Jason Bourne is careening into movie theaters July 29th, and fans have been waiting 5 long years for the amnesic super-spy to get back to disarming bad guys and not remembering where he left his jacket. The Bourne character first appeared in the 1980s, showing up in a string of bestselling novels by Robert Ludlum. In 1988, we saw Bourne come alive on-screen, albeit in the form of an aging Richard Chamberlain in a made-for-TV movie. It wasn’t until Matt Damon and director Doug Liman teamed up to make 2002’s The Bourne Identity that the character found an appropriate vessel and a monster action franchise was born.
For the uninitiated, the story opens like this: Jason Bourne awakens to find himself suffering from amnesia, and as he tries to piece his life back together he discovers that he was, until quite recently, an elite-level mercenary in the employ of Treadstone, a shadowy CIA program with an iffy moral compass. His old bosses and colleagues haven’t forgotten about him though, and they’re intent on eliminating him before he remembers too much. Damon starred in the first 3 outings – Liman’s The Bourne Identity (2002), which would be followed by director Paul Greengrass’ The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) – and then in 2012 we saw the trilogy’s screenwriter, Tony Gilroy, step up to direct the 4th, Damon-less installment, The Bourne Legacy. Jeremy Renner starred, not as Bourne but as the equally-acrobatic-and-lethal operative Aaron Cross, and while it was quite well-made and a pretty good time, it felt like a watered-down version of its predecessors.
But now Damon and Greengrass are back in the fold for the latest installment, simply titled Jason Bourne, and judging from everything we've seen so far, it looks like a real firecracker, a taster’s choice of close-quarters combat, heart-pumping car chases, intrigue, and a European sensibility — all familiar notes that made the other films so damn fantastic.
As you can tell, we love the Bourne movies, and to commemorate the newest chapter, we decided to take a gander back at some of the most memorable moments in the franchise’s history. We tried our darndest to distill it all down to the most essential scenes – the turning points, showdowns, climaxes and other special events that spiced up the narrative, helped build up the character, or just simply threw the audience for a riotous loop. And so with that, please sit back, relax, tuck away your passports and trip-wires, and enjoy Screen Rant’s list of the 12 Most Memorable Scenes from the Bourne Franchise…
We'll start this list off correctly, folks. A fan-favorite and one of the more exciting scenes of the franchise, Bourne's fight with Jarda deserves its spot on this list thanks in large part to the brawl's weapon of choice: a rolled-up magazine.
After escaping custody in Italy, Bourne learns of the whereabouts of Jarda (Marton Csokas), the other remaining Treadstone agent. He heads to Munich, where he ambushes Jarda in his sleek Teutonic home, zip ties his hands and interrogates him. But Jarda, a highly dangerous guy himself, catches Bourne off-guard and gets the upper hand, elbowing, punching, and kneeing the agent around his kitchen. Bourne staves off the attacks, but when Jarda unshackles his wrists and draws from his wall a large chef's knife, Bourne knows he's outmatched. So he does what absolutely nobody else on Earth would think to do in that situation: he takes a magazine off the counter, rolls it up, and proceeds to smack Jarda into oblivion with it.
Okay, okay — we promise this won't be just a list of all the fights Bourne was in. But this one deserves to be on here too, we swear. At the tail end of The Bourne Identity, our protagonist learns the location of Treadstone's Paris safe house, and breaks in to interrogate Conklin (Chris Cooper). The face-to-face with his old boss sets off a series of flashbacks to a past assassination attempt. Bourne tells Conklin that he wants out of Treadstone and doesn't want to be pursued any further.
But as he exits the top-floor office, Bourne is greeted by an armed team of agents swarming up the stairs. He grabs the gun away from the nearest guy, and shoots away using both weapons in an unorthodox manner — his pistol in one hand, and the freshly-taken one, upside-down, in the other. It's a cool effect, but it's soon followed by what's perhaps the most bizarre moment in the Bourne canon.
Despite having defeated countless other agents to this point (and being at a distinct advantage at the top of the staircase as opposed to having to go up it), with one last bad guy coming up the stairs, Bourne decides to take the fastest way out he can imagine. He proceeds to use the body of his closest downed opponent as a landing pad, kicking the corpse through the banister and riding it down the stairwell. On the way down, Bourne caps the enemy between the eyes, then promptly breaks his fall on the baddie beneath him and gets away. It was a bit on the hammy side, and it was a bit of a head scratcher of a decision, but it sure was cool.
At the beginning of Identity, Bourne doesn’t remember anything — his name, where he lives, nothing. He has just been saved at sea by some Italian fishermen, and upon discovering a safe deposit number on his hip, travels to Zurich to find the box linked to the number. He goes inside a high-security bank and provides the number from memory. They let him through the multiple barricades and provide him a private booth in which to look over his box’s contents.
In the box, he discovers a stack of passports — all bearing his photo, and all with different names. The American passport says that his name is Jason Bourne. Another document tells him the address of his home in Paris. He discovers that there is a false bottom to the safe deposit box; he removes it and finds stacks of money of various currencies, and a gun. Bourne takes everything in the box except for the pistol and leaves the bank in a hurry. But as he leaves, one the bank’s more observant employees makes a phone call…
In one of the most satisfying moments of the whole series, Bourne outwits CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) in particularly embarrassing style. Deputy Director Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), who's co-chairing Vosen's task force to find Bourne and who, very much unlike her cohort, has always had a sympathetic heart for Bourne, receives a phone call from Bourne and finds out that he’s in New York City (more on that in a bit).
Unbeknownst to her, Vosen is in another office using the CIA’s surveillance apparatus to spy on what the two are saying to each other. Feeling that Bourne wants to meet, Landy steps out of the building, where he sends her the address of a nearby park. Vosen jumps on the opportunity and mobilizes his entire team to race to the meet-point and take down their target. But as Landy and a fleet of black SUVs trudge to a stop at the snowy park address, Vosen gets a phone call from Bourne. He informs Vosen that while they’re over there at the park, Bourne has taken the liberty of breaking into his office. He then hangs up the phone on the bewildered Vosen and uses a recorded snippet from their phone call to open Vosen’s voice-recognition safe and steal from within it top-secret Blackbriar documents, which will shed more light on his past.
After the corrupt Russian secret service agent Kirill (Karl Urban) had killed Marie, it’d stand to reason that the next time Bourne would see him, the kid gloves would most definitely be off. And they certainly were.
When Bourne arrives in Moscow at the end of Supremacy to do some sleuth work regarding the Neski case, he’s tailed by Kirill in a black BMW as well as what seems like the entirety of the Moscow police force. Kirill shoots Bourne in the shoulder, but Bourne gets away momentarily, slipping into a supermarket and picking up rags, maps, and vodka to quell the pain and stay mobile. Behind the supermarket he disables 2 suspicious cops and steals a yellow cab. A bevy of patrol cars go after him through the streets, and Kirill, who has now commandeered a civilian’s Mercedes SUV, is flanking Bourne. What proceeds is the most breathless car chase this side of Ronin, with Bourne and Kirill zipping in and out of traffic at insane speeds. Kirill’s pursuit of Bourne comes to a climax in a tunnel, in which Bourne shoots out the tire on Kirill’s Merc, spins it around, and then shovels it into concrete pillar.
In the setup for this scene, Bourne has paid Marie (Franka Potente) $20,000 to drive him from Zurich to the address in Paris he found in his safe deposit box. Once they get there, Bourne tries to answer some of his questions about who he is and what is going on. But before he can, a man armed with a submachine gun and bleached blond hair crashes into the apartment via rappelling rope, spraying the room they’re in with bullets.
Bourne’s instincts come online, and in an intense hand-to-hand combat sequence, the 2 men grapple and trade blows. Decidedly losing the brawl, the man unsheathes a knife, so Bourne resorts to the nearest pointy object: a pen. Using this unorthodox weapon, he soon outmatches the would-be assassin, breaks a couple of his limbs, and starts interrogating him. But just as fast as he had entered the apartment, the blonde mercenary decides to leave, chucking himself out the upper-story apartment window to his doom instead of having to risk giving up information.
With their would-be killer lying dead in the busy street outside and their faces on wanted posters, Jason and Marie get out of his old apartment building and race over to the train depot, where he can leave his bag of spy paraphernalia in a safe. Once back at the car, Jason, now in the driver’s seat, asks Marie to go to the cops, to extricate herself from the situation, but she responds by securing her seatbelt, ready for the ride of her life. And she go it.
As cops approach her car, a Mini Cooper, Jason throws the car in reverse and spins around, shuttling off down the street. With patrol cars and motorcycles in tow, he runs the Mini through narrow cobblestone alleys and down a flight of stairs. The scene is one of the most fun in the series, with expert stunt-driving that really puts the cars through their paces. The Mini drifts, brakes, and catches some serious air through a rain-covered Paris. They finally eschew the cops, parking in an underground lot and abandoning the now-conspicuous little vehicle.
We imagine Mini Coopers experienced a nice little sales bump after this film, thanks in no small part to Bourne's impressive driving skills.
Midway through Ultimatum, the audience has already seen their main character travel the world while evading the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies with seeming ease. So we expect by this point in the movie to see him having tucked himself away in some far off corner of the planet as he had with Marie at the end of Identity. But to our surprise, that’s not what he does. The movie is called Ultimatum, after all.
In the pivotal scene, Landy is in her Manhattan office, looking at banal paperwork while the big glass windows behind her look out on the rest of the city. She receives a phone call, and it’s Bourne on the other end. After he asks her why she is looking for him, Landy thanks him for uncovering the corruption of former Treadstone chief Ward Abbott (Brian Cox). As Bourne tries to end the call, Pam interjects, telling him his real name is David Webb and giving him his birth date and place of birth. She then asks him if he’ll meet with her. Bourne then reveals himself to be nearby, setting the agents up for the aforementioned bit of badass-ery in the ninth entry on our list.
At the opening of Supremacy, we have Bourne and Marie living a quiet life in Goa, India. Bourne goes for runs on the beach, does a little writing, and Marie shops the local farmers markets. Meanwhile in Berlin, a CIA deal to obtain the Neski files goes south when Kirill, who’s in the pocket of the oil tycoon who’d be implicated if those files became public, ambushes the CIA team, kills them, and plants Bourne’s fingerprints at the scene. He then shows up in Goa to finish the job, but Bourne sees him first. He hurriedly runs to his truck, and races through town to scoop up Marie. Kirill spots them though, and chases the couple through the narrow streets and packed markets. Bourne has Marie drive, and they end up outmaneuvering Kirill and picking up a bit of distance. As the couple’s truck races along a steep bridge out of town, Kirill pulls over by the riverbank and unfurls his sniper rifle. He trains the sights on Bourne, but hits Marie. She dies instantly, and the truck crashes off the bridge and falls in the river below. Bourne tries in vain to save her, and Kirill, believing both are dead, escapes.
It was a bummer to see Marie go, but it was a necessary evil: in order for Bourne's globetrotting escapades to continue, he couldn't exactly be white-picket-fencing it up in the suburbs with his lady love, could he?
After Bourne leaves the bank in Zurich with a rucksack full of money and passports, the cops have been tipped off to him. Hearing sirens and wanting to avoid more run-ins with the police, he slinks into the US embassy. There, he has immunity from arrest and the local cops can’t follow him in. But soon, the US authorities inside the embassy are dubious. They command Bourne to stop, and as one guard brandishes handcuffs while another 2 close in, Bourne’s martial arts skills kick in again and he incapacitates all three men inside of 5 seconds. It's the very first time the audience sees what he can do, and man, it's glorious.
Bourne manages to flee into the stairwell, where he makes his way up the stairs, using the radio to follow the moves of the armed American soldiers who are coming up from the basement barracks. Bourne ascends flight after flight, until he reaches the 5th floor, where he has nowhere to go but out. He steps out onto an old fire escape, and free climbs around and down the stone fascia of the building, out of sight of the soldiers.
Bourne and Treadstone support technician Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) have tracked CIA station head Neal Daniels (Colin Stinton), the source for the article that exposed Treadstone and Blackbriar, to Tangier. Once they arrive though, Nicky tells Bourne that Blackbriar assassin Desh Bouksani (Joey Ansah) is in town, and he is also seeking out Daniels, albeit for wholly different ends.
Stateside, Vosen adds Bourne and Parsons to Desh’s hit list. Bourne nearly halts Desh from taking out Daniels with a roadside bomb but fails. The chase is then on between the 2 assassins, and they flee the scene with the local police in tow. Desh gets sidetracked when he notices Parsons, and pursues her instead. Bourne, still on the run from the cops and in full parkour-mode, leaps across rooftops and through windows to get to Desh before Desh gets to Nicky. He does, and when the 2 trained killers finally face off in a cramped apartment, it’s the best brawl of the series, hands down. It’s Desh’s fight to lose – he’s bigger, stronger, and has a longer reach than Bourne does. But through the use of found objects and quick, tight hits, Bourne comes out on top.
Bourne arrives in London after discovering an article that tells the world his story, as well as that of operation Treadstone and its successor, Blackbriar. Simon Ross (Paddy Considine), the journo behind the piece, arrives back in London after meeting with his anonymous source and is immediately tailed by Vosen’s CIA team. Bourne gets to Ross first, at the entrance of Waterloo train station, and plants a burner phone on him so they can communicate securely.
As Vosen’s team enters the station in attempts to capture Ross without alarming the public, Bourne sees them coming and instructs Ross’s every move. Even with security cameras and armed agents everywhere, Bourne saves Ross, storing him out of sight behind a locked metal door. But as Bourne plans Ross’s next move – run out the door and through the lobby – he notices a figure hidden behind a mechanical billboard. As it clicks for him that it is a sniper, Bourne yells over the mic to Ross to wait before exiting the door, but by then it’s too late. Ross has opened the door, and Paz (Edgar Ramirez) has already been given orders from Vosen to take out Ross.
It’s a brilliantly put together scene, and it perfectly encapsulates everything we need to know about Bourne’s character, as well as the rapaciousness of the unchecked power pursuing him. If the upcoming fifth entry in the franchise is as memorable as star Matt Damon claims it will be, we should keep an eye out for more scene like this in the very near future.
Well, how'd we do? What's your favorite Bourne moment? Sound off in the comments.