Bourne Franchise Overview


Bourne films are a series of American action thriller films based on the character Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) a CIA assassin suffering from dissociative amnesia who must figure out who he is, created by author Robert Ludlum.

Treadstone is an American action drama television series, connected to and based on the Bourne film series.

All three of Ludlum’s novels were adapted for the screen, featuring Matt Damon as the title character in each. Doug Liman directed The Bourne Identity (2002) and Paul Greengrass directed The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and Jason Bourne (2016). Tony Gilroy co-wrote each film, except for Jason Bourne, and directed The Bourne Legacy (2012).

Damon chose not to return for the fourth film, The Bourne Legacy, which introduces a new main character, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), a Department of Defence operative who runs for his life because of Bourne’s actions in Ultimatum. The character of Jason Bourne does not appear in Legacy, but mention of his name and pictures of Damon as Bourne are shown throughout the film. Damon returned for the fifth instalment, Jason Bourne.

The Bourne series has received generally positive critical reception and grossed over $1.6 billion. Unlike many contemporary action series, it is distinguished by its use of real stunt work, in contrast to the growing use of computer-generated imagery in action scenes.


The Bourne Identity (2002)

A man is found floating in the Mediterranean Sea with two gunshot wounds in his back and a device with the number of a Swiss safe deposit box embedded in his hip. Upon reaching shore, the man assumes the name Jason Bourne after finding a passport under that name in the safe deposit box, along with other alien passports, large amounts of assorted currencies, and a gun. He subsequently attempts to discover his true identity while countering attempts on his life by CIA assassins, eventually realising that he is one such assassin who failed to complete his most recent mission. Bourne breaks his connections to the CIA and unites with Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente), a woman who helped him learn about his most recent actions prior to his memory loss. Bourne’s conflict with the CIA reaches a climax when he takes the fight to their doorstep.

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Some two years after learning that he is a trained assassin and breaking his connections with the CIA, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is framed for a crime to cover up the true perpetrator. An attempt on his life by Kirill (Karl Urban), a Russian cop, results in Marie’s (Franka Potente) death in India. Bourne, thinking that the CIA is hunting him again, proceeds to hunt those responsible for her death and his forgotten past. Bourne discovers that Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), one of the men who oversaw the programme which trained Bourne to be an assassin (Operation Treadstone), had stolen millions of dollars from the CIA. Abbott had planned to frame Bourne for the theft, followed by assassinating Bourne in India. Bourne exposes Abbott to Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), the CIA officer in charge of finding Bourne. Abbott kills himself. Bourne goes to Moscow where he is identified, resulting in a long car chase through Moscow. At the end of the chase, Kirill dies. Bourne is in Moscow to find the daughter of a Russian couple killed in his first mission. He tells her that it was not a suicide, as she had been long told, but a murder. Bourne then goes back into hiding.

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

After six weeks of disconnection from his job, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) learns that a British journalist (Paddy Considine) has been investigating his past and contacts him to find out who his source is. Bourne is subsequently targeted by Operation Blackbriar, an upgraded Operation Treadstone, which also has taken note of the investigation. Believing that Bourne is a threat and is seeking revenge, Blackbriar’s director Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) begins a new hunt for Bourne. Bourne manages to take classified documents proving that Blackbriar has targeted US citizens; he is aided by Pamela Landy, who disagreed with Vosen from the beginning and does not support Blackbriar’s existence, and former Treadstone logistics technician Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). She may have had romantic feelings for Bourne before his final mission and resultant amnesia. Bourne finally comes face to face with the person who oversaw his behaviour modification as the first Treadstone operative some years earlier, memories of which resurface. Those responsible for Treadstone and Blackbriar are exposed, and Bourne goes underground.

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is a member of Operation Outcome, a United States Department of Defence black ops programme which enhances the physical and mental abilities of field operatives through pills referred to as “chems”. Cross, deployed to Alaska for a training assignment, traverses rugged terrain to reach a cabin operated by an exiled Outcome operative. Meanwhile, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has exposed the Blackbriar and Treadstone programmes in public, leading the FBI and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to investigate those involved. Retired Air Force Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton), who is responsible for overseeing the Beta programme from which the CIA’s Treadstone and Blackbriar were developed, decides to end Outcome and kill its agents. Cross manages to survive several attempts on his life and seeks a way to get more chems, as his supply runs out. Cross eventually comes upon Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), his last link to gain more chems. He discovers she has no pills but that his physical enhancements can be “viraled-out” and can become genetically permanent, so he would no longer need physical chems. He, in turn, reveals to her that without the help of the mental chem enhancements, he possesses a well-below average IQ. To avoid this mental regression, and the operatives hunting them, the two travel to a factory in Manila and with Shearing’s help, Cross initiates and survives the potentially fatal process of viraling-out of his dependency on the remaining mental-enhancing pills. They evade the Manila police and an operative from the new LARX programme, and successfully escape from the Philippines on a junk ship.

Jason Bourne (2016)

Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), whom Bourne sent into hiding in The Bourne Ultimatum, gains access to sensitive CIA files. She contacts Bourne to share information about his past, including how he was recruited for Operation Treadstone and his father’s role in that operation. Bourne learns that his father, Richard Webb (Gregg Henry), designed Operation Treadstone and was assassinated by the CIA because he did not want his son to enter the programme and become a killer. CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) hunts down Parsons and Bourne using a foreign asset (Vincent Cassel) and the technical skills of CIA Cyber Ops Division head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), while Bourne plans to avenge his father’s death. Bourne first tries to make the man who recruited him into the CIA confirm his understanding of his father’s death. He then plans to avenge himself against Dewey. Meanwhile, Lee wants to bring Bourne back into the CIA’s special operations and Dewey allows her to believe she has his support even though he plans to eliminate Bourne.

There is a subplot involving Operation Iron Hand, a surveillance programme that will have secret access to a giant social media service called Deep Dream. In the past the CIA and Deep Dream have had a contract to work together, but Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), its founder and CEO, wants to end this cooperation. When Dewey refuses to allow any such change, Kalloor plans to reveal his relationship with the CIA and its plans to violate the privacy expectations of Deep Dream’s millions of users. Dewey plans to assassinate Kalloor before his planned revelations.

Treadstone (2019) (TV Series)

Treadstone explores the origin story and present-day actions of a fictional CIA black-ops programme known as Operation Treadstone – a covert program that uses a behaviour-modification protocol to turn recruits into nearly-superhuman assassins.


In November 2016, producer Frank Marshall acknowledged that Universal Pictures is optimistic regarding a Jason Bourne sequel. In the same interview, he reported that a follow-up instalment to The Bourne Legacy, is unlikely although the studio has not ruled it out. In March 2017, franchise star Matt Damon, cast doubt upon a sequel stating that the audience “might be done” with the character.

By October of 2019, Ben Smith – who has served as a producer on the franchise – confirmed that a film is currently in development. Though he would not detail the plot, nor the studio’s plans, he confirmed that the sequel will tie into the Treadstone television series.


  • Brad Pitt’s casting in Spy Game (2001) meant he had to pass on playing the title role in The Bourne Identity.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Doug Liman (1), Paul Greengrass (2,3, & 5), and Tony Gilroy (4).
  • Music: John Powell, James Newton Howard, and David Buckley.
  • Distributor(s): Universal Pictures.
  • Release Date: 2002-2016.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.


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