Recurring Characters (novels and 1990-1994 film continuity)
Played By: Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October) | Harrison Ford (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger)
Film Appearances: The Hunt for Red October | Patriot Games | Clear and Present Danger
The main character of the novels and the 1990-1994 film adaptations bearing the same name, Jack Ryan is a CIA intelligence analyst, author, part-time historian and professor of Naval History at the United States Naval Academy, who (at the start of Red October) is conscripted into a mission to establish contact with the crew of the Red October, liaising with Captain Marko Ramius as a result. By the time the events of the second film begin, Jack has left the CIA and taken up a full-time role with the Naval Academy, while also on vacation (and researching material for a book) in London. After he thwarts the kidnapping of several members of the Royal Family, Jack runs afoul of the leader of a Renegade Splinter Faction of Irish terrorists. In the third film, Jack is given a Field Promotion as the Acting Deputy Director of Intelligence in the CIA after Greer is sidelined due to terminal cancer, and authorizes a covert mission in Columbia. When the mission goes awry, Jack is forced to step up and rescue the missing forces from the country, alongside fellow operative John Clark, while dealing with the machinations of both the U.S. and Columbian governments along the way. Later instalments of the novels bring Jack into greater focus on a national scale, as he ascends to the role of President of the United States after a mass casualty incident in Debt of Honor. Future titles also bring his son, Jack Ryan Jr., into the fold as an analyst and government agent following in his father's footsteps.
- Action Duo: Becomes this, alongside the more-experienced commando John Clark, as they work to rescue the missing soldiers in Columbia during the third act of the film adaptation of Clear and Present Danger.
- Action Survivor: In nearly every film (and several of the novels), Jack ends up being the Right Man in the Wrong Place, and only survives through a combination of wits and quick thinking.
- In Patriot Games, he winds up going up against ULA terrorists, including Sean Miller, Ned Clark and, in the third act, a final duel against Miller himself. In the first case, he wins by rushing Miller, knocking him down and driving off the attackers with wild gunfire. In the second, he is effortlessly knocked down by Clark, and would have been killed had the Marine guard at Annapolis not intervened. In the third and final instance, Miller unintentionally kills his own allies then inadvertantly aids Jack by dropping a sharp anchor during their fight.
- Clear and Present Danger has a much more overt case of this, as Jack manages to be the only occupant in the convoy that survives the ambush in Columbia unscathed, then manages to survive the operation to get into Cortez's factory and rescue the captured soldiers, despite being the only one of the trio (alongside Chavez and Clark) to not have a weapon.
- In Debt of Honor, Jack (along with Cathy and a pair of Senators) only survive the attack on the Capital due to the fact that they were in the tunnels underneath the building at the time of the bombing. As such, they are the only survivors of the incident.
- Adaptational Badass: Several of the films have Jack engaged in a much more action-oriented role, including the climax of Patriot Games (in which he personally leads the villains away from his family and duels Sean Miller one-on-one), his fistfight against Ned Clark in the same film, and his direct involvement in the rescue mission at the climax of Clear and Present Danger.
- Always Lawful Good: To the point that it's a significant source of conflict in the later films. By the time the third film rolls around, and he's been given a motivational speech by Greer (who reminds him to honor the vows he took as a civil servant), Jack ends up testifying to Project RECIPROCITY, even though it will likely bring significant shame to the highest levels of government.
- Assassin Outclassin': Invoked multiple times throughout the series. Notably, in Patriot Games, he gets the drop on Ned Clark and attempts to beat him down... only to be effortlessly beaten back. Had the Marine Guard not intervened, Jack would have been shot dead.
- Audience Surrogate: When he arrives on the Red October, Jack gets an explanation of the conflict to date and the current situation by Ramius and Mancuso.
- Author Filibuster: Several of Jack's speeches in Executive Orders, as is befitting the mindset of Clancy, due to Jack's role as the President and his platform speaking to the American people.
- Back in the Saddle: At the beginning of Patriot Games, Jack has quit working for the CIA to teach History at the US Naval Academy. The events of the ULA attack on the Royals (and Sean Miller's subsequent attack on Jack's family) conspire to get him working for The Company again.
- Badass Bookworm: Due in part to actually having been a Marine, and in his role (in Patriot Games) as a speaker at a naval academy, though few are able to guess this without knowing his history.
- Badass Bureaucrat:
Jack: Sorry, Mr. President. I don't dance.
- Jack starts as this when he takes the role of President. He is considered completely incorruptible and can figure out any riddle that international politics can bring to bear.
- Deliberately invoked at the end of the third film, when Jack (who has just finished taking part in a mission to personally rescue troops in Columbia) brushes off the President's attempt to dissuade him from blowing the lid on Operation RECIPROCITY by going before a Senate Subcommittee:
- Brief Accent Imitation: Jack does a couple in the film version of Red October, first of Admiral Painter, then of Captain Ramius, courtesy of Alec Baldwin's talent for impressions.
- The Call Knows Where You Live:
- In Patriot Games, Admiral Greer (along with Marty Cantor) visits Jack personally at home in an attempt to convince him to come back to Quantico. Jack initially refuses, claiming that he's out of that life and wants to spend more time with his family. Once his family is attacked by Miller, however, he drops the gloves and rejoins the Company.
- Much of Debt of Honor is motivated by Jack accepting a Kicked Upstairs position as VP, precisely because President Durling believes him to be a nuisance and wants him in a largely ceremonial position with no real impact (a decision Jack is fine with). When the Capital is attacked, however, he winds up being the highest in the line of succession, and proceeds to take on the mantle of President of the U.S.A.
- The Cameo: In the novel of Without Remorse, he appears in precisely one sequence to show that the "Lt. Ryan" investigating Kelly's murders is Jack's father, not himself.
- Cassandra Truth: What Jack spends most of the novel of The Sum of All Fears spouting. He is ignored mainly because of Liz Elliott's personal dislike for him and her undue influence on Bob Fowler. Despite being proven right time and time again, it takes him literally intervening in the Hotline to avert the ultimate crisis.
- Cunning Linguist: Which he keeps to himself at first in Red October, until he laughs at something one of the officers says about Captain Mancuso having a gun strapped to his hip. When asked about his Russian ability, he replies that it is wise to study the ways of your enemy. To which Captain Ramius agrees, in English.
- Dare to Be Badass: Usually occurs once per book (or film). Jack is constantly asked by someone (Admiral Greer in the earlier novels / films, other participants in later works) to step up and get involved in the overarching plot due to his experience in the field and as an analyst.
- Didn't Think This Through: Jack's decision to put himself in harm's way to rescue Lord Holmes and his family, which (being that he has no protection whatsoever) gets him shot for his trouble. Cathy (and Sean Miller's defense attorney) even calls him out on this:
Cathy: Jesus, Jack. What were you thinking?
- The Determinator: He has to be this, considering everything he does and goes through to help secure the Red October. This is also a part of his backstory, as Admiral Painter explains what happened after he was in a severe chopper crash while a student at Annapolis.
"That kid spent ten months in traction, and another year learning to walk again. He did his fourth year from the hospital."
- Face Your Fears: Has a fear of flying, due to being in a helicopter crash early in his career. Through the course of the first film, he ends up flying on four occasions, each time worse than the last (slightly-turbulent transatlantic airliner, US Navy C-2 Grayhound in bad weather, US Navy SH-3 Sea King helicopter in a even worse weather lowering him on a cable down to a submarine before releasing himself from the cable and falling into the freezing waters to get aboard). The last flight, after he has saved the day, in contrast, has him sleeping peacefully with a teddy bear seated next to him.
- Field Promotion:
- In Clear and Present Danger, he is bumped up to the role of interim Deputy Director of Intelligence after Greer goes into treatment for pancreatic cancer.
- More overtly, due to the events of Debt of Honor, Jack is functionally brought into the role as the President of the United States, due to everyone above him being killed during an attack on the U.S. Congress.
- Good Parents: Save the world? Sure, that's important. But don't forget to get a teddy bear for your daughter on your way home.
- Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: As part of his new job as Acting Deputy Director of Intelligence, Jack appears before the Senate twice in Clear and Present Danger — the first time, to obtain funding for anti-drug operations in Columbia; the second occurs in the film, right at the credits as he testifies to the true nature of Operation RECIPROCITY.
- Honest Advisor: Jack himself tries to perform this role in the Fowler administration in the books. This is very much against their wishes, as Fowler dislikes Ryan and doesn't care for his advice, but he's too popular both on Capitol Hill and with the CIA rank-and-file to be easily gotten rid of. Ryan notes that this unwillingness to seek out and hear opposing viewpoints is easily Fowler's biggest flaw, far more than any actual policy disagreements he has with the man.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: In The Bear and the Dragon, after he authorizes the USS Gettysburg to shoot down a nuclear missile about to hit Washington, he announces that he is going to go get a drink, and if any of the crew want to join him, he is waiving Navy regulations regarding alcohol consumption for twenty-four hours.
- In Its Hour of Need: As President, he chooses to stay in Washington during the events of The Bear and the Dragon, rather than flee to safety after the Chinese launch their one remaining nuclear missile at the city. He points out that this is really, really stupid, while he's doing it, and gets incredibly drunk afterwards to try to forget the horror.
- Invisible President: In Rainbow Six, he is often mentioned in the book, but only by the term "The President". The only clue given that Jack is the same President is when FBI Director Dan Murray refers to the President by his first name midway through the book.
- It's All My Fault: In the film version of Clear, he tells Chavez this when the latter attacks Clark for seemingly leaving the special-forces unit behind.
- It's Personal:
- In Patriot Games, Ryan rejoins the CIA to investigate the attack on Cathy and Sally.
- In the Patriot novel, this is discussed between Ryan and his supervisor Marty Cantor. After Ryan discovers the location of a French terrorist group, the information is passed on to the French government, which swiftly captures them and executes them after a military trial. The entire event leaves Ryan deeply troubled, which Marty points out wouldn't be true if the terrorists had been ULA. Ryan responds that that's personal and he can't be expected to feel the same way about it, a point Cantor refuses to concede. Every terrorist attack is personal to somebody.
- Gets a mild case of this in Red Rabbit, when he finds out that the Pope is being targeted for assassination. He's a Roman Catholic himself, which means the KGB's target is not merely an innocent civilian or a friendly political figure, but the head of his church.
- Magnetic Hero: Jack's reputation continues to grow throughout the novels, to such an extent that when he decides to run again for U.S. President in Locked On, he has almost unanimous approval and his chances of winning are considered a Foregone Conclusion.
- Medal of Dishonor: Friendly joke version: Jack is presented with the Order of the Purple Target in Patriot Games after he returns to the Navy Academy.
- Mirror Character: Emphasized in Clear and Present Danger with John Clark. Jack is a lawful public servant who's furious when he discovers that his CIA colleagues and political superiors have started an illegal war, while the latter is an off-the-books agent who's neck deep in the illegal war from the very start. Both of them, however, are willing to do whatever it takes to rescue the surviving American soldiers after they're cut off and betrayed.
- Mistaken for Cheating: In the novel of The Sum of All Fears, a stressed-out Jack withdraws from Cathy, leading her to believe that he's having an affair. Add to that a mishap with a perfume bottle, and a news leak by vindictive bitch Elizabeth Elliot about "a senior intelligence official"...
- Non-Action Guy:
- Generally downplayed in the books. Jack is a CIA Analyst, an office mouse type who hates flying, takes poorly to being shot at, and spends much of the first movie he appears in out of his depth as he hitches rides on various warships and submarines. As it is eventually revealed, he is also a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and commissioned in the Marine Corps before being medically discharged due to his injuries in a helicopter crash, as Admiral Painter says, "He did his fourth year from the hospital."
- Largely averted in the Ford-era films, however, which caused series creator Tom Clancy to largely distance himself from the adaptations. Jack is much more prone to action hero moments — the entire climax of Patriot Games is changed from Jack pursuing, and later apprehending, Sean Miller, to an action-packed chase where he voluntarily leads the ULA terrorists away from his family and takes on Miller in one-to-one combat.
- Non-Idle Rich: In the books, he made enough money on the stock market to be immune to pressure when he gives an opinion.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Used as part of his Establishing Character Moment in Red October — Jack's realization about the missing submarine causes him to voluntarily jump onto an overnight flight (something he can't stand) with little warning, which Greer points out afterwards.
- Papa Wolf: Jack is an easy-going history professor, but stand between him and those threatening his family, and he will fucking destroy you. Helping is the fact that he's a former Marine and CIA agent.
- Refusal of the Call:
- In the film adaptation of Patriot Games, he initially refuses Greer's offer to come back to the CIA, reasoning that his family life is too important. However, after Cathy and Sally are attacked by the ULA, he drops the pretenses and marches right into Quantico to lend his support to the investigation.
- In Dead or Alive, Jack (who stepped away midway through his first term to let Robby finish it; and was succeeded by Ed Kealty) initially refuses to speak out against Kealty's record, being more concerned with finishing his own memoirs and letting Kealty's accomplishments stand. However, when he finds out that Kealty is planning to prosecute a US Army Ranger who shot sleeping terrorists during a search for Rahman, Jack makes the decision to re-enter the presidential race — an act that leads to him winning a second term as President.
- Retired Badass: In the film adaptation of Patriot Games, when Jack tries to go up against Ned Clark in a hand-to-hand fight, he's easily overpowered and knocked away, being older and not in the same physical shape. Were it not for the Marine Guard at the Naval Academy's front gate, Jack would have been shot on the spot by Clark.
- Right Man in the Wrong Place: Several times in the franchise, Jack suggests or discovers intel that ends up forcing him into an advisory (or even participatory) role to ensure the mission is completed.
- Sean Connery Is Going To Shoot You: Ironically, for this franchise (which has Connery himself as the lead focus of the poster for Red October), Harrison Ford gets this on the poster for Patriot Games.
- Semper Fi: Was originally a Marine. However, he was in a terrible accident in his third year at the Naval Academy and while he apparently graduated (from the hospital) its unknown if he received an official commission given that he was medically ineligible to serve.
- The Strategist: Both in his role as a CIA analyst, and particularly later, as The President, Jack exemplifies this trope.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Delivers a simple, effective line to the President, of all people at the end of the third film, telling him, "Sorry, Mr. President, I don't dance," after the latter tries to suggest that Cutter and Ritter will skate the investigation around RECIPROCITY.
- Twenty-Fifth Amendment: With the death of President Durling at the end of Debt of Honor and Jack having been sworn in as Vice President only minutes before, Ryan becomes President of the United States.
- Unexpected Successor: Jack is this, as he's thrown into the President's chair just hours after being named Vice-President by former President Durling. As a result of this, Ed Kealty tries to sue him for unrecognized power in Executive Orders, but this challenge is quashed by the end of the book.
- Vice President Who?: In Debt of Honor, President Durling invokes this when he appoints Jack as his new vice president. He knows Ryan has no interest in running for President, and since there will be no major legislation he will have to cast the deciding vote for in the Senate, Ryan will be barely remembered. Of course, this is actually a gift for Jack since, after serving as VP, he can never be recalled to government service. Too bad it didn't work out that way.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Suffers from a fear of flying due to being in a helicopter crash in a field training excercise during his third year at the Naval Academy. Of course, he ends up having to fly several times through the course of Red October, including a harrowing flight in a helicopter in storm-tossed seas where he drops himself from the chopper into the sea to get aboard the USS Dallas. This fear lessens as the series goes on.
- Wish-Fulfillment: In Executive Orders, Jack gets his idealized version of a government fully staffed by Americans who just want to get things done, as the entirety of Congress is killed off and replaced by Jack and his handmade picks, who are all shown to be very capable people who just want to get things back on track.
- You Are in Command Now: Is functionally promoted to the role of Deputy Director of Intelligence at the beginning of Clear and Present Danger, after Admiral Greer is forced to go into treatment for an aggressive form of cancer and is unable to fulfill his duties.
Played By: Gates McFadden (The Hunt for Red October) | Anne Archer (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger)
Film Appearances: The Hunt for Red October | Patriot Games | Clear and Present Danger
Jack Ryan's wife, a noted ocular surgeon.
- A-Cup Angst: In the novel of The Sum of All Fears, when Cathy suspects that Jack may be cheating on her, she begins to feel insecure about her physical appearance. While examining herself in the mirror she notes that, while she is slender and pretty, she does have small breasts.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Is a blonde in the novels; becomes a brunette in the film trilogy.
- Adult Fear:
- In Patriot Games. Through no fault of her own, she is targeted for assassination by a group of terrorists, and barely survives them shooting at her on a busy freeway. Even worse, she's into her second trimester at the time. Then, she has to deal with seeing Sally get her spleen taken out due to the impact caused by the crash afterwards.
- Gets it again during the climax of the same film, when she realizes the same terrorists have besieged their home, no one is immediately available to help her and Sally — and she's out of bullets for the shotgun, to boot.
- Also gets it briefly in the third film, as she initially believed Jack died in the convoy attack in Columbia.
- The Cameo: Is functionally this in Red October, only appearing fleetingly in the beginning of the film.
- Damsel in Distress: No less than two times in Patriot Games — when she's shot at by Miller on the freeway in Maryland, and during the climax, when she is forced to fend for herself when she's cut off from Jack and the others and has to protect Sally.
- Deleted Role: Occurred twice to the character in the film adaptations — most of Gates McFadden's scenes in Red October were deleted from the final cut, while a subplot concerning Cathy in Clear and Present Danger (regarding an experimental eye surgery she is going to perform on a patient, and her reactions towards it) were cut prior to release.
- Designated Girl Fight: Briefly, as she ambushes Annette during the climax of Patriot Games and knocks her out with the butt of a shotgun.
- Imperiled in Pregnancy: Cathy is in the second trimester of her pregnancy when she and Sally are injured in a car accident caused by Miller.
- Ms. Fanservice: One of Cathy's scenes in Patriot Games involves her being romanced by Jack while wearing a slinky red negligee.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The first lines that Cathy speaks in Red October lapse into this, as she switches from a British accent in one statement ("That's two glasses of water...") to the next ("Jack, you're going to miss your plane...").
- Woman Scorned: In the novel of The Sum of All Fears, after she discovers that the circumstantial evidence of her cheating husband was actually him keeping his promise to take care of Buck Zimmer's family, she publicly humiliates Elliot at a party.
Played By: Louise Borras (The Hunt for Red October) | Thora Birch (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger)
Film Appearances: The Hunt for Red October | Patriot Games | Clear and Present Danger
Jack Ryan's daughter.
- Children Are Innocent: Being a child, she is emperiled at several points in Patriot Games due to the nature of the ULA attacks. Emphasized in the opening of said film, when she's seen playing with her mother just before Jack tells them to get down.
- Daddy's Girl: Jack always remembers to get his daughter a present, even when busy saving the world.
- Damsel in Distress: In Patriot Games, when she's a passenger in the car Cathy is driving when they're shot at by Sean and the ULA members, and during the siege on the Ryan family household at the climax of the film. More overtly, in the film, she ends up slipping and falling on the roof of the house during their escape, necessitating that Jack catch her before she falls off.
- Hostage MacGuffin: In Executive Orders, when she is targeted for capture by the UIR because they want to demoralize him and enact a Bodyguard Betrayal. It doesn't work.
- Useless Spleen: Averted. Sally loses her spleen after an attack by the ULA terrorists in Patriot Games, and later Miller, while taunting Ryan, makes a point of mentioning how she'll be disadvantaged.
Played By: James Earl Jones
Film Appearances: The Hunt for Red October | Patriot Games | Clear and Present Danger
A Vice Admiral and the Deputy Director of Intelligence (DDI) at the Central Intelligence Agency, Greer manages Jack and numerous analysts regarding operational intelligence. In Red October, he supports Jack's reasoning behind Admiral Ramius' defection, while in Patriot Games, he convinces Marty to give Jack his old job back at the Company and authorizes several operational missions. By the time of the events in Clear and Present Danger, Greer is sidelined by a battle with cancer, forcing Jack to take over as the Interim Deputy Director of Intelligence.
- Badass Baritone: Well, it's James Earl Jones — what did you expect?
- Badass Bureaucrat: His word clearly means a lot in Washington, and he's willing to go out to personally oversee the final stages of the Red October operation. He also personally steps in to ensure that Jack gets his old job back in Patriot Games, after Marty initially refuses to rehire him.
- Big Good: He is revered in Washington, and leads other analysts in numerous intelligence studies and operational missions. His legacy is of particular importance to Jack, who has to protect it in the film version of Clear and Present Danger
- Character Death: In both the book and film adaptation of Clear and Present Danger, he dies (offscreen) after succumbing to terminal cancer midway through the film.
- Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: The President intends to do this to him after his death in Clear and Present Danger, setting him up to take the blame for Operation RECIPROCITY and how much it screwed up, unless Jack backs off. Notably, it doesn't work, as Jack is able to get the intel needed to clear both his own name and Greer's by the end of the film.
- Due to the Dead: He is given a full military funeral in Clear and Present Danger, which is attended by numerous military personnel, Bob Ritter and the President himself.
- Incurable Cough of Death: At the beginning of the third film, foreshadowing his eventual battle against pancreatic cancer.
- I Was Never Here: He drops this line to a watch officer aboard the frigate USS Reuben James after deliberately detonating the American torpedo targeting the Red October.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Greer is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and spends the first half of the book wasting away in a hospital before finally dying. This also becomes Back Story for Clark, who mentions that he also owed a great deal to Greer.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Interestingly, it's Greer who reminds Jack (who is at his lowest point in the third film) of this, noting that he has a responsibility to the oath he swore when joining the CIA to make sure justice comes to those who deserve it, even if it implicates the highest offices of the United States.
- OOC Is Serious Business: In Red October, he knows something big has to be up if it got Jack Ryan onto an overnight flight from London with no preamble. It's later revealed that Jack has a serious fear of flying due to nearly dying in a helicopter crash once.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: While he can be critical, he also acts as a Mentor Archetype to Ryan, is one of the first to express his sympathies over what happened to Cathy and Sally after Sean Miller attempts to kill them, brings Jack back into the fold at the CIA because he recognizes the latter's value as an analyst, and gives Jack a pep talk about his oath as a civil servant shortly before passing away.
- Spanner in the Works: One that stretches across two films. In Patriot Games, he convinces Jack to rejoin the CIA in order to find those responsible for the attempted assassination of Holmes — and Jack stays, eventually rising to the role of Deputy Director of Intelligence (and taking over Greer's job) by the time the events of Clear and Present Danger begin. As a result, Jack is in the right place to investigate and end Project RECIPROCITY, seemingly clearing out a wave of corruption from within the White House in the process.
- 21-Gun Salute: During cuts between his funeral and the ambush of the special forces in the film version of Clear and Present Danger. It comes to a head as the three volleys are fired at the funeral, cut against the distress calls and machine gun fire of the battle.
- Understatement: When Greer reveals to Jack that he has pancreatic cancer, of "an aggressive nature":
Jack: What does that mean?Greer: It means I'm in big trouble.
1990-1994 film series: