Grounded with a desk job by incompetent superiors, a clever CIA agent retires and writes a tell all memoir that will embarrass his bosses, prompting him to go on the run and elude them.


Ronald Neame


Brian Garfield (novel), Brian Garfield (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
3 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Walter Matthau ... Miles Kendig
Glenda Jackson ... Isobel von Schönenberg
Sam Waterston ... Joe Cutter
Ned Beatty ... G.P. Myerson
Herbert Lom ... Mikhail Yaskov
David Matthau David Matthau ... Leonard Ross
George Baker ... Parker Westlake
Ivor Roberts Ivor Roberts ... Ludlum
Lucy Saroyan Lucy Saroyan ... Carla
Severn Darden ... Maddox
George Pravda ... Saint Breheret
Jacquelyn Hyde ... Realtor
Mike Gwilym Mike Gwilym ... Alfie Booker
Terry Beaver Terry Beaver ... Tobin
Ray Charleson Ray Charleson ... Clausen


CIA agent Miles Kendig decides to get out of 'the game' and to ensure he's left alone he threatens to send his memoirs to the world's intelligence agencies. When the CIA doesn't believe him, he calls their bluff and starts writing and sending out chapters one by one. Realizing that their operations would be compromised, the CIA (led by Myerson and Cutter) set out to put an end to Kendig's plan by whatever means necessary. The heart of the movie follows a game of cat and mouse between a fumbling CIA and an artful Kendig. Written by P. Wong <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


He's about to expose the CIA, the FBI, the KGB...and himself. See more »


Adventure | Comedy


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Warren Beatty considered taking the role of Kendig. See more »


The movie is plausible up to the point where Matthau was able to transition from the biplane, across an open field under the watchful eye of four people in a helicopter without being seen, to hide in the shack with his radio control box and fly the airplane. Inconceivable. See more »


[first lines]
Kendig: Hey Yaskov, how are ya?
Yaskov: Kendig. What as unexpected pleasure.
Kendig: May I have it please?
Yaskov: Have what?
Kendig: I got it all on film, Yaskov. You don't want to deal with the West Germans, they don't like Russian Intelligence, you know that. Just give it to me, and we'll forget all about it.
Yaskov: I could make a run for it, you know.
Kendig: Come on, Yaskov. You running, me chasing? We'd look like Laurel and Hardy.
See more »

Alternate Versions

DVD version contains both the original theatrical soundtrack and a redubbed soundtrack used for television release (replacing profanity and other objectionable dialogue). See more »


Referenced in Pulp Fiction (1994) See more »


Le Nozze di Figaro, K 492: Act 1: Scene 8: Aria Figaro Non più andrai
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
See more »

User Reviews

Staying one step ahead of the CIA in this Cold War comedy
12 December 2015 | by SimonJackSee all my reviews

The plot for "Hopscotch" is very simple. One of the top CIA field agents is being sent to a desk job until retirement. Walter Matthau plays Miles Kendig. His boss is of the Ivy League set and doesn't like the way Miles works. Ned Beatty plays boss Myerson. We don't like him right away. He's a jerk, not as intelligent, and he swears and cusses a lot. Miles won't take it sitting down, and decides to go on the lamb. He destroys the CIA file on himself, and through work contacts arranges for a few new IDs – passports and all.

Miles contacts a former colleague and girlfriend to help him with parts of his plan. He wants to get back together with Isobel (played by Glenda Jackson), who is a well-to-do widow now living in Switzerland. A couple of other main characters are Cutter, a CIA agent who Miles trained, and who is now in charge of trying to find him. Cutter likes Miles, and tells the boss that he will be a step ahead of them all the way. The other character of substance is a Soviet counterpart to Miles, whom Miles like and respects. Miles know how he thinks.. Herbert Lom plays Yaskov, who also likes and respects Miles.

Most of the film is about Miles eluding the CIA who pursue him around the globe. He is writing his memoirs and sending them, a chapter at a time, to the CIA and its counterparts in Moscow, Peking, London and Rome. Myerson wants Miles "eliminated," and maybe the other intelligence groups do as well. But Miles finds a publisher in London, and his book becomes a best seller. As he sets in play each move, Miles stays a step ahead of his pursuers. Until the very end with its unusual but not very surprising ending.

The film is based on a book by Brian Garfield. In an interview that came with my DVD of the movie, Garfield said he wanted to write a CIA story as an adventure and a comedy without the gore and killing. His screenplay kept to the book in that regard. He and Ronald Neame, director, talked about how Ned Beatty had to practice using his profanity because he wasn't that way in real life. That's the one thing that keeps this from being a movie for all ages.

Another reviewer noted how the intrigue of the plot keeps one somewhat on edge for what comes next. We all pull for Miles and want him to succeed. The comedy isn't of the loud laughing type, but is dry and subtle at times with some humorous situations. It's an enjoyable film, but there's still something lacking about it. We don't see or know what Miles plans to do from one point to the next --- and there's a sense that he doesn't have a plan. He even says something to that effect at one point. Yet his every move seems so methodically planned out. He moves too smoothly and almost nonchalantly between stops. He visits a forger. He flies to Switzerland. He rents a car. He drives to see Isobel. He flies to London. He visits a man for a job there. He flies to Washington. He drives to South Carolina. He rents a house. He hires an oil truck. He hires a plane and pilot. He flies to Bermuda. He flies to London. He hires buys, rents and flies ad infinitum.

The movie was shot in several locations – London, Munich, Salzburg, Atlanta and other locales. In the interview that came with my DVD, we learn that Matthau was cool on doing the filming portion in Germany. He is Jewish and lost several relatives who were killed by Nazi Germany during World War II. Ronald Neame explains how he got Matthau to come around. It involved giving parts in the film to some relatives. Mathau's son, David Matthau, plays CIA agent Ross. Lucy Saroyan, daughter of Matthau's second wife, plays the airline pilot, Carla. Both tested well for their parts, according to Neame, and he said he made their roles conditional on Matthau's agreeing to the filming in Munich during the annual Oktoberfest there.

This movie was made at a time when Cold War spy and espionage films were highly popular. It broke away from the usual suspense and mayhem with killing and gruesome scenes. It offers a light comedic touch to the otherwise dark and often seedy world of espionage. It's not a great or complex film, but a light comedy that most adults should enjoy.

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English | German | French | Russian | Italian

Release Date:

10 October 1980 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

Hopscotch See more »

Filming Locations:

Marseille, France See more »


Box Office


$9,500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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