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Every Tom Clancy Movie Ranked Worst To Best


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The works of legendary spy fiction author and Jack Ryan creator Tom Clancy are a perfect fit for cinema, but how do the eight adaptations of Clancy’s work - including Without Remorse - rank in terms of quality? The name of legendary bestselling author Tom Clancy may be more associated with video game franchises than movies nowadays, but during his illustrious career, the late writer provided the source material for numerous movie adaptations before the Splinter Cell series ever came into existence.

Clancy passed away in 2013 before director Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit cast Chris Pine as his most famous creation, Jack Ryan. However, before that action-thriller was produced, Ryan had already been played not one, not two, but three actors in the form of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford (twice), and Ben Affleck. Each actor brought a new tone to their Clancy adaptation, and between the character's onscreen outings a pair of television movies added more movies to Clancy’s impressive screen CV.

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RELATED: What To Expect From Jack Ryan Season 3

The Jack Ryan spin-off movie Without Remorse sees Michael B Jordan bring Clancy’s character of John Kelly to life, but the Creed actor is far from the first thespian to take on Clancy’s work. All told, there are eight movie adaptations of Clancy’s novels, ranging from the superb to the subpar. But which of these eight outings are worth a watch, and which were weak enough for even Clancy himself to disavow?

8. NetForce

Directed by television movie veteran Robert Lieberman, the cyber-thriller NetForce is, unfortunately, more akin to the helmer’s lesser Mighty Ducks sequel D3: The Mighty Ducks than his surprisingly solid alien abduction horror Fire In The Sky. The pulse-pounding effectiveness of that 1994 hit is absent from 1999’s NetForce, based on a series of novels Clancy began publishing in 1998. Starring Scott Bakula as a deputy head of the FBI’s cyber-crimes division, NetForce is set in the far-flung future of 2005 where Bakula’s boss Kris Kristofferson has been murdered and his colleague must work out how a cocksure Internet tycoon is involved. Credit where it is due, Beverly Hills Cop supporting star Judge Reinhold puts in a fun turn as the slimy antagonist who definitely is not based on Bill Gates. However, despite the stellar villain predicting the "tech bro" archetype seen throughout the ’10s, one performance is not enough to elevate this outdated effort.

7. Tom Clancy’s Op Center

Another television adaptation, Tom Clancy’s Op Center came from Cat’s Eye director Lewis Teague. There are two edits of this one, the full 170-minute miniseries (split into four parts) and a truncated edit that turned the story into a 114-minute feature film. Unusually for a recut, the superior edition of Tom Clancy’s Op Center is the shorter cut that trims a lot of the talky banter in favor of focusing on the effective action set-pieces. The knotty plot follows a newcomer to the National Crisis Management Centre as the group navigates how to handle the hijacking of a warhead sale and the subsequent international fallout. Boasting Predator's Carl Weathers as the rookie's mentor, the edited version is the sort of fast-paced action Clancy excels at, but this one falls down the rankings thanks to the existence of a far longer, inferior alternative cut.

6. Without Remorse

Despite Michael B Jordan's typically spirited performance, Amazon Prime's latest addition to the Tom Clancy cinematic universe was greeted with a tepid critical response. It is far from terrible, and Jordan's presence is enough to justify watching, but it's a little too generic to be truly memorable, even with a bloody R rating. There's no real aspiration to update Clancy's 1993 bestseller in what is a muddled script and while there are stand-out moments, it's never quite up to the sum of its collected talents. Luckily, it hurtles along at a pace for the most part even if the ending isn't quite satisfying enough to tilt it above being an unchallenging Clancy retread.

5. Patriot Games

Although Patriot Games is technically considered a sequel to 1990’s The Hunt For Red October, this often-overrated outing saw Clancy himself all-but-disown it when Alec Baldwin's Jack Ryan was recast as Harrison Ford. Both Clancy and Baldwin balked at the thought of depicting the then-active Irish Republican Army as villains due to their shared Irish heritage, and despite earning solid reviews upon release, the movie suffers for their absence. Salt helmer Philip Noyce produces some serviceable action set-pieces and future Goldeneye villain Sean Bean puts in a great, nuanced villainous turn, but this is Ford’s lesser outing in the role of Ryan and the movie fails to recapture the intensity and comparative moral complexity of its predecessor.

RELATED: Harrison Ford Should Play Jack Ryan Again

4. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Unfairly maligned upon release, 2014’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit saw another actor take on the part of Clancy’s most famous character with Chris Pine being the lucky star this time around. Directed with typical blockbuster panache by Kenneth Brannagh, who also provides a campy supporting role, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit sees Pine’s rookie Ryan investigate a Russian tycoon who is holding billions of dollars hostage to gain sway over the governments of both his home country and the US. With superb support from Pirates of the Caribbean star Kiera Knightley, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit may have been dismissed upon release but the new millennium’s take on Clancy’s character is fast-paced, fun, and arguably stronger than his more recent Jack Ryan Amazon Prime series.

3. The Sum Of All Fears

Wildly underrated upon release and since The Sum of All Fears made the daring decision to depart from Clancy’s source material with its tale of Neo-Nazis attempting to amp up America/Russia tensions to establish a single European fascist state in the aftermath. Criticized at the time, the change of the movie’s villains from Middle Eastern terrorists to white nationalists now seems canny and prescient, and Ben Affleck brings a nervy intensity to the role of Jack Ryan that Ford’s beleaguered iteration of the character is sorely missing. The overlong runtime keeps this one from the top spot (not to mention the US government’s hands being a bit too clean by the end of the movie, something Clancy’s novels tended to avoid), but this underrated outing still manages to recapture the pacy thrills of Field of Dreams director Phil Alden Robinson’s earlier spy movie, Sneakers.

2. Clear And Present Danger

The second Jack Ryan movie to star Harrison Ford in the role, Clear and Present Danger was the story Clancy himself and Alec Baldwin wanted to make instead of Patriot Games. It’s easy to see why, with this tense and thrilling story of Ryan facing down a squad of South American drug dealers managing to work despite the cliche villains being borrowed from Lethal Weapon 2. Red Dawn director John Milius scripted this tighter, smarter, and altogether superior second outing for Ford’s Ryan, and Ford matures into the role in time for Ryan’s promotion to Acting CIA Deputy Director to feel fitting and believable.

1. The Hunt For Red October

Boasting both the original James Bond himself Sean Connery and a fresh-faced Alec Baldwin as the earliest screen incarnation of CIA analyst Jack Ryan, 1990’s The Hunt For Red October remains the best Tom Clancy screen adaptation to date. Released at the tail end of the Cold War, this tense and thrilling story of a Soviet captain defecting to the US side with a brand-new prototype submarine in tow is a classic thriller that wrings constant tension and surprising moral complexity out of its simple set-up. Baldwin is brilliant as the inexperienced Ryan, Connery puts in a typically superb turn as the anti-villain, and Die Hard/Predator director John McTiernan reasserts his status as one of action cinema’s premier talents alongside Tony Scott. Propulsive, smart, and at times even witty despite the mounting tension, The Hunt For Red October is comfortably the greatest movie adaptation of Tom Clancy’s work onscreen so far.

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