DISCOVER--the best of the 1960s spy-fi films

by jonabbott56 | created - 22 Dec 2012 | updated - 19 Jan 2016 | Public

It's difficult to get across to those who weren't there just how all-encompassing the spy fad of the mid-'60's was... It wasn't just Bond, or even Bond and UNCLE, and neither did it involve just one medium, like most trends. The spy fad enveloped film, TV, paperback fiction, comics, advertising, and even music and fashion. Spoofs, rip-offs, and spin-offs abounded.

This list of the major movies--just the tip of an iceberg--is in alphabetical order. If you like these, check out the superb secret agent TV shows of the era, including The Avengers, The Man from UNCLE, The Girl from UNCLE, Get Smart, I Spy, Amos Burke--Secret Agent (erroneously listed on the IMDB as the third season of Burke's Law, another fine '60's series), and Honey West. Some of them are better than these movies!

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1. The Ambushers (1967)

Not Rated | 102 min | Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi

Secret agent Matt Helm must battle foreign spies and a rogue nation's exiled ruler in order to recover a hijacked U.S. government experimental flying saucer.

Director: Henry Levin | Stars: Dean Martin, Senta Berger, Janice Rule, James Gregory

Votes: 1,528

Third of the four Matt Helm films, with Janice Rule excellent. Senta Berger of The Spy With My Face is the bad girl again.

2. Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)

Approved | 88 min | Comedy, Sci-Fi

Skirt-chasing SIC agent Craig Gamble and millionaire bachelor Todd Armstrong set out to foil mad scientist Dr. Goldfoot's plot to use his army of bikini-clad robots to seduce wealthy men into signing over their assets.

Director: Norman Taurog | Stars: Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Susan Hart

Votes: 1,871

Better known as Doctor Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.

3. Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966)

Not Rated | 82 min | Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi

Disgraced SIC agent Bill Dexter teams up with bumbling doormen Franco and Ciccio to stop Dr. Goldfoot from using his bikini-clad robot girls to blow up high-ranking NATO generals, igniting a war between Russia and America.

Director: Mario Bava | Stars: Vincent Price, Fabian, Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia

Votes: 988

Better known as Doctor Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs.

4. Dr. No (1962)

PG | 110 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

78 Metascore

A resourceful British government agent seeks answers in a case involving the disappearance of a colleague and the disruption of the American space program.

Director: Terence Young | Stars: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Bernard Lee, Joseph Wiseman

Votes: 136,014 | Gross: $16.07M

The first James Bond film.

5. Fathom (1967)

Approved | 99 min | Adventure, Comedy

In Spain, an American skydiver is recruited by Western intelligence agents to recover a lost H-bomb detonator from hostile foreign agents.

Director: Leslie H. Martinson | Stars: Anthony Franciosa, Raquel Welch, Ronald Fraser, Richard Briers

Votes: 1,220

Wouldn't be a Bond girl, decided to do her own thing. Good for her, it's not too bad.

6. From Russia with Love (1963)

PG | 115 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

85 Metascore

James Bond willingly falls into an assassination plot involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by S.P.E.C.T.R.E.

Director: Terence Young | Stars: Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya, Daniela Bianchi

Votes: 107,503 | Gross: $24.80M

The second James Bond film.

7. The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Approved | 110 min | Comedy, Romance

After a series of misunderstandings, the head of an aerospace research laboratory begins to suspect his new girlfriend is a Russian spy.

Director: Frank Tashlin | Stars: Doris Day, Rod Taylor, Arthur Godfrey, John McGiver

Votes: 3,964

Marvellous supporting cast of '60s character actors and a blink-and-miss cameo of Robert Vaughn as The Man from UNCLE.

8. Goldfinger (1964)

PG | 110 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

87 Metascore

While investigating a gold magnate's smuggling, James Bond uncovers a plot to contaminate the Fort Knox gold reserve.

Director: Guy Hamilton | Stars: Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe, Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton

Votes: 160,461 | Gross: $51.08M

Third and best of the Sean Connery Bond films.

9. The Helicopter Spies (1968)

Approved | 95 min | Action, Drama, Thriller

An African village is nearly exterminated by a deadly weapon - The Thermal Prism. Napoleon and Ilya must find it first before it can be used again for the conquest of the world.

Director: Boris Sagal | Stars: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Carol Lynley, Bradford Dillman

Votes: 286

Quintessential '60s spy stuff. Great fun. Carol Lynley never looked better and John Dehner's villain is a hoot. Watch for Sid Haig as an ill-fated minion.

10. How to Steal the World (1968)

Not Rated | 90 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime

The agents of U.N.C.L.E. must stop mad general Harmon and his Seven Intellectual Wonders of the World, as well as THRUSH agents, from taking over the world.

Director: Sutton Roley | Stars: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Barry Sullivan, Eleanor Parker

Votes: 233

The last of the UNCLE films and the last two episodes of the TV series.

11. In Like Flint (1967)

Unrated | 114 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

Super-spy Flint takes on a cabal of women plotting to rule the world.

Director: Gordon Douglas | Stars: James Coburn, Lee J. Cobb, Jean Hale, Andrew Duggan

Votes: 4,814 | Gross: $11.00M

The second of two ridiculous cash-ins. A small army of 1960s starlets are present for Fembot-style lunacy. When it was all over, Irwin Allen moved in and nicked all the props for Lost in Space.

12. The Karate Killers (1967)

Approved | 89 min | Comedy, Crime, Thriller

U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin battle T.H.R.U.S.H. spies to seize Dr. True's secret chemical formula used in extracting gold from sea water.

Director: Barry Shear | Stars: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Joan Crawford, Curd Jürgens

Votes: 488

1960s time capsule with loads of recurring UNCLE babes. Herbert Lom as the bad guy leads a superb cast from top to bottom. Watch for Terry Thomas as a London police constable, and get a load of Gerald Fried's wonderful music. All this and Danielle De Metz too. Heaven in a TV screen.

13. Maroc 7 (1967)

Not Rated | 91 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

The lady of a top fashion magazine doubles as a jewel thief and becomes involved in Moroccan intrigue.

Director: Gerry O'Hara | Stars: Gene Barry, Elsa Martinelli, Leslie Phillips, Cyd Charisse

Votes: 166

Amos Burke himself, playing an amalgam of his two '60s personas, unconvincing cop and even more unconvincing babe magnet. All good.

14. Murderers' Row (1966)

Not Rated | 105 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

Handsome top-secret American agent Matt Helm must recover a laser-weapons inventor who has been kidnapped by arch-villain Julian Wall.

Director: Henry Levin | Stars: Dean Martin, Ann-Margret, Karl Malden, Camilla Sparv

Votes: 1,567

Second Matt Helm film, and viva Las Vegas, it's Ann Margret. How groovy can you get?

15. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

PG | 142 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

61 Metascore

James Bond woos a mob boss' daughter and goes undercover to uncover the true reason for Blofeld's allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world.

Director: Peter R. Hunt | Stars: George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti

Votes: 72,888 | Gross: $22.80M

The best Bond film, and Connery didn't do it. And we've all been kicking ourselves ever since. Bond with Emma Peel. And he didn't do it. He didn't do it.

16. One of Our Spies Is Missing (1966)

Not Rated | 100 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are sent to Europe where a scientist's age-reversing machine is in danger of being seized by T.H.R.U.S.H. spies.

Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck | Stars: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll, Maurice Evans

Votes: 292

Classic UNCLE. Get a load of Maurice Evans as a pseudo-Churchill, Vera Miles as a proto-Thatcher, and see Leo G. Carroll's UNCLE boss humiliate Bernard Fox's THRUSH agent. He stands corrected...!

17. One Spy Too Many (1966)

Not Rated | 102 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime

U.N.C.L.E. agents Solo and Kuryakin try to stop a megalomaniac who thinks he's like Alexander The Great, commits offenses against the ten commandments and steals chemical weapons from the army in order to achieve world domination.

Director: Joseph Sargent | Stars: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Rip Torn, Dorothy Provine

Votes: 377

UNCLE at the top of its game. Wonderful.

18. Our Man Flint (1966)

Unrated | 108 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

When scientists use eco-terrorism to impose their will on the world by affecting extremes in the weather, Intelligence Chief Cramden calls in top agent Derek Flint.

Director: Daniel Mann | Stars: James Coburn, Lee J. Cobb, Gila Golan, Edward Mulhare

Votes: 5,564 | Gross: $16.00M

First of two ridiculous copycat bandwagon jumpers. Fun, but stupid.

19. The Silencers (1966)

TV-PG | 102 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

Retired agent Matt Helm is re-activated in order to stop an evil organization from exploding an atom bomb over the USA and starting WWIII.

Director: Phil Karlson | Stars: Dean Martin, Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi, Victor Buono

Votes: 2,409

Austin Powers, eat your heart out. First of the Matt Helm films. Victor Buono is wasted but Stella Stevens is marvellous. Great supporting cast.

20. The Spy in the Green Hat (1967)

Not Rated | 92 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Ilyia Kuryakin are sent to stop a T.H.R.U.S.H. employed ex-Nazi scientist from diverting the Gulf Stream.

Director: Joseph Sargent | Stars: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Jack Palance, Janet Leigh

Votes: 305

Way over the top UNCLE shenanigans. Fun.

21. The Spy with My Face (1965)

Not Rated | 88 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime

U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are sent to the Swiss Alps to find a secret nuclear weapon design but T.H.R.U.S.H. agents kidnap Solo and replace him with a look-alike double.

Director: John Newland | Stars: Robert Vaughn, Senta Berger, David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll

Votes: 375

First season UNCLE, expanded and in colour. What's not to love?

22. Thunderball (1965)

PG | 130 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

64 Metascore

James Bond heads to the Bahamas to recover two nuclear warheads stolen by S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Agent Emilio Largo in an international extortion scheme.

Director: Terence Young | Stars: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi

Votes: 96,722 | Gross: $63.60M

Fourth Connery Bond, plenty to like.

23. To Trap a Spy (1964)

Not Rated | 92 min | Comedy, Adventure, Drama

The pilot for the TV series "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," re-edited and released to theaters as a feature.

Director: Don Medford | Stars: Robert Vaughn, Luciana Paluzzi, Pat Crowley, Fritz Weaver

Votes: 361

Best version of the Man from UNCLE pilot. Start here for 104 episodes of magic.

24. The Wrecking Crew (1968)

PG | 105 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

Gold bullion worth USD 1 billion has been stolen from a hijacked train in Denmark. The main suspect is Count Massimo Contini. The US government sends Matt Helm, one of its top agents, to investigate and recover the gold.

Director: Phil Karlson | Stars: Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Sharon Tate, Nancy Kwan

Votes: 2,208

Last of the Matt Helm films.

25. You Only Live Twice (1967)

PG | 117 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

61 Metascore

Agent 007 and the Japanese Secret Service ninja force must find and stop the true culprit of a series of spacejackings before nuclear war is provoked.

Director: Lewis Gilbert | Stars: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsurô Tanba

Votes: 89,471 | Gross: $43.08M

By the time Bond got to Japan, all his imitators had beaten him to it. You can kind of see why Connery decided to call it a day, but what bad timing, it cost him (and us) On Her Majesty's Secret Service. This is good in parts, and Nancy Sinatra's theme song is superb, but you can see the rough edges.

Jon is not on Facebook, but can reply to comments here, at the base of this list.

Obsessed with the popular culture of the 1960s and surrounding decades, Jon Abbott has been writing about film and TV for over thirty years in around two dozen different publications, trade, populist, and specialist. He is the author of several books, including

Irwin Allen Television Productions 1964-1970, Stephen J. Cannell Television Productions: A History of All Series and Pilots, The Elvis Films, Cool TV of the 1960s: Three Shows That Changed the World, and Strange New World: Sex Films of the 1970s.

See his Amazon author's page, and his other lists on the IMDB, all under the pre-fix DISCOVER. ” - jonabbott56

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