The Jason Bourne films brought the world of spycraft and CIA-ordered assassinations into the new millennium - while also turning Matt Damon into a full-blown Hollywood action star.
The movies primarily focus on Damon as Bourne, a CIA-controlled assassin who loses his memory and begins a journey to discover his identity, ultimately turning him against his handlers at the CIA. There’s also a TV show, Treadstone, which rounds out the Jason Bourne Universe by delving into the background of the CIA program that trained assassins like Bourne. It just finished its first season, and there are reports about a sixth Bourne film underway, with Paul Greengrass possibly directing (he directed four Bourne films).
To help you catch-up on Bourne, whether you want to start watching Treadstone or want to experience a full re-watch before the sixth film debuts, we recommend watching the Bourne films in order of release date, as the series is chronological.
Every Bourne film and show in order
To skip the spoilers, check out our at-a-glance version of this guide below.
NOTE: THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
When you first see Bourne (Matt Damon), you meet him as an anonymous man with two gunshot wounds in his back. He’s been rescued by a fishing vessel in the Mediterranean sea, and when he awakens, he has no recollection of who he is or his past. The only clue is a laser projector found underneath his skin that projects the number of a deposit box in Zurich. He then sets off and eventually learns he is part of a secret program training assassins for the CIA.
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Two years after disappearing at the end of The Bourne Identity, Bourne and Marie Kreutz (played Franka Pontente) are now living a peaceful life in Goa, India. Meanwhile, the CIA deputy director is working on a deal, but the operation is ambushed by an unknown assailant, who kills everyone and leaves behind Jason Bourne’s fingerprints to frame him for the murders. This same assassin then tries to find Bourne and Marie. Bourne, of course, assumes the assassin was sent by the CIA and that the CIA has renewed its efforts to find Bourne.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
The Bourne Ultimatum follows Bourne, again played by Matt Damon, immediately following the ending of the Bourne Supremacy. He learns Simon Ross (Paddy Considine), a journalist, is working to uncover the secrets behind a CIA assassin training program known as Treadstone. From there, we see him race against the CIA as the agency tries to cover up the existence of the program by murdering all those involved.
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
The Bourne Legacy is the only Bourne film to not star Matt Damon as the titular character. Instead, the action is centered around a Department of Defense asset named Aaron Cross (played by Jeremy Renner). Cross received similar training to Bourne through a program called Operation Outcome. When a link between Operation Outcome and Treadstone becomes apparent, retired Air Force Colonel Eric Byer (played by Edward Norton) orders all Outcome assets to be murdered, but, unfortunately for him, Cross survives.
Jason Bourne (2016)
Jason Bourne picks up 12 years after the events of The Bourne Ultimatum - which saw Bourne expose the Treadstone program. Matt Damon is back, and his character is completely recovered from amnesia, but he’s forced to live in hiding. The CIA is still hunting him. Its analyst, Nicky Parsons (played by Julia Stiles), even discovers evidence linking Bourne’s father to the creation of Treadstone, and she sets off to find him. This puts Bourne on a path to once again take on CIA leadership who still want him dead.
*Treadstone - Season 1 (2019)
The first season of Treadstone recently finished airing on the USA Network. It’s part-prequel and part-sequel to the Bourne film series, with some of the story set in 1973, when we see CIA operative John Randolph Bentley (played by Jeremy Irvine) escape from a Soviet behavior modification program known as Cicada in East Berlin. From there, the show dives into the present day, with Treadstone assets going about their normal lives until they are suddenly activated and become world-class assassins like Bourne.
*Note: You could watch Treadstone first, before the films, in your re-watch, but the jump to the present day in the first season might confuse or not mean as much to you. It can also be watched as a standalone, or after the film series, which is what we recommend.
*Bonus: The Bourne Identity (1988)
If you want to see absolutely everything Bourne-related, then you need to check out this made-for-TV movie that aired on ABC in two parts in 1988. It follows much of the same beats as the 2002 film, with Jason Bourne (played by Richard Chamberlain) awakening and not remembering who he is while displaying skills most normal people don't know. The best part, though, is that you can watch it free on YouTube (unofficially).
*Note: You could watch this film before all the other films, but it's in a separate timeline altogether, so we recommend watching it last.
The complete Bourne timeline at a glance
OK, so here is the at-a-glance version of the list above:
- The Bourne Identity (2002)
- The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
- The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
- The Bourne Legacy (2012)
- Jason Bourne (2016)
- Treadstone - Season 1 (2019)
- Bonus: The Bourne Identity (1988)
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We also have a Star Wars guide for those of you who want to watch those films in the Machete order: