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Spy Fiction
aka: Spy Drama

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Parachute. Grab a drink. Save the world.

"There's a man who leads a life of danger
To everyone he meets he stays a stranger
With every move he makes another chance he takes
Odds are he won't live to see tomorrow."
Johnny Rivers, "Secret Agent Man"


Related to the Action Series, although not necessarily a series, and not necessarily even action-heavy, it's any work in which the main character or characters are spies, secret agents, double agents, or some other form of espionage professional. Spy Fiction tends to fall along a spectrum of what we've dubbed "flavours": From "Martini" to "Stale Beer".

  • Martini Flavored (shaken, not stirred) Spy Fiction is what you might call the Tuxedo Approach. This involves glamorous parties, fast cars, hot women, high-risk casino games, cool gadgets, brutal fights involving guns and fists and big explosions (swap those adjectives around as you wish). Despite the glamor, spying is not for the faint heart and is fraught with danger, and the stakes are massive. A Death Trap is par for the course. The main example here is of course James Bond (the movies in particular). This is the Hotter and Sexier spy game, with Spy Catsuits and Sex Face Turns by the dozen. The Tuxedo Approach as a whole is more glamorized and idealistic with clearly defined "good guys" and "bad guys", they often have a bit of an "action movie" feel, sometimes to the point where nobody ever actually spies on anyone.

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  • Stale Beer Flavored Spy Fiction could also be called the Trenchcoat Approach. It is "more realistic" in that it does not romanticize the profession. It pre-dates the other approach. It involves Dead Drops, brush-pasts, blackmail and morally iffy things. Spying is stressful and you may end up an alcoholic or worse. This is the approach taken by Len Deighton and the Bourne series (the books and films alike), John le Carré, and by Callan, the classic counterpoint to James Bond. This is the Darker and Edgier spy game. Ironically, the original James Bond novels are like this and both Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig played the character this way. The Stale Beer approach as a whole is more gritty and morally ambiguous, spying reflects power politics between whichever nations or organizations are involved and other nations and people are caught in the crossfire. Consequently, the stakes tend to be a lot lower: rather than dealing with plots to Take Over the World or completely destroy the rival, Stale Beer plots typically involve seemingly minor plans for the possibility of incremental gain—or which might not in the end significantly change the state of play among the powers.
In other words, the Tuxedo Approach would have a
Soviet defector be a gorgeous, aloof Slavic beauty with whom the hero will probably elope at some point; the Stale Beer Approach would have a Soviet defector be a shaken, morally gray individual looking more for personal profit or some other material bebefit (e.g. trying to get out of the way of an impending purge) than for any virtues of right or wrong.
  • Dirty Martini Spy Fiction (also referred to as "Stale Beer Served in a Martini Glass") is the gritty style of espionage taking place in glamorous international or domestic locations, such as Japan, Italy, Spain, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Hawaii, etc. I Spy and the Daniel Craig James Bond films exemplify this trope.

  • Bathtub Gin Flavored Spy Fiction applies to civilians drawn knowingly or unwittingly into the world of espionage that is either "martini flavored," "stale beer flavored," or a "dirty martini." They may have or not have transferable skills to help them survive, and they may or may not become realized agents at some point. Examples include: Mrs. Peel (The Avengers, in the opening voiceover intro, she is introduced as a "talented amateur"), Chuck (Chuck); Amanda King (Scarecrow and Mrs. King), Mrs. Polifax (The Mrs. Pollifax series) or some Bond girlfriends (On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Goldeneye, Spectre); the show Masquerade (where civilians with special occupational or avocational expertise are drafted to help the government on one-off missions; and Tom Hank's character in The Man with One Red Shoe. Alfred Hitchcock also exemplified this to a tee in his earlier films, especially in such stories as North By Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The 39 Steps (1935). A contemporary example of this is the TV series The Night Manager starring Tom Hiddleston.

  • Layered Drink Flavored Spy Fiction applies to a Byzantine-style of espionage full of intrigue, twists, misdirection, etc. Example: The novels of John le Carré, such as: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Russia House, and The Tailor of Panama to name a few.

  • Absinthe Flavored Spy Fiction applies to those missions that are in- or touch on- the realm of Speculative Fiction, defined by Wikipedia as: “A broad category of fiction encompassing genres with certain elements that are nonexistent in terms of reality, recorded history, or nature and the present universe, covering various themes in the context of the supernatural, futuristic, and many other imaginative topics.” Examples of Speculative Fiction in Spy Fiction: The James Bond Films: Live and Let Die, Bond encounters: Solitaire, a psychic who uses tarot cards, and in the film's tag, the Voodoo God Baron Samedi; in Die Another Day, Bond encountered genetic manipulation so advanced that actual physical changes could be brought about in a subject. Television series: In The Wild Wild West, James West was once shrunk to doll-size, was imprisoned in an alternate reality inside a painting, entered the dimension of Limbo, and even encountered the Philosopher's Stone of alchemic lore; in The Avengers (1960s), Steed was once shrunk to doll-size; and in Alias, the “Rambaldi Devices”.

  • Bleach and Ammonia Flavored A common variant of this genre full of Government Conspiracy plots in which Anyone Can Die, often filled with disposable henchmen - a situation in which even the protagonist may even find himself/herself. Naturally Darker and Edgier than other versions of this genre. Examples include films such as Safe House and Three Days of the Condor.

The Martini Flavored and Stale Beer Flavored tropes as well as the various trope permutations (Dirty Martini and Bathtub Gin) may involve a Cloak & Dagger agency, Agents Dating, or any of the full gamut of Espionage Tropes.

See Spy Literature for an index of literature in the Spy Fiction category, and Ninja Fiction for a genre with some overlap. If you're looking for the Swery65 game called Spy Fiction, look here.


A note: the examples do not have to fit EXCLUSIVELY into their category, but they must fit most of the category's criteria. - Something that is "Martini with hints of stale beer" will fit into Martini, but something that is "Martini with strong elements of Stale Beer" will fit into Dirty Martini. Of course, as always, this is a wiki, feel free to correct/edit.
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    Stale Beer 
  • 24 — Stale Beer
  • The Agency
  • The Americans focuses on the dangers and stresses of living a double life as KGB agents in 1980s USA and how far one can go for one's country.
  • Everything by Anthony Price — Stale Beer
  • The Assets is a Based on a True Story miniseries about Aldrich Ames.
  • Atomsk by Cordwainer Smith — Stale Beer
  • Aubrey-Maturin The hardships of the spy life are well explored (derision from friends and confidants, inability to discuss work, torture, living on the run), and while Stephen is a capable assassin, his biggest successes are always the result of paperwork and manipulation (the best example being a "dropped" notebook, which contained "evidence" that a number of key assets in the French intelligence service had gone rogue).
  • Banshee's Last Cry — Stale Beer, involving Japanese spies working for various intelligence agencies in Nagano as they try to get the drop on the other rival spy.
  • The Blacklist — Stale Beer
  • Berlin Station — Stale Beer
  • Black Widow (2021) — Three of the four main characters are women who were raised as TykeBombs, and very few punches are pulled as to the abuse they suffered — trafficked as young girls, forcibly sterilized, underwent psychological conditioning, and their organization has since escalated to using mind control drugs. And they're among the 5% who even survive the training.
  • Blindspot — Stale Beer
  • Brotherhood Of The Rose — Stale Beer
  • The Bourne Series (and anything else by Robert Ludlum) — Stale Beer.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops — Stale beer.
  • Callan — Extremely bitter Stale Beer.
  • Catherine Ling — Dark and gritty, dealing with the modern CIA and organized crime such as The Triads and the Tongs.
  • Charles Cumming's work.
  • The Company (2007 mini-series)
  • Counterpart — Stale Beer. The show is very much a classic Cold War espionage thriller — spies working under the noses of diplomats, sleeper agents and intelligence sources, dead drops and covert assassinations — but with a Science Fiction twist: the "other side" isn't a foreign government, but an Alternate Universe.
  • Crisis (2017) — Stale Beer. The Public Security Mobile Investigation Unit Special Investigation Team gets involved in meeting up with informants, setting up sting ops and surveillance in arresting high-profile criminals/terrorists.
  • Danger Man aka Secret Agent — Mostly Stale Beer, at the insistence of star and co-producer Patrick McGoohan; he found the Martini style both unrealistic and ethically questionable.
  • The Day the Call Came — This novel revolves around a Sleeper Agent who poses as a typical middle class father. He nervously awaits a signal from the mysterious agency he works for to begin his mission. It invokes elements of Psychological Horror, as it isn't clear if the protagonist really is a spy, or if this is a fantasy he's constructed to escape the tedium of his suburban life.
  • The Debt —Focuses on the mental challenges of operating undercover, and the emotional scars left by making the morally ambiguous decisions spy work demands.
  • Declare by Tim Powers is Stale Beer spy fiction — with a secret occult war.
  • Delta Green — Stale Beer with the Cthulhu Mythos in a Conspiracy Kitchen Sink.
  • Deutschland 83
  • Diplomat Kuroda Kousaku - Stale Beer. This involves a career diplomat who uses his diplomat status and his foreign affairs ministry reputation to get things done by using his language skills, his wits and knowledge on political matters. He has help from a friend of his in the CIA and a female Dojikko detective.
  • The Equalizer
  • Fauda
  • The Game (2014): Realistic spy drama set in 1970's Britain.
  • James Bond — The novels lean more towards Stale Beer, while the movies tend to glamorize or parody the novels. However, the film series periodically swings back towards Stale Beer (usually in reaction to a very Martini-flavoured movie) The first two Sean Connery Bond films, Dr. No and From Russia with Love could probably also be considered Stale Beer, being more mundane and down-to-earth than later movies - Bond is not above executing enemy agents and roughing up women to get information. For Your Eyes Only, Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace were also, to varying extents, returns to the Stale Beer end of the scale.note 
  • From Eroica with Love — Stale Beer with occasional Martini flavoring. Specifically, the spy character enjoys stale beer while the thief he's after drinks his martinis from diamond glasses.
  • Fury (MAX) — The grimiest, nastiest, volatile, stale beer you will ever find.
  • Fury: My War Gone By — the dirtiest, grittiest, darkest most Stale beer imaginable.
  • Ghosts of Manhattan is definitely Stale Beer. It involves Peter Rutherford, the British agent, fighting Eldritch Abominations by the side of a masked vigilante.
  • The Good Shepherd — Stale Beer. It chronicles the life and career of an OSS and CIA agent, with his work depicted as particularly unglamorous and the main character being downright apathetic in general.
  • The Guest — Stale Beer Played for Horror, in which an unsuspecting family gets dragged into the mess after an evil version of Jason Bourne shows up at their door.
  • Halting State — Stale Scottish Beer.
  • Hanna— Stale Beer in the way of The Bourne Series, but with a teenage girl as the protagonist. (Hey, if she's old enough to fight, she's old enough to have a beer.)
  • Homeland a gritty and dramatic take on post 9/11 intelligence.
  • Hopscotch— Stale Beer. The writer wanted to take a James Bond story and take out all the sex, gadgets and over the top action.
  • The Human Factor — Graham Greene, who wrote the source novel, later said that he wanted to write a story that showed spies as mundane office workers, civil servants who just happen to work for a spy agency. In the movie Nicol Willamson plays a dull office drone in MI6, who also happens to be passing intelligence along to the Soviets.
  • The Ipcress File — Probably the Ur-Example for Stale Beer, but it's significantly less stale than the beer served by Le Carre. Later works by Deighton (e.g. Funeral in Berlin) aren't so much Stale Beer as rather What Gets Wrung Out Of The Bar Mat (which has occasionally been used as well to wipe the boots of this or the other spy coming in from the cold).
  • Iris
  • I Spy — Stale Beer Served In a Martini Glass. The "Stale Beer" element comes from the grittiness of espionage work coupled with the main characters often discussing and wrestling with their consciences regarding the moral ambiguity and the ethics of their profession. The "Served In a Martini Glass" element is that the assignments occur in glamorous international and domestic locations: Tokyo, Italy, Spain, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, etc.
  • Intelligence (2006)
  • Intelligence (2014)
  • Jack Ryan
  • Jack Strong
  • Jean-Claude Van Johnson - Mixed up with Dirty Martini.
  • The work of John le Carré (who like some others here, actually was a spy). The Spy Who Came In from the Cold could be one of the Trope Codifiers, along with his The Quest for Karla series starring his most famous character, the unassuming spymaster George Smiley.
  • John Wells
    • Robert Littell's novels in general (including this one) are Stale Beer.
  • KGB aka Conspiracy - extremely stale beer produced in state-owned Soviet brewery struggling with constant shortages of raw materials.
  • The Kremlin Letter focuses on espionage, cloak and dagger, and the other darker parts of the job including drugging retired spies to recruit them back, assassination orders for innocent civilians, and betrayal.
  • The Laundry Files by Charles Stross involve spies as they exist in the real world. Most of your time is spent doing paperwork and what jobs you have are generally very boring and mundane. Kind of stale beer, but more "generic bar beer".
    • Except for the bit with the Eldritch Abominations — that doesn't generally happen to real-world spies. Ergo, generic bar beer spiked with a liberal helping of LSD.
    • Subverted in the second book, The Jennifer Morgue, where the main character starts exhibiting all of the Bond martini tropes because the Big Bad is employing an Evil Plan which involves using a spell to make our hero a Bond hero right up until the moment where the plans would usually be foiled.
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen seems to be of the opinion that all spies are Stale Beer flavored, and the ones who play at being Martinis are deluded thugs dressing up their work with fancy toys.
  • The League of Magi stories feature a strange variant of the Stale Beer variety. While the stories feature magic, monsters, and paranormal beings, the actual spy work being done more closely conforms with reality. One of the stories is even called "Dead Drop."
  • "Madras Cafe" — Bollywood variety (without even any typical Filmi Music to distract the beleaguered agents from the betrayals and conspiracies, which makes it staler). Beverages served: toddy (moonshine), not so exotic in Jaffna, and cheap roadside rum (when in India).
  • Man in a Suitcase — Stale beer, served in anything from a martini glass to an unwashed ashtray (depending on the episode).
  • Mile 22— Betrayals and secret agendas, mixed along with the action.
  • Ministry of Fear — Ray Milland chased by Nazis who want his MacGuffin
  • Mr Palfrey of Westminster — Stale Beer. Not as stale as Callan, but no Martini.
  • The Osterman Weekend — A messy stale beer with something floating in it.
  • The November Man — Stale Beer, which is surprising because Pierce Brosnan plays the lead agent.
  • "Our Man in Havana" - homebrew beer that's gone off. The other books by Graham Greene that involve intelligence and espionage are similarly serving beer that's been brewed based on half-remembered recipes and substituting missing ingredients by whatever is available locally. Most of the times, the first sips even taste pretty much like real beer
  • Phantom Doctrine: Stale beer with a touch of bleach and ammonia. Anyone Can Die, brainwashing, torture and suicide bombing are on the menu for everyone including the good guys, anyone and everyone could be a double agent, and there are no indications that your best efforts actually make anything better.
  • Prague Fatale: German detective Bernie Gunther finds himself in 1941 Prague, trying to ferret out a Czech resistance group as well as a mole within the SS who is passing intelligence to the British.
  • Le Professionnel — A French agent who was betrayed by his superiors and sold out to an African dictator comes back with a vengeance.
  • The Quiller novels by Adam Hall.
  • Ex-CIA officer Jason Matthews's novel Red Sparrow.
  • Reilly, Ace of Spies — There are touches of Martini, as Reilly was a playboy on his off hours, but the series is based on Sidney Reilly's real life during the early 1900s naval arms race and features plenty of sordid betrayal and real politics.
  • Release the Spyce
  • Ronin (1998) — The film was largely responsible for making Stale Beer popular again (and possibly revitalizing Spy Fiction in general at the time). No heroes, no flashy technology (there is some high-technology monitoring involved, mostly during a car ambush, but that's it) the two main protagonists are easily approaching retirement age, tons of moral ambiguity.
  • Rubicon — Primarily focuses on a group of analysts digging through piles of intelligence with one supporting character bitterly bored while another has taken to partying and drug use to cope.
  • The Sandbaggers — extremely Stale Beer (characters often comment, "this isn't James Bond.")
  • The Scarlet Coat, about a Patriot agent in the American Revolution investigating a treasonous plot to turn over the fort at West Point to the British
  • The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad — Stale Beer
  • Seventeen Moments of Spring — 1970s Soviet Union miniseries about a Russian spy who has spent years as a Deep Cover Agent in Nazi Germany, conducting The Infiltration and rising to the rank of colonel in SS intelligence.
  • The Soldier — stale beer.
  • Soldier of Fortune — Extremely bloody Stale Beer
  • The Splinter Cell series of video games are stale beer spy fiction, and every installment gets progressively darker and grittier as time goes on. It should be no surprise it's a Tom Clancy property.
    • The Splinter Cell book series is a largely-successful spin off of the video game.
  • Splatoon: hero mode - Non-Alcoholic Stale Beer.
  • Spy Of Darkness
  • Spy Game — Scotch, and never less than 12 years old.
  • Survivor (2015)
  • The Sympathizer — a South Vietnamese refugee is actually a spy sending reports on the anti-communist refugee community to Hanoi
  • Telefon: Charles Bronson has to stop a Renegade Russian from activating the Manchurian Agents in the United States!
  • Tehran: It involves a female Mossad agent of Israeli-Iranian heritage to infiltrate Tehran and take out Iranian military defenses. It shows the problems of how something unexpected can potentially ruin an entire op. It also shows Mossad's cooperation with the rest of the Israeli military in conducting joint operations.
  • Three Days of the Condor — thriller with Robert Redford as a CIA analyst.
  • The works of Tom Clancy tend more towards Stale Beer; it's even taught in his version of the CIA.
    • It tends to get considerably less stale as time goes on. Later works are a nice fresh American Lager. Or maybe a Bourbon?
    • In Clear and Present Danger CIA Operative John Clark even lampshades the fact that he's not in martini-flavored spy fiction by saying to another CIA agent "Larson, if this were a movie, you'd be a blonde with big tits and a loose blouse."
  • Triple Agent: A very dry depiction of a man with conflicting loyalties in France on the eve of World War II, and, since it's written and directed by Éric Rohmer, very Speech-Centric.
  • Turn is set during the American Revolution and focuses on the Culper Spy Ring in New York City, Long Island, and North Jersey, spying on the British for George Washington's army (which spent a lot of time on Long Island at first, but later spent most of its time in the upper reaches of the Passaic Valley in what is now Morris and Passaic Counties, New Jersey). The intelligence work is distinctly unglamorous.
  • The Wolfish Nature duology written by Vladimir Vasilyev is of the stale beer variety with a twist: the events take place in an alternate world where humans have evolved from dogs not apes.
  • The The Darkest Hour and Cold War settings for World War Cthulhu — as spies, the player Characters are in incredible danger, paranoid in case the Gestapo, KGB or cultists have uncovered them, always aware that capture or worse could be right around the next corner.
  • Bodie and Doyle, the protagonists of The Professionals, are visibly working-class, street smart and prepared to bend the rules on their assignments - particularly in comparison to the polished style of John Steed and Emma Peel of The Avengers, Brian Clemens' earlier series. And they drove Ford coupés rather than Aston Martins or Ferraris.
  • 'The Spy in Black is a 1939 film with a German spy infiltrating a Scottish island to destroy the British fleet.
  • Vagabond (2019)
  • X Company

    Dirty Martini 
  • 5 Fingers (1952): Based on a True Story. James Mason's gentlemanly portrayal of the spy involved give it martini highlights, but the real life events it is based on tend be stale beer.
  • Agent Carter — Largely Martini, but Stale Beer seeps in since Peggy regularly has to deal with institutionalized sexism.
  • Alpha Protocol takes the action, gadgets, explosions and sexy women of the Martini genre, but mixes in the moral ambiguity, power politics, betrayal, and some of the gritty combat of the Stale Beer genre. In particular, it starts out more Stale Beer-flavored (with Saudi Arabia being the kind of mission you might expect MI6 or Delta Force to be sent on in the real world) and adopts more Martini characteristics later on. Oh, and Steven Heck is spiking the drink with something really weird.
  • Alpha Team: Mission Deep Freeze RPG is based upon LEGO Alpha Team, listed above under Martini, so naturally it shares many of its Martini characteristics. However, compared its source material, the RPG is considerably Darker and Edgier, tackling more serious themes such as death (a subject avoided entirely by the LEGO toyline) which causes it to dip into Stale Beer on occasion.
  • The Alex Rider series purposefully uses many of the unrealistic, martini-flavored elements of typical Bond films (car chases, huge explosions, hero gets a hot girl, etc.) but takes great care not to gloss over the gritty realism of being a spy - the death, the danger, and the fact that The Hero's whole life is essentially a Trauma Conga Line the moment he accepts the position as a spy. See also...
  • Atomic Blonde features a synth-heavy '80s soundtrack, fancy hotel rooms and nightclubs, and a gorgeous, stylish, ass-kicking female superspy as its heroine, presented with just a bit too much glamour to fall into Stale Beer. However, this goes hand-in-hand with brutal fight scenes, a gritty, morally cloudy story about the onset of Soviet collapse in divided Berlin, and a heavy aversion of Beauty Is Never Tarnished on the part of said heroine.
  • Babylon 5 has a number of episodes involving intrigue, notably feuding between rival Centauri clans. It is often high-class martini level but some events take place in the Down Below section, where it's not so much Stale Beer as Homebrewed Moonshine.
  • Batwoman (Rebirth) has the Martini elements of cool gadgets, exotic locales, and even a character who's a rough Q analogue, but has Stale Beer characteristics like moral grayness, a Wretched Hive setting, and the title character having to face her dark past. Kate Kane's operations also lean more toward black-ops than black-tie.
  • The Bionic Woman comes closer to stale beer than martini as Jamie Sommers eschews glamor for working in her non-spy hours as a schoolteacher and living in a loft above a farmhouse. But when she is sent on missions the stakes are often of the "save the world" level, and she does get to put on fancy clothes when the mission calls for it.
  • The Blacklist: Redemption - Unlike its parent series, it's a lot more fun and glamorous.
  • Burn After Reading - Every character seems to think they're in a different type of spy movie. They are all wrong; they are in fact in a really, really dark farce.
  • Burn Notice — Michael Westen's fashion sense and the Miami setting suggest martini, but the work he gets is more or less stale beer (Westen emphasizes the boredom a lot in his voiceover narration) with a few flashy scenes/explosions per episode. A good description might be "Stale Beer in a Martini Glass." On the other hand, the work Michael was doing before he was burned was distinctly Stale Beer, and (patriot that he is), he wants to go back to that life.
    • Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe: Less stale beer or martini, more Sam Axe trying to make a Cuba Libre with aguardiente because rural Colombia in the early 2000s (FARC was still a thing then).
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops, oddly for a Call of Duty game, took a Stale Beer approach, as it had a plot about secret, morally nasty operations done in secret by both the US and Russia. Much of the game really took place in a dingy torture room, along with a very gritty atmosphere and secret story underlying the game. The game did have some martini flavoring, in the vein of a James Bond-esque attempt at destroying the US and some gadgets — but due to just how dark the plot is, it dives right back into stale beer.
    • Call of Duty: Black Ops II is, for the most part, significantly less gritty, focusing more on a Bond-esque hi-tech plot to destroy the superpowers of the world, and done with gadgets and a super-villain that's very reminiscent of a Bond villain, but the flashbacks still contain much of the grittiness and moral grayness of the first game.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier plays up the Stale Beer approach, complete with morally gray conspiracies, a government agency that may have sinister agendas, and a hero who is forced to confront his idealism against the cynical world he has found himself in. Being a superhero film, it naturally also comes with some Martini flavorings, especially in regards to the tech.
  • Discussed in Choosers of the Slain, between Mike and an MI6 agent killing some time during a lull in the action, particularly how the Tuxedo and Martini variety is incredibly unrealistic, with the Stale Beer that's actual intelligence work is rather boring. Later in the series the actual spycraft by Katya is of the Stale Beer variety, although with some high-tech enhancement thanks to the US government in Choosers.
  • Covert Affairs — Dirty Martini. It looks like regular Martini, but a lot of emphasis is placed on how hard the job is and the stresses it places on the agent's personal life.
  • The Mrs. Pollifax books by Dorothy Gilman defy both conventions with their lead character — a little old lady from suburban New Jersey who volunteered at the CIA in order to get some excitement into her life in between meetings of her garden club.
  • Dragon Age II - Mark of the Assassin: Wyvern poison. Hawke and co. think they're taking part in The Caper, until it turns out the "thief" they're helping is Qunari (the local super-determinist religion). She's there to stop a defector from giving the Orlesian Empire military secrets that could hurt her people and get plenty of civilians killed in the crossfire. The result: a Cold War story with wyverns, giants and elves.
  • Firefox — Stale Beer until the plane takes off, when it becomes Martini very quickly.
  • James Bond yet again. If you think he shouldn't be in all three categories, just remember that he's been going on for 50 years. Many films have elements of Dirty Martini, paricularly pre-Goldfinger when he was still an Unbuilt Trope to some degree. On Her Majesty's Secret Service has no gadgets and a believable (while simultaneously bonkers) plot, and the Bond girl dies. And the first two Moore films had scenes where he uses women in ways tantamount to abuse. In The Living Daylights Bond is more cynical and even refusing obey M's orders. Licence to Kill shows Bond's more brutal side, going rogue in order to carry out a more mundane Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) - As a Reconstruction of 60s spy-fi, it presents the Cold War, CIA-KGB conflict as very Stale Beer, but the agents tasked with the biggest cases are Martini flavored. Think of a bar where everyone orders beer, and one patron comes in and gets a perfect martini.
  • The Mission: Impossible Film Series falls into the Dirty Martini variety compared to the Martini-flavored TV series that it's based on. The action feels more visceral and the otherwise Nice Guy Ethan Hunt risks his reputation by deliberately disobeying orders and committing treason to save the world. Furthermore, the CIA, IMF, and MI6 aren't above backstabbing each other to cover their own tracks. That said, the films don't shy away from glamorous parties, fast cars, and hot women one would expect from a Martini-flavored spy fic. Also, the fanciful gadgets and elaborate disguises from the TV series are still here and seen favorably.
  • Played with on Las Vegas, in that ex-CIA agent Ed seems to have had a Stale Beer-flavored first career, but his life after espionage is Martini-flavored once he retires from spycraft and puts his surveillance skills to alternative uses, busting cheats and thieves for the Montecito.
  • The Man Who Was Thursday, which is somewhere in between a spy novel and a metaphysical tract. It's something like a martini glass filled with LSD and a splash of martini. Considered by some the first spy novel.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) features a dueling between the types; John is Stale Beer, Jane is Martini.
  • Mossad 101: Alternates between gritty and smooth.
  • Murder, She Wrote episodes featuring Michael Haggerty of MI6 are Stale Beer in a Martini Glass, or as stale as you can get while also being a Cozy Mystery. (Stale beer with a pot of tea?) The episodes where Jessica gets involved are also Bathtub Gin.
  • NCIS varies in its depiction of spying. Sometimes it's the martini approach - Ziva described it as "It's not all fast cars and sex...Well, there was a lot of sex." One of her flashbacks is shooting someone from the back of a motorbike. Later, the series seems to favor the stale-beer approach a lot more, with plenty of extremely boring stakeouts featuring.
    • Its mother series, JAG also swung in its depiction of the espionage business. While CIA officer Clayton Webb often is portrayed as a martini spy on the superficial level, there's also a whole lot of morally ambigious stale beer stuff in his line of work as well, and often used story-wise as a stark contrast to the morally superior JAG officers (and the U.S. military in general). Other than Webb and a couple of other exceptions, people in the spy business tends not to be trustworthy at all. Webb himself is morally ambiguous being something of a Well-Intentioned Extremist. His main saving graces are that he is not personally corrupt, is devoted to his country and is usually loyal to his friends at least at the end of the episode.
  • My Own Worst Enemy — Swings between Martini and Stale Beer every episode. For example, the missions JANUS performs (protecting a foreign political candidate from assasination, thwarting a bomb plot, interrogating targets, retrieving a government employee from enemy hands) fall under Stale Beer, their workplace and its equipment are clearly Martini; in addition to all of Edward's stuff.
  • Necroscope, the early works smell very much of stale beer, but get steadily classier as the series progresses.
  • Nick Fury — Started out closer to Stale Beer (the character debuted as a WWII Sergeant Rock then reappeared in Marvel's "modern day" as a CIA operative) but rapidly took a turn towards Martini when Jack Kirby got involved and he got a Helicarrier and clones of Adolf Hitler started taking over the world. Then Jim Steranko came on the scene, Nick shaved his scruffy beard and the comic became some kind of radioactive psychic martini/mescaline cocktail.
  • The Night Manager: The spying takes place in glamorous locations (Switzerland, Majorca, Cairo) among people of wealth and taste, but back in London, the spymaster works out of a distinctly unglamorous warehouse office and constantly has to deal with bureaucracy and politics. Made with Bathtub Gin because the hero Jonathan Pine is a civilian hotel manager who is recruited to the spy trade.
  • Night Raid 1931: The first half (most especially the first episode) started out as Martini due to the protagonists using their Psychic Powers (in place of tech and gadgets) and the setting being in Shanghai which in Real Life is the City of Spies. Then the second half went to Stale Beer, particularly the episodes detailing historical events such as the Mukden Incident which leads to the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and Emperor Puyi's coronation. The epilogue episode deals with the February 26 incident, which paves the way to the Second Sino-Japanese War.
  • Night's Black Agents
  • Red. Beer, Beer, Martini, Beer, Beer, Martini, Martini ... Frank, Sarah and Marvin are definitely beer. Cooper, the Fed after them, is so martini his eyes should be pimento stuffed olives. Victoria and Ivan are the champagne.
  • Princess Principal — he Principal Team's adventures are outwardly glamorous, with car chases, Fancy Steampunk gadgets and a very stylish (Elegant Gothic Lolita) wardrobe. On the other hand, they're teenage killers who will Shoot the Dog if the mission requires it, and there are quite a few hints at the psychological issues their life brings with it.
  • The Prisoner (1967) — Martini flavor, but gives a hangover worse then any flavor of beer (stale or otherwise), or (for that matter) any alcoholic beverage period (red wine and tequila included). Also, it feels like someone dropped a tab of LSD into the glass.
  • The urban fantasy Red Room series has Derek Hawthorne as its protagonist: a depressed Snark Knight who has outlived three partners, a marriage, and is stricken with guilt over his actions in a world where everyone else is a Sociopathic Hero enjoying the benefits of a magically-rich Ancient Conspiracy.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog may to be this if you choose to be G. U. N. agent. Game trying to be Stale Beer, but the elements from other Sonic the Hedgehog games make it closer to Martini.
  • Sleeper (WildStorm) - Black Martini. Takes all the tropes of Martini (flying cars, cool gadgets, alien technology, superpowers) and runs them through a blender full of Chambord.
  • Spooks — Martini, but with major Stale Beer elements.
  • Spy X Family: At a glance, we have a super-spy tasked to infiltrate the high society where his target resides. Look deeper, and we see an exhausted man being worked like a dog, so traumatized by his past experience of war that he'd do anything to prevent it, in the service of an agency staffed with people broken in their own ways from the spy business.such as 
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Our Man Bashir" has Dr. Julian Bashir in an obvious James Bond parody holoprogram, making it VERY Martini. On the other hand, actual spy organizations (e.g. Section 31 and the Obsidian Order) in the show are Stale Beer. One of these Stale Beer spies is trapped in the program with Bashir, who treats it like the real thing.
    Garak: Kiss the girl, get the key. They never taught us that in the Obsidian Order.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic — The Imperial Agent's base storyline has on the surface Martini action, infiltration, flirtation, taking on The Conspiracy etc. But it becomes apparent that Imperial Intelligence is literally the only thing enabling The Empire to function. Officers and Sith kill each other for promotion, Fantastic Racism results in short term alliances, the list goes on. And then it turns out Imperial Intelligence does secret brainwashing on all agents, the player included, to ensure they follow orders, driving them to the brink of insanity. Finding all this crap leads the frustrated agent's best ending to be where they make themselves Un-person just so they can help The Empire however they see best.
  • Stranger Things — Eleven's backstory mixes the glamour of Psychic Powers and parallel dimensions with the inhumanity of the secret government program (based on the real-life MKUltra program) that tried to weaponize them and turn her into a Teen Superspy. The third season also introduces a group of villainous Soviet spies trying to steal and copy the research done at Hawkins National Laboratory. The Absinthe elements of their story include the Elaborate Underground Base, the sci-fi technology they use to open a portal to the Upside Down, and the Upside Down itself and its inhabitants, while the Stale Beer elements include the ruthless hitman they send to cover it up, the tragic defector Alexei, and the fact that it all takes place in a (seemingly) ordinary, boring American small town.
  • The Thin Man (book and movies) — Nora is from a Martini background, but happily follows Nick into the private eye's Stale Beer life.
  • Topaz: Described by Alfred Hitchcock as a "realistic James Bond film", it has an intricate plot involving characters from the US, the USSR, France and Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, based on real events. But the lead character is an Antihero Bond Expy, complete with globetrotting and womanizing, and using everyday gadgets (and food items) to conceal cameras and microfilm figures heavily into the story.
  • The Trickster's Duet takes place in a lush tropical setting with a flirtatious and highborn protagonist, but with a lot of grit and technical stuff, like crawling through disgustingly polluted harbors and human ugliness that she has to deal with (and occasionally exploit).
  • Ultraseven X, while having some franchise-traditional elements, is this, having trenchcoat agents investigating some alien incidents in Cyberpunk setting.
  • Watch Dogs: Legion: The big hook of the game is that you can play as anybody you see on the streets of London, and among the character types you can recruit are spies, who each get a silenced pistol, a spy watch that lets them remotely jam enemies' weapons, a spy car (which resembles a classic Jaguar or Aston Martin) that comes equipped with missiles and an AR cloak, and a nice suit. The tutorial has you playing as one such spy, named Dalton Wolfe. Playing as anyone else, however, is closer to Dirty Martini with a shot of Bathtub Gin, with some Bleach and Ammonia thrown in if you have permadeath enabled, with other character types ranging from ordinary construction workers and nurses to professional killers to Football Hooligans. And when you add in the fact that every character is a hacker, you can throw in a side of Club-Mate.
  • Whiskey Cavalier deals with international espionage in both glamorous and grimy situations.
  • The Villanelle series:
  • 009-1: Technicolor Ninja cyborg spy girls with miniskirts and machinegun breasts, traveling the world and looking great doing it... while taking part in stories about betrayal, tragedy, and moral ambiguity, with happy endings virtually nowhere to be found.
  • Wonder Woman: Black and Gold: A story in the series called "Espionage" is a throwback to the "Mod Era" of Wonder Woman where Diana was an Emma Peel knock-off but with more a Darker and Edgier tone and art style.

    Margaritas (parodies) 
  • The "Genghis Khan" video by Miike Snow — Martini with a tiny rainbow paper umbrella in it.
  • Harry, the Fat Bear Spy by Gahan Wilson — who'd much rather go to the beach and eat macaroons that do espionage work.
  • The Lord Darcy story The Ipswich Phial — A parody of all spy fiction tropes; the spy's name is a spoof of James Bond, and the title is a spoof on Len Deighton. While the story is martini-flavoured, it's implied that Sir James's usual missions are on the stale beer side.
  • John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme — The Storyteller sketch in one episode is a The Quest for Karla parody with the Circus replaced by the Zoo. Which is an actual zoo. Stale beer in a plastic cup from the zoo cafe.

    Other Intoxicants 
  • The Adventures of Tartu (1943) - It's a little Stale with a dash of Bath Tub — there's humour, intrigue, but fear due to the real threat of brutal Nazis.
  • Agent - subverting the Martini line.
  • Agent X - Mixture of Stale, Bathtub Gin and Bleach.
  • Assault Spy - Has the Martini aesthetic but goes for a much more humorist and action heavy approach and with spies as subtle as bulldozers.
  • Barbary Coast - Tequila and Bolo Tie (Maritini and Tuxedo in The Wild West)
  • Black Butler
  • The Bravo: A Tale (1831) is another example of the genre by Cooper. It deals with intrigues in 18th-century Venice.
  • Casanova is Martini and Absinthe. Psychic duels, paratime shenanigans, hidden ultra-advanced civilizations and helicasinos for the win.
  • Condor
  • The Cornelius Chronicles - Absinthe, sometimes with an LSD chaser.
  • Counterpart - Mostly Bathtub Gin.
  • The Courier (2021) is Bathtub Gin combined with Stale Beer; an ordinary British salesman is recruited to pass intel to MI-6 from a Russian spy - there's a running risk of them both being caught by the KGB and the threat of nuclear war looming over them, which takes a personal toll on both of them. Based on a True Story.
  • Covert Action
  • Delilah & Julius
  • Demon: The Descent, a 'Techgnostic Espionage' game under Chronicles of Darkness, where the player characters can lie so well even magical truth detector would be ineffective, the conspiracy theorists are the ones properly paranoid, revealing your true identity will result in the enemy's agents zeroing on you immediately, and the opposition is literally godlike mechanical intelligence existing across the universe and different planes of existence.
  • Dominatrix - Bathtub gin flavored mostly.
  • Evil Genius, except you play as the villain and must fend off attempts at the Forces of Justice infiltrating or attacking your island base. Enemy superagents are (more or less) expies of James Bond, Rambo, Bruce Lee, Honey Ryder, and Natasha Romanoff.
  • Fur Fighters
  • The Hunchback Assignments
  • It Takes a Thief (1968)- Whatever's in the fridge.
  • Joker Game - A mixture of Bathtub Gin & Stale Beer.
  • Journey into Fear - Bathtub Gin flavored, as an American Everyman runs afoul of Nazi assassins.
  • Kim - One of the first spy stories ever written, it is something of an oddball having a formless plot and a protagonist who starts not even knowing which side he is on. The protagonist is too low of rank to go to the Fancy Dinners that would be expected of a Martini type spy, but his life as a street informer is rather romanticized.
  • The Kingsman series:
  • London Spy - Bleach and Ammonia Variety with a dash of Bathtub Gin, as the main character is a civilian who falls in love with a programmer who works for MI6. When the MI6 programmer is ruthlessly murdered by his own handlers in an effort to destroy the technology he created, his civilian lover gets pursued by the ruthless and unscrupless agents of these various shadowy organisations who all seem intent on ruining his life.
  • The Matt Helm series varies depending on medium. The original book were Stale Beer with Helm being a ruthless Professional Killer working for an intelligence agency that seemed to specialize in the morally dubious. The movies with Dean Martin are a martini-flavored parody of James Bond. The little seen television show made Helm a Private Detective.
  • MacGyver (2016) — A Mix of Stale and Martini.
  • Metal Gearfriggin' Absinthe. To elaborate — Metal Gear Solid is pure Stale Beer, with a few fantastic elements. Metal Gear Solid 2 amped up the fantastic elements to Magic Realism levels, while pushing the Stale Beer elements to breaking point. Metal Gear Solid 3 was far more straightforward, deliberately using Martini tropes in the style of Stale Beer. Metal Gear Solid 4 is much more solidly Stale Beer than the others, and it rejects most of the fantastical elements in favor of amping up the science-fiction elements, becoming more of a techno-thriller (albeit a very mind-screwy one).
  • Momentum (2015) - Action Genre movie that crosses into Bleach and Ammonia territory. Olga Kurylenko plays a CIA trained infilitration specialist up against a professional Cleanup Crew backed by a corrupt US senator.
  • Mrs. Smith's Spy School for Girls - A children's spy series where the titular school is also a front for training children in the world of espionage.
  • No One Lives Forever — An Affectionate Parody of '60s Martini spy movies in the manner of Austin Powers, the protagonist being a glamorous Distaff Counterpart to Bond who wields a ton of gadgets and battles over-the-top villains and their outrageous henchmen.
  • The Numbers Station
  • Perfect Dark
  • Person of Interest often crosses over into the Bleach and Ammonia flavor.
  • Pigeon: Impossible - No actual spying, but a CIA agent's eventful first day on the job.
  • Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution: A Bleach and Ammonia Bathtub Gin Jägerbomb. It's self-consciously punk as all get-out, with the default PCs as terrorists cum ravers fighting against The Agency, in a world where Anyone Can Die, evil conspiracies fight to control the world, and people's heads explode from out-of-control psychic powers. Tradecraft is de-emphasized for the protagonists (who are kids with serious emotional problems and powers that make them living weapons), but highly important to their enemies.
  • Queen's Gambit
  • Red Sparrow, The Film of the Book, has Dirty Martini glamour and exotic locations mixed with the unvarnished brutality of Bleach & Ammonia.
  • Ripley's Bureau of Investigation
  • The major works of Lemony snicket are dark childrens literature that have a heavy mix of Bleach and Ammonia along with one other ingredient , Usually when the VFD are involved. A Series of Unfortunate Events has the Bathtub Gin variety, while All the Wrong Questions has straight up stale beer in it.
  • The Saint - The main character is not a spy for anyone in particular, but has all the workings of one.
  • Secret Histories
  • Spider and Web
  • The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground by James Fenimore Cooper - Rotgut. One of the or possibly the earliest spy novel ever (1821). Harvey Birch, a baccy-chewing pedler, helps to foil British and Loyalist intrigues during the American Revolution by pretending to be a spy for the British. He couldn't afford a martini even if it had been invented by 1780, but the story is belongs to literary Romanticism and makes it quite clear who the good guys are, so it does not belong to the stale beer flavour either.
  • Spyforce: A series about Australian military intelligence operatives operating behind enemy lines in WWII.
  • SPY Fox
  • The Star Trek: The Lost Era novel Catalyst of Sorrows is a deliberate riff on Le Carre, but it's also about Starfleet Intelligence led by Uhura, and is therefore too idealistic to be real stale beer. Stale synthale?
  • Syphon Filter
  • Tenet - acid. A science fiction spy film, The Protagonist (he really is called the Protagonist in the film) journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time. This involves inversion, which is progressing backwards in time.
  • The Time In Between and the novel on which it's based: Bathtub Gin, as it revolves around a seamstress whose closeness to the elite gets her drawn in as a spy for the British in pre-World War II Spain.
  • xXx: Four Loko. Or a Jägerbomb. The opening scene contains a Take That! at the "Martini" style, with a James Bond expy getting killed at a Rammstein concert due to how he stuck out in the crowd.
  • Young Justice (2010) — Bane Venom or Reach soda. It's covert superheroics. After telling the Justice League that they are no longer content to play the role of sidekicks, the Team is formed under Batman's supervision. He sends them on covert missions around the world, usually intending them to observe, sabotage, escort, or rescue. More often than not, they come upon a villain's secret plans, which have to be dealt with right then and there. Their missions bring them into conflict with a mysterious covert group called the Light.
    • Season 2 further expounds on the spy themes. Aqualad goes deep undercover to get closer to the Light. Nightwing helps Artemis fake her own death, so she can join him undercover. The Light gains a new ally in the Reach, who help them expedite the Light's covert experiments on metahumans. And the Reach themselves have a secret armada of ships waiting in the deepest part of the ocean.
      • The espionage/black ops theme makes a return to Season 3 as most of the Team alongside some disaffected Justice League members form up a team known internally as The Outsiders to secretly investigate a metahuman trafficking/WMD scheme backed by Count Vertigo.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society - Four prodigious children with no parents pass a Secret Test of Character and are tasked to infiltrate a School for Scheming to save the world. They don't have prior training besides being taught morse code so it leans on Bathtub Gin.
  • Fallout 4 gives us Stale irradiated Beer mixed in with Bleach and Ammonia, if a certain path is taken. The Stale Beer is the Railroad faction, which uses a lot of spy tradecraft including dead drops, code names, signs and counter signs, covert speak, disguises etc. The beer is considered irradiated, as the setting is in a post-apocalyptic death world with horribly mutated creatures coming out of the woodwork everywhere and trying to kill you, and radiation poisoning being a constant threat. Although, you can try to Martini it up by walking around in a nice suit or dress, the post apocalyptic setting makes that Martini very dirty. There is also an unhealthy dose of bleach, what with the Institute kidnapping people to replace them with synth doppelgängers and conducting experiments to turn those kidnapped people into Ax-Crazy super mutants. For added measure, you can even find bottles of actual 200-year-old stale beer everywhere.
  • Darkwing Duck - Everything in the fridge plus the kitchen sink. While the show is mainly a superhero spoof, its origins lie in being a secret agent spoof of the margarita variety. A good portion of the episodes still are this whenever S.H.U.S.H is involved. Of particular note is episode "In Like Blunt" where Darkwing is partnered with his inspiration Derrick Blunt, the show's James Bond parody, who wrote stories of his adventures after he retired. However, Darkwing was more inspired by the movie versions of Blunt's stories, which are more martini based and gadget-oriented while the real Blunt hates the gadget aspect of the movies in particular since a "true spy only relies on their wits and what's around them" and is more of a stale beer in a martini glass type. Mixed in is the usual comedic, Loony Tunes type slapstick and the over the top comic/martini villainy.
  • Spy Gear Adventures is about a group of middle schoolers finding a warehouse full of spy gear and deciding to use it to play spies, only to actually stumble on real conspiracies, involving government experiments, Grey Goo, and possibly extraterrestrial life. It's rather low-stakes, with none of the major characters ever at serious risk of dying. A mix of Bathtub Gin and Absinthe (but non-alcoholic).

Alternative Title(s): Spy Drama, Spy Fi