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20 coolest movie spies, moles and secret agents

11. Evelyn Salt

As seen in: Salt (2010)

In a role originally earmarked for Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie comes into her own, proving she doesn't need husband Brad Pitt to bounce off when kicking ass. As shunned CIA agent Evelyn Salt she's forced to go on the run after fielding an accusation that she's a Russian spy. Luckily, there's nothing she can't handle.

Demonstrating her wide-ranging abilities, Salt scales buildings, leaps across highways, and evades capture in order to bring down the real culprit. Badass, unrelenting and manages to always keep her cool. It might be something to do with that wig.

10. Roger Thornhill

As seen in: North By Northwest (1959)

One of Hitchcock's most beloved characters Roger Thornhill stands apart from the crowd. An advertising executive with a penchant for the finer things in life, he's up to his elbows in it when a shadowy organisation mistakes him for one of their marks. To set the record straight and you know, avoid death, he goes on the run to source the truth. A somewhat inadvertent spy, you might say.

It's Thornhill's debonair attire which draws appraisal from audiences. His sharp suit twinned with those iconic shades, makes his lofty one-liners all the more suave.

9. Ethan Hunt

As seen in: Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible II (2000), Mission: Impossible III (2006), Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011), Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (2015)

Ethan Hunt is no regular spy. He's a part-time action hero to boot. While he undoubtedly floats by on charisma and charm to impress the ladies, he comes to rely on his veritable athletic ability to conquer some of his more daring feats.

Framed by the very organisation he works for, his tenure on the Impossible Mission Force has seen him adapt to a variety of unlikely scenarios. His tough and cunning persona gifting him with an endless supply of adrenaline, to help him tackle the more acrobatic elements of espionage. We'd like to see Bond dangle from a plane.

8. Joe Turner

As seen in: Three Days Of The Condor

Condor is the Bourne of the '70s. A learned man who works for the CIA as a researcher, he's more than a meagre bookworm stuck in an office. When he discovers his whole team is dead, he strides into action. Embracing his scholarly background, Joe Turner - codename Condor -- outsmarts Donald Sutherland's shady bad guy, and can fashion a deadly weapon from everyday items.

If that weren't impressive enough, he still fits in time to dress impeccably. The peacoat, his effortlessly chic hair and the knitted turtlenecks are all a part of his ploy to appear unassuming. When he's anything but.

7. Nikita

As seen in: Nikita (1990)

Her early life as teenage junkie lands Nikita in prison, where a clandestine organisation busts her out under the condition that she work for them. As an assassin. Her confidence earned on the street makes her a valuable weapon for her new employers, who aren't too happy when she goes rogue after botching a hit.

Gone are the motorcycle boots and leather jackets of her youth, traded for the exotic black dresses and a wealth of combat and evasion skills. Coupled with street smarts, Nikita is one lethal weapon.

6. Harry Palmer

As seen in: The Ipcress File (1965)

Deemed by some to be the antithesis to Bond, Harry Palmer begrudgingly works as an operative for the Ministry of Defense who don't pay him nearly enough for the type of missions he's tasked with investigating. Unlike 007 there's no endless company tab for expensive dinners. Palmer is happiest cooking in the squalor of his flat, a somewhat humbling activity for a world-class spy.

His task to locate sixteen kidnapped scientists finds him captured. Subjected to a brainwashing technique known as IPCRESS, his inner strength prevails and he fights the experiment. Not all spies are packed with muscle, and Harry Palmer is one such example of how inner resolve is just as important for survival.

5. Jack Ryan

As seen in: The Hunt For Red October (1990), Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994), The Sum Of All Fears (2002), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2015)

Many actors have assumed the Jack Ryan mantle. Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine all played the CIA maestro, yet it's Harrison Ford's stint that deserves the kudos for bringing a heft and conviction to the character that other incumbents didn't even touch.

Working his way through the ranks at the CIA, Ryan's motivation stems from his love of his country. He'll do whatever it takes to keep his fellow Americans safe, even if that includes bickering with the President.

4. Harry Caul

As seen in: The Conversation (1973)

The fine art of listening to secrets is what Harry Caul does best. His obsessive fascination with surveillance, a profession in which he is expertly skilled, borders on paranoia. His home is locked down tight, he refuses to install a phone for fear of it getting tapped and he's so withdrawn from revealing anything about himself that his social life has taken a hit.

A routine surveillance job finds him overhearing a conversation between two lovers. Flooded with panic after their exchange, he fears they are both on a hitlist and decides to intervene. His cool isn't a result of his style, but his undisputed brilliance in the field.

3. James Bond

As seen in: Twenty-five Bond movies, including this year's Spectre.

The master of the spy game. There's no doubt that James Bond meets all the requirements of espionage cool, across every iteration of the character. He dazzles his opponents with an arsenal of gadgets and conducts his affairs in a fleet of enviable cars. He woos women without even trying.

From the first Bond to Spectre, the iconic 007 persona carries with it an unspoken awe. When he's not fighting on top of moving trains he's sidling up to an impossibly gorgeous woman at a bar. And he still gets the job done.

2. Harry Hart

As seen in: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

Pride and tradition are Harry Hart's two chief loyalties. He respects the customs of his employers, a secret British spy outfit, with a fierce loyalty and thinks nothing of risking his life for a fellow Kingsman.

Aside from the fact that he's both dashing and brave there's something humble about Harry, a gentlemanly quality that strays beyond the typical expectations of his role. He's the sort who'd open the door for anyone. And take out a pub-full of yobs in a matter of moments.

Gem Seddon
Gem is GR+'s west coast entertainment news reporter. She’s a bit obsessed with all things Aliens and Terminator.