Tom Clancy’s ex-marine turned CIA analyst and field agent, Dr. Jack Ryan made his first appearance in the author’s 1984 book, The Hunt for Red October. For almost 40 years and through five iterations, Clancy’s globetrotting special operations savant has been playing clandestine games and lurking in the shadowy corners of geopolitical intelligence and espionage quietly protecting United States interests around the world. His steely resolve in the face of danger has made him one of our favorite fiction characters of all time. For an actor, the chance to play the American equivalent of James Bond is a major coup reserved for A-list actors. Each of the five men tabbed to play the role brought something different to the character. Without further ado, here is a definitive ranking of all the Jack Ryans that we have seen on screen.
5. Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
2014’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit marked the fifth installment of the series and introduced Chris Pine into the “Jack Ryan Club.” Coming off of the successes of two Star Trek films, the Horrible Bosses and Hell or High Water star’s turn as Ryan was highly anticipated. Though Shadow Recruit didn’t enjoy the box-office success of its predecessors, it still garnered an impressive $135 million worldwide. Pine’s performance also drew praise as a more than adequate representation of the classic literary character. Pine’s Ryan is probably the most Bond-like of all the iterations as he finds himself in a high stakes game of cat and mouse with a nasty but intricate faction of the Russian mob who is threatening to crash the United States economy. Ryan must act swiftly and surreptitiously in order to avert a global financial crisis.
4. Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears (2002)
In 2002, Ben Affleck was one of the most bankable stars in the industry. He had won an Academy Award for Good Will Hunting (1997) and had followed that up with successful turns in Armageddon (1998) and Pearl Harbor (2001). With his leading man chops thoroughly bona fide, it came as little surprise that The Sum of All Fears did very well domestically at the box office. The film was not as memorable as some of the other Jack Ryan entries, but Affleck was fine as the CIA agent in a film that saw his character deal with the death of the Russian president and the fallout of a rogue Russian agent threatening to detonate a nuclear weapon on U.S. soil. The multitalented star would go on to win a second Oscar for Argo in 2012 and will appear in the much anticipated Flash reboot in 2023.
3. John Krasinski in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (2018-present)
In the lone small screen iteration of Jack Ryan, John Krasinkski has been playing the analyst turned field agent on Prime since 2018. The Office alum has come a long way from his days of hiding Dwight Shrute’s stapler in Jello and pushing paper in Scranton, New Jersey to land the coveted role of Ryan. Krasinski has chalked up three seasons in the role and the most recent season is currently streaming on Prime. This time around, he is tasked with thwarting the plans of a Russian faction determined to engage the United States in World War III in an effort to regain their superpower status of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. He plays the character with a quick wit and a winsome smile, and we are looking forward to several more seasons of Krasinkski’s version of the spy. His mixture of charm and believable action sequences is enough to boost him ahead of big screen counterparts Pine and Affleck.
2. Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Alec Baldwin was the first Jack Ryan to arrive on the silver screen when he took on the character in Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October in 1990. Baldwin’s thrill ride as the CIA agent really marked his transition into a fully formed Hollywood leading man and came opposite Sean Connery, who was trying to defect from his native Russia as the captain of the Russian submarine Red October. Ryan is the only one who recognizes what captain Marko Ramius is attempting to do, and must convince the American authorities that he is not a rogue agent intent on launching nuclear weapons at the United States. He boards the American submarine Dallas and pleads with the captain not to torpedo the submarine that is crossing into American waters. Baldwin’s turn as Ryan was much more serious in tone and was reflective of the very high stakes involved in the naval showdown off the East coast of the United States toward the end of the Cold War. Many fans of Jack Ryan maintain that Baldwin’s turn was the finest film adaptation of Clancy’s creation.
1. Harrison Ford in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Harrison Ford has obviously had some very successful runs with mega franchises like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Ridley Scott‘s science fiction epic, Blade Runner, but his time as the CIA analyst turned field operative sometimes gets lost in all that greatness. Tackling the Jack Ryan role twice in the early and mid 90s, the gifted actor is probably most synonymous with Clancy’s protagonist. In both Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, Ford brings with him his patented blend of thrills with the quiet confidence of a family man. In his stint as the character, Ford’s Ryan is a professor teaching at the United States Naval Academy before he is called upon to address the conflict in Northern Ireland to address some rogue members of the IRA and subsequently, a group of ruthless Colombian drug kingpins in his second appearance in Clear and Present Danger. His performance as the most well-rounded CIA analyst that sees him balancing a family with the dangers of his job is the biggest reason that he is on the top of the list. His two entries were also the most successful at the box office, so we just couldn’t justify putting anyone else here.