The 50 Best Spy TV Shows Ever << Rotten Tomatoes – Movie and TV News

(Photo by FX)

The 50 Best Spy TV Shows Ever

Deciding which series are worthy of inclusion on a list of the best spy shows and streaming series ever is a matter of mystery itself.

With its propensity for disguises, double-crosses, and surveillance, FX’s Cold War–era drama The Americans, is certainly about spies. But the series — which has a 96% series-level Tomatometer score, every season of which is Certified Fresh (including one 100% CF season), and is regarded by critics as one of the greatest shows in this Golden Age of Television — is also about marriage, parenting, and history’s winning side’s ability to whitewash facts. Should it receive a lower ranking on our ultimate spy show list than a classic like CBS’s Mission: Impossible? Also of note: They both have catchy theme songs.

Where should a complicated sci-fi caper like Starz’s Counterpart stand? The series, which returns for season 2 on December 9, finished off its first season with one of those rare, perfect 100% Certified Fresh Tomatometer scores. It stars J.K. Simmons as both a mild-mannered bureaucratic pencil pusher and his aggro alt-universe counterpart, who hunt dangerous reality-hopping spies.

The espionage stories of John le Carré have also had televised adaptations. Le Carré’s The Night Manager (featuring one of Britain’s top Toms) and, most recently, The Little Drummer Girl both aired on AMC, are Certified Fresh at 90% on the Tomatometer, and rank high on our spy series list.

Spycraft can also be quite funny, as in Mel Brooks and Buck Henry’s beloved Get Smart, which ran on NBC and CBS in the late ’60s, and the long-running animated FX comedy Archer, which has a 93% Tomatometer score.

We considered more than Tomatometer scores to finalize our spy show ranking, however; we also looked at variables like how many seasons each series has, how each of those seasons scored, how many reviews determined those scores, and whether those seasons were Certified Fresh, We looked at other reputable media lists of top spy series to help gauge where to place some classic series without enough reviews to register a Tomatometer score, and then applied a dose of editorial discretion to break some ties and rank some titles based on their cultural resonance.

Check out Rotten Tomatoes’ list of best spy shows ever before it self destructs in three … two … just kidding. Like the FBI’s most wanted list, we’ll keep updating this dossier as more information becomes available.

X Company (2015)

#50
Synopsis: Spy drama about five American, British and Canadian recruits to a World War II espionage school.... [More]

#49
Synopsis: A case officer at a Berlin CIA station tries to unearth the source of a leak in this drama.... [More]

Spies Of Warsaw (2013)
71%

#48
Synopsis: A French military attaché is drawn into a world of betrayal in the diplomatic salons of Warsaw in the years... [More]

Sleeper Cell (2005)
77%

#47
Synopsis: A federal agent goes undercover to infiltrate a group of Islamic terrorists in Los Angeles.... [More]

Quantico (2015)
70%

#46
Synopsis: A drama about FBI trainees at the FBI Academy in Quantico, one of whom is a sleeper agent who will... [More]

The Equalizer (1985)

#45
Synopsis: A cult favorite about an enigmatic former government agent who turns vigilante, offering his services as a one-man security force... [More]

MacGyver (1985)

#44
Synopsis: The popular adventures of a resourceful former Special Forces operative, who undertakes impossible missions at the behest of a crimefighting... [More]

The Saint (1962)

#43
Synopsis: A pre-James Bond Roger Moore plays the urbane, Robin Hood-like Simon Templar, who may skirt the law, but always for... [More]

#42
Synopsis: A drama based on the true lives of America's earliest spies, the Revolutionary War-era Culper Ring.... [More]

Hunted (2012)
76%

#41
Synopsis: A spy series about a private-security agent who returns to work a year after an attempt on her life, a... [More]

#40
Synopsis: British sci-fi series about a scientist who develops a potion that renders him invisible. Unfortunately, he doesn't have an antidote... [More]

#39
Synopsis: Aaron Spelling's jiggly classic about gorgeous gumshoes working for an unseen boss garnered as much derision as it did male... [More]

Human Target (2010)
75%

#38
Synopsis: Using the popular DC Comics title as a springboard for riveting and intelligent action and adventure, Human Target provides a... [More]

#37
Synopsis: Young, beautiful and condemned to death for a vicious crime she didn't commit, Nikita is given a second chance to... [More]

Synopsis: Debonair burglar Alexander Mundy is released from jail when he agrees to work for a U.S. agency in this genial... [More]

#35
Adjusted Score: 100.556%
Critics Consensus: Sharply intelligent, visually striking, and bracingly bleak, The Prisoner remains a political metaphor for the ages.
Synopsis: An imaginative, mesmerizing---and enigmatic---British cult series about a character known only as Number 6 (series creator Patrick McGoohan) who, after... [More]

#34
Synopsis: Two Secret Service Agents, equipped with a wide array of gizmos, work for the government in the Old West.... [More]

Spy (2011)
100%

#33
Synopsis: A man unexpectedly stumbles into a career with MI5 after quitting his mundane job at a computer store.... [More]
Directed By: Ben Taylor

Thunderbirds (0)
100%

#32
Synopsis: An eccentric millionaire and his five sons make up an international rescue team who use a Thunderbird spacecraft to come... [More]
Directed By: David Lane, Brian Burgess

#31
Synopsis: An action-adventure series following Peggy Carter as she does undercover work for Howard Stark while also holding down a routine... [More]

#30
Synopsis: A dramatic thriller based on novelist Tom Clancy's CIA operative as he begins his career in the spy game.... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Sackheim

Patriot (2015)
91%

#29
Synopsis: An intelligence officer takes an undercover assignment in Iran, but PTSD spells, incompetency in the federal government and the challenges... [More]

Archer (2009)
90%

#28
Synopsis: An animated comedy spanning time and place to follow the misadventures of suave spy Sterling Archer and his misguided cohorts... [More]
Directed By: Bryan Fordney

London Spy (2015)
86%

#27
Synopsis: A gay man is drawn into the dangerous world of espionage when his boyfriend, who works for the Secret Intelligence... [More]

Person Of Interest (2011)
92%

#26
Synopsis: A presumed-dead ex-CIA agent and a billionaire software genius try to stop crimes before they happen.... [More]

#25
Synopsis: Teams overcome obstacles as they try to get from point A to point B.... [More]

Nikita (2010)
85%

#24
Synopsis: A spy emerges from hiding to seek revenge on a clandestine government agency that betrayed her after rescuing her as... [More]

Burn Notice (2007)
88%

#23
Synopsis: A spy attempts to uncover why he was kicked out of the business while helping Miami locals who can't rely... [More]

Covert Affairs (2010)
93%

#22
Synopsis: An inexperienced CIA trainee with top-notch linguistic skills becomes a field operative under mysterious circumstances in this action-drama series.... [More]

Synopsis: A flawless adaptation of John le Carre's spy novel about the search for a Soviet mole who has burrowed into... [More]

Smiley's People (1982)
100%

#20
Synopsis: British master spy George Smiley returns for a final encounter with his deadly Soviet counterpart, Karla, in an Emmy-nominated adaptation... [More]

#19
Synopsis: Inspector Gereon Rath, shell-shocked from his service in World War I, uncovers a dangerous web of intrigue when he investigates... [More]

The Blacklist (2013)
91%

#18
Synopsis: For decades, ex-government agent Raymond "Red" Reddington has been one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives. Brokering shadowy deals for... [More]

Adjusted Score: 99.376%
Critics Consensus: The Little Drummer Girl marches to a steady beat of assured plotting, extraordinary art direction, and a uniformly terrific cast that makes the show's smolderingly slow burn pace bearable.
Synopsis: The drama series is based on the novel of the same name written by John le Carré and follows the... [More]

Adjusted Score: 94.577%
Critics Consensus: The Night Manager's smart writing and riveting story are elevated all the more by Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston's captivating performances.
Synopsis: Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), a former British soldier turned night manager in a luxury hotel in Cairo, ends up in... [More]

Adjusted Score: 91.814%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and powerfully written, The Looming Tower delivers gripping counter-terrorism drama rendered even more soberingly effective through its roots in real-life events.
Synopsis: This drama series exposes the increasing danger of Al-Qaeda in the late 1990s, focusing on how the clash between the... [More]

Synopsis: An action-adventure series based on the Marvel Comics secret-intelligence organization headed by Agent Phil Coulson.... [More]

The Game (2014)
95%

#13
Synopsis: British spies in 1972 London attempt to stop a secret Soviet plot to destroy Britain.... [More]
Directed By: Niall MacCormick

Deutschland 83 (2015)
91%

#12
Synopsis: German-language spy drama set in the 1980s has a 24-year-old East German native go undercover in West Germany, where he... [More]
Directed By: Edward Berger

Killing Eve (2018)
89%

#11
Synopsis: Starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, Killing Eve centers on two women: Eve (Oh) is a bored, whip-smart, pay-grade MI5... [More]
Directed By: Harry Bradbeer, Jon East

#10
Synopsis: Elite special agents undertook top-secret assignments in crackerjack episodes.... [More]

Counterpart (2017)
100%

#9
Synopsis: An espionage series about a mysterious world hidden beneath the surface of our everyday existence.... [More]

Get Smart (1965)

#8
Synopsis: 'Would you believe,' as Maxwell Smart would say, this spy spoof was for a time all the rage (and an... [More]

MI-5 (2003)

#7
Synopsis: A sleek, fast-paced BBC hit focusing on domestic-security intelligence agents, dealing with threats that range from arms merchants to germ... [More]

Synopsis: Cloak-and-dagger thrillers are subtly skewered in this cult adventure series centering on unflappable bowler-hatted British counterspy John Steed, whose upper... [More]

Alias (2001)
85%

#5
Synopsis: A sexy, high-octane thrill ride filled with espionage, intrigue and cliffhangers. It chronicles the adventures of operative Sydney Bristow as... [More]

24 (0)
87%

#4
Synopsis: An exciting and edgy real-time action series about U.S. counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer trying to save his country from foreign... [More]

Chuck (2007)
90%

#3
Synopsis: From executive producer, Josh Schwartz ("The O.C.") and executive producer-director McG ("Charlie's Angels," "We Are Marshall") comes a one-hour, action-comedy... [More]

Homeland (2011)
85%

#2
Synopsis: A troubled CIA operative worries that a rescued marine, a longtime POW, may be an enemy agent with a connection... [More]

The Americans (2013)
96%

#1
Synopsis: Two KGB spies pose as an American married couple living in 1980s Washington, D.C.... [More]

Tag Cloud

medical drama BET supernatural tv talk boxing superhero comiccon Interview parents fast and furious Best and Worst true crime award winner mission: impossible archives remakes video on demand crime Alien science fiction kids harry potter Musicals Warner Bros. YA documentaries Endgame Film crime drama Logo Amazon Prime Video Spike BBC America cops festival Music mockumentary Tomatazos ESPN Country hist ABC Universal criterion GIFs blaxploitation critics Countdown rom-coms sequels TV Land king kong satire biography Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt emmy awards free movies BAFTA TIFF Character Guide Trivia TCA period drama Hear Us Out franchise A&E spanish language news cancelled TV series independent venice Trailer New York Comic Con Hallmark Christmas movies obituary Box Office Comic Book Comedy Central new star wars movies Mindy Kaling ViacomCBS worst movies cars diversity comic Brie Larson comic books popular Disney Mudbound Creative Arts Emmys green book Mystery Film Festival GoT zero dark thirty Syfy romantic comedy dc cinemax Awards DirecTV television Animation hispanic christmas movies TNT 2016 batman deadpool Apple TV Plus jurassic park movie travel TruTV breaking bad australia stand-up comedy name the review Stephen King Schedule Walt Disney Pictures ID President concert PaleyFest BBC zombie The Walt Disney Company stoner comics 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Tumblr book IFC Films Star Wars TBS 20th Century Fox Lifetime CW Seed serial killer Food Network Disney Plus cancelled television San Diego Comic-Con Certified Fresh movies james bond ratings YouTube Premium blockbusters dark Apple Cosplay Rocketman toronto Adult Swim LGBT die hard Acorn TV 4/20 FX godzilla RT History sports Writers Guild of America Shudder Esquire AMC Amazon Prime child's play Ghostbusters crossover Pet Sematary fresh OneApp mutant CMT Disney+ Disney Plus all-time adventure Dark Horse Comics unscripted YouTube Red historical drama CNN Sony Pictures razzies Rock Rom-Com french Binge Guide Shondaland canceled boxoffice Thanksgiving best OWN TCA 2017 ABC Signature scorecard DC Universe Legendary composers Hulu dogs Ellie Kemper Sundance Now Fall TV Extras USA Paramount Horror Masterpiece golden globe awards Biopics renewed TV shows Teen japanese 007 Christmas sitcom WarnerMedia nbcuniversal Pride Month elevated horror Turner PlayStation HBO Max hollywood teaser war Starz Pirates Elton John Exclusive Video HBO Go 24 frames CBS political drama Discovery Channel binge latino prank romance Tubi Columbia Pictures Broadway anthology casting monster movies The CW Summer aliens Martial Arts 2015 Sundance TV cooking Britbox Travel Channel Reality game of thrones SundanceTV Television Academy blockbuster HBO Women's History Month ghosts The Arrangement game show SDCC canceled TV shows transformers CBS All Access screen actors guild Emmy Nominations kaiju joker Podcast Red Carpet Turner Classic Movies telelvision rotten robots golden globes Comics on TV Marvel Studios Awards Tour classics cults A24 Nominations USA Network LGBTQ Western toy story American Society of Cinematographers psychological thriller Classic Film technology cartoon series politics rotten movies we love documentary worst Comedy Polls and Games Lucasfilm dceu Fox Searchlight Pixar anime TV renewals Video Games 2021 Mary poppins justice league Sundance 93rd Oscars werewolf space festivals First Look Fox News spinoff 2017 quibi Paramount Plus docuseries WGN halloween Crunchyroll talk show kong Peacock Heroines Ovation slashers indiana jones Nat Geo Song of Ice and Fire Action National Geographic superman universal monsters NYCC Avengers Superheroe streaming Pop witnail discovery Amazon Studios TCA Winter 2020 Star Trek spain MTV YouTube 45 Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Baby Yoda BBC One Bravo Vudu ABC Family theme song based on movie PBS trailers VH1 Oscars Toys Academy Awards The Academy natural history Watching Series 2019 zombies The Purge sequel Mary Poppins Returns sag awards DGA Calendar FXX 99% foreign screenings Infographic spider-man cats black VICE RT21 First Reviews Black History Month spy thriller Showtime DC Comics Lifetime Christmas movies Trophy Talk Paramount Network Set visit Netflix twilight TCA Awards Kids & Family IFC Disney Channel Freeform 21st Century Fox Crackle south america dramedy halloween tv a nightmare on elm street Family FOX heist movie Valentine's Day Disney streaming service Nickelodeon Captain marvel Marathons reviews crime thriller psycho TCM finale Super Bowl 72 Emmy Awards revenge Cannes Musical DC streaming service chucky reboot what to watch BET Awards Epix The Witch Rocky Spring TV directors TLC Mary Tyler Moore jamie lee curtis disaster cancelled Year in Review spanish See It Skip It Television Critics Association italian Fantasy book adaptation singing competition Funimation thriller Photos hidden camera football Holiday GLAAD Sneak Peek Apple TV+ Amazon films 2018 E3 nfl FX on Hulu E! vampires Grammys adaptation Winter TV indie SXSW History women Election stop motion Superheroes Emmys MCU Quiz MSNBC facebook children's TV animated TV Tarantino Netflix Christmas movies docudrama Opinion scary movies El Rey Lionsgate Black Mirror 71st Emmy Awards Arrowverse dragons doctor who X-Men laika APB Sci-Fi The Walking Dead TV One video VOD asian-american Hallmark versus rt archives Holidays pirates of the caribbean miniseries richard e. Grant Marvel Television ITV Winners Marvel strong female leads Pop TV social media Premiere Dates 2020 Drama police drama Anna Paquin Reality Competition comedies Chernobyl Cartoon Network cancelled TV shows NBC nature Spectrum Originals