Nobody expected much from The Bourne Identity when it came out back in 2002. However, Doug Liman’s adaptation of the Robert Ludlum novel of the same name ended up being a sleeper hit and made a credible action star out of Matt Damon. The movie’s sequels did even better, raising the stakes for our amnesiac spy and delivering some genre-defining action to boot. They even inspired the oldest and biggest super-spy on the block to buck up his ideas, with 2006’s James Bond reboot Casino Royale cribbing entire chapters from Bourne’s playbook. 14 years, 3 directors, and two leads later, Paul Greengrass re-teams with Matt Damon for the fifth movie in the series, simply called Jason Bourne, which was released today. To celebrate, we’ve trawled through the previous films to give you the 15 best Bourne fight scenes from the entire series and list some of the extreme ways (get it?) people have been dispatched.
15. One punch KO – Jason Bourne
This may seem like cheating already, but the one-punch knockout Bourne (Damon) delivers to his bare-knuckle boxing opponent glimpsed in the trailer is worthy of a mention. It’s less of a fight and more of a definitive statement. Bourne is back and he still kicks ass. It also neatly encapsulates some of Jason Bourne’s best characteristics.
He’s a trained killer programmed to take out threats in the fastest and most efficient ways possible. Bourne knows exactly when and where to hit and he drops the guy faster than a New Year’s resolution. It’s a cool film-seller of a moment and the only reason it doesn’t rank higher is that the whole thing could fit into a 3 second GIF. We’re missing the context that could level this scene up entirely.
14. Showdown with The Professor – The Bourne Identity
After evading the French police and pulling off some sick moves in a battered Mini Cooper, Bourne and Marie (Franka Potente) take refuge in an old French farmhouse, belonging to an old flame of Marie’s. Said old flame, Eamon (Tim Dutton), unexpectedly shows up with his children and dog in tow. The pair recuperate, but Bourne’s sixth sense for danger is triggered when the family dog goes missing. He tells everyone to get in the basement and grabs a shotgun on his way out of the door.
It turns out that an “asset” like Bourne, called “The Professor” (Clive Owen), has tracked him down and has his sights set on him. Bourne shoots a fuel tank to provide an obfuscating explosion and smoke. Through various means of misdirection, Bourne soon chases The Professor down and shoots him twice, mortally wounding him. While it’s not much of a fight, Bourne’s tactics and The Professor’s candidness makes this one worthy of a shout-out. Clutching his gut, the poor ol’ Prof talks about the headaches he gets. Grimacing, he indicates his situation and says: “Look at this. Look what they make you give,” before keeling over and dying. It must have had a big impact on Bourne as he uses the same line at the end of The Bourne Ultimatum.
13. Vodka Chaser – The Bourne Supremacy
At one point in The Bourne Supremacy, Bourne finds himself wounded and relentlessly pursued by Russian agent Kirill (Karl Urban). As Bourne is always one to think on his feet and stay five steps ahead of the competition, he detours through a supermarket, grabbing a map, some cloth, and a bottle of vodka without breaking his stride.
He takes a swig of vodka and approaches a cab, seemingly drunk. The cab driver warns him to stay away from his vehicle as a police car pulls up and two cops get out. Bourne waits for the cops to try and apprehend him before spitting his mouthful of vodka into the face of one of the cops before quickly and expertly taking them both down. It’s a criminal waste of good vodka, but an original and surprising element to a great bit of action.
12. Cross vs. wolf – The Bourne Legacy
The Bourne Legacy isn’t a Bourne sequel in the traditional sense. For starters, it doesn’t have Jason Bourne in it, but a man named Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) instead. When series regular Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) leaks all the internal wrongdoings at the Department of Defense, the bureau goes into panic mode and starts trying to cover its tracks. One of operations that comes under fire is Operation Outcome, a black ops program that features chemically enhanced elite agents. Ed Norton’s Eric Byer is drafted in and he deems Outcome to be a dangerous and potentially embarrassing situation and orders all the agents involved killed.
A Predator drone catches up with Aaron Cross whilst on a training mission in Alaska. Cross manages to avoid the drone’s initial attack, although fellow agent Oscar Isaac isn’t so lucky. Cross digs out his tracking chip and runs. He rests in a snowy forest, but finds himself confronted by a vicious, snarling wolf. It attacks, but is caught by Cross’ waiting snare. He traps the beast and wrestles with it, before force-feeding it the chip. The two run separate ways as the drone circles overhead and picks up the wolf’s signature. A missile is fired, taking out the wolf and a sizeable chunk of forest, leaving Cross alive and well, but crucially appearing dead to Byer.
11. Stairwell plunge – The Bourne Identity
At the end of Identity, Bourne confronts his old boss Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper) at a Treadstone safehouse and holds him and Nicky Parsons hostage. However, he soon twigs that company’s on its way and pistol whips Conklin in the face for good measure.
He takes out one of the armed men, grabbing his silenced pistol and dual wielding in the most unique way yet seen, with the silenced one being used upside down. Bourne takes out a second gunman coming up the staircase before the first attacks again, sending Bourne’s newly acquired pistol tumbling over the side. This time, Bourne takes him out for good and slams his head through the railings. However, he has no time to catch his breath as a man with an automatic rifle fires at him from the ground floor, before sprinting up the stairs towards Bourne. Realising his pistol is no match for the gunmen, Bourne starts kicking the railing man free, before grabbing onto him and plunging down the drop. As Bourne and his new corpse-sled fall, Bourne manages to shoot the last gunman right between the eyes before hitting the ground hard, his “sled” providing a slight cushion and allowing him to limp away. It’s one of the goofier scenes in a franchise that would later strive for realism, but it’s a fun burst of action and certainly not your standard, run-of-the-mill fight sequence.
10. Rescue from the rooftops – The Bourne Legacy
On Cross’ insistence, he and Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) travel to Manila to find a chemical factory responsible for making the super-soldier pills. The pair end up being chased by both the local authorities and an assassin referred to as LARX #3 (Louis Ozawa Changchien). Marta is separated from Cross and flees from the police, while Cross takes the rooftops.
Marta soon finds herself in a claustrophobic alley with nowhere to run and a policeman either side of her. Cross arrives just in the nick of time, slides down the narrow walls. He marks his dramatic entrance by pulling a Super Mario and jumping on the head of one of the cops. He tells Dr. Marta to get down as he slams the other, less flattened cop from wall to wall before finally delivering a big boot to the face, taking him out of the equation. The cramped setting and the ramping up of the stakes is what makes this one memorable, with barely enough room to breathe, let alone to start swinging fists.
9. Park fight – The Bourne Identity
Early in The Bourne Identity, the man who will be Bourne has been pulled out of the ocean with no idea who he is and only the destination of Zurich as a starting point. He ends up sleeping rough on a bench in a public park, but is soon interrupted by two policemen who want him out and demand to see his papers. Bourne surprises himself by speaking fluent German back to them.
One of the cops gets a little aggressive and uses his nightstick in an attempt to hurry Bourne along. Bourne grabs it and is soon laying a magnificent beatdown on both cops, smacking one in the face with his own nightstick and ending up with Bourne pointing a stolen gun at the two unconscious men, a move that becomes a series hallmark as the franchise went on. This is the first time both Bourne and the audience see what he’s capable of and it’s a genuinely badass moment.
8. Basement beatings – The Bourne Legacy
Cross and Dr. Shearing end up in the Manila factory’s basement in order for the good doctor to “viral off” Cross’ dependence on his super-soldier pills. However, Shearing’s work is interrupted when suspicions are raised about the two strange visitors. The foreman sends three guards down to find out what’s going on and spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well for them.
After trying to talk their way out of the situation, one of the guards lays a hand on Cross’ shoulder and it’s game on from that point. Cross turns around and slams the guard’s head to the floor, disarms the second, clubbing him to the floor before grabbing the third’s revolver and slamming him into a window, causing broken glass and a very unfortunate guard to go crashing to the floor. It’s a neat sequence and very reminiscent of some of Jason Bourne’s handiwork.
7. The light fan-tastic – The Bourne Ultimatum
At one point in The Bourne Ultimatum, CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) and his office of perpetually surprised lackeys are playing catch-up with Bourne’s activities. Vosen sends men to potential mole Neal Daniels’ apartment, only to find it empty, ransacked, and with the alarm cut. The gunmen stalk through the mess to discover some movement visible under the bathroom door. Taking no chances, they pepper the door with rounds and open it, hoping to find a dead Daniels or, even better, a dead Bourne.
However, what they find is a flashlight stuck to an oscillating fan to give the illusion of movement. Bourne strikes from the shadows, knocking the mens’ guns away and going to town with a metal pipe. Vosen calls for backup, but it’s too late. The gunmen are taken out and Bourne ends up being helped by Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who proves invaluable to Bourne’s efforts.
6. The American Embassy – The Bourne Identity
After our amnesiac hero has visited the Zurich bank and emptied a safe deposit box full of money and passports, leaving the guns, our man assumes the identity of one of the alias on the American passport– that of Jason Bourne. The newly christened Bourne is pursued by the local police after a tip-off and Bourne attempts to evade them by ducking into the American Embassy. It works for a time, but soon a guard is calling for him to freeze. Bourne surrenders as the guard approaches with his handcuffs drawn.
However, as soon as the guard lays a hand on him, it flicks Bourne’s “beast mode” switch on and Bourne takes out the cuff guard and two others in a matter of seconds, with the flurry of action ending like the park bench sequence, with Bourne pointing a pistol at the downed men. Bourne runs up the stairs to higher ground, but not before punching another guard in the crotch and sending him careening down a set of marble steps. To add insult to injury, Bourne steals the man’s radio to get a head start on the cops’ tactics. This sequence marks the first real time we see Bourne cut loose and it’s a glorious moment and a fantastic way to show the audience just who we’re dealing with.
5. House call – The Bourne Legacy
The best action sequence in The Bourne Legacy occurs when several assassins disguised as police officers arrive at Dr. Shearing’s house. They ask several questions before grabbing her and attempting to stage her suicide. However, Aaron Cross comes bursting out of a cupboard like the Spanish Inquisition and attacks the attackers. One especially awesome bit is when Cross turfs one of the assassins over a kitchen table, before kicking it into his face as he starts to get back up.
Cross comes under some serious gunfire from outside before diving down into the basement for safety. He’s followed, but Cross uses his improvisational skills to make an impromptu nail gun out of a fire extinguisher. He fires it into an assassin’s arm and then shows him what a trained killer with a 2×4 can really do. The sequence ends when Cross escapes from the basement, nimbly scales the outside of the house, re-enters and shoots a surprised gunmen on the second floor. It’s a well-constructed sequence that taps into the fast and furious action that made the Bourne series famous. Had this been the finale of the movie instead of an underwhelming motorbike chase, people would have ended up thinking much better of the black sheep of the Bourne franchise.
4. Pen/Knife – The Bourne Identity
As he starts to piece together his old life, Bourne and Marie visit Bourne’s Parisian home. They take a breather, but it’s not long before a trained assassin named Castel (Nicky Naude) comes smashing through a window, rocking an automatic weapon and firing wildly. The gun soon runs dry and Bourne and Castel desperately grapple with each other.
Castel pulls out a push dagger, a knife where the blade protrudes from inbetween the fingers of a clenched fist and the two go at it again. Finding himself at a disadvantage, Bourne grabs a standard biro from his desk and stabs Castel multiple times with it. The most wince-inducing moment is when Bourne stabs it into his hand and punts him over the desk. Castel gets up and without missing a beat, pulls the pen from his hand and continues fighting. Bourne eventually wins with a flurry of bone-breaking moves that incapacitate Castel and leave him on the floor. Bourne tries to interrogate him, but ends up distracted, giving Castel the opportunity to leave Bourne’s pad the way he entered. Castel flings himself out of the window leaves some boundary-pushing street art for the Parisian population to ponder over. Despite the films getting more accomplished and complex with their action scenes as they went on, the fight with Castel still holds its own as arguably the most brutal fight in the series.
3. The magazine fight – The Bourne Supremacy
In Supremacy, Bourne tracks down fellow Treadstone agent Jarda (Marton Csokas) to his apartment. Bourne zip-ties his hands together and starts asking questions. Bourne plans to escape using Jarda’s car and the two prepare to leave. However a phone rings, momentarily distracting Bourne and giving Jarda the opportunity to try and overpower him.
Jarda fights impressively well for a man with his hands bound and has Bourne on the ropes thanks to a combination of head-butts, body checks, and elbow strikes. Bourne eventually manages to break free from Jarda’s assault, but Jarda then cuts his ties and grabs a terrifyingly sharp-looking kitchen knife from the wall. With milliseconds to think, Bourne rolls up a nearby magazine and uses it to stave off Jarda’s blade attacks as well as smacking him around with it. The crucial point in the fight comes when the two men are wrestling and Jarda grabs an extension cable and attempts to choke Bourne out. Bourne reverses it and strangles Jarda with it instead. It’s a brilliant fight and the use of a magazine to even the odds is inspired. Perhaps it’s a nod to Identity‘s pen usage?
2. Waterloo – The Bourne Ultimatum
The Bourne Ultimatum contains one of the series’ most ambitious sequences yet when Bourne tries to guide journalist Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) through one of London’s busiest stations whilst evading trained CIA operatives. Bourne keeps contact with Ross throughout and runs interference to protect Ross whilst he makes his way through Waterloo.
Bourne ends up taking down entire teams of people. He takes out a sniper, a would-be stabber, and a handful of gunmen. While the fights are over in seconds, it’s the slickness of the whole sequence that impresses. The final moment when Bourne takes out several thugs with his signature “disarm and devastate” move as first seen in Identity is a nice nod to the series’ origins. Plus, the reveal of Bourne to the stunned Noah Vosen back in Langley is priceless.
1. Bourne vs. Desh – The Bourne Ultimatum
Yeah, we had to put this one first. The fact that people only seem to remember Joey Ansah’s character’s name because of this fight should give you a clue as to how much people love this scene. The fight comes at the end of an extended chase sequence with Bourne, Nicky, and Desh all running over and through the Moroccan streets. Desh is assigned to kill both Bourne and Nicky to tie up loose ends after he blows up Neal Daniels (Colin Stinton) and he soon catches a glimpse of Nicky and sets off in hot pursuit. Realising what’s going on, Bourne leaps through a window to confront Desh (much like Castel’s entrance in Identity) and the two men finally face off.
It’s a tough brawl, with Desh seemingly having an answer for everything Bourne can throw at him, including a fantastic moment when Desh backflips out of a wrist lock. The unconventional weapon this time is a book, used to counter a heftily swung metal candlestick. The best bit is when Bourne slams the book on Desh’s foot and then rams it into his throat, before flipping it up and punching the book into his face multiple times. What is Bourne’s fascination with office supplies? If the new movie doesn’t feature the brutal use of a hole punch, we’ll be disappointed. The fight moves to the bathroom were Bourne uses a towel to block Desh’s attacks with a grabbed straight razor. Bourne finally comes out on top and chokes Desh out with the towel. It’s the best fight so far and the culmination of amazing stunt work and editing. If Jason Bourne ends up with something equal or better than the Desh sequence, we should be very excited indeed.
Jason Bourne is in US theaters as of July 29, 2016.
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