With the Men In Black back in cinemas this Friday (May 25th), it started us thinking about all the great US government agents there have been in the movies. Whether it's the FBI, CIA or a fictitious agency like the IMF or MIB, investigating for the Americans government has given us a lot of good movies over the years. So who are the best agents? Here's our top 10.
10. Dale Cooper
From: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
Played By: Kyle McLachlan
Although his best work was on TV, the quirky, idiosyncratic Special Agent Dale Cooper did get to make an appearance on the big screen in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Prone to strange visions of backwards-talking dwarfs in red rooms – which give him odd clues for his investigations – Cooper certainly doesn't go by the FBI handbook. On TV he was sent to Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of young Laura Palmer, which comes to a head in Fire Walk With Me, where the strangeness of the town goes into hyperdrive and we discover what actually happened. Sadly Cooper isn't in it a huge amount, but at least he makes an appearance.
9. Gracie Hart
From: Miss Congeniality (2000)
Played: Sandra Bullock
I can't imagine that in reality the FBI would send an agent undercover as a beauty pageant contestant (it would be asking for a sexual harassment lawsuit), but that's Gracie Hart's assignment in Miss Congeniality. When someone threatens to bomb the Miss United States competition, the unkempt and constantly tripping over herself Gracie is given an extreme makeover and sent to join the beauty contest. Although she at first thinks the whole thing is ridiculous, she soon learn perhaps it's not so bad after all. A lot of fun, Bullock's charm and wit make her one of the most entertaining FBI agents we've ever had.
8. Joseph Turner
From: Three Days Of The Condor (1975)
Played By: Robert Redford
Films normally concentrate on the field agents who are out there fighting crime, shooting the bad guys and constantly in danger, but what about the people behind the scenes putting together important info and doing the background investigations? That's Joseph Turner, who works for the CIA as a researcher. He pops out of the office and returns to find all his co-workers have been killed. Not knowing what's going on, he's forced to go on the run, unravel a complex conspiracy, work out who he can trust and try not to get killed. Robert Redford is superb as an ordinary trying to deal with extraordinary circumstances in one of the best conspiracy thrillers ever made.
7. Evelyn Salt
From: Salt (2010)
Played By: Angelina Jolie
Is she a loyal US agent or a secret Russian mole? That's the question in Salt, and as the film plays out the answer seems to change just about every 10 seconds. Evelyn is a highly respected CIA Agent who seems shocked when a Russian agent walk in and claims Salt is a double-agent who's about to assassinate the US President. She goes on the run, and while normally in this sort of film we discover there's no truth to the allegations at all, it turns out there may be some reason why the Russian Agent thinks Evelyn is a secret assassin. But is she? Although a bit silly, Salt is great fun and it's always nice to see a woman being allowed to kick ass as an agent, especially if she's in the form of Angelina Jolie.
6. Ethan Hunt
From: Mission: Impossible (1996)
Played By: Tom Cruise
He's now taken on impossible missions in four movies, working for the IMF (Impossible Mission Force), an independent agency of US government who get involved in the things it would be difficult to do officially. Ethan's been involved in all sorts of adventures, often getting set up and having to clear his name, as well as trying to destroy a genetically modified disease called Chimera, taking on a ruthless arms dealer and in his latest outing, crawling all over the tallest building in the world. While Mission: Impossible is always in danger of being a very generic franchise, it's given us four surprisingly fun films, with a fifth in the works.
5. Samuel Gerard
From: The Fugitive (1993)
Played By: Tommy Lee Jones
Agency: US Marshals
Samuel Gerard searched every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse for Richard Kimble and won an Oscar for Tommy Lee Jones in the process. Gerard's single-minded approach and shrewd attitude marks him out as a superlative G-Man, something brought to bear even more strongly a couple of years later when Jones joined the Men In Black. The US Marshal is brought in when Dr. Richard Kimble goes on the run after being accused of killing his wife. Kimble insists a one-armed man did it, but all Gerard cares about is tracking down Kimble and bringing him in to face justice. Gerard got his own movie, US Marshals, a couple of years later, but the less said about that the better.
4. Clarice Starling
From: The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
Played By: Jodie Foster
Clarice Starling is just a trainee when she's brought in to consult with genius serial killer Hannibal Lecter. The powers that be hope the young woman will entice Lecter to start talking and help with their investigation of a new murderer, known as Buffalo Bill, who kills and skins his victims. Lecter is onto their games immediately, but does begin to talk to Clarice, quid pro quo. The scenes between Hannibal and Clarice are some of the best ever filmed, helping to make this one of the few movies that have ever won the big five Oscars (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor and Actress). While it's normally Lecter people concentrate on, Foster's Clarice Starling should not be underestimated, with a superb mix of innocence and toughness.
3. Black Widow
From: The Avengers (2012)
Played By: Scarlett Johansson
While she appeared in Iron Man 2, Joss Whedon introduced us to a more interesting Black Widow in The Avengers, an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who's more than able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the superpowered likes of Hulk and Thor. What makes her particularly interesting isn't just her astonishing fighting skills, but her almost preternatural ability to get people to reveal the information she's after without them realising, or indeed knowing what it is she's trying to discover. It's extremely well done and ensures she's a vital member of the Avengers team. We can only hope she'll get her own movie soon!
2. Jason Bourne
From: The Bourne Identity (2002)
Played By: Matt Damon
It must be pretty disconcerting to wake up with absolutely no memory but soon discover you have innate talents at killing people. But then, I suppose if you can't remember anything, you wouldn't know whether everyone went round killing each other all the time and so you were juts normal. However Jason Bourne assumes there's something unusual about him, not least because of the tracking chip under his skin. He goes on the run across Europe, enlisting the unwitting Marie to help him as he tries to avoid a series of assassins. But what's going on and what does it have to do with something called Treadstone? Well, there's this film and two more where he gets to uncover all the CIA's covert secrets about exactly what sort of agent he is.
1. Agents J & K
From: Men In Black (1997)
Played By: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones & Josh Brolin
The MIB is an unusual government agency in that it looks like it actually might be quite fun to work for, even if the three Men In Black movies have proved it's a pretty dangerous job. Agents J & K are part of a team that monitors alien activity on Earth, ensure that it's kept secret from the human population and ward off extra-terrestrial trouble. While many aliens are nice, every so often there's one who has nefarious plans and wants to take cause major problems, whether it's a ‘Bug' who wants a powerful energy source known as The Galaxy, aliens looking for the Light of Zartha that could destroy the Earth, or in the latest film, killing Agent K in the past, so J has to go back in time to stop him from being killed (oh, and preventing the invasion of Earth too). Plus, they get to use some of the greatest gadgets ever. What more could you want?