In 1980, author Robert Ludlum wrote the Bourne Identity – a novel about a mysterious man called Jason Bourne, with remarkable set of skills and an unfortunate case of amnesia. The book proved popular enough to spawn two sequels – The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum – as well as a collection of novels not written by Ludlum (The Bourne Betrayal, The Bourne Imperative, etc).

Outside of the printed page, The Bourne Identity has also spawned an entire movie franchise. One that began in 1988 and even inspired an Indian movie!

Think you know the Jason Bourne films? Read on to discover more than you think you know, including the best viewing order for the Bourne movie series.

The Jason Bourne TV movie

Image: ©Warner Bros.

OK, so let’s start at the beginning.

Long before Matt Damon (see below) made Jason Bourne into a household name, Richard Chamberlain starred in a TV adaptation of The Bourne Identity. Arriving eight years after Ludlam’s novel was first published, Chamberlain played the role of Jason Bourne in a television movie broadcast on ABC.

The Bourne Identity featured Jaclyn Smith and initially aired across two nights. It was subsequently released on home video, with a run time of around three hours.

Should you want to watch all the films in this particular series it’s pretty simple, you just need to check out the following:

  • The Bourne Identity (1988)

And now on to something completely different…

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The Indian Jason Bourne

Onto Bourne movie number two, and once again this film does not feature Matt Damon – the actor most associated with the Bourne film series. Instead, this is a loose adaptation of The Bourne Identity, via India!

The film is:

  • Vetri Vizha (1989)

Directed by Prathap Pothen, Vetri Vizha is a Tamil language reworking of the original Bourne story. It’s suitable for Bourne completests only, or those who aren’t really that bothered about movies which stick closely to the source material.

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The Matt Damon Jason Bourne saga

Image: ©Universal Pictures

And now onto the Bourne movie series that has made the greatest impact at the box office and with audiences – the Bourne film collection featuring Matt Damon. The series began in 2002 and has since expanded to a series of pictures mostly (but not always) featuring Damon.

The Bourne Identity was the initial entry, which introduced Matt Damon as an amnesiac with a huge secret. Directed by Doug Liman, the film was both a critical and commercial success and was followed by 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy and 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum – both adaptations of Ludlum’s original novels.

The three films (temporarily) completed the story, and for five years existed as a self-contained trilogy. That was until Universal Pictures decided to revive the world of Bourne through a spin-off/sequel – The Bourne Legacy.

The Bourne Legacy is perhaps most notable for NOT focusing on Jason Bourne/Matt Damon. Instead, the movie centres upon Aaron Cross, another secretive operative, as played by Jeremy Renner.

The Bourne Legacy takes its name from the first non-Ludlum penned novel (Eric Van Lustbader is the author), but the movie is not an adaptation of the book. It was instead conceived as a way for Universal Pictures to move beyond Matt Damon-led stories.

Universal’s plan to branch out from Damon was not as successful as the studio had hoped and in 2016, Damon returned to the role of Jason Bourne for a fifth entry. The movie was simply titled, Jason Bourne.

If you wish to watch all the Matt Damon Jason Bourne films, this is the best viewing order:

  • The Bourne Identity (2002)
  • The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
  • The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
  • The Bourne Legacy (2012)
  • Jason Bourne (2016)

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Production order

Image: ©Universal Pictures

And finally, should you want to watch all of the Bourne movies (including the Richard Chamberlain movie and the Prathap Pothen directed film), then you should watch them in production order.

  • The Bourne Identity (1988)
  • Vetri Vizha (1989)
  • The Bourne Identity (2002)
  • The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
  • The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
  • The Bourne Legacy (2012)
  • Jason Bourne (2016)

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The Bourne Legacy continues…

In 2019, The Bourne Identity was moved from the big screen to the small screen for a television show. The USA Network’s series, Treadstone, focuses on the organisation responsible for turning Jason Bourne into an assassin.

And now you know.

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So, what is your favourite entry in the Bourne movie series? Is Matt Damon’s run as Jason Bourne the be-all and end-all of movies about Bourne, or do you prefer Richard Chamberlain’s interpretation? Sound off in the comments section and let’s talk Bourne!

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