By the time Mike Myers donned the glasses and fake teeth for the third time in Austin Powers in Goldmember, audiences had grown weary of the constant “Yeah, baby!” and “Oh, behave!” impressions that plagued workplace break rooms since 1997. (The film’s 54% “Rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes makes it perfect viewing for IFC’s “Too Rotten to Miss” Fridays.) But spoofing spy movies hardly originated with Myers’ horny Brit, nor did the parodies end with his gold member.
Here are the 10 best movies that approach the spy genre with an unconventional eye.
10. Casino Royale
Billed as a movie that’s “too much for one James Bond,” this parody of the Ian Fleming novel boasts a top-heavy cast with a lowbow sensibility. In this swingin’ hypercolor mishmash, Agent 007 is played by several people including David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Woody Allen, and (ahem) a chimpanzee. The film was panned by critics and had a disastrous shoot that had a revolving fleet of directors and screenwriters and at least one star (Sellers) abandoning the production altogether. Decades later, Casino Royale returned as an official Bond film that launched the Daniel Craig 007 era.
9. Our Man Flint
James Coburn sports a billion-dollar grin in this spoof of Bond flicks. A direct influence on the Austin Powers franchise — its sequel In Like Flint briefly appears on screen to the delight of Myers’ character — the film features an international playboy as its lead spy, a terrorist organization of mad scientists, and miniskirted “Pleasure Units.” (Austin nodded to these saucy characters with the infamous Fembots.)
8. The Man Who Knew Too Little
This all-but-forgotten Bill Murray vehicle from 1997 takes the Hitchcockian premise of an everyman thrust into the world of espionage due to mistaken identity and turns up the buffoonery to 11. Hammy and extremely broad, the tone is more suited for a Chris Kattan romp than a Bill Murray spoof. But for Murray completists who appreciate an honest attempt at spy comedy, it’s worth a shot.
7. Burn After Reading
You won’t find Burn After Reading at the top of many Coen Brothers fan lists, but that shouldn’t dissuade viewers from enjoying this entertaining shaggy dog story of bumbling bureaucratic espionage. Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, and John Malkovich are a joy to watch as they mug and botch their way through a hairbrained scheme to blackmail a former CIA operative.
6. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
A bizarre and dubious autobiopic of Gong Show host Chuck Barris, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was adapted to the screen by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) and marks the directorial debut of George Clooney. Barris famously claimed to be an assassin for the CIA, and Clooney and Julia Roberts show up in the film as (possibly fictional) secret agents. The quirky film is also notable for substantiating the infamous “strangest place you ever made whoopie” moment with the actual clip from The Newlywed Game.
5. Spies Like Us
Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd are unwitting agents up against the threat of Russian nukes in this 1985 goofball movie from director John Landis. Less of an homage to Bond than the classic road movies of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Spies Like Us pokes fun at the Cold War lunacy of the Reagan years while offering up some decent laughs. (The foreign service exam scene and field-training scenarios are definite highlights.)
4. What’s Up, Tiger Lily?
In 1966, Woody Allen basically did Mystery Science Theater 3000 over 20 years before Joel and the Bots ever made it to space. The writer-director redubbed the Japanese spy film International Secret Police: Key of Keys into a completely new film — namely, one centered around the search for a secret egg salad recipe. Comedy geeks regard this cult film as a funny experiment with amusing results.
3. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Once you get past the catchphrases, the original Austin Powers is a solid spoof of spy movies that still resonates today. While the sequels ran once fresh gags into the ground, they did give us memorable characters like Mini-Me (Verne Troyer), Fat Bastard (Mike Myers), and Goldmember (Myers again). (Catch Austin Powers Friday, August 19th at 6P on IFC.)
2. Top Secret!
Underappreciated within the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker oeuvre, Top Secret! is more than your typical spoof stuffed with sight gags and one-liners. The parody skewers everything from The Great Escape to Elvis Presley movies and delivers gags in the Airplane! and Naked Gun directors’ usual laugh-a-second style. But it’s the sum of its parts — including the underwater fight scene and the sequence shot entirely in reverse — that makes Top Secret! a notable comedy standout.
The always delightful Melissa McCarthy charmed audiences with her portrayal of a CIA pencil-pusher transformed into an ace field agent in 2015’s hit Spy. Tossed into the fray after the death of her colleague and crush (played by Jude Law), McCarthy uses brains (and wigs) over brawn in her mission to track down a suitcase nuclear device. Genuinely funny and entertaining, Spy took the 00-spoof genre to new levels of hilarity.
Go undercover with Austin Powers in Goldmember as part of IFC’s Rotten Fridays.