Ranking the Bourne movies

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Although it’s only been four years since the last Bourne movie, Jason Bourne himself has been MIA since 2007. Now the iconic super spy is finally making a comeback in the appropriately titled, Jason Bourne. On paper, this sounds like the Bourne sequel fans have been waiting to see for years. With Paul Greengrass back in the director’s chair and Matt Damon back in front of the camera, it should be another perfect recipe for summer entertainment. How does the fifth Bourne picture compare to the other entries in this franchise, though? Is it among the best or the worst? To give you an idea, here’s our definitive ranking of the Bourne movies:

5. The Bourne Legacy

Bourne Legacy

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this is the lowest entry here. In all fairness, The Bourne Legacy is by no means a bad blockbuster. On the contrary, it’s stylish, intense, and thoroughly entertaining, maintaining the spirit of it’s predecessors. The film was notably directed by Tony Gilroy, who wrote the previous three Bourne movies. Gilroy is a very talented filmmaker, having also directed the riveting Michael Clayton. When it comes to directing action, however, he can’t really compete with the likes of Paul Greengrass or even Doug Liman. The same can be said about Jeremy Renner when stacked up against Matt Damon. Renner is a phenomenal actor and his character of Aaron Cross is a solid replacement for Jason Bourne. That’s the thing, though. He’s just feels like a replacement. Everything about this sequel essentially feels like a replacement. In order to breathe new life into this franchise, The Bourne Legacy really needed to stand out from the original trilogy. Instead, it just comes off as Bourne Light.

4. The Bourne Identity


Despite being a launching point for a major movie franchise, The Bourne Identity actually didn’t have a ton of buzz leading up to its release. During its opening weekend, the film actually lost to that awful live-action Scooby-Doo movie. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop it from becoming a box office hit and developing a passionate following. This involving and intelligent thriller immediately sucks the audience in, as a man with amnesia is discovered at sea. From there, he sets off to unravel the enigma that is Jason Bourne. As gripping as the film’s first two acts are, it’s kind of disappointing that The Bourne Identity ultimately works up to a standard shootout. Fortunately, there was a lot more to this mystery and the subsequent sequels more than delivered.

3. Jason Bourne


On the whole, the latest entry in the Bourne series ranks smack-dab in the middle of our countdown. However, it also has quite possibly the best supporting ensemble in this franchise’s history. We get great performances across the board from Vincent Cassel as an assassin hell-bent on getting Bourne, Alicia Vikander as a CIA agent who may or may not be on Bourne’s side, and Tommy Lee Jones as… well, basically his character in The Fugitive. Ironically, though, the least interesting character in Jason Bourne is probably Jason Bourne. Damon is still great and we do learn a bit more about his character’s past. Yet, it seems like the most interesting part of Bourne’s story has already been told. Thus, there’s really not a ton left to do aside from dropping him in the middle of several extravagant action sequences. With that said, the set pieces here are pretty mind-blowing for the most part, particularly a climatic car chase through Las Vegas. On that basis, Jason Bourne more than delivers the thrills. If you were hoping for an absorbing mystery that takes Jason to completely new places, though, it’s probably safe to say this franchise peaked long ago.

2. The Bourne Supremacy


Director Paul Greengrass truly took this series to the next level with The Bourne Supremacy. Jason’s second outing offered slicker editing, sharper action, and even stronger drama. Above all else, this entry really started to peal back Jason’s layers and get to his core. We already knew from the first film that Bourne was a trained killer, but The Bourne Supremacy delved more into the consequences of his actions. While Jason Bourne was still seeking out his true identity, he was also searching for redemption and closure. By the film’s conclusion, he went from being just another action hero to a genuinely complex soul.

1. The Bourne Ultimatum


From Spider-Man 3, to Shrek the Third, to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, the summer of 2007 gave us one disappointing threequel after another. The Bourne Ultimatum not only provided a light at the end of the tunnel, but managed to surpass it’s impressive predecessors too. This is one of those rare trilogies that got better with each passing outing. Here, everything fires on all cylinders, from the fight choreography, to the cinematography, to the applaud-worthy one-liners. Most importantly, the film brought our protagonist’s journey full circle. It answered all the major questions we had regarding Bourne without revealing too much either. While Jason Bourne is a welcome return to the big screen for the character, it’s hard to deny that The Bourne Ultimatum would’ve sent him off on just the right note.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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