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9. The Jason Bourne Trilogy
Films: "The Bourne Identity" (2002), "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004), "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007)
Directors: Doug Liman for "Identity" and Peter Greengrass for "Supremacy" and "Ultimatum"
Best of the bunch: The two Greengrass films work best as a single unit, so the vote here is for the purity of Liman's "Identity," with is a flawlessly arced and executed action film.
Weakest Link: There's a certain messiness to the end of "Ultimatum," which overworks to tie pieces together, even if certain revelations don't fully make sense. Of course, because of that effort at closure, it's really easy to pretend that 2012's "Legacy" is entirely its own thing and not related to the Damon "Bourne" Trilogy.
Why it's a great trilogy: "The Bourne Identity" stepped into a cinematic moment in which our greatest long-running action hero, Mr. James Bond, had gone fallow and become a series of mannequin-in-the-window stagnated tableaux starring Pierce Brosnan. Liman and Greengrass worked with Matt Damon to bring intensity and urgency back to the espionage game and forced James Bond to change course, for the better. Although Liman and Greengrass had very different styles, they delivered one bracing set-piece after another in a slew of well-used international locations. What elevates the franchise, though, is the fully grounded performance by Damon, who seemed like a really strange candidate for an action franchise lead when this all began. In the end, Damon was completely convincing at the action side of things and he reminded us that a good hero can be tortured and complicated without ever sacrificing in the quantity of butt he can kick.
- Dan Fienberg