighborhoods of LA.
They were doing it in exchange for running ammunition and guns to groups of Anti-Communist Contras in Nicaragua. He published his discoveries in a series of stories released in 1996.
The CIA obviously did not let this go; they released highly damaging information regarding Webb that not only ruined his career but also his life.
14. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
The story of this movie revolves around the double life led by a highly intelligent man named Jack Ryan.
Jack lived a successful life as an executive but his life gets tangled with much bigger things once he uncovers a grand scheme.
It all began when he was brought in by the CIA to crunch some global data. But in the process, he was able to uncover a scheme that could potentially crash the US economy which would have repercussions all over the world.
After uncovering such sensitive information, Ryan became a key figure who was needed to solve this crisis. Thus, he became a shadow recruit for the CIA, secretly working for them while maintaining his regular life as usual.
Even his closest people, including his fiancé, were clueless about the double life he was leading.
13. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Zero Dark Thirty is a depiction of the US government’s war on terror after the horrible 9/11 incident. It was finally discovered that the man behind these attacks was the Al-Quaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
Thus he became a highly wanted criminal and a manhunt was deployed after him almost immediately. The hunt for Bin Laden lasted for almost two Presidential Administrations; it was also the beginning of the USA’s long infiltration of Pakistan in search of Laden.
The main protagonist of this film is a CIA operative named Maya who was a key figure in locating the exact location of Bin Laden.
The film’s script was created before the actual assassination of Laden; after the actual incident took place, the script was modified to better match reality.
12. Safe House (2012)
The film starts out slow with a rookie CIA agent, Matt Weston, being unsatisfied with his uneventful posting in South Africa.
He is tired of his current posting and desperate to prove his skills to the agency. A chance finally arrives for him when the CIA brings in a Turn Coat Operative named Tobin Frost.
Tobin was to be taken to a safe house for negotiation and debriefing and the task of seeing it through was entrusted to Matt Weston.
Excited about finally getting his big break, Matt accompanies Tobin to the safe house but things don’t go as planned.
The duo faces a sudden attack from armed mercenaries and somehow manages to run away alive. Now a CIA agent and a supposed criminal must put their heads together to uncover who is trying to have them murdered.
11. Hopscotch (1980)
The story of Hopscotch is based on a bestselling novel by Brian Garfield. The protagonist of this movie is a CIA operative named Miles Kendig.
After a slip-up on the part of Miles which allows a KGB agent to escape, his boss threatens to fire him.
However, Miles does not wait around for him to see through his threat and hands in his resignation to the agency himself.
He destroys his own records too as he did not want the CIA to tail him. He goes and settles far away in Austria where he decides to start writing a book of memoirs.
In his book, he aimed to expose all of the CIA’s covert operations, at least the ones he was aware of.
When the CIA gets wind of this, agents are immediately sent after him. This sets in motion a cat-and-mouse chasing game between the CIA and Miles.
10. Spy Game (2001)
The movie Spy Game depicts the elaborate and intelligent game played by veteran CIA agent Nathan Muir to save one of his associates who, he believes, has been wrongly accused.
The associate here is a man named Tom Bishop who was also Muir’s protégé. Bishop was suddenly arrested in China on the grounds of espionage.
Muir tried to as the US Agency for help but they were reluctant to interfere as they thought it might interfere with an upcoming Trade Agreement with China.
Given Muir’s history with Bishop, he simply could not bring himself to give up on him. The movie shows him coming up with elaborate plans and techniques to convince the US government to help Bishop and set him free.
9. The Courier (2020)
The Courier brings with it a collaboration to highly revered detective agencies – M16 and the CIA. It all began when M16 received a letter from a man named Oleg Penkovsky who was a spy source operating from Russia.
In this letter, Oleg had expressed his concern regarding the disturbance of global peace and how he was wary of a nuclear war breaking out.
After getting this information, the M16 and the CIA banded together to stop the imminent atrocities. They decided to try and recruit an unwilling British businessman named Greville Wyne to gain more information by posing as a simple businessman trying to open businesses in Russia.
Both Penkovsky and Wynn ultimately end up getting caught but Oleg insists that Greville was nothing but a “courier” of information to him.
The movie is based on a true story that took place during the Second World War.
8. My Spy (2020)
While most spy movies have dark and sinister plotlines, the 2020 movie My Spy is a pleasant break from all of that.
It all begins when a CIA operative called J J botches up an important Uranium deal in Ukraine. Now he must go to Chicago to keep an eye on the relatives of the people that got away during the deal.
The first surveillance target happens to be an ER nurse called Kate and her 9-year-old daughter Sophie. J J goes on his surveillance mission with his partner Bobbi.
Whilst Bobbi is exceptionally good at technology, he barely has any field experience which only adds to the comedic experience of the film.
While doing their usual surveillance they are caught by young Sophie. J J must now find a way to convince Sophie to not blow their cover; she agreed to his demand but on one condition – he must teach her how to be a spy.
7. Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Three Days of the Condor revolves around the life of a CIA researcher and codebreaker named Joe Turner. Turner came to the office one day, hoping to follow his usual routine but ended up witnessing a gruesome scenario instead – all his CIA colleagues were assassinated and laid lifeless in front of him.
Utterly confused and devastated, Turner tried to go to his superiors for help but he hardly received any. Later he was able to uncover that it was the higher-ups themselves who had ordered the assassination.
With his own agency against him, Turner had no other option but to flee; the CIA even sent a skilled Hitman after him.
Turner must now find a way to survive and find out why his superiors wanted him dead.
6. Jason Bourne (2016)
The movie Jason Bourne revolves around the life of Jason Bourne after he quit his job as a CIA agent.
Whilst in the CIA, Bourne was one of their deadliest officers however, he did not agree with the CIA’s methods.
He quit his life as an agent after disclosing information regarding the CIA’s Operation Blackbriar. For years, he lived in seclusion, surviving on meager means.
He continued to support another whistleblower looking to disclose other dirty secrets of the CIA. It was somewhere around this time that a hacktivist named Nicky Parsons hacks into the CIA directory and download classified information about their Black Ops members and operations.
Agent Heather Lee gets wind of this breach and informs her superior immediately. After that, she is ordered to go on a mission to capture Nicky Parsons and hopefully Bourne too.
5. Tenet (2020)
The story of Tenet revolves around an unknown CIA operative who is given the name “The Protagonist”. He is assigned a highly important global mission that transcends his perception of dreams and reality.
He is informed that, in the future, a Russian oligarch would be the reason behind causing a devastating Third World War and he has been tasked with stopping this from happening.
There is only one way for him to stop an event that is supposed to take place in the future – he must learn the art of time inversion.
Thus begins his journey of trying to master this mysterious art in order to prevent a catastrophe in the future.
Tenet is one of the rare CIA movies that involve supernatural forces. You get the goodness of crime investigation coupled with fascinating concepts of time and reality.
4. Anna (2019)
Anna is a young Russian who was a victim of terrible child abuse and was ready to do anything to escape her situation.
She was recruited as a KGB agent at a very young age. She became a highly skilled assassin dedicated to serving the KGB.
Her direct boss was a man named Olga; she would kill whomever Olga asked her to kill to get on his good books.
On the surface, she was a highly successful queer model. She even lived with another woman named Maud. She continued both parts of her life seamlessly until the CIA finally caught up to her.
The CIA gives her an ultimatum – either she has to agree to work with them or she will get thrown into a jail cell.
This leads to the beginning of a series of deceptions and mind games that she plays in order to save herself from this tricky situation.
3. Red Sparrow (2018)
The primary protagonist of the Red Sparrow is Dominika Egorova. She used to be a successful ballerina but an unfortunate injury led to the end of our career.
After the end of her journey as a ballerina, she gets recruited into a Russian Intelligence Service known as the “Sparrow School”.
Here she goes through intensive training and attains multiple skills; this includes hand-to-hand combat, handling firearms, and using her sexuality for deception and manipulation.
Dominika graduated at the top of her class at Sparrow School. In her very first mission, she was given the task of seducing and manipulating a CIA agent to uncover his prime informant working in Russia.
The movie is filled with mind games and strong sexual tension between both parties.
2. The Good Shepherd (2006)
The Good Shepherd tells the life story of one of the founding members of the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA – James Jesus Angleton.
Though the version shown in the film is highly fictionalized and only has loose, minor connections to reality. Matt Damon plays the role of Angleton via his film persona Edward Wilson.
The movie is told mostly in flashbacks as the audience is taken on a journey – the journey via which Edward gradually rose to the top and became the head of America’s largest intelligence agency.
The movie is shot during a difficult time when the CIA was not only facing constant threats from the KGB but the world was also entering the Cold War era.
Edward must now decide whether he can continue to prioritize duty over family.
1. Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
Charlie Wilson’s War revolves around how a dedicated trio managed to help the Afghans win the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
The movie has plenty of chilling real-life instances coupled with highly intelligent tactics and mind games. As the title suggests, the main protagonist here is a man named Charlie Wilson.
Charlie was not a covert operative but only a Congressman. However, things take an unforeseen turn after he decides to visit an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan.
A series of incidents lead him to join hands with a Texas socialite and a CIA agent as they worked together to support Afghanistan’s efforts against the Soviet Union.
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