Jack Ryan is not your typical superhero. The character doesn’t exhibit super strength or fly at the speed of light like a comic book hero. Instead, Ryan uses his superior intelligence and military training to save the day. Created by Tom Clancy, Ryan is a former Marine who became a brilliant CIA operative for the United States. In the novels, Ryan helped thwart terrorist attacks, stopped assassination attempts, and prevented nuclear war.
Beginning in 1990, Clancy’s novels became the source for the Jack Ryan film franchise. Four actors have appeared as the titular CIA analyst throughout five films: Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine. The franchise’s success spawned Prime Video’s television series Jack Ryan, which stars John Krasinski in the titular role. Before Jack Ryan returns for its third season in December 2022, revisit the exciting films that turned the character into an international phenomenon.
Below, you’ll find a helpful guide on where to stream every Jack Ryan movie.
The first movie to feature Tom Clancy’s most famous protagonist might also be the best in the franchise. The Hunt for Red October stars a young Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan, the brilliant and ambitious CIA analyst. Based on the novel of the same name, The Hunt for Red October follows Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) and his efforts to defect to the United States.
Although the U.S. government believes Ramius and his submarine Red October will attack America, Ryan theorizes that Ramius wants to defect and sets out to prove his theory. With the help of Vice Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones), Ryan boards the U.S. submarine Dallas to find Red October and speak with Ramius about his defection. The tense thriller is one of the best deceptions of submarine warfare in film and kicks off the Jack Ryan franchise on a high note.
Alec Baldwin passed the baton to Harrison Ford as the Indiana Jones actor took on the role of Jack Ryan in Patriot Games. While Red October focused on the United States-Soviet Union dispute, Patriot Games depicted the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the conflict in Northern Ireland. While in London with his wife (Anne Archer) and daughter (Thora Birch), Ryan intervenes in a plot to kidnap the British Minister of State for Northern Ireland, resulting in the arrest of Sean Miller (Sean Bean) and the death of Miller’s brother.
After escaping captivity, Miller heads to the United States to exact his revenge on Ryan. Although Ryan escapes an assassination attempt by Miller, the former CIA agent cannot stop a car crash involving his wife and daughter. Even though his family survives the accident, Ryan rejoins the CIA to track down Miller and end his attacks. Although not as critically acclaimed as Red October, Patriot Games found success at the box office, becoming the 14th highest-grossing film of 1992.
Harrison Ford returned for his second outing as Jack Ryan in Clear and Present Danger, the sequel to Patriot Games. When Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones) is diagnosed with cancer, Ryan becomes the acting deputy director of the CIA. His first task is to investigate the murder of an American businessman and his family by the Colombian cartel.
When Ryan heads to Columbia to negotiate with the country’s president over the murder, the cartel attacks Ryan’s unit, killing multiple in the process. Ryan eventually discovers that U.S. government officials Bob Ritter (Henry Czerny) and James Cutter (Harris Yulin) are working in tandem with the cartel, which jeopardizes CIA operative John Clark (Willem Dafoe) and his team that was sent to Columbia to assassinate the cartel’s leader, Ernesto Escobedo (Miguel Sandoval). This leads to a fiery shootout that might be the best action sequence in the series.
Despite the success of Clear and Present Danger, the Jack Ryan franchise elected to reboot the character eight years later rather than bring back Harrison Ford. Ben Affleck joined the franchise to play a younger version of Ryan in The Sum of All Fears. The 2002 thriller depicted a new conflict between the United States and Russia over nuclear weapons.
Neo-Nazis plan to instigate a nuclear war between the United States and Russia, so a fascist Europe would be the dominant force left standing. When CIA Director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) summons Ryan to investigate a Russian weapons facility, the CIA analyst discovers that three nuclear scientists are missing. Furthermore, a bomb goes off in Baltimore, escalating the tension between the U.S. and Russia. However, Ryan correctly deduces that the attack was not carried out by Russians and aims to find the guilty party to prevent a nuclear war. Despite the previous acclaim for the franchise, The Sum of All Fears received mixed reviews from critics despite its financial success.
After a 12-year hiatus, the Jack Ryan franchise rebooted again for 2014’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. With 12 years between films, this marked the longest stretch between Jack Ryan movies. Chris Pine joined the likes of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck as the fourth actor to play Jack Ryan in a film.
Pine’s version of Ryan is a former Marine turned Wall Street executive who secretly works for the CIA. Ryan discovers a plan to destroy the U.S. economy by a Russian business leader named Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). With the help of his senior officer Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) and his wife (Keira Knightley), Ryan must stop Cheverin’s scheme to save the U.S. and de-escalate the tension between the world’s superpowers. Shadow Recruit might be the least successful film in the franchise, but it still channels the suspense and thrills that fans have come to love in a Jack Ryan film.