Total Recall: Smashing Spy Spoofs

With Johnny English Reborn hitting theaters, we run down some of cinema's most memorable purveyors of satirical spycraft.

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

76%

French slapstick is famously known to have a hard time appealing abroad, with exception made to spy joints OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost in Rio, which riff on a range of targets, including James Bond and the OSS 117 series itself. Its origin lies in a series of French spy espionage books, and subsequent films based on those books. Resurrecting OSS 177 in 2006, director Michel Hazanavicius and comedian Juan Dujardin dress the character up in a satirical tux. "[The] movie travels familiar ground, with a nod to Airplane, Top Secret and that whole genre," Roger Ebert writes, "Even compared to them, it pushes things just a little -- not too far, but toward the loony."

Mode: HLS Link

Our Man Flint

82%

Given the absurdities inherent in the James Bond movies, it shouldn't come as a surprise that 007 parodies were everywhere in the mid-1960s. Our Man Flint succeeded better than most thanks to a suave performance from James Coburn as shagadelic super spy Derek Flint. The silliest aspects of the Bond films are skewered here: we've got the acronym-happy organizations, remarkably versatile gadgets (including a cigar lighter with 83 different uses), and armies of bikinied babes. In other words, Our Man Flint was doing the Austin Powers thing while Sean Connery was still playing Bond. "Coburn is plainly enjoying himself so much, and the trimmings are so stylish, that it's impossible not to enjoy," wrote Kim Newman of Empire Magazine.

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Spies Like Us

35%

John Landis (Animal House, Coming to America) must have had a lot of fun back in the 1970s and 1980s, crafting legendary comedies with some of the best talent around. In 1985, the director paired up with Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase for this send-up of Cold War era international espionage, in which the two SNL vets play bumbling, wannabe agents who are dropped into Soviet territory as decoys but end up completing the mission themselves. Full of one-liners, visual gags, and explosions, Spies Like Us was a little too silly to be a true actioner but, in the eyes of most critics, also a little too thin on effective humor to make for a fully entertaining comedy. Still, the film is not without its fans, like Moviehole's Clint Morris, who concedes that Spies Like Us "meddles uneasily between comedy and action-adventure, but Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd keep you watching right way through."

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Top Secret!

76%

How silly can you get? Well, when you're in expert spoofmeisters Zucker-Abraham-Zucker's world, the answer is, pretty silly. Top Secret! successfully lampoons both espionage flicks and Elvis Presley musicals with staggering levity -- it's pretty amazing how many stereotypes, pop culture references, and goofy sight gags are packed into this movie without it feeling too busy. Val Kilmer is Nick Rivers, a vapid American singer who rocks the Soviet bloc on a goodwill tour, but soon finds himself joining forces with a ragtag bunch of French Resistance fighters with names like Avant Garde and Chocolate Mousse. Few movies walk the divide between smart and stupid as deftly as Top Secret!; as Variety wrote, the movie "shares the same wonderful wacky attitude that allows just about any kind of gag to come flowing in and out of the picture at the strangest times."

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Undercover Brother

77%

The words "starring Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, and Denise Richards" aren't generally a sign that you're about to see a classic film, but this fast-paced spy spoof is loads better than anything titled Undercover Brother has any right to be. Satirizing James Bond and blaxploitation in one fell, impeccably Afroed swoop, it offers the best of both worlds: enough wacky humor to include Richards as a character named "White She-Devil," and enough thought-provoking subtext to inspire Film Threat's Marcus D. Russell to argue, "a strong case could be made to use this as the initial tool in our school systems to begin serious discussions about race and class."

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Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don't forget to check out the reviews for Johnny English Reborn.

Finally, here's the trailer for one of the most action-packed spy spoofs of all time -- For Your Height Only:

Written by Ryan Fujitani, Jeff Giles, Luke Goodsell, Tim Ryan, and Alex Vo.

Comments

Jhon E.

Jhon Evans

Where's Naked Gun?

Oct 19 - 03:23 PM

Movie Monster

Bentley Lyles

Isn't that a parody of cop movies?

Oct 19 - 03:48 PM

Jhon E.

Jhon Evans

Its kinda between cops and spies, but it does have a lot of spying elements.

Oct 19 - 04:14 PM

Michael C.

Michael Coutermarsh

Nacked Gun was a Police spoof based on a preexisting TV show(police Squad) from the 60's. It is not a spy movie. Leslie Nielsen did make a Spy spoof movie called Spy hard, Weird Al did the total song, but it only has a 6% rating and wouldn't have made this list.

Oct 21 - 06:28 AM

Michael C.

Michael Coutermarsh

Nacked Gun was a Police spoof based on a preexisting TV show(police Squad) from the 60's. It is not a spy movie. Leslie Nielsen did make a Spy spoof movie called Spy hard, Weird Al did the total song, but it only has a 6% rating and wouldn't have made this list.

Oct 21 - 06:35 AM

King Crunk

King Crunk

I think Spy Hard with Nielson would be a better inclusion.

Oct 19 - 05:40 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Really surprised not to see Spy Hard.

Oct 20 - 08:43 AM

Mr. Dr.

Mr. Dr.

where the hell is the dark knight? that movie was hilarious-

Oct 20 - 11:13 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

To Secret is a worthy inclusion from the Zucker, Zucker and Abraham crowd. Still Val Kilmers best movie ever.

Oct 20 - 11:16 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

To Secret is a worthy inclusion from the Zucker, Zucker and Abraham crowd. Still Val Kilmers best movie ever.

Oct 20 - 11:16 AM

Holden D.

Holden Drover

Spy hard should be on there definitely. But Spies Like Us is definitely one of my favorites...

Feb 2 - 06:55 PM

samrocker

Sam Rocker

along with "The Man Who Knew too Little." Amazing spy spoof, completely unmentioned. Classic Bill Murray

Oct 20 - 08:45 PM

Jane Doe

Chad Hensdale

agreed

Oct 23 - 08:35 AM

Movie Monster

Bentley Lyles

Isn't that a parody of cop movies?

Oct 19 - 03:48 PM

Jhon E.

Jhon Evans

Its kinda between cops and spies, but it does have a lot of spying elements.

Oct 19 - 04:14 PM

Michael C.

Michael Coutermarsh

Nacked Gun was a Police spoof based on a preexisting TV show(police Squad) from the 60's. It is not a spy movie. Leslie Nielsen did make a Spy spoof movie called Spy hard, Weird Al did the total song, but it only has a 6% rating and wouldn't have made this list.

Oct 21 - 06:28 AM

Michael C.

Michael Coutermarsh

Nacked Gun was a Police spoof based on a preexisting TV show(police Squad) from the 60's. It is not a spy movie. Leslie Nielsen did make a Spy spoof movie called Spy hard, Weird Al did the total song, but it only has a 6% rating and wouldn't have made this list.

Oct 21 - 06:35 AM

Movie Monster

Bentley Lyles

Why can't there be more spoof films like these nowadays? I'm looking at you, Friedberg and Seltzer!

Oct 19 - 03:50 PM

Dave J

Dave J

I was going to say Dean Martin's "The Silencers", but that movie has no rating! Here's some more sh-tty spy films, "I Spy" boring crap ,"Spy Hard", "Spy Kids", "The Spy Next Door"-pure crap, "Agent Cody Banks"!

Oct 19 - 04:03 PM

King  S.

King Simba

I actually thought Spy Kids was as lot of fun. Granted, there may be some Nostalgia involved as I was at the appropiate age when watching that movie, but even now I think it holds up, which is more than what I can say for other kid movies I grew up on. It's arguably the most creative spy movie ever (there are gadgets in there that would make Bond jelous)

Oct 19 - 11:18 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Speaking of gadgets, wouldn't Inspector Gadget count? Never saw the movie, which looked like shit, but I liked the cartoon as a kid.

Oct 20 - 08:44 AM

ap sirius

karl anderson

What about Agent Cody Banks.....what a laugh riot...spoofs for the tweenies

Oct 22 - 07:39 PM

Jason H.

Jason Huang

get smart is the best on this list (in my opinion)

Oct 19 - 04:07 PM

Jhon E.

Jhon Evans

Its kinda between cops and spies, but it does have a lot of spying elements.

Oct 19 - 04:14 PM

Michael C.

Michael Coutermarsh

Nacked Gun was a Police spoof based on a preexisting TV show(police Squad) from the 60's. It is not a spy movie. Leslie Nielsen did make a Spy spoof movie called Spy hard, Weird Al did the total song, but it only has a 6% rating and wouldn't have made this list.

Oct 21 - 06:28 AM

Michael C.

Michael Coutermarsh

Nacked Gun was a Police spoof based on a preexisting TV show(police Squad) from the 60's. It is not a spy movie. Leslie Nielsen did make a Spy spoof movie called Spy hard, Weird Al did the total song, but it only has a 6% rating and wouldn't have made this list.

Oct 21 - 06:35 AM

Noah James

Noah Kinsey

I really enjoyd Austin Powers (the first two) and Get Smart. Spies Like Us (which actually comes on the 4-in-1 movie pack of Austin Powers) was awful.

Oct 19 - 05:14 PM

Sputnik99

sputnik 99

I bought that 4-pack. Good deal. Having all the Austin Powers movies is great, and I've always kind of liked Spies Like Us, although it is far from a masterpiece.

Oct 19 - 06:52 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Is Spies Like Us that awful? I have fond memories of it. Of course, I haven't seen it since it came out when I was 11 or so, so yeah, it probably is shit.

Oct 20 - 08:42 AM

Noah James

Noah Kinsey

Honestly, it's just one man's opinion. I too remember liking that movie as a kid. However, when I bought that 4-pack a few years back and revisited the movie...I hated it. Not even remotely funny. All I could think of was this movie came out when those two stars were big, so fans were laughing at everything they did. Nothing against those two - most comedy stars have movies like that in their prime (anybody remember Getting Even with Dad?).

Oct 20 - 02:20 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

I think Spy Hard with Nielson would be a better inclusion.

Oct 19 - 05:40 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Really surprised not to see Spy Hard.

Oct 20 - 08:43 AM

Mr. Dr.

Mr. Dr.

where the hell is the dark knight? that movie was hilarious-

Oct 20 - 11:13 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

To Secret is a worthy inclusion from the Zucker, Zucker and Abraham crowd. Still Val Kilmers best movie ever.

Oct 20 - 11:16 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

To Secret is a worthy inclusion from the Zucker, Zucker and Abraham crowd. Still Val Kilmers best movie ever.

Oct 20 - 11:16 AM

Holden D.

Holden Drover

Spy hard should be on there definitely. But Spies Like Us is definitely one of my favorites...

Feb 2 - 06:55 PM

GATSU

Daniel Zelter

What, no love for Team America?

Oct 19 - 06:44 PM

Noah James

Noah Kinsey

America - F*ck Yeah!

Oct 19 - 07:14 PM

Sputnik99

sputnik 99

I bought that 4-pack. Good deal. Having all the Austin Powers movies is great, and I've always kind of liked Spies Like Us, although it is far from a masterpiece.

Oct 19 - 06:52 PM

Noah James

Noah Kinsey

America - F*ck Yeah!

Oct 19 - 07:14 PM

King  S.

King Simba

I actually thought Spy Kids was as lot of fun. Granted, there may be some Nostalgia involved as I was at the appropiate age when watching that movie, but even now I think it holds up, which is more than what I can say for other kid movies I grew up on. It's arguably the most creative spy movie ever (there are gadgets in there that would make Bond jelous)

Oct 19 - 11:18 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Speaking of gadgets, wouldn't Inspector Gadget count? Never saw the movie, which looked like shit, but I liked the cartoon as a kid.

Oct 20 - 08:44 AM

Andrew I.

Andrew Imrie

Undercover Brother is hilarious. I also thought Austin Powers deserved a higher rating than it got; I am surprised it is not in the 80s.

Oct 19 - 11:21 PM

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