(Cybertech) – When Marvel outlined its plans for the MCU, it put a lot of franchises to shame. Nothing is as consistently well executed and the various movies and TV shows that have come out of Tom Clancy’s characters are a perfect example of that.
That sadly means that however you approach the Ryanverse – as the Jack Ryan movies are called – or the expanded universe of Tom Clancy, you’re going to be jumping around a lot.
It’s worth saying, however, that there are no fillers here: they all stand-up in their own right, but there’s only one logical approach to watching them:
Tom Clancy movies in release order
The release order has some merits, as you can just watch along and enjoy the ride.
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
The Hunt for Red October is the best starting point for the series. Set in the Cold War – November 1984 – it tells the story of the Red October going missing. While the CIA doesn’t really know what’s going on, Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) thinks he’s figured it out and the analyst finds himself on the front line. Importantly, The Hunt for Red October introduces us to Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones), a central character in the Ryanverse. It’s a great thriller, but Sean Connery’s Marko Ramius with his Scottish-Russian accent steals the show.
Patriot Games (1992)
There’s a shift in lead character to Harrison Ford playing Jack Ryan in Patriot Games, but it’s very much the sequel to Red October, with James Earl Jones still playing Greer. Patriot Games turns its attention to international terrorism – with the IRA in the spotlight. Jack Ryan is technically a retired CIA analyst in Patriot Games, but soon gets drawn back in.
Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Clear and Present Danger comes soon after Patriot Games, retaining Harrison Ford and James Earl Jones in their roles as Ryan and Greer, while also having the same director and producer – so a true sequel. The story weaves its way around the war on drugs, introduces us to John Clark (Willem Defoe) and Domingo Chavez (Raymond Cruz), both significant characters in Clancy’s novels. It also see Jack Ryan as CIA (acting) Deputy Director (Intelligence). One of Ryan’s rivals within the CIA in the movie is Bob Ritter (Henry Czerny) – remember the name, because he appears again later.
Sum of All Fears (2002)
Sum of All Fears tells the story of a plot to use a lost nuclear bomb in an act of terror, while cranking up the tensions between the US and Russia. It’s a classic Cold War style stand-off, but set in 2002. It’s a reset for Jack Ryan too, with Ben Affleck stepping into the role, back as a young CIA analyst – quite the demotion from Clear and Present Danger – and back in the early stages of his relationship with wife-to-be Cathy (Bridget Moynahan). John Clark is back doing what Clark does, but is now played by Liev Schreiber.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
Shadow Recruit is another reset for the Jack Ryan story, introducing Chris Pine to the lead role – but it also isn’t based directly on a novel, unlike the other movies on the list. It’s another spin on a Jack Ryan origin story, because he’s back as an analyst for the CIA who finds himself thrust into front line work (for the third time), and again enjoying a blooming relationship with Cathy, now played by Keira Knightley. Although it’s a fresh work, Colm Feore appears in both Shadow Recruit and Sum of All Fears, but playing different roles.
Without Remorse (2021)
Without Remorse is the origin story for John Kelly/Clark, the character that appeared in Clear and Present Danger and Sum of All Fears – but now played by Michael B Jordan in the 2021 Amazon release. Without Remorse brings back Bob Ritter (now played by Jamie Bell) and introduces Karen Greer, the niece of James Greer, who doesn’t exist in the novels. It’s expected that these roles will be reprised in a Rainbow Six movie.
Rainbow Six (unconfirmed)
The post-credit scene in Without Remorse sees John Kelly/Clark talking to Bob Ritter, saying that he wants to setup a multinational counter terrorism team called Rainbow. The description matches that of the Rainbow Six Tom Clancy novel and would give a chance to bring back Domingo Chavez (from Clear and Present Danger), who is a team leader in the Rainbow Six book. Rainbow Six was the inspiration for the video games of the same name and could give Amazon a bridge to its Jack Ryan series as Ryan and Clark interact a lot in the books.
Controversial bonus movie
Air Force One (1997)
In the Tom Clancy novels, Jack Ryan goes all the way to the top and becomes President. It just so happened, that in 1997, Harrison Ford played the president in Air Force One. It’s almost impossible to separate his character – James Marshall – from the Jack Ryan movies that came just a few years before, so pretty much feels like part of the package. Slot it in after Clear and Present Danger to complete the Harrison Ford fest – it’s a great thriller and worth watching.
Where do the TV Series fit?
Amazon’s Jack Ryan TV series is also a rich offering and for Clancy fans, are well worth watching.
Jack Ryan Season 1 (2018)
Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) is back as a CIA analyst and stumbles across suspicious bank transfers that throws him back into the front line, again, the pattern we see in Red October, Sum of All Fears and Shadow Recruit. He pairs up with James Greer (Wendell Pierce) and now has Abbie Cornish as his wife-to-be Cathy. Familiar characters, but there’s no overlap with the movies (apart from the character’s story arc) – it’s just some great Jack Ryan action.
Jack Ryan Season 2 (2019)
The second season runs straight on from the first, bringing the characters back on another adventure this time centred around Venezuela, and a weaving plot to bring everyone one together. Regardless of not fitting into the movies, the Jack Ryan seasons are a visual and audio treat.
Jack Ryan Season 3 and 4 (unconfirmed)
Jack Ryan has been a major hit for Amazon and Season 3 has been commissioned, but it was delayed because of the pandemic, it is believed. It has also been said that it was renewed for Season 4 and it’s expected to bring the lead characters back into the show. There’s very little official news and currently no release dates set on the future series.
What about Tom Clancy’s The Division?
The Division is a separate Tom Clancy universe which has so far been explored through video games. There are, however, two pieces of TV to know about.
Tom Clancy’s The Division: Agent Origins
The Division Agent Origins is a promotional short on Amazon Video that’s just a single mission to rescue some hostages and it’s mostly just a firefight scene.
There is also a The Division movie in the works, which has been signed by Netflix. This movie will star Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain, will be directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, with Ellen Shanman lined up for the scripting. The plot follows the same lines as the videogame about a viral pandemic spread through cash on Black Friday and the aftermath that sees the Strategic Homeland Division agents activated to bring things back under control.
Writing by Chris Hall.