James Bond has returned to the big screen for his last outing with Daniel Craig in the lead, and in honor of this event, we look back at Hollywood Pictures’ 1996 spoof of the genre Spy Hard. Nobody does hilarity like Leslie Nielsen.

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The Plot

Dick Steele, Agent WD-40, is called out of retirement to vanquish his old nemesis, General Rancor. Partnered with Agent 3.14, Veronique Ukrinsky, Steele learns about Rancor’s plot to destroy the world with a microchip that Veronique’s father created.

Pursued by Rancor, Steele manages to infiltrate his remote base and saving the world and stopping General Rancor once and for all.

The Good

Leslie Nielson is hilarious. His work in Spy Hard is on par with the silliness that he brought to The Naked Gun films, and this send up of spy movies, especially James Bond films is brilliant. Nielsen can add so much comedy to a scene with a raised eyebrow, or a smirk on his face, that it was impossible not to laugh throughout the film.

Austin Powers is a more popular spoof of the Bond films, Spy Hard was on the big screen a year before the world had seen Mike Myers’ landmark role. The fact that Andy Griffith is the villain, only makes Spy Hard even better. There is no one better to play the bad guy in a spy spoof than a beloved television legend like Griffith. Both Nielsen and Griffith looked like they were having a lot of fun on set, and it shows in their performance.

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic singing the title song, couldn’t be more perfect. His parody is not only perfect for the film but is quite entertaining to listen to.

The Bad and the Ugly

If you aren’t a fan of silly parody films, then you won’t enjoy Spy Hard. 

Critical response to the film in 1996 focused on the script and direction as lacking. They praised Nielson but many critics commented on how Spy Hard wasn’t on the level of genius like The Naked Gun or Airplane. To me there is nothing terrible about the movie. It’s funny, not crude like many other films, and you won’t be embarrassed if your children watch the movie with you.

Beyond the Film Facts

  • Leslie Nielsen was 69 at the time the movie was filmed.
  • While Marcia Gay Harden loved working with Leslie Nielsen, according to the actress in a 2012 interview, the filming was chaotic at best.
  • While the movie spoofs a variety of different films, the opening title sequence is a direct spoof of the James Bond movie Thunderball.
  • When Dick Steele infiltrates General Rancor’s base near the end of the film, many of the cinematic moments are reminiscent of the first Bond film Dr. No.
  • In the scene where Dick rides the horse into the elevator, much like Arnold Schwarzenegger did in True Lies, the occupants of the elevator in Spy Hard are the same people who appeared in the elevator with Schwarzenegger.
  • The film has multiple cameos from celebrities like Mr. T., Robert Culp, Ray Charles, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Hulk Hogan, Fabio, Robert Guillaume, and Pat Morita.
  • Alex Trebek is the voice on the recording Dick listens to at the start of the film, and Brad Garrett has a voice appearance as one of the guards at Rancor’s base.
  • Talissa Soto, who appeared in the James Bond film Licence to Kill, appears in the film as a seductress at the hotel named Desiree More.
  • Mason Gamble plays McCluckey. This was Gamble’s second feature film after Dennis the Menace. He plays a composite of Macaulay Culkin’s character from Home Alone.
  • The hotel that Nielsen rides the horse through is the famed Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles which was the sight of Robert Kennedy’s assassination.
  • At the start of the film, the Team Disney building is used for the exterior shot of the covert intelligence building.

The Streamy Award

I have updated our Golden Popcorn Bucket Award to the Streamy Award. We have four different categories of where a film falls in the streaming order.

{Watch on your phone (1) Watch on a tablet (2) Perfect travel entertainment (3) Best at home with the biggest screen (4)}

Spy Hard is funny, but it only gets a level 1 ‘Streamy Award’. Watch it on your phone while you are waiting in the dentist office. The laughs will kill the time but turn it off once you leave.

Cast and Crew

  • Leslie Nielson as Dick Steele
  • Nicollette Sheridan as Veronique
  • Andy Griffith as General Rancor
  • Charles Durning as The Director
  • Marcia Gay Harden as Miss Cheevus

Directed by Rick Friedberg

Produced by Hollywood Pictures  

Release Date: May 24, 1996

Budget: $18 million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $26,960,191

Coming Soon

Next week we get into the spirit of Halloween with 1994’s alien invasion fright fest, The Puppet Masters. Can Donald Sutherland save the planet and his family from an alien invasion? I sure hope so.