Based on the Tom Clancy books your dad probably vaguely remembers, the Jack Ryan IP is a relic. The Ryanverse, which began with the first book, Patriot Games, in 1987, has had many permutations over the past 30 years. The movies featured Jack Ryan played by Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, and Ben Affleck, and now with Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, John Krasinski gives Ryan a go with Amazon Prime’s new television series.
Ryan — a history teacher, a Marine, a CIA agent, and, briefly, POTUS — is a more clever, more fiscally responsible everyman. But like James Bond, this character is part of an image of masculinity that now seems comically wholesome at best (Ford) and campy at worst (Baldwin).
In honor of the series coming to Amazon Prime this Friday, Inverse ranked the best Jack Ryan adaptations, spanning movies and video games because it took too long to get this stuff on TV.
Don't worry, John Krasinski, you'll be on the Jack Ryan list (from 'A Quiet Place').
It’s yet to be seen where Krasinski fits in this mix, but once we watch, we’ll update this list.]
8. The Hunt for Red October (1987) Atari Video Game
I do remember this game, but only in the sense that I watched my dad played it and wished he would just fire up Doom or Duke Nukem instead; they were bloodier and way more fun to watch. I can’t give Hunt for Red October for the Atari a high score, partly because it’s based on the novel and partly because it’s a mouse-controlled submarine simulator.
This is Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan we’re talking about. He intimidates diplomats and analyzes data. We’re not telling stories about a guy who drives a freaking submarine.
7. The Hunt for Red October (1990) Super NES Classic Video Game
Oof, I wish Nintendo had waited and released this sucker for the Gameboy Advance. Why couldn’t a Jack Ryan game look like Pokémon Blue? This game also stuck to the whole underwater-submarine-battle set piece instead of getting into Ryan’s head, so it’ll fade into the annals of time.
6. Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
This cringefest nearly toppled Pine off the Chris List, which in 2014 was a marketing ploy still in its infancy. A few years before, he had just knocked it out of the park as Captain Tiberius Kirk in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, but this experiment felt bizarre. Probably because it was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who only seems to know how to tell stories about men in complex costumes.
The most memorable line in this movie is Pine’s “You Russians think of yourselves as poets but perhaps you’re just touchy.” Take that, you election-hacking elitists.
5. Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Ben Affleck’s combo of sex appeal and smarmy line delivery was at a fever pitch in 2002, just a few years after seducing Liv Tyler with animal crackers in Armageddon. But that’s the problem with the version from Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams). Jack Ryan isn’t a sexy young loose cannon cop — not to millennials. He’s Action Dad to us all.
4. The Sum of All Fears Video Game (2002)
This game is definitely the best Jack Ryan video game adaptation, which isn’t saying all that much. But remember when a video game plot twist meant, like, another corner you had to turn around to shoot? No battle of the wits in this one either.
3. Harrison Ford in Patriot Games (1992)
Jack Ryan is the opposite of Batman, in that his origin story isn’t often recounted, and the viewer typically just drops in on a political adventure. So that’s exciting. Plus, in this one, a young Harrison Ford kills Sean Bean by impaling him on an anchor.
That should be enough to sell you on this fantastic punch-em-up romp, which is the first enjoyable movie on the list. Watch for Ford’s all-time action movie line delivery of “I’m not after your job, Marty. I’m after the man who tried to kill my family.”
2. Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October (1990)
This one is a classic, the only Jack Ryan adaptation to rise above the goofiness and inject an auteur’s flair, but all the scenes you remember just involve Sean Connery, who snarls the name of his own boat deliciously. The stakes are comically high. A submarine and some arguing men control the fate of the world, and for that, Baldwin (but really Connery) gets a decent ranking.
1. Harrison Ford in Clear and Present Danger (1994)
The top movie on our list is Philip Noyce’s second Jack Ryan film, a sequel to Patriot Games and a Terminator 2-esque improvement on the original. Already alone and with nothing more to lose, Ryan takes his quest for good to a global scale, maturing from a hothead to an icy professional. The sequel also deftly adds Willem Dafoe as a begrudging ally and features hilarious dialogue like this:
Bob Ritter (Henry Czerny): Jack, computer theft is a serious crime.
Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford): (talking to himself) So are crimes against the Constitution.
If Krasinski’s turn as Ryan stands a chance when it’s available to stream Friday, it’ll have to recreate that that lightning in a bottle quality, the ‘90s alchemy of dad jokes, Boy Scout morality, and super simple hand-to-hand combat that makes the old movies so fun.
Photos via Paramount Pictures