Saturday 2 January 2016

The Ipcress File is seventh best spy movie of all time, say spooks ....

"Only seventh? Who was sixth?"
That's according to a Channel 4 programme from this evening - available online for a limited time here - which identified the top ten spy movies of all time. That's quite a challenge.

Rather than using a public vote - which, I suspect, would have ended up with Bond 1-10 - Channel 4 instead talked to real-life former CIA, MI-5 and MI-6 and Stasi agents to draw on their experiences to determine which film was not just the best, but also the most accurate in portraying the world of espionage.

The Ipcress File came in as the seventh best spy film of all time, which seems a fair result. The programme highlighted not just the contrasting reality in the film as compared with its contemporary, the Bond series, but also the paranoia of the 'sixties which had led spy agencies to look into new ways to secure information. A former British soldier was interviewed. Unknown to him in the sixties, he was a guinea pig in experiments at Porton Down to try out LSD as a new type of 'truth serum' for interrogations. Links are drawn between these experiments and the brain-washing scenes Harry Palmer suffers.

Very pleasing to see that The Lives of Others was selected as the fourth best movie - I'd have put it at number one. That place went to the recent adaption of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.


  1. Although I agree with the fact that “The Ipcress File” is one of the 10 best spy films, I cannot agree with the CIA, MI5 and MI6 agents grading these films in the order it was shown, and have difficulties in their selection as well as their ranking. For a start, the American and British intelligence agencies work in different ways, and have different cultures. Just as the American and British clinicians having different cultures, the former depending on technology-a plethora of laboratory investigations and tests first, to diagnose the problem of a patient with the physical examination coming second, where as the latter are focused more on the patient’s physical examination first, and use laboratory investigations and tests to supplement the evidence found in physical examination The CIA depends on technology more than the MI-5 and MI-6, and hence I am surprised that CIA agrees with the films based on Le Carre’s novels like the “Tinker Tailor Soldier, Spy” which follows the British tradition of good old interrogation supported by the painful gathering of evidence. I wonder about the consensus achieved in the selection and ranking of these films. You find these differences in cultures for example even in ranking of universities on both sides of the Atlantic. Hence, I would have agreed with the ranking of MI-5 and MI-6 agents and even Stasi agents, the latter to an extent, leaving the CIA agents out.