After its successful first season, Amazon will soon be releasing season two of their hit spy drama Jack Ryan based on the original novels by author Tom Clancy. Whilst actor John Kransinski’s turn as the intrepid CIA analyst in the show’s debut season has been universally praised, he is far from the first actor to bring the character to the screen. So let’s break the confidential seal and open the Jack Ryan case file for a look back at some of the big named actors who’ve approached the role over the years.
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Helmed by Die Hard director John McTiernan, many people tend to forget that Jack Ryan’s first onscreen performance was in the big screen adaptation of Clancy’s novel The Hunt for Red October, which follows a soviet submarine captain’s attempts to defect to the US. This is easy to forgive, however, as the film certainly placed far greater emphasis on Sean Connery’s role as the soviet Marko Ramius rather than on Alec Baldwin’s performance of the CIA’s Ryan who attempted to convince US authorities of Ramius’ true intentions.
Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Both helmed by Australian director Philip Noyce, fan-favourite Harrison Ford swapped his fedora for CIA clearance in 1992’s Patriot Games and 1994’s Clear and Present Danger. In the first film, Ryan finds himself pulled back into the CIA after he thwarts an IRA assassination attempt on the British Royal Family whilst on holiday, and subsequently finds his own family the target of their retribution.
In Clear and Present Danger, Ryan is entangled in an illegal black-op ordered by the US President against a Colombian cartel, which ultimately leaves a US operative stranded and disavowed by the CIA. Fighting against scheming forces within his own organisation, Ryan must unravel the mystery and find a way home for the stranded soldier.
Thought by many to be the definitive performance of Jack Ryan, Ford’s double run as Ryan even earned him an MTV movie award nomination for Best Action Sequence in Clear and Present Danger, and the film’s crew earned two Oscar nominations for best Sound and Best Effects.
Clear and Present Danger also introduced film audiences to Tom Clancy’s second most famous character, a former Navy SEAL turned CIA black-ops specialist named John Clark, who was played by Willem Dafoe. Currently, Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan is being tapped to take on the same role in his own upcoming film series.
The Sum of All Fears (2002)
It would take another eight years following Harrison Ford’s run as Jack Ryan for another actor to take up the mantle, and in this case it was Ben Affleck tackling a much younger Ryan at the start of his career in the CIA. Directed by Field of Dreams’ Phil Alden Robinson, The Sum of All Fears follows Ryan as he attempts to derail the plans of a Neo-Nazi faction which is planning to bring the United States and Russia to the brink of nuclear war by detonating a stolen warhead on US soil.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
Ryan had another extended absence from the big screen following Affleck’s turn in the role, and it wasn’t until Murder on the Orient Express director Kenneth Branagh cast Star Trek’s Chris Pine in the role for his 2014 Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit that we got to see him again. Unlike each of the previous Jack Ryan films, which were direct adaptations of one of Tom Clancy’s novels, this film was an entirely original story put together by screenwriters Adam Cozad (The Legend of Tarzan) and David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, Misson: Impossible).
This film’s departure from the original Tom Clancy source material was keenly felt by audiences, and Pine’s version of Ryan was decidedly more of a front row action type than the more cerebral and analytic iterations of the character played by each of his predecessors. Even Pine himself, when later asked about the possibility of his return to the role responded by saying: “No. I don’t think it made enough money for that to happen. That’s one of my deep regrets, that we didn’t totally get that right.”
Jack Ryan (2018 – present)
This finally brings us right up to date, and with clearly one of the best onscreen Jack Ryan’s since Harrison Ford’s turn in the role. Last year’s Jack Ryan season one saw the US version of The Office’s John Krasinski tackle the titular role, bringing with him the slightly reserved and far more erudite characterisation so sorely missing from the previous film.
The first season, which sees Ryan stumble across some suspicious bank transfers, ultimately has the junior analyst swept into the field as he tracks a rising terrorist figurehead plotting a major attack on US soil. Earning multiple Primetime Emmy nominations and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Krasinski, this latest take on Clancy’s popular character is a clearly a hit well worth watching.
The forthcoming season 2, which was greenlit by Amazon prior to season one even getting released, will see Krasinski’s Ryan make his way to South America after tracking a shipment of illegal arms in Venezuela.