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12 Best Movies Like The Gray Man

Joe and Anthony Russo's "The Gray Man" has added yet another entry to the long list of "rogue spy" action movies — a genre in which the brothers previously dabbled with their Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans as two former colleagues caught in a cat-and-mouse game, the film also features the talents of Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Dhanush, and Alfre Woodard, among others.

Of course, when you make a film in such a longstanding genre — especially one as loaded with clichés and archetypes as the spy thriller — you're bound to draw comparisons to previous films. Spies have always been a popular focus of the big screen, and every decade has had its share of cinematic rogue agents embroiled in world-threatening action.

If "The Gray Man" is your first dip into the genre, or if you're just looking for some more tense adventures in a similar style, there are plenty of other films both new and old that are fully worthy of your time. From thrillers that redefined the genre to comedies that spoofed every cliché in the book, here are 12 of the best spy movies like "The Gray Man" that you should watch next.

Atomic Blonde

"Atomic Blonde" may be an action movie first and foremost — and a masterfully executed one at that — but it's also a Cold War spy thriller. Led by a powerhouse performance from Charlize Theron as MI6 operative Lorraine Broughton, the story centers around the hunt for a valuable piece of microfilm in the days leading up the fall of the Berlin Wall.

If you like double-agent twists and shifting alliances, "Atomic Blonde" will surely satisfy you, and it may even make your head spin. Characters are constantly uncovering new secrets, and it's nearly impossible to tell who's on what side at any given moment. That's all well and good for the spy fans in the audience, but it's not the only draw to "Atomic Blonde;" that would be the action sequences.

Much has been written at publications like Variety and GQ about the finesse and detail that went into creating the film's most complicated set pieces, and the action isn't any less impressive years after the fact. Theron is absolutely riveting in the leading role, and her ingenuity in combat would give John Wick reason to be impressed. If you enjoy explosive chases and fights as much as you enjoy subterfuge — a balance that "The Gray Man" also tries to strike — then "Atomic Blonde" should be next on your list.

The Bourne Identity

If you're a fan of action films, or spy thrillers, or just modern movies in general, there's a good chance that you've already seen "The Bourne Identity." The film debuted to rave reviews in 2002, giving the genre a shot in the arm of ceaseless momentum and intensity for the new millennium.

Based on the 1980 Robert Ludlum novel of the same name, the movie follows top-secret U.S. black ops agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) after he loses his memory during a high-profile assassination mission. It's a classic game of cat and mouse, with Bourne running all around Europe in search of answers while also being targeted by the agency he used to serve. If you're a fan of the genre and somehow haven't yet given the film a watch, now's a perfect time to fix that. And if you've seen it a dozen times, there's nothing wrong with one more.

Perhaps the best thing about "The Bourne Identity" is that its two direct sequels are arguably even better. 2004's "The Bourne Supremacy" and 2007's "The Bourne Ultimatum" raise both the stakes and the pacing of Bourne's action-packed story, completing one of the best action movie trilogies to date. If you love seeing your spy main character outsmart every enemy and flaunt his skill while doing it, this is the series for you. Just steer clear of "The Bourne Legacy" and "Jason Bourne" and you'll be fine.

Three Days of the Condor

While certainly not the original rogue spy thriller, 1975's "Three Days of the Condor" is on the shortlist of the most influential entries in the genre. One of the many movies Robert Redford made with director Sydney Pollack, the film follows CIA analyst Joseph Turner (Redford) — a man who, on what can only be described as a particularly unfortunate day at work, shows up to the office to find his entire team murdered.

Though he's not a fighter by trade, Turner goes on the run and fends off a number of attacks from mysterious assailants, slowly learning that there's hardly anyone left in his old organization who he can really trust. It's a story that's clearly driven by the decade's post-Watergate disillusionment with government agencies, a foundation that many modern viewers will still be able to relate to. Redford is great, the script is solid and tense, and there's a fun retro style about the whole movie that keeps it feeling timeless decades later.

If you're only looking for newer movies with big, bombastic action, this one may not be for you. But if you're open to slowing down the pace a bit and turning back the clock, you may see why the critics of the day raved about "Three Days of the Condor."


While not a spy movie per se, Steve McQueen's "Widows" mirrors many of the style and structural elements that make the genre so entertaining. Part heist flick, part political drama, and part revenge thriller, the film stars Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki as three women widowed after their husbands die in a failed heist. Facing pressure from multiple sides to pay off the men's debts, they instead decide to take fate into their own hands and commit a massive robbery to set things right.

With an incredible ensemble supporting cast including Cynthia Erivo, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, and Robert Duvall, it should come as no surprise that "Widows" received immense praise upon its release. If you're less interested in actual espionage and more interested in fast-paced films with shifting alliances and games of cat and mouse, then it should check just about every box. The highlight is absolutely Davis' leading performance as Veronica Rawlings — a character who easily could have fallen down a hole of clichés, but who becomes rich and nuanced through the actor's skilled portrayal.

In short, "Widows" has just about everything a suspenseful thriller needs to excel: a complex plot of moving pieces, a cast of world-class stars, some major late-game twists, and a level of emotional intensity that should keep you glued to your seat from start to finish.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

The "Mission: Impossible" movies have become one of the biggest and most successful spy film franchises of all time, and "Ghost Protocol" is the entry that really started pushing it over the top. While the prior three films did well in their own right, the series didn't really become a box office juggernaut until the soft revival of "Ghost Protocol."

You could make the argument that the film's sequels, "Rogue Nation" and "Fallout," are even better than "Ghost Protocol," but if you want to check out all of them, this is the place to start. Ethan Hunt's (Tom Cruise) scaling of the Burj Khalifa set the standard for the "Mission: Impossible" franchise's mind-breaking stunts, and the ensemble cast does an excellent job of keeping things fresh and exciting in between set pieces.

The other reason "Ghost Protocol" earns a spot on this list over its successors is that it plays into the same kind of "rogue agent" story as "The Gray Man." After being framed for an international crime, the IMF is left to their own devices to stop a dangerous terrorist and clear their names. The plot places Hunt and the rest of his team in a situation where they really have to use all of their wits and ingenuity to get out alive, making the whole movie a wildly entertaining ride.

Enemy of the State

Starring Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, and Regina King, 1998's "Enemy of the State" is a classic cat-and-mouse thriller in the style of classics like "Three Days of the Condor." Smith plays Bobby Dean, a lawyer who accidentally gets tied into a massive government conspiracy involving corrupt intelligence officials and a high-profile investigation. Needless to say, Bobby has to go on the run from his own government as he tries to unravel what's going on and how to make it out alive.

While "Enemy of the State" isn't the most original film in terms of its story, Smith and Hackman make it well worth the watch. Smith in particular is just as suave and charismatic as the best spy movie stars throughout history, and while his character isn't a secret agent himself, it's a lot of fun to see his lawyer brain unravel the puzzle in an effort to come out on top.


It takes a lot of qualities to play a spy on the big screen — charm, intensity, intimidation, and coolness, just to name a few. By those guidelines, it's hard to think of a better star to play a secret agent than Angelina Jolie. And in "Salt," Phillip Noyce's thriller costarring Andre Braugher, Liev Schreiber, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, she gets to do just that.

Like "The Gray Man," "Salt" is a story about a CIA operative on the run from her own agency. The twist is that Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is both the heroic protagonist and the deadly sleeper agent. Or is she? The film's plot is more than a little convoluted, and it certainly doesn't hesitate to embrace tropes and familiar twists, as the critics will happily tell you. And yet, while "Salt" is far from the tightest or the most original spy thriller on the market, Jolie's performance is entertaining enough to make the film worth watching.

"Salt" isn't the greatest spy movie ever made, or even the best one on this list, but it excels in the categories of style and charisma. In this genre, those count for a whole lot, and it's hard to be upset when Jolie's unmatched movie star status is leading the way.


It's hard to assemble a list of standout spy movies without including at least one appearance from James Bond. And while 007 has ventured into rogue agent territory on several occasions, "Skyfall" is probably the best instance of him having to scrap for survival on his own. While he isn't ousted by MI6, the nature of James Bond's (Daniel Craig) conflict with villain Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) forces him to think outside the box and rough it solo, especially in the final act of the film.

"Skyfall" is regularly ranked as one of the best "James Bond" movies ever, and it's easy to see why. Not only is the plot more personal for Bond than normal, but the film also flips a lot of the character's usual advantages and tendencies on their heads. The final showdown at Bond's childhood home is a brilliant and ingenious blend of "Home Alone" creativity and brutal one-man-army resolve, and it shows better than perhaps any other moment in the franchise why 007 is held in such high regard.

At the end of the day, movies like "The Gray Man" are fun because they're designed to push their protagonists to their limits. It's entertaining to see one of the most skilled spies in the world be stripped of their resources and support systems, because it forces them to really dig deep. That's what "Skyfall" does to the James Bond character, yielding one of the greatest outings the famous agent has ever had.

Central Intelligence

With all the twists, double-crosses, and assassinations present in the spy thriller genre, it's not the worst idea to take a step back and have a laugh every once in a while. And if you're looking for a rogue spy story with a ton of heart and two hilarious leading stars, then look no further than 2016's "Central Intelligence."

Led by the powerhouse comedic duo of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart, "Central Intelligence" spoofs the spy genre without ever becoming too goofy for its own good. It's more of an action comedy than a straight-up parody, but Hart and Johnson are so charismatic together that you'd be forgiven for overlooking the more serious moments. Comedy in an action thriller is also a particularly difficult thing to pull off, which makes it even more impressive that "Central Intelligence" works so well.

As far as the "rogue agent" aspect of "Central Intelligence" goes, pretty much every major base gets covered. You get both of the genre's most common archetypes with Johnson's Robbie Weirdicht (a top-level operative on the run from corrupt superiors) and Hart's Calvin Joyner (a mild-mannered accountant who's swept into a world of danger far beyond his ability to comprehend). Because these two characters pull so heavily from established tropes, it's impressive that they both end up feeling like real, likable characters. Turns out, if you hire two great comedic actors with excellent on-screen chemistry, you can make nearly anything work.


When it comes to cat and mouse movies, there is perhaps none more absurd than John Woo's 1997 action circus "Face/Off." You may already be familiar with the premise, but for those who aren't, the film stars John Travolta as FBI agent Sean Archer and Nicolas Cage as dangerous criminal Castor Troy — two men on opposite sides of the law locked in a vicious cycle of vengeance. Of course, the actors only end up playing those roles for part of the movie, as the characters switch faces midway through, becoming one another.

If that sounds wild, you don't know the half of it. From start to finish, "Face/Off" is ever-escalating exercise in absurdity — a testament both to Woo's creativity and style as a director of action flicks and to Travolta and Cage's predilection for playing unhinged maniacs. While story isn't exactly the spy saga that "The Gray Man" and other entries on this list are, there is perhaps no other film that takes the cat and mouse idea to such a ridiculous level. "Face/Off" received high praise back in the day, and it remains a fan favorite decades later.

If you're more interested in ludicrous entertainment value than you are in highbrow plotting and intellectual intrigue, you'll probably have a fantastic time watching "Face/Off."

Infernal Affairs

Most American audiences are probably more familiar with Martin Scorsese's Best Picture-winning adaptation of "Infernal Affairs" — 2006's "The Departed" — than they are with the original Hong Kong cop thriller. That's understandable, but it's also a gap that should be remedied, as "Infernal Affairs" is a thrilling rollercoaster in its own right and well deserving of your time.

If you've seen "The Departed," then you'll already know the basic setup. Two Hong Kong police officers — one a secret mole planted by triad kingpin Hon Sam (Eric Tsang) and the other an undercover cop sent to infiltrate Hon's organization — are caught in an intricate web while hunting for each other. It's a fantastic premise that delivers a nonstop parade of tense situations, complicated lies, and exciting chases, ultimately ending in a deadly confrontation.

Once you finish "Infernal Affairs," you'll realize just how much of the success of "The Departed" is owed directly to the 2002 film. Entire scenes are recreated beat for beat in the Scorcese picture, and while Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson are excellent, there's something un-mimicable about the style and tension of the original.


For those who prefer a little science fiction with their cat-and-mouse thrillers, "Looper" is a great way to go — especially if you've already seen "Minority Report" (and let's face it, you probably have). The 2012 Rian Johnson film asks a brilliant question: What if both hitmen chasing after each other in a movie were actually the same person from two different points in time? If that sounds genius or confusing, rest assured that it's both.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a professional hitman from the future whose life gets turned upside down after encountering an older version of himself (Bruce Willis). The two engage in an extended and complicated series of pursuits, all of which are made more dangerous by the involvement of the powerful future crime syndicate Joe works for. Emily Blunt and Paul Dano co-star, rounding out a tight but talented cast that shines in Johnson's complex story.

The cat-and-mouse spy thriller relies on the relationship between the two lead characters. Whether it's vengeance, brotherhood, or some other force that connects them, that tie is what imbues the action with so much tension. By pitting the perfect hunter against himself in that kind of story, "Looper" opens up a ton of exciting opportunities, while also handling some pretty heavy philosophical questions. It's taut, creative, and incredibly smart, while still delivering the strict entertainment value that fans expect from the genre.