Every ‘Mission Impossible’ Ranked!

The Mission Impossible series has set the bar high for action and spy thrillers with its mind-blowing stunts and impossible missions. Over the years, it has evolved from a relatively grounded spy drama to a jaw-dropping action-packed spectacle. This, of course, wouldn’t be possible without the central character, Ethan Hunt, brought to life by the one and only Tom Cruise. In this article, we’ll rank every film from the Mission Impossible franchise, starting with our top pick, the classic.

1. Mission Impossible 1 (1996)

Mission Impossible 1, directed by Brian De Palma, is the original film that launched this ever-popular franchise. Set against a backdrop of shifting alliances and suspicions, the movie offers a mix of suspense, thrilling action and great storytelling.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), is an operative for the Impossible Mission Force (IMF). The story begins with Hunt being framed for the deaths of his entire team during a failed mission in Prague. Left in a labyrinth of deception and danger, Hunt is forced to clear his name and uncover the truth.

One of the leading figures in this quest for the truth is Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), the team leader who initially appears to be a casualty of the disastrous mission. The plot thickens as Hunt gradually realizes that things are not as they seem. The twists and turns lead to a dramatic climax on a speeding train, a spectacle of high stakes and even higher tension.

Tom Cruise in a famous scene from the very first Mission Impossible.

In terms of quality, Mission Impossible 1 excels in several areas. Its plot, while complex, is engaging, pulling the audience along in Hunt’s quest for truth. The stunts are still impressive without veering into the realm of implausibility, lending the film a sense of grounded reality often missing in subsequent installments. Cruise and Voight give strong performances, and even though Mission Impossible 1 is the oldest in the franchise, it still stands out as an instant classic.

2. Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Coming in second in our rankings is Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol, directed by Brad Bird. This movie marks a significant evolution for the franchise. The series’ characteristic stunts reached new, vertigo-inducing heights, and the plot, more urgent in its stakes.

Ghost Protocol’s storyline begins when the Kremlin is bombed, and the IMF is blamed. As a result, the agency is disavowed in a protocol aptly named “Ghost Protocol.” Hunt, accompanied by a team of fellow disavowed agents – Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Jane Carter (Paula Patton), and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) – is tasked with clearing the IMF’s name and preventing a nuclear war.

What makes this film stand out, is Ethan Hunt’s climb of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. Tom Cruise performed the death-defying stunt himself, attached to only a few cables. Read our article about the stunt here, which also includes a terrifying behind the scenes video.

See also  The Best Tom Cruise Movies of All Time: Our Top 10!

Ghost Protocol is where the franchise found balance and finally hit its stride. The plot is not overly convoluted, the stakes are as high as ever, and the characters, both old and new, shine. Brad Bird’s unique direction injects the movie with adrenaline and creativity, making it standout in the series.

3. Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation (2015)

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation further perpetuates the franchise’s escalating stakes while introducing one of its most compelling characters: Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).

In Rogue Nation, Ethan Hunt finds himself battling against the Syndicate, an international rogue organization as highly skilled as the IMF. With the IMF disbanded, Hunt goes rogue and is forced to rely on his allies to take down the Syndicate’s enigmatic leader, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).

The introduction of Ilsa Faust, a Syndicate operative with her own motivations, significantly elevates the film. Rebecca Ferguson’s portrayal of Faust, combined with her complex relationship with Hunt, adds a titillating storyline. The high-speed motorcycle chase scene in Morocco, which features both Faust and Hunt, remains one of the franchise’s best sequences.

Rogue Nation is a film that pushes the boundaries of action and spy thrillers, delivering an impressive array of stunts and a compelling villain in Solomon Lane. McQuarrie’s direction and the potent blend of suspense, action, and character dynamics make this film a formidable entry in the franchise.

4. Mission Impossible 6: Fallout (2018)

Fallout, the sixth installment in the franchise, is another tour de force from director Christopher McQuarrie. Here, the storyline takes a more personal turn for Ethan Hunt as he battles both his past and a nuclear threat.

The film sees the return of Solomon Lane, whose vengeful plot involves three stolen plutonium cores. To prevent a nuclear catastrophe, Hunt must reluctantly partner with a new ally, CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill). But with a plot woven with deceit, Hunt struggles to distinguish friend from foe.

The cast of Fallout.

Notably, Fallout further expands the character of Ilsa Faust and reintroduces Hunt’s estranged wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), into the narrative. These personal relationships add an emotional aspect to the high-octane stunts and action sequences, making Fallout one of the more character-driven entries in the series.

However, despite its strengths, Fallout falls slightly lower in the rankings. While its action scenes, including an intense helicopter chase, are very well done, the plot can feel convoluted at times. The personal stakes also risk overshadowing the global threats that typify the franchise.

5. Mission Impossible 2 (2000)

Directed by John Woo, Mission Impossible 2 brings a distinctive style to the franchise, showcasing Woo’s flair for balletic action sequences and dual-wielding heroes. Yet, this sequel to the original is not without its flaws.

See also  'Top Gun: Maverick' Breaks Box-Office Records

The film’s plot involves Hunt’s quest to locate and destroy a deadly virus, named Chimera, before it falls into the wrong hands. Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), is a former IMF agent turned rogue, while the lovely Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton) serves as both a love interest for Hunt and a pawn in Ambrose’s scheme.

John Woo’s direction results in some of the franchise’s most stylistically distinctive action scenes. The motorcycle chase sequence, featuring Hunt and Ambrose, is reminiscent of Woo’s signature action choreography, but it’s Cruise’s free-climb of Utah’s Dead Horse Point in the opening sequence, that is the highlight of the film, and it remains one of the most impressive stunts in movie history.

However, the film’s overemphasis on style at the expense of substance leads to some of the franchise’s most glaring weaknesses. The plot feels thin, while the special effects did not stand the test of time, and now seem dated and cheesy. Furthermore, while Scott’s performance as Sean Ambrose is serviceable, the character himself lacks the memorability of the franchise’s best villains.

Despite these shortcomings, Mission Impossible 2 remains an integral part of the franchise. Its distinctiveness, coupled with the introduction of key elements that would shape future installments, make it noteworthy.

6. Mission Impossible 3 (2006)

Mission Impossible 3, directed by J.J. Abrams, stands out for its villain, Owen Davian, played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Despite its lower ranking, this installment serves as a pivotal turning point, introducing important new characters and having JJ. Abrams at the helm. Abrams would go on to produce the three remaining Mission Impossible films, under his company, Bad Robot Productions.

The story centers on Hunt’s pursuit of Davian, a ruthless arms dealer, who threatens Hunt’s personal life by kidnapping his fiancee, Julia. Hunt’s mission takes him on a worldwide hunt for the ‘Rabbit’s Foot,’ a mysterious object desired by Davian.

The film introduces characters who will become series mainstays, like Simon Pegg’s Benji Dunn and Ving Rhames’s Luther Stickell. Their addition adds a new layer of camaraderie and humor, breathing fresh life into the series.

Nonetheless, Mission Impossible 3 has its drawbacks. Despite Hoffman’s terrific performance, the film itself feels like one long episode of Felicity or Alias, Abrams biggest hit television shows at the time. It’s overly sentimental and formulaic, but it marks a decisive shift towards the spectacle that the series is now recognized for and sets the groundwork for the more successful installments.

Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning (Part 1), the 7th installment, hits theaters July 12th, 2023.

%d bloggers like this: