If there’s one lesson to be learned from the holiday season, it’s this: everyone has to learn how to keep secrets. Think about it: what is gift-giving if not a lesson in how difficult it is to not tell the recipient what they’re getting until the event itself? And the holidays are filled with gifts! To educate us all in our yuletide mission, consider this a crash course in inspiration: 10 movies about those who keep secrets better than everyone else: the spies of the world.
What: you don’t look at the calendar when it turns to December and think, “Welp, time to imagine myself as James Bond”? You’re doing the season wrong.
What could be more spy-like than having to deal with a device that could break the enemy’s codes and change the entire direction of World War II? Watch this movie — featuring a young, suitably intense, Matthew McConaughey — and learn the answer.
THE RECRUIT (2003)
What does it take to make it at The Farm, the CIA’s training grounds? Apparently, an intense sense of paranoia and the ability to never let anyone get inside your head — unless it’s part of an intense double bluff. And you thought you had trouble at school…
XXX: STATE OF THE UNION (2005)
When Vin Diesel has left your franchise for other pursuits, who is going to save the U.S. Government from being overthrown? None other than Ice Cube, who brings everything you could possibly want to this “intelligence analyst saves the day through action"classic.
BURN NOTICE (2007-2013)
What happens after the CIA cuts ties with one of its agents? They get burned — and have to make their way through life with no retirement package, acknowledgement of years of work, or even retirement party. But what if the agent didn’t know why he was burned? Well, that’s the start of seven years of fun light thriller action.
BURN AFTER READING (2008)
Note to any CIA officials out there: if you decide to write memoirs filled with exciting secrets, make sure you don’t accidentally lose them in a public space. On the other hand, this is a fun movie where that very thing happens, so perhaps you should just go ahead.
THE DOUBLE (2011)
What does it take to get the FBI and CIA working together? Well, one side has to retire, and the Cold War has to be revealed to be still active, apparently — and it helps if the FBI agent is still a little wet-behind-the-ears and played by someone out of That ‘70s Show, if possible.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (2011)
It doesn’t get more cloak, dagger and "operating in the shadows” than this big screen version of the John LeCarre novel that sees Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch and other recognizably glum faces deal with the intricacies of the intelligence business at its 1970s height.
SHADOW DANCER (2012)
What does it take for someone to turn terrorist — and what kind of person would that be? Clive Owen wants to find out when a longtime IRA member ends up in custody following a botched bombing attempt in London.
THE NUMBERS STATION (2013)
If there’s one thing guaranteed to help a CIA agent remember why he signed up to the spy game in the first place, it’s having to protect an asset when everything is going haywire with explosions all around. John Cusack, you are that grizzled vet, but don’t worry; your spark is about to return.
THE SUSPECT (2013)
It’s got to be rough, being the agent of a turbulent regime. Take the protagonist of this movie, who finds himself abandoned after a change in government, forced to hunt for revenge after his family goes missing and his entire world turns upside down.