Robert Ludlum’s franchise, Bourne, has been a staple of the spy-action genre for 13 years and has produced four immensely respected and often adored movies. In fact, the films directed by Doug Liman, Paul Greengrass and Tony Gilroy have been accredited with changing the spy genre in such a way that even the great James Bond franchise had to adapt to the new post-911 formula of less fantastical and more encompassing pieces. The Bourne franchise has even won a host of Academy Awards, somewhat of a rarity for movies of its type, and has therefore certified itself as an important collection of 21st century pictures. In this list, I shall undertake the task of ranking each of the four installments from worst to best. If you disagree, let’s open up a conversation about it! You can leave a comment below this piece, tweet the TFM Twitter account, leave a comment on Facebook, or even tweet me directly.
Now, onto the list…
4. The Bourne Legacy
Tony Gilroy had been a celebrated screenwriter, not least because of his work on the original Bourne trilogy, but when he took to the director’s chair for the critically acclaimed Michael Clayton, it seemed like a return to the Bourne franchise was going to be inevitable at some point. In 2012, it happened, in the shape and form of The Bourne Legacy. Unfortunately, Legacy didn’t hit the heights of its predecessors and raised questions with regard to the pop culture significance of the Bourne name without Matt Damon in the lead role as a result. Jeremy Renner performed well and was supported by reputable names like Edward Norton and Rachael Weisz, but The Bourne Legacy failed to make an impact with audiences and critics alike, slipping its way to the bottom of this list.
3. The Bourne Identity
Doug Liman’s only venture into the Bourne universe was a solid franchise opener that brought about a wave of fan investment from the very minute it was released. It did so by presenting its audience with a series of questions surrounding the key protagonist without ever becoming too convoluted and therefore isolating sections of the viewing public; instating the Jason Bourne character as a watchable hero whose story arc was to be worth investing in for 3 movies (in total). The only problem with The Bourne Identity to a Bourne fan is that it just wasn’t up to the standards of Paul Greengrass’s sequels, meaning it takes home nothing more than a Bronze medal.
2. The Bourne Supremacy
Paul Greengrass made his Bourne franchise debut with the much anticipated sequel to The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy. The 2004 film raised the bar not only for the franchise but also for the genre, holding no punches (literally and figuratively) as it explored the workings of Jason Bourne’s amnesia with slightly more gusto than its predecessor, making it a generally better film than the first installment. While it is undoubtedly an excellent movie within its genre and better than the majority in this list, The Bourne Supremacy comes in at number 2 simply because of the next film on this list…
1. The Bourne Ultimatum
The final movie of the original trilogy was a huge success. Not only did the film satisfy the wants and needs of its anxious audiences who earned the film over $440M at the box office, but it also won critical acclaim via 3 Oscar wins (editing, sound mixing, sound editing), 2 Bafta wins (editing, sound) and a further four Bafta nominations (film, director, cinematography, special effects). This installment tied up most of what you’d expect to have been tied up in a trilogy finale and featured arguably one of the best phone calls in movie history – “if you were in your office right now, we’d be having this conversation face to face”. Not only was it superbly well received (including a 94% score on Rotten Tomatoes), but it was also one of the more impressive achievements of the so-called “shaky-cam” technique that was used to excellent effect in this movie in particular. If we are to look back through the career of both the director (Greengrass) and the actor (Damon) in 20 years or so, there’s no doubting that The Bourne Ultimatum will be in contention for “best film” in each of their filmographies, it’s that good. The indisputable champion of the Bourne franchise and arguably one of the more enjoyable and technically impressive movies of the action-spy sub-genre, The Bourne Ultimatum… number one in this week’s ranked.