50 Most Tense Undercover Movie Moments

Three Days Of The Condor (1975)

The Moment: Robert Redford’s CIA man returns to his office to find all his colleagues dead. Panicking, he contacts his handlers, who instruct him to join them for a meet.

Look Away When: As Redford travels to the meeting, there’s an eerie sensation that something is very wrong. And so it proves when he gets there.

True Romance (1993)

The Moment: Clarence puts Elliott at gunpoint to ensure he’s not wired. Elliott, who is wired, very nearly has a heart attack, as does the audience.

Look Away When: As soon as the lift doors close, things are about to get very heated indeed.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

The Moment: Archie Hicox goes undercover as a German soldier, liaising with his meet in a quiet tavern, before being roped into a nerve-wracking card game with a posse of bona fide Nazis.

Look Away When: Hicox orders a round of drinks. The game’s up old boy…

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

The Moment: The Mexican standoff scene, in which the finger of accusation is pointed squarely at Mr. Orange, with Mr. White still staking his life on his colleague’s honesty.

Look Away When: Mr. White professes, “I know this man!” Not only unbearably tense, but also rather heartbreaking.

The Departed (2007)

The Moment: Costigan races to a meet with Queenan, who has been tailed by Sullivan. Out of nowhere, Queenan plummets from a nearby rooftop, and Costigan is suddenly confronted by Costello’s goons. Time to think up an excuse…

Look Away When: Costigan thinks on his feet, pretending as though he had also been sent there by Costello. Phew!

Jackie Brown (1997)

The Moment: The money exchange in a department store changing room, played out from the perspective of all the respective participants.

Look Away When: Every time Jackie begins to make her escape from the shopping mall, we start to tense up…

Deep Cover (1992)

The Moment: Russell Stephens is confronted with a dilemma: either blow his cover, risking his life and the mission, or commit a murder in order to preserve the ruse. Tricky one…

Look Away When: Stephens confronts a rival drug dealer in a restaurant bathroom, and goes for his gun…

The 39 Steps (1935)

The Moment: Annabella Smith reveals to Richard Hannay that she is a spy, being pursued by a ruthless group of assassins after her discovery of a plot to steal British intelligence secrets.

Look Away When: Smith comes stumbling into Hannay’s bedroom, fatally stabbed, and dies in his arms. Time you were on the run, old chap!

White Heat (1949)

The Moment: Undercover cop Vic Pardo comes face to face with a driver he put away years previously, slap bang in the middle of a heist. It’s a bit awkward for all concerned…

Look Away When: Recognition dawns within the eyes of both men…

Donnie Brasco (1997)

The Moment: The owner of a Japanese restaurant demands Donnie and his boys remove their shoes in his establishment. Trouble is, that’s where Donnie keeps his tape recorder concealed…

Look Away When: Donnie grapples with the options available to him, eventually opting to give the restaurateur a thorough pasting.

George Wales

George was once GamesRadar's resident movie news person, based out of London. He understands that all men must die, but he'd rather not think about it. But now he's working at Stylist Magazine.