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Every Entry in the Bourne Franchise, Ranked

From The Bourne Identity to Treadstone, this is the best and worst of the Bournes.

By Matthew Jackson
Matt Damon peers out a window in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

It's been more than 20 years since moviegoers everywhere first met an amnesiac spy named Jason Bourne, and yet the franchise launched by director Doug Liman and star Matt Damon way back in 2002 feels as influential as ever. The Bourne Identity and its sequels helped to set a new standard for mainstream American action movies in the 2000s, made Damon into an action star as well as a respected actor, and influenced countless spy thrillers that would follow in the series' footsteps. 

Now, several of the Bourne films, as well as the TV spinoff Treadstone, have made their way onto Peacock, so you can catch up on the action as often as you'd like. But which Bourne stories reign supreme? That's what we're here to find out. From the movie that started it all to the TV spinoff that seemingly closed things out, this is the best and worst of the Bourne franchise.

RELATED: Ten Years Later, The Would-Be Reboot Bourne Legacy Packs Even More of a Punch

The Bourne Franchise, Ranked

6. Treadstone (2019)

There are good ideas in Treadstone, to be sure. The series' effort to present a two-pronged attack on the story of the title intelligence program, including copious flashbacks to the program's origins in the 1970s, added a Cold War kick to the saga, as well as a chance to shed light and add emotional depth to how this whole thing got started. Sadly, the execution was never quite all the way there, and the show's hefty budget meant it didn't get to stick around long enough to really come into its own.

5. Jason Bourne (2016)

Getting Matt Damon back in the title for the first time in nearly a decade was certainly a draw with Jason Bourne, as was the return of director Paul Greengrass to the franchise fold. Sadly, despite the welcome presence of supporting cast members Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones, and Damon's ever-present ability to put that cold steel in Bourne's eyes, the movie just doesn't prove to be a super-satisfying follow-up. The Vegas chase at the end is a lot of fun, and the cast is solid, but Bourne's story was already wrapped up, and this just feels like an unnecessary coda.

4. The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Bourne trilogy writer Tony Gilroy stepped up to direct this story of a different covert agent inheriting the web of secrets Bourne threatened to expose at the end of his original story, and while The Bourne Legacy gets a lot of flack for its lack of Matt Damon, there's a lot about this movie that works. Gilroy's script, interrogating the fallout of the whole Bourne trilogy, is a well of depth that just keeps giving, and Jeremy Renner is very solid in the role of yet another agent caught up in the chaos. 

3. The Bourne Identity (2002)

The film that started it all remains one of the best action movies of its era, thanks to capable direction from Liman, a rock-solid script from Gilroy and William Blake Heron adapting Robert Ludlum's novel of the same name, and of course, the incredible core performance of Damon. He will forever be an action star thanks to the success of this film, but The Bourne Identity is about more than legacy at this point. It's been two decades, and it's still an addictive, wonderful thriller with a great hook. 

2. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Liman did a wonderful job with The Bourne Identity, but it wasn't until Greengrass stepped in to direct two years later that the franchise really hit its stride. Working in close collaboration with Damon, Greengrass' handheld style of action cinema became a highly influential hallmark of turn-of-the-millennium blockbuster filmmaking, and the ripple effect is still being felt in action movies to this day. The story, written solely by Gilroy this time, raises the stakes considerably, and Damon is back in top form, making this one of those rare sequels that lives up to and even surpasses its predecessor.

1. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Bourne fans go back and forth over which film in the original trilogy is the best. For some, the central mystery of Identity is enough to keep them hooked forever. For others, the level-up of Supremacy is where it's at. For my money, though, the franchise never got better than the concluding chapter in the original three-part saga. Greengrass, Damon, and Gilroy all came back for this one, combined with some great supporting work from Julia Stiles, and they left it all on the field. The Bourne Ultimatum is so packed with consequential storytelling and first-rate action filmmaking that we needed no further follow-ups after those credits rolled. It's the perfect conclusion to a great action trilogy, and the best Bourne ever got.

The Bourne IdentityThe Bourne SupremacyThe Bourne Legacy, and Treadstone are all streaming now on Peacock.