There's nothing more exciting than a spy show and these days, there are plenty to choose from while you're homebound. To celebrate the most thrilling shows on television — a contrast from our non-exciting lives — Wonderwall.com has compiled a list of the best spy shows you can watch and stream. Let's start with "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," the ABC superhero spy show that premiered in 2013 and is wrapping up in August 2020 after seven seasons on the air. The series follows S.H.I.E.L.D., the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. Clark Gregg, who appeared in several of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, plays Phil Coulson, a special agent who climbs the ranks of the organization throughout the series, handling cases and protecting the agency from the terrorist group Hydra. Keep reading for more shows full of espionage, double agents and spy missions that you shouldn't miss…
Claire Danes stars as Carrie Mathison, a CIA officer with bipolar disorder, on Showtime's "Homeland," which concluded its nine-year run in the spring of 2020. The thrilling spy show begins as Carrie is investigating U.S. Marine Corps sniper Nicholas Brody (played by Damian Lewis), who's also a former prisoner of war at the hands of al-Qaeda. The Emmy-winning series also chronicles her missions in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Beirut as she embarks on both authorized and unauthorized operations, investigates the aftermath of terrorist attacks and hunts down a terrorist mastermind.
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"Alias" premiered in 2001, but it's still one of the greatest spy shows ever. The series stars a young Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, a double agent for the CIA who poses as an operative for SD-6, a criminal and espionage organization. Sydney's career is unknown to those closest to her (although her father, Jack Bristow — played by Garner's real life close pal Victor Garber — is also a double agent for the CIA), and she spends much of the show's five seasons hiding this from them as she carries out missions with various aliases. The ABC series also stars Michael Vartan as Sydney's love interest and co-worker, Michael Vaughn (the two also dated for a year while the show filmed).
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"The Americans" is an Emmy-winning period spy drama set in the Cold War era that follows two Soviet KGB officers posing as an American married couple — they even have two American-born children — in a Washington, D.C., suburb in Virginia. The FX show starring real-life couple Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys — who met and fell in love while working on the series — follows conflicts between the FBI and KGB beginning shortly after President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated in 1981 and concludes in December 1987. The series itself ran for six season from 2013 to 2018.
"Killing Eve" is a British spy thriller that follows Eve Polastri, played by Sandra Oh, an MI5 agent who's fascinated by the psychology of female assassins and their murder methods, as well as bored with her current desk job. She ends up getting booted from MI5 but recruited by MI6 where she joins a secret division that's searching for an international assassin, Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer. The two women both develop an obsession with each other during their epic cat-and-mouse game as they hunt each other down on the award-winning AMC series.
A British war veteran works in the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch of London's Metropolitan Police Service on "Bodyguard," which streams on Netflix. Richard Madden plays David Budd, a former soldier with PTSD who's assigned to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague, played by Keeley Hawes, as a terrorist plot unfolds. Adding more drama? David and Julia develop a complicated relationship — he disagrees with her politics but they soon find themselves attracted to one another.
"Archer" is the lone animated series on our list of spy shows. The FX hit is also a comedy. It follows eight secret agents and staffers at the fictional International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) who are deeply dysfunctional. There's lead agent Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, who also voices Bob on "Bob's Burgers"), a James Bond-inspired character who's narcissistic and womanizing; his mother, Malory (voiced by Jessica Walter), a former agent who heads the organization; agent Lana Kane (voiced by Aisha Tyler), the mother of Archer's daughter, and more. The hilarious series starts in the Cold War era and reboots in other time periods and scenarios during later seasons with concepts such as "Archer: Dreamland" "Archer: Danger Island," "Archer: 1999" and more.
Amazon Prime Video's "Hanna" reimagines the 2011 film of the same name that starred Saoirse Ronan as a series starring Esme Creed-Miles as the titular character. If you haven't seen the movie, Hanna is a teenage girl who was raised in a remote Polish forest. Her father, Erik (played by Joel Kinnaman), is a former CIA operative who used to recruit women into a program called UTRAX, where they would give birth to children enhanced with wolf DNA that helped create super-soldiers. Unbeknownst to her, Hanna escaped the program as a baby and now, despite not knowing the truth about her family or background, she is being hunted by the CIA.
There are a lot of detective and spy stories coming out of Britain including "Marcella," which streams on Netflix. The show revolves around Marcella Backland (played by Anna Friel), who was once a detective in London. In the midst of a hectic home life, she returns to work to investigate a serial killer from 11 years ago who is back at it again. As she investigates the murderer, she deals with a husband who's leaving her after having an affair as well as mental health issues that include blackout episodes. The show involves murders in Marcella's personal life too as well as undercover missions and even a bit of witchcraft.
The main run of "24" has been off the air since 2010, but it's perfect for a binge (it's also the longest running U.S. espionage show, so there are plenty of episodes, a spinoff and even a movie to see). The show follows Jack Bauer, a counter-terrorist agent played by Kiefer Sutherland. Each season is 24 episodes long, with each episode covering 24 hours in Jack's life. If it sounds slow and redundant, think again.
Starz's "Counterpart" stars J.K. Simmons as Howard Silk, a 30-year employee of the United Nations' Office of the Interchange agency. Howard is low on the totem pole and doesn't even know what his work really involves. After his wife is hit by a car and hospitalized, Howard finds out what the OI actually does — and how it involves a parallel Earth accessed by a portal below his agency's headquarters. Once Howard discovers this — and his "counterpart" in the parallel universe — it changes his world and forces him to question who he can trust.
Jack Ryan was on the big screen for years — Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, Chris Pine and Harrison Ford all played the character. In 2018, John Krasinski brought him to the small screen on Amazon Prime Video's "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan," a show that follows the CIA analyst and Marine veteran as he discovers suspicious bank transfers. His investigation takes him out of the office and into the field, where he travels throughout Europe and the Middle East in pursuit of a rising terrorist and later heads to South America to investigate a conspiracy surrounding the president of Venezuela.
If you prefer spy shows from a different era, "Peaky Blinders," is the one for you. This British crime drama, which streams on Netflix, is set in the early 20th century and follows the Peaky Blinders gang shortly after World War I. It begins as Major Chester Campbell, Detective Chief Inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary (played by Sam Neill) attempts to clean up the city of Birmingham and rid the town of the powerful family gang led by troubled but brilliant war vet Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy). As the show evolves, the criminal organization grows and becomes more dangerous, especially after Tommy gets elected to Parliament. Across its first five seasons — creator and writer Steven Knight has said he anticipates there being seven in all, plus a movie — the show has had some great characters like Annabelle Wallis's Grace Burgess, an Irish former undercover agent who falls for Tommy, Adrien Brody's Luca Changretta, an American mafioso obsessed with revenge, and more.
NBC's "The Blacklist" stars James Spader as Raymond "Red" Reddington, a former U.S. naval intelligence officer who's been on various most wanted lists for much of his life. In the beginning of the show, Red turns himself in, wanting to now help the FBI track down criminals so dangerous that the government doesn't even know about them. At his request, he partners with Liz Keen, played by Megan Boone, and the two work on apprehending and eliminating Red's "blacklist" of global criminals, episode by episode.
FBI agents Holden Ford, played by Jonathan Groff (pictured), and Bill Tench, played by Holt McCallany, team up on "Mindhunter," another Netflix show. They work for the agency's Behavioral Science Unit as they seek to better understand the thought process of serial killers along with psychologist Wendy Carr, played by Anna Torv. The show, which debuted in 2017, takes place in the late '70s and early '80s during the early days of criminal psychology at the FBI. The show gets real, with the second season following a somewhat fictionalized version of the murders of 28 children and adults that took place in Atlanta between 1979 and 1981.
Set against a fictional CIA program called Operation Treadstone — and in the world of Jason Bourne — "Treadstone" looks at a clandestine operation that turns its recruits into superhuman assassins. The USA Network show follows the agents, who've undergone behavioral modification, as they resume deadly missions after undergoing their transformations. The show goes back and forth from 1973 — when CIA operative John Randolph Bentley, played by Jeremy Irvine, is a prisoner in a Soviet behavior modification program — to the present day reawakening and repercussions, where agents live dangerous double lives.
"Fortunate Son" is a newer spy show that came out of Canada and premiered in January 2020. The period drama set during the Vietnam War follows Kari Matchett as Ruby Howard, an American expat who lives in British Columbia and is very against the war. She sets out to help Travis Hunter (played by Darren Mann), who's trying to flee the United States in order to dodge the draft. Naturally, draft evasion is not looked upon favorably and the CIA, specifically Vern Lang — a handler in the agency played by Stephen Moyer (pictured) — sets up an operation to keep people like Kari from aiding draft dodgers like Darren.
"Messiah" premiered in 2020 on Netflix, and while it's been canceled, the first season makes for a quick spy binge. The show focuses on a man who appears in the Middle East who is thought to be the return of 'Isa, or Jesus. The modern world is, naturally, suspicious of the apparent miracles and the preacher, played by Mehdi Dehbi (pictured) — who is gaining international attention — is investigated by CIA officer Eva Geller, played by Michelle Monaghan.
For fans who missed seeing Scott Foley as a spy once "Scandal" concluded, a brief foray into "Whiskey Cavalier" may suffice. The show, which premiered in 2019, only lasted one season, which makes it easy to binge. On the ABC show, he plays Will Chase — an FBI agent with the code name Whiskey Cavalier — who partners up with Lauren Cohan's character, CIA agent Francesca "Frankie" Trowbridge, following a rough breakup. Together, the two lead an inter-agency team of spies that includes FBI profiler Dr. Susan Sampson (played by Ana Ortiz) and work on projects such as tracking NSA hackers and international smugglers.
Fans of "Condor" have been living in this world since the 1970s thanks to the novel "Six Days of the Condor" by James Grady and the subsequent film "Three Days of the Condor." In the "Condor" television show world, Joe Turner, played by Max Irons, is a young, idealistic CIA analyst who discovers a plan to destroy the lives of millions. His idealism is tested following the murder of his co-workers, which involved CIA higher-ups, leading him to battle the assassins in order to protect himself and discover why the CIA wants him gone.