News & Politics

Which Military Branches and Intelligence Agencies Have the Best Pop Culture?

“The Diplomat,” “Mission Impossible,” and other shows and movies.

Still from The Diplomat courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

America’s military branches and intelligence agencies have long reaped PR benefits from (some of) their depictions in Hollywood fare. How’s that been working lately?


Recent project: Top Gun: Maverick.

Rep-enhancement factor: Sky-high.

The Tom Cruise blockbuster, which earned a Best Picture nod, makes the Navy look like a total blast.


Recent project: The Diplomat.

Rep-enhancement factor: Good.

The Netflix show isn’t all about the CIA, but the appealing London station chief plays a major role.



Recent project: The Night Agent.

Rep-enhancement factor: Not bad.

The agent protagonist of this Netflix series oozes decency. But the conspiracy could have been stopped sooner if the FBI were on the ball.


Recent project: Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant.

Rep-enhancement factor: Mixed.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a noble sergeant in Afghanistan whose interpreter saves his life—and is then denied asylum in the US.


Space Force

Recent project: Space Force.

Rep-enhancement factor: None.

Steve Carell’s Netflix comedy painted the military’s newest branch as bumbling neurotics trying to validate their department’s existence. It was canceled after two grim seasons.


This article appears in the June 2023 issue of Washingtonian.

Tory Basile
Editorial Fellow