The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Based on the novel by John Le Carre, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold stars Richard Burton as a dispirited, end-of-tether British secret agent. He comes in from "the cold" (meaning he is pulled out of field operations) to act as a undercover man behind the Iron Curtain. To make his staged defection seem genuine, Burton goes on an alcoholic toot and is imprisoned and publicly humiliated. Once he has been accepted into East German espionage circles, Burton discovers that what he thought was his mission was a mere subterfuge--and that he's been set up as a pawn for an entirely different operation. Though Ireland and England "stand in" for East Berlin, Spy Who Came In From the Cold has the air of authenticity throughout, thanks in great part to the bleak black and white photography by Oswald Morris. The film was condemned as incomprehensible by those filmgoers accustomed to the simplistic melodramatics of James Bond; seen today, the double-crosses and double-double crosses seem all too clear and credible. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovimore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: John Le Carré, Paul Dehn, Guy Trosper
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jul 13, 2004
Paramount Pictures


Claire Bloom
as Nan Perry
Richard Burton
as Alec Leamas
Oskar Werner
as Fiedler
George Voskovec
as East German Defense ...
Rupert Davies
as George Smiley
Cyril Cusack
as Control
Peter van Eyck
as Hans-Dieter Mundt
Robert Hardy
as Carlton
Bernard Lee
as Patmore
Beatrix Lehmann
as President of Tribuna...
Esmond Knight
as Old Judge
Tom Stern
as CIA Agent
George Mikell
as German Checkpoint Gu...
Scot Finch
as German Guide
Anne Blake
as Miss Crail
Richard Marner
as Vopo Captain
Warren Mitchell
as Mr. Zanfrello
Steve Plytas
as East German Judge
Marianne Deeming
as Frau Floerdke
David Bauer
as Young Judge
Edward Harvey
as Man in the Shop
Michael Ritterman
as Security Officer
Nancy Nevinson
as Mrs. Zanfrello
Michael Ripper
as Lofthouse
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Critic Reviews for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (4)

An excellent contemporary espionage drama of the Cold War which achieves solid impact via emphasis on human values, total absence of mechanical spy gimmickry, and perfectly controlled underplaying.

Full Review… | December 26, 2007
Top Critic

What finally impresses, however, is the sheer seediness of so much of the film, with characters, buildings, and landscapes lent convincingly grubby life by Oswald Morris' excellent monochrome camera-work.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The film makes you believe it could have happened. And that's the remarkable thing.

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Grim, monotonous, and rather facile, though Richard Burton's aging agent has some honest poignancy.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

This pitch-perfect adaptation of John le Carré's best-seller captures the Cold War in all its chilly complexity ... Burton delivers a towering performance that's second only to his turn in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as the finest of his career.

Full Review… | September 21, 2013
Creative Loafing

Self-consciously dour where the James Bond movies were insouciantly callous.

Full Review… | November 25, 2008
Slant Magazine

Audience Reviews for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold


This film's entire existence is merely as an real world answer to the James Bond craze prevalent in its day and then simply to say: "that's not true." Well what is the truth then? Sad little men sulking in shadows, lying to everyone, especially themselves. Burton is really good as one of the men, a guy who hates himself playing a guy who hates himself playing a guy who hates himself. Its really grim but good.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


Stunning and rich visuals, but the storyline really drags in many parts of the film.

Reid Volk

Super Reviewer


decent thriller, full of espionage and counter-espionage. Richard Burton is the ingredient that makes this film work.

Stefanie C

Super Reviewer

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Quotes

– Submitted by Andrew M (2 years ago)

Discussion Forum

Discuss The Spy Who Came in from the Cold on our Movie forum!