(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 at a top-secret base... [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, Va., one of whom is a sleeper agent who... [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: 100.564%
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: Popular tongue-in-cheek adventure about Old West Bond-like intelligence agent James T. West clashing with an array of (usually psychotic) villains.... [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: Patricia Riggen

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: Spyjinks involving two slick agents with the United Network Command for Law Enforcement, which combats an organization called Thrush. Tongue-in-cheek... [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: 99.384%
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: 94.569%
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: 91.822%
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)
97%

#12
Synopsis: German-language spy drama set in the 1980s has a twentysomething 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: The show chronicles the adventures of operative Sydney Bristow as she battles shadowy intelligence agencies, along with some seriously twisted... [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 tries to balance her unsteady private life with her risky high-level job.... [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

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