Before you tune in to Amazon's latest show, check out every Jack Ryan movie, ranked from worst to best

Very soon Jack Ryan will once again become a household name, and probably even sooner there will be a looming nostalgia about the character's previous portrayals.


                            Before you tune in to Amazon's latest show, check out every Jack Ryan movie, ranked from worst to best

Graham Roland, one of the showrunners of Amazon's upcoming series 'Jack Ryan', revealed that he and Carlton Cuse spent almost a month on Tom Clancy's books. They soon realized, however, that Clancy's stories were extremely significant geopolitical thrillers of their time. He confessed, "Trying to take a book that had been written 30 years ago and translate it to today was just not going to work." 

After Paramount's 'Shadow Recruit' which released in 2014, it was almost assumed that the Ryanverse series had come to an end. However, it was probably time to actually explore the life and times of Jack Ryan, a character who has been played by several veteran actors including Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin. Probably in order to do that, adapting the franchise for a TV series is a better option than making several sequels which often do not expand entirely on the character.

Ever since Jack Ryan hit screens in 1984 with the superb 'The Hunt for Red October', there has been a consistent decline in the portrayal of a character who otherwise has multiple layers to himself and his stories. 

John Krasinski is probably the fifth actor to play Jack Ryan. (IMDb)
John Krasinski is probably the fifth actor to play Jack Ryan. (IMDb)

The films that were released sporadically between 1990 to 2014 varied in their versions of the character. While some of them stuck full-heartedly to Clancy's subtle specifications of technology and military history, the others didn't...well, not as much. So let's take a look at the top movie adaptations of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan from worst to best, before we delve into John Krasinki's adventures in Ryanverse. 

5. The Sum of All Fears (Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, 2002)

When Ben Affleck is playing a particular character, he often tends to single-handedly reduce all of its energy. That is exactly what he did in the 2002 adaptation of Tom Clancy's book of the same name. 

By the time the book appears in the chronology, the doe-eyed CIA analyst has already been sworn as the Vice President after the President is killed in a suicide attack. Affleck takes up the role of the CIA analyst who soon becomes the Commander-in-Chief and begins to examine a Russian nuclear weapons facility. Affleck takes up the role after the character was already established on screen as a virtuous, irreproachable man by Baldwin and Ford. Although Affleck's portrayal of Jack Ryan was more inclined to Baldwin's portrayal of the character, which is the nervous young man who sits at the end of the table, yet it is a rather drab performance the 'Argo' star puts on. In fact, even the character of John Clark (who will not be present in the Amazon series) was not entirely up to the mark in spite of Liev Schreiber taking up the role after Willem Dafoe's portrayal in 'Clear and Present Danger'. 

Although the film, directed by 'Field of Dreams' director Phil Alden Robinson, was certainly an action-packed entertainer, it lacked the spark or even the enthusiasm required to depict the CIA analyst. In fact, the movie deviated from the plot on so many levels that Clancy himself commented that he was the author of the “book the director ignored”. 

Affleck lacked the induced charm of the CIA analyst. (IMDb)
Affleck lacked the induced charm of the CIA analyst. (IMDb)

4. Patriot Games (Harrison Ford, Sean Bean, 1992)

Departing from the doe-eyed, nervous, virtuous Jack Ryan (as Baldwin had portrayed him), Harrison Ford played the character in a completely different shade. As a part of the sequel to Baldwin's 'The Hunt for Red October', 'Patriot Games' focussed on the Irish Republican Army. 

Although initially the movie was supposed to be set before the events of 'The Hunt for Red October', 'Clear and Present Danger' was supposed to be the second movie in the Ryanverse franchise. However, John McTiernan, director of 'The Hunt for Red October', explained that while neither he nor Baldwin were sympathizers of the Irish Republican Army, they were nevertheless of Irish descent and couldn't possibly make a movie undermining their own cultural heritage.

He said, “We pleaded with the studio to make the other Jack Ryan book, ‘Clear and Present Danger,’ which was a much better script. Alec and I both wanted to do it and told them straight off we would. But the producer owned the book ‘Patriot Games,’ and it was going to greatly increase his participation in the ultimate series if they made ‘Patriot Games’ as the second movie.” 

Ford in his turn to portray the character made Jack Ryan a man wise beyond his age and being McTiernan's first choice for the role, he certainly had the upper hand when it came to manipulating the character for the screen. Ford brought out an arrogant side of Ryan, someone who is conceited and cocky about his own genius. The movie is not visually appealing, it lacked the novel presentation of 'The Hunt for Red October' and certainly was not half as thrilling as its predecessor. However, it certainly has a good cast including Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Thora Birch (as Ryan’s daughter), and Samuel L. Jackson. 

Ford's Jack Ryan was a more cocky person. (IMDb)
Ford's Jack Ryan was a more cocky person. (IMDb)

3. Clear and Present Danger (Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, 1994)

Ford was probably at the peak of his powers when he played Jack Ryan in the 1994 adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel. In the gripping tale of suspense and thrills, the dialogue between characters held the central ground while the action is often pushed to the back. Moreover, Willem Dafoe as the foil character John Clark is a treat to watch. 

Set in South America, the movie immediately attracts the audience with its fantastic tale of drug dealers and a secret operation planned by the President (played by Donald Moffat) and carried out by the notorious John Clark, who Clancy refers to as the darker alter-ego of Jack Ryan. Although it is not as dynamic as 'The Hunt for Red October', it certainly can be referred to as the only other movie that has done justice to the series. In spite of being released at a time when most action movies had drug dealers as their lead villains, 'Clear and Present Danger' stood out for its sensible story-telling with two terrific actors in the lead who performed one of the most iconic and well-choreographed action sequences in the entire franchise. 

It wouldn't be wrong to say that Dafoe adds a whole different nuance to the film. Dafoe successfully portrayed the character with his grey palette of hatred, anxiety, and guilt. 

Both Dafoe and Ford took the characters to a whole different level. (IMDb)
Both Dafoe and Ford took the characters to a whole different level. (IMDb)

2. Shadow Recruit (Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, 2014)

Probably the one actor who gives us a preview of what John Krasinski might resemble as the CIA analyst, was Chris Pine. Pine's calm and composed portrayal of Jack Ryan was very similar to Alec Baldwin's poised portrayal. He certainly added his own twists to the character. His Jack Ryan is a notorious one, and still stands his virtuous ground. 

As the fifth film of the franchise, 'Shadow Recruit' -- unlike its predecessors -- is a reboot that departs from its actual storyline. It is not an adaptation of any a Clancy novel, but a story on its own. As the fourth actor to take up the role, probably Pine's good looks were his biggest advantage. Jack Ryan is not a person of sophisticated habits and manners, instead, he is a rather kind-hearted man who avoided making hasty decisions, but didn't mind killing when required. It told the story of how the CIA analyst came to be a part of the CIA, his journey from the London School of Economics to becoming a U.S. Marine second lieutenant fighting in Afghanistan. On one hand, the film depicts a love story between Ryan and Cathy Muller (played by Kiera Knightley). On the other hand, it also has some hard-hitting action scenes, extremely well choreographed. 

Receiving a mixed reaction from critics, the movie earned $5.4 million on its opening day in North American markets and reached $17.2 million by the end of its opening weekend.

Chris Pine's 'Jack Ryan' was more of a homeboy. (IMDb)
Chris Pine's 'Jack Ryan' was more of a homeboy. (IMDb)

1. The Hunt for Red October (Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, 1990)

It is always the truth that the first part of any franchise is certainly the best of the lot. It is raw, original, and genuine. Needless to say, the hunt for a Soviet mysterious submarine put all of us on the edge of our seats. Apart from the excellent story, the film certainly had a very strong cast to project the suspenseful action-drama in a sensitive way. Both Connery and Baldwin were like two swords clashing on screen as their own characters blended to defect. 

Set and written during the Cold War era, it was highly doubtful that a society which was gradually moving away from the shackles of war would accept the film, specifically for its storyline where a CIA analyst defends a Soviet submarine commander as he tries to defect. The film gave us a first glimpse at Jack Ryan, and Baldwin certainly puts a face to the character. His tranquility gave an extra push to Ryan's character bringing him much closer to the audience. Baldwin somehow managed to rip Jack of his glory and present him as a man who works at the lower levels of the intelligence service and is just trying to get by. 

Director John McTiernan explained: “It’s about a boy, even though he’s 35 years old, he’s a boy in the environment he functions in. In the bureaucratic political world, he’s in, he’s the kid at the end of the table. He comes to possess a piece of information, a map or an insight, that leads to him going to sea. And he’s swept off with a bunch of bizarre characters and something in his innate nature allows him or helps him to solve whatever the crisis is. And he comes back from sea forever changed.” 

That change would not have been possible for Ryan without his interaction with submarine commander Captain Marko Ramius (played by Connery). Connery also did justice to the character without puffing him up beyond proportion. 

The movie had an amazing cast to its benefit. (IMDb)
The movie had an amazing cast to its benefit. (IMDb)

Now, it is only a matter of time before we know if John Krasinski will prove to be one of the best Ryans, or just another actor playing just another CIA agent. 

Disclaimer : The views expressed in this article belong to the writer and are not necessarily shared by MEAWW.