Jack Ryan is an incredibly popular character within a franchise that began nearly four decades ago. Watching the films within this franchise can confusing, but this article will provide you with three ways to watch the Jack Ryan movies in order.
The franchise is referred to as the Ryanverse by the fandom and has spanned more than 30 books, five movies, a video game, a television series, and spin-offs.
Who is Jack Ryan?
But before we dive into the movies, let’s learn a little bit more about the main character himself: Jack Ryan.
Because so many actors have been cast in role of Jack Ryan, he has been introduced many times over. Throughout the reboots and reintroductions the depiction of Ryan has fluctuated. However, the core of Ryan’s character has remained the same.
He is often an unassuming character who is quick-thinking, which allows him to save himself and others throughout the films. He has an analytical mind which is apparent in his job as a CIA analyst. As well, while he often gets pulled into the thick of things reluctantly, he always steps up to the plate.
Throughout the series he climbs the ranks of the CIA quickly and proves himself to be an indispensable asset to the US government.
Are the Jack Ryan Movies Based on Books?
Yes! The character Jack Ryan was first created by author Tom Clancy. There are now more than 30 books published within the Ryanverse since the first book, The Hunt for Red October, was published in 1984.
Clancy’s novels are military-science and espionage thrillers, which have proven to be incredibly popular. Following Clancy’s death in 2013 the series has continued with the approval of Clancy’s estate. Multiple other authors have written within the Ryanverse, including Mark Greaney, Marc Cameron, Grant Blackwood, Mike Maden, and Don Bently.
If you want to learn more about the book series, you can read this article all about the Jack Ryan books in order. The article will detail the two ways you can read the books, which is chronologically or in publication order.
A Bit More About the Franchise
As previously mentioned, watching the Jack Ryan movies in order can become a bit confusing as multiple actors have portrayed Jack Ryan on screen. With only five films in the franchise, four actors have starred as Ryan.
The reason so many actors have portrayed Jack Ryan include two reboot attempts and a casting change between connected films.
The first three movies contain a casting change with Alec Baldwin beginning the franchise as Jack Ryan, but Harrison Ford replacing him for the second film. Despite this casting change the movies are connected. James Earl Jones plays Vice Admiral James Greer in the first three movies; these are the original Jack Ryan movies.
After the third movie there were plans to adapt Clancy’s novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin, but this never got off the ground. Instead, The Sum of All Fears would be the next adaptation. Then, when both Harrison and the director backed out of this installment, it was turned into a reboot instead of a sequel.
Ben Affleck stars as Jack Ryan in The Sum of All Fears. There were plans for this to spawn a brand-new series within the franchise. However, this never came to fruition due to the reception of the movie.
The next reboot attempt did not adapt a Clancy novel, but instead is an original story. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit stars Chris Pine as Jack Ryan and, again, plans were for this to begin another series within the franchise. However, this film also did not receive sufficient success at the box office, stopping any plans for a sequel.
Despite this, the films collectively made approximately $924 million worldwide.
Because of these changes there are three ways you can choose to watch the Jack Ryan movies in order, which we will get into now.
#1 – Jack Ryan Movies in Order of Release
The first, and most straight-forward, way to watch the Jack Ryan movies in order is by release date. This is the recommended viewing order if you have never seen these films before.
While watching the movies in this order contains three reboots and four actors as Jack Ryan, this is the way many fans saw the movies for the first time. As well, by watching the movies in this order you’re able to see how the narrative and focus change with each successive adaptation.
- The Hunt for Red October (1990)
- Patriot Games (1992)
- Clear and Present Danger (1994)
- The Sum of All Fears (2002)
- Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
#2 – Jack Ryan Movies in Order of Actor
The next way to enjoy the Jack Ryan movies in order is by watching the films according to actor. We’ve included the actors in order of portrayal, so this does line up with the above order of release. However, this creates a divide within the first three movies.
Watching the movies in this order would be an interesting way to rewatch the films, or a critical lens to use through your first watch. This order will allow you to analyze the portrayal of Jack Ryan by the different actors and determine which is your favorite.
#3 – Jack Ryan Movies in Chronological Order
Finally, the third way you can watch the Jack Ryan movies in order is chronologically. However, watching the movies in this order would probably be best as a rewatch and not as your first time seeing the films.
This order places Chris Pine’s portrayal of Jack Ryan in Shadow Recruit first. This is because the original story acts as a prequel to the other movies instead of being a book adaptation.
- Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
- The Hunt for Red October
- Patriot Games
- Clear and Present Danger
- The Sum of All Fears
But Wait…There’s More!
Is There a Jack Ryan Television Show?
If you’re eager to enjoy even more Jack Ryan content then you’re in luck. A Jack Ryan television show by Amazon Prime launched in 2018. The show stars John Krasinski as Jack Ryan.
While the Amazon adaptation has no overlap with the movies, it does follow the same character development arc — as one might expect. The show sees Jack Ryan begin as a CIA analyst before being pulled back into the action.
The first two seasons are available to stream now on Amazon Prime. As well, the third and fourth seasons have already been confirmed. The rumors are that the third season will premiere in the latter half of 2022, with no word yet on the fourth season.
- Jack Ryan: Season 1 (2018)
- Jack Ryan: Season 2 (2019)
Are There Any Other Films in the Ryanverse?
Next, Paramount has also produced a spin-off movie within the Ryanverse. Paramount has produced all the Jack Ryan films.
This spin-off movie features John Clark, a character who is frequently at Ryan’s side throughout both the book series and the movie series. The film is based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name and is Clark’s origin story. While it doesn’t pertain directly to Jack Ryan, it will contribute to the world building.
Michael B. Jordan stars as John Clark in this new film adaptation. Previously Clark was played by Willem Dafoe in the 1994 Clear and Present Danger movie, and Liev Schreiber in The Sum of All Fears in 2002.
- Without Remorse (2021)
A Summary of the Jack Ryan Movies in Order
Now you’re ready to watch the Jack Ryan movies in order with all you need to know about the franchise and frequent cast changes. If this is your first time watching the movies, we’ve included the below summaries in order of release date for the most straight-forward viewing.
1. The Hunt for Red October
The first installment in the Jack Ryan film franchise is based off the Tom Clancy novel of the same name: The Hunt for Red October. This movie is a suspenseful thriller.
It begins by tracking the Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius as he abandons his orders and heads for the East Coast of the United States. Equipped with innovative stealth technology, Ramius’s submarine, “Red October,” is virtually invisible.
However, when an American submarine briefly detects the its presence, CIA agent Jack Ryan sets out to determine Ramius’s motives, fearing he may launch an attack on the US. He believes Ramius may be trying to defect. But can he convince his superiors they’re not on the brink of war and catastrophe?
Hunt for Red October won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing and had two more Oscar nominations that same year in 1991.
Alec Baldwin stars as Jack Ryan counter Sean Connery as Marko Ramius. Joining them was James Earl Jones as Admiral Greer. The director was John McTiernan of Predator and Die Hard fame, while Larry Ferguson and Donald E. Stewart wrote the screenplay using Clancy’s novel as inspiration.
2. Patriot Games
The next film in this franchise features the first recast of the main character. It is also based on a Tom Clancy novel of the same name. Coincidentally, this is the first book in the Jack Ryan book series chronologically even though it was published three years after The Hunt for Red October, which is third in the chronological order.
When former CIA agent and current CIA analyst Jack Ryan hampers an IRA terrorist attack in London, he kills one of the terrorists. Sean Miller, the dead man’s brother and another member of the Irish Republican Army, is arrested but quickly escapes.
Vowing revenge against Ryan, Miller travels to the United States, where he forces Ryan’s wife and daughter into a car accident that badly injures them. This incites and convinces Ryan to rejoin the CIA in order to track down Miller.
Harrison Ford stars as Jack Ryan in this installment with Sean Bean starring as his antagonist Sean Miller and Patrick Bergin as Kevin O’Donnell. James Earl Jones rejoins the cast as Admiral Greer. Anne Archer plays Cathy Ryan and Thora Birch plays daughter Sally Ryan.
The director for Patriot Games was Phillip Noyce. As well, W. Peter Iliff and Donald E. Stewart wrote the screenplay using Clancy’s novel as inspiration.
3. Clear and Present Danger
The third Jack Ryan film is the only movie to star the same actor in the leading role as its predecessor. Clear and Present Danger is based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name.
Agent Jack Ryan becomes acting deputy director of the CIA when Admiral Greer receives a cancer diagnosis. When an American businessman, and friend of the president, is murdered on a yacht, Ryan starts discovering links between the man and drug dealers.
As CIA agent John Clark is sent to Colombia to kill drug kingpins in retaliation, Ryan must fight through multiple cover-ups to figure out what happened and who is responsible.
As previously mentioned, Harrison Ford returns as Jack Ryan in this installment alongside Anne Archer who plays his wife and James Earl Jones as Admiral Greer. Joining the cast are Willem Dafoe as John Clark, Joaquim de Almeida as Felix Cortez, Henry Czerny as Robert Ritter, and Donald Moffat as President Bennett.
The director was Phillip Noyce once more, and the screenplay was written by Donald E. Stewart and Steven Zaillian.
4. The Sum of All Fears
The fourth movie in the franchise features another recast of Jack Ryan. While this is a reboot of the franchise with the hopes of beginning a new series, only the one movie was ever made. It is, once again, based on the book of the same name by Tom Clancy.
This espionage thriller tracks a sinister plot to draw the United States and Russia into World War III. When the Russian president suddenly dies, world tension escalates.
Coupled with missing nuclear scientists and the threat of a nuclear detonation on United States soil, young CIA analyst Jack Ryan must uncover who is behind the conspiracy.
Ben Affleck stars as Jack Ryan in this installment and joining him is Morgan Freeman as DCI William Cabot. Ciarán Hinds plays the Russian president while James Cromwell plays American President Fowler.
The director of The Sum of All Fears was Phil Alden Robinson. The screenplay writers were Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne.
5. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
The fifth and final Jack Ryan film is the only movie that did not use a Tom Clancy novel as its inspiration. Shadow Recruit is an original story that, again, saw a new actor portray Jack Ryan. While the aspirations were for this to begin a new Jack Ryan series within the franchise, this also did not get very far with only one movie made.
To his friends and loved ones, young Jack Ryan appears to be an ordinary executive; however, he has secretly worked for the CIA for years.
Ryan began as an analyst crunching global data, but when he uncovers a scheme to crash the US economy and spark global chaos, he becomes the only man with the skills to stop it. Now a full operative, Ryan finds himself caught between his secretive handler, his clueless fiancée, and a brilliant Russian leader.
Chris Pine stars in this installment as Jack Ryan. Joining him are Kevin Costner as his handler Thomas Harper, Keira Knightley as his fiancée Cathy Muller, and Kenneth Branagh as the Russian leader Viktor Cherevin. Branagh was also the director of Shadow Recruit.
Using the characters Tom Clancy created, Adam Cozad and David Koepp wrote an original screenplay.
Final Thoughts on the Jack Ryan movies in order
Now you have all you need to watch the Jack Ryan movies in order. Have you watched these movies before? Which actor is your favorite Jack Ryan?
We hope this article has helped prepare you for your next movie night.
Looking for more movies in order?
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