Spies Like Us
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Spies Like Us is a 1985 American spy comedy film directed by John Landis and starring Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Forrest, and Donna Dixon. The film presents the comic adventures of two novice intelligence agents sent to the Soviet Union. Originally written by Aykroyd and Dave Thomas to star Aykroyd and John Belushi at Universal, the script went into turnaround and was later picked up by Warner Bros. with Aykroyd and Chase starring.

The film is an homage to the famous Road to … film series which starred Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Hope himself makes a cameo in one scene. Other cameos in the film include directors Terry Gilliam, Sam Raimi, Costa-Gavras, Martin Brest, Frank Oz, and Joel Coen, musician B.B. King, and visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen. The film received negative reviews from critics, but it was a box office success and it became a cult classic.


Austin Millbarge is a code breaker dwelling in the dark basement at the Pentagon who aspires to escape his under-respected job to become a secret agent. Emmett Fitz-Hume, a wisecracking, pencil-pushing son of an envoy, takes the foreign service exam under peer pressure. Millbarge and Fitz-Hume meet during the test, on which Fitz-Hume openly attempts to cheat after an attempt to bribe his immediate supervisor in exchange for the answers backfires. Millbarge, however, was not prepared to take the test, having had only one day to study after his supervisor deliberately withheld a notice for two weeks leaving him vulnerable to fail and having to remain in the bowels of the Pentagon.

Needing two expendable agents to act as decoys to draw attention away from a more capable team, the DIA decides to enlist Fitz-Hume and Millbarge, promote them to GLG-20 Foreign Service Operatives, rush them through minimal military survival training, and then send them on an undefined mission inside Pakistan and Soviet Central Asia. Meanwhile, two professional agents are well on their way to reaching the real objective: the seizure of a mobile SS-50 ICBM launcher in Soviet territory. A member of the main team is killed, while Millbarge and Fitz-Hume manage to escape multiple enemy attacks and eventually encounter Karen Boyer, the surviving operative from the main team.

In the Pamir Mountains of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, the trio overpowers the mobile missile guard unit using hastily constructed extraterrestrial outfits and tranquilizer guns. Following orders in real-time from the intelligence agency (operating from the W.A.M.P. military bunker located deep under an abandoned drive-in theater), they begin to operate the launcher. At the end of their instructions, the vehicle launches the ICBM into space, targeting an unspecified area in the Continental United States. Thinking they have started a nuclear war, the American agents and their Soviet counterparts pair up to have sex before the world is destroyed.

Meanwhile, at the operations bunker, the military generals initiate the conversion of the drive-in theater to expose what is hidden beneath the screens and projection booth: a huge black-op SDI-esque laser and collector/emitter screen. The purpose of sending the agents to launch a Soviet ICBM is exposed as a means to test this anti-ballistic missile system, but the laser fails to intercept the nuclear missile. Despite this, the military commanders at W.A.M.P. choose not to inform President Ronald Reagan and the US Government that the missile launch was not initiated by the Soviet authorities, revealing a twisted contingency plan of letting the impending thermonuclear war commence to preserve the American way of life .

Back in the Soviet Union, horrified at the thought of having launched a nuclear missile at their own country, the American spies and the Soviet missile technicians quickly use Millbarge s technical knowledge of Source Programmable Guidance to transmit instructions to the traveling missile, diverting it off into space where it detonates harmlessly. Immediately after, the underground W.A.M.P. bunker is located and stormed by U.S. Army Rangers, and the intelligence agents and rogue military officials involved in the covert operation are arrested. Millbarge, Fitz-Hume, and Boyer go on to become nuclear disarmament negotiators, playing a nuclear version of Risk-meets-Trivial Pursuit against their new Soviet friends.


  • Chevy Chase as Emmett Fitz-Hume
  • Dan Aykroyd as Austin Millbarge
  • Steve Forrest as General Sline
  • Donna Dixon as Karen Boyer
  • Bruce Davison as Ruby
  • Bernie Casey as Colonel Rhumbus
  • William Prince as Keyes
  • Tom Hatten as General Miegs
  • Frank Oz as Test Monitor
  • Charles McKeown as Jerry Hadley
  • James Daughton as Rob Hodges
  • Jim Staahl as Bud Schnelker
  • Vanessa Angel, Svetlana Plotnikova, Bjarne Thomsen, Sergei Rousakov, and Garrick Dombrovski as Russian Rocket Crew
  • Terry Gilliam as Dr. Imhaus
  • Costa-Gavras and Seva Novgorodtsev as Tadzhik Highway Patrol
  • Stephen Hoye as Captain Hefling
  • Ray Harryhausen as Dr. Marston

Other actors making appearances in minor roles include Jeff Harding as Fitz-Hume s Associate and Heidi Sorenson as Alice, Fitz-Hume s Supervisor. Also making cameo appearances are special effects designer Derek Meddings as Dr. Stinson, directors Joel Coen, Sam Raimi, and Martin Brest as the Drive-In Security, comedian Bob Hope as himself, musician B.B. King and directors Michael Apted and Larry Cohen as the Ace Tomato Agents, and newscaster Edwin Newman as himself

Title song

The title song, Spies Like Us , was written and performed by Paul McCartney. It peaked at #7 on the singles chart in the United States in early 1986. It also reached #13 in the UK. John Landis directed a music video for the song where Aykroyd and Chase can be seen performing the song with McCartney (although they didn t actually play on the record).

Landis has stated that it s a terrible song but couldn t say no to McCartney and Warner Bros.


The film s score was composed by Elmer Bernstein and performed by the Graunke Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the composer. The soundtrack album was released by Varèse Sarabande; it does not contain the Paul McCartney song. The film also features Soul Finger, by the Bar-Kays, also absent from the soundtrack. Fitz-Hume watches Ronald Reagan singing I ll Be Loving You from the musical She s Working Her Way Through College early in the film.


The film was a box office success. It grossed $8,614,039 on the U.S. opening weekend and it grossed $60,088,980 in the United States and Canada against a budget of $22 million. The film grossed $17.2 million overseas for a worldwide gross of $77.3 million.

Critical reception

The Washington Post critic Paul Attanasio called Spies Like Us a comedy with exactly one laugh, and those among you given to Easter egg hunts may feel free to try and find it. The Chicago Reader critic Dave Kehr criticized the film s character development, saying that Landis never bothers to account for the friendship that springs up spontaneously between these two antipathetic types, but then he never bothers to account for anything in this loose progression of recycled Abbott and Costello riffs. The New York Times critic Janet Maslin wrote, The stars are always affable, and they re worth watching even when they do very little, but it s painful to sit by as the screenplay runs out of steam.

Variety magazine opined in a staff review, Spies is not very amusing. Though Chase and Aykroyd provide moments, the overall script thinly takes on eccentric espionage and nuclear madness, with nothing new to add. TV Guide published a staff review which stated, Landis direction is indulgent, to say the least, with big landscapes, big crashes, big hardware, and big gags filling the screen. What he forgets is character development, that all-important factor that must exist for comedy to work well. David Parkinson, writing for the Radio Times, felt that Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase simply fail to gel, and there s little fun to be had once the boisterous training school gags are exhausted.

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 32%, based on 25 reviews, with an average rating of 4.38/10. The site s consensus states: Despite the comedic prowess of its director and two leads, Spies Like Us appears to disavow all knowledge of how to make the viewer laugh. Metacritic gives the film a score of 22 out of 100, based on 9 critics, which indicates Generally unfavorable reviews . Writing for Common Sense Media, Andrea Beach called the film a dated 80s comedy strong language, few laughs. Collider staff writer Jeff Giles, reviewing the film s Blu-ray Disc release, stated, on the whole, it’s more amusing than funny; it’s only 102 minutes, but it feels too long by half. For all the talent involved, there’s an awful lot of flab. It’s the kind of movie you can walk away from for 10 minutes without missing anything important.


The animated comedy series Family Guy paid tribute to the film with its 2009 episode Spies Reminiscent of Us , which guest starred Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase as fictionalized versions of themselves who, according to the series, were made real spies by Ronald Reagan after he saw the film Spies Like Us. The episode recreates numerous scenes from the film.

The live-action spy comedy series Chuck was heavily influenced by Spies, including references to GLG-20 and the introduction of character Emmett Millbarge (Tony Hale), combined from the names of the Spies protagonists.

Year 1985
ReleaseDate 1985-12-06
RuntimeMins 102
RuntimeStr 1h 42min
Plot Two bumbling government employees think they are U.S. spies, only to discover that they are actually decoys for Nuclear War.
Directors John Landis
Writers Dan Aykroyd, Dave Thomas, Lowell Ganz
Stars Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Mark Stewart
Produced by Leslie Belzberg,Bernie Brillstein,Erik Disch,George Folsey Jr.,Brian Grazer,Sam Williams
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography by Robert Paynter
Film Editing by Malcolm Campbell
Production Design by Terry Ackland-Snow,Peter Murton
Art Direction by Terry Ackland-Snow
Costume Design by Deborah Nadoolman
Makeup Department Carole Bennett,Linda DeVetta,Frank Griffin,Pauline Heys,Stephanie Kaye
Production Management Dan Allingham,Mohamed Seddik Bouabid,Claude Hudson,Christopher Knowles,John Palmer
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director David Garfath,Nick Heckstall-Smith,Dusty Symonds,Gareth Tandy,Ahmed Boulane,Nigel Gostelow,Kevin Westley
Art Department John Alvin,Michael Boone,Charles Cottrell,Stephen Hargreaves,Jim Machin,John Paterson,Kevin Phipps,Graeme Purdy,Ian Rolfe,Jamie White,Duncan Guest,Mark Harris,John Whitby
Sound Department Don Banks,Charles L. Campbell,Larry Carow,Samuel C. Crutcher,Don Digirolamo,Richard C. Franklin,Robert Glass,David John,Lawrence Jordan,Robert Knudson,Chuck Neely,Howard Neiman,Alan L. Nineberg,Rod Rogers,Ivan Sharrock,Larry Singer,Jerry Stanford,Greg Orloff,John Roesch
Special Effects by David Beavis,Rob Dickinson,Tony Fox,Brian Johnson,Dave Knowles,Paul Knowles,Tony Phelan,David H. Watkins,Barry Whitrod
Visual Effects by Ray Caple,Ira Curtis-Coleman,Peter Dorme,Michael McDermott,Derek Meddings,Jim Michaels,John Morgan,Terry Reed,Jonathan Taylor,Paul Wilson
Stunts Mohamed El Baz,Abdelkader Bouchafra,D. Boyd-Phillips,Peter Brace,Ken Buckle,Terry Cade,Alan Chuntz,Clive Curtis,Mike De Luna,P. Eastwood,Stuart Fell,David Forman,Terry Forrestal,Jim Handbury,Reg Harding,Brahim Khabba,Mohamed El Mansour,Lex Milloy,Abderrazak El Moustaghit,Mohamed El Moustaghit,Gerard Naprous,Greg Powell,Mohamed Sedghini,Colin Skeaping,Rocky Taylor,Malcolm Weaver,Paul Weston,Jason White,Nick Wilkinson,B.J. Worth
Camera and Electrical Department Chic Anstiss,Bob Bridges,David Budd,Ted Deason,Rande DeLuca,Mark Gardiner,Vince Goddard,Keith Hamshere,W.C. Chunky Huse,Martin Kenzie,John May,Michael McDermott,Simon Mills,John Palmer,Phil Pastuhov,Ralph Ramsden,Danny Shelmerdine,Malcolm Smith,Chris Strong,John Sullivan,Tony Turner,Brian West,Kenneth J. Withers,Mark Ingleton
Casting Department Marion Dougherty,Debbie McWilliams
Costume and Wardrobe Department Sue Wain
Editorial Department Margaret Adachi,Donah Bassett,Lisa Zeno Churgin,Anna Ksiezopolska,Andrew MacRitchie,Bob Noland,Pattye Rogers,Barry Dresner
Location Management Rufus Andrews,Peter Elford,Nigel Goldsack,Stuart Neumann
Music Department Elmer Bernstein,Kathy Durning,Christopher Palmer,Dan Wallin
Script and Continuity Department Pamela Carlton
Transportation Department Colin Morris,Mark White
Additional Crew Marlene Butland,Susan d Arcy,Jim Michaels,Greg Powell,Jan Walker,Janet L. Wattles,Greg Powell
Genres Adventure, Comedy
Companies Warner Bros., AAR Films
Countries USA
Languages English, Russian
ContentRating PG
ImDbRating 6.4
ImDbRatingVotes 49807
MetacriticRating 22
Keywords decoy,spy,nuclear war,race against time,doctor