All the Mission Impossible Films (including Dead Reckoning Part One), Ranked: The Mission Impossible franchise is a remarkable film series that has garnered a significant following over the years. Tom Cruise’s involvement in the films has undoubtedly been a key factor in its success. This franchise stands out for its action-packed scenes, clever plot twists, and remarkable stunts that keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Let’s say it’s not just another action movie series. No, no, no. This is Tom Cruise we’re talking about, the man who lives for adrenaline-fueled stunts and pushing the limits of what’s humanly possible.

From hanging off the side of the world’s tallest building in Dubai to clinging onto the side of a cargo plane as it takes off, Tom Cruise has done it all. And we, as the audience, get to witness it firsthand in the Mission Impossible movies. It’s like watching a real-life superhero in action.

But it’s not just about the stunts and action sequences. The storylines are always top-notch, with intricate plot twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat. And who can forget the iconic theme song? That alone is enough to get your heart racing.

What sets the Mission Impossible franchise apart is Tom Cruise’s dedication to his craft. He doesn’t rely on stunt doubles or CGI to pull off the insane stunts we see on screen. No, he does it all himself. And you can see the passion and commitment in every scene. His physical prowess and impeccable acting skills have enabled him to create a character that viewers have grown to love over the years. And let’s be honest; who doesn’t love a good spy movie? The espionage, the gadgets, the double-crossing… it’s all so thrilling. And when you add Tom Cruise into the mix, it’s like the perfect recipe for an action-packed blockbuster.

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It’s the ultimate cinematic thrill ride that keeps us coming back for more. The Mission Impossible franchise has been fortunate to have some of the best creative brains in the industry at the helm of these films. JJ Abrams, Brian De Palma, and Brad Bird are big-shot names with stellar reputations. All the films in the series have intricate plots that are frequently intertwined, making the viewing experience more immersive and engaging. The franchise has balanced heart-stopping action scenes and compelling storytelling, providing a well-rounded entertainment experience to its viewers.

Furthermore, the franchise has managed to stay relevant by consistently delivering fresh, exciting content in each new installment. You always get to experience some new form of madness with a Mission Impossible film. So, here is our ranking of all the movies in the Mission Impossible franchise. At the outset, this piece seems like a “mission impossible.” But catch us making it “mission very much possible” below (*wink*).

7. Mission Impossible 2 (2000)

Mission Impossible 2 (2000)

Admittedly, it is difficult to believe that Mission Impossible Part 2 is actually a part of the franchise. Watching the film brings out many frailties in the Mission Impossible success formula at the time when they were still evolving and unpolished. John Woo makes some hardened choices to leave his signature hallmark to Part 2, like slow-mo, dual-wielding guns, and cringe-worthy standoffs. His depiction of the tale and visual chemistry are mediocre, undermining the franchise’s current high-quality prowess. The plot of the film is unconvincing, to begin with, but Woo does not do it any favors with his substandard treatment.

Cruise quickly realized his pony was a failed experiment, so he was turning the original theme song into a Hans Zimmer disaster. There is something you do not often say, but Zimmer’s interference did not produce a masterpiece this time. Nyah Hall comes across as more of a Bond girl than a team strategist. It could be because of Cruise’s image as a performer and his age at the time. But it was clearly a wrong choice. It is also the only movie in the franchise not to feature any clever spy set pieces or complex action scenes, which are a hallmark of the Mission Impossible franchise.

6 Mission Impossible (1996)

Mission Impossible (1996)

Palma’s carefully crafted noir language in this one is in contrast to the other more action-filled films in the franchise. While the quiet, cryptic buildup is self-aware and purposeful, it is deprived of the visual spectacle we have come to expect from Mission Impossible. The lack of visual nuance is another drawback in the film’s journey. While it is excusable to some extent, given the times it was made, some more effort couldn’t have gone wrong. The final scene on the train felt anti-climatic, given its importance as the crucial third act.

The movie was instantly impressed with its fresh ideas and characterization of the spy genre. Many saw it as taking the James Bond success formula and superimposing an American, Hollywood-style spectacle to it. The special effects and CGI left a lot to be desired, although one can understand considering the technology of its era. De Palma’s ideology for explosive action films was in sync with what Cruise and Wagner (the other producer) wanted to achieve. The first is always the most special, and that is where Mission Impossible is still endearing.

5. Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

We have talked too much about the “bathroom scene” to let it alone define Fallout. The sixth film in the franchise is impressive because it successfully integrates the franchise’s best elements while also developing new inventions that keep the audience hooked. The film features breathtaking action sequences, high-stakes tension, and an intricate plot that keeps the viewers engaged from start to finish.

One of the film’s key strengths is its ability to seamlessly integrate classic Mission Impossible elements, such as Ethan Hunt’s use of disguise, gadgets, and high-stakes missions. The film also includes some familiar faces from the franchise, such as Simon Pegg’s character Benji and Ving Rhames’ character Luther, who add a touch of familiarity and comfort to the audience.

However, Fallout also introduces new elements to the franchise, such as a more menacing tone to the storytelling and uncertainty if our characters will successfully make it out. Additionally, the film’s action sequences are some of the most inventive and well-choreographed in the franchise, such as the motorcycle chase through the streets of Morocco and the tense underwater sequence.

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Furthermore, the film’s villain, John Lark, played by Henry Cavill, is a formidable foe who poses a genuine threat to Ethan Hunt and the IMF team. Cavill’s understated and chilling performance elevates the character beyond the typical one-dimensional villain seen in many action films.

4. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

Rebecca Ferguson in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation (2015)
Rebecca Ferguson in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation (2015)

Rogue Nation keeps you at the edge of your seat with its non-stop, high-octane sequences. The film, directed by Christopher McQuarrie, has an intelligent plot and complex characters that elevate it above the standard action fare. There is no wonder that McQuarrie has been tasked with concluding the franchise with the two parts of MI: Ded Reckoning. His polished understanding of blocking and framing came in very handy in Rogue Nation.

Many sequences here would feature in the list of the best action sequences of the franchise. One of the standout features of the film is its gripping opening sequence, in which Ethan Hunt is seen hanging onto the side of a military cargo plane as it takes off. This jaw-dropping stunt was done for real by Cruise himself, without the use of CGI, making it one of the most impressive practical stunts in recent memory.

Another moment of brilliance is the car and motorcycle chase through the streets of Casablanca, which features stunning cinematography and impeccable stunt choreography. The scene also highlights the strengths of the supporting cast, as Benji (Simon Pegg) takes the wheel and proves to be a valuable asset to the team.

The opera scene is another standout moment in the film, in which the action takes a backseat to tension and suspense. The scene plays out like a heist movie, as Hunt and his team try to stop an assassination in progress. The music of Puccini’s Turandot adds to the operatic grandeur of the scene, and the intricate planning and execution make it a standout moment in the film.

Rebecca Ferguson is an impressive addition to the cast. She appeared quite at ease and natural in the role of the double spy caught up in her revelry. Simon Pegg took on a more active role in the film, continuing his successful stint in Ghost Protocol. Rogue Nation showed how the MI franchise has matured over the years and successfully refined its unique elements of the spy-action genre.

3. Mission Impossible III (2006)

Mission Impossible III (2006)

The most memorable takeaway from JJ Abrams’ helmed Part 3 is the handheld camera. At the time, the technique was not as mainstream as it is today. There was skepticism in debunking the conventional trend in action films and going a more traditional route using dollies and cranes. But Abrams stuck by his creative mantle – as he has gloriously done throughout his career – and brought all the essentials from his stellar body of work to make Mission Impossible 3 a raging success. Owen Davian, a formidable adversary played by Philippe Seymour Hoffman, perfectly rivaled Ethan Hunt in power and devilishness.

One wouldn’t be far off the mark if it’s said that Davian remains the most potent and believable antagonist in the Mission Impossible series. His cold-hearted tenor and derisive charm helped Abrams ground Davian in a realistic mobster mentality. Keri Russell, who is relishing in her success with Netflix, including The Diplomat, also made a powerful cameo in the film. But using handheld cameras isn’t the only thing that makes MI 3 a unique film in the franchise.

The film introduces a more personal storyline for Ethan Hunt by exploring his romantic relationship with Julia (Michelle Monaghan) and his desire to leave the dangerous life of being a spy (as explored in the new episode of CBS’ True Lies). This emotional depth adds a new dimension to the character and the franchise as a whole. It is a recurring point of discussion among the characters, especially Luther and Hunt. Abrams seamlessly integrates this emotional dilemma with the action sequences, like when Hunt and Luther were planting the explosives for the utility hole while stealing Davian’s briefcase. 

MI 3 explores themes of redemption and sacrifice through the character of Ethan, who is driven by a desire to make up for past mistakes and protect those he cares about. The climax of the film, in which Ethan must make a difficult choice in order to save his team and the world, is particularly powerful in this regard. JJ Abrams does an excellent job of keeping the action moving and maintaining tension throughout the film. Flashbacks used to describe the story out of chronological order give an additional degree of intrigue and keep viewers interested.

2. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)

Tom Cruise & Vanessa Kirby in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1
Tom Cruise and Vanessa Kirby in Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning – Part One from Paramount Pictures and Skydance.

The discourse surrounding movie theaters’ vitality and mainstream entertainment’s credibility has recently intensified. Last summer, Tom Cruise exemplified their symbiotic relationship with the success of “Top Gun: Maverick.” His age-defying presence in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, spanning 27 years, has been a key factor in its enduring popularity. The franchise continually raises the bar in terms of spectacle and action, with Cruise’s insistence on performing daring stunts himself becoming an integral part of its marketing.

In “Dead Reckoning Part One,” the villain takes the form of an all-powerful algorithm, pitting it against Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt. As an old nemesis resurfaces, Hunt must decide between his mission and loyalty to his friends. The film masterfully balances emotional depth with exhilarating set pieces, solidifying Cruise’s status as a last-of-his-kind superstar. With its compelling storytelling and breathtaking action, the franchise could solidify its place as one of the best in film history, further cementing Cruise as Hollywood’s savior.

1. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

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Ghost Protocol is arguably the first “global” film in the Mission Impossible franchise. Previously, all the films were limited to a few settings, mainly within the US. But Ghost Protocol took the franchise imprint to another level. Budapest, Moscow, Mumbai, Dubai, and Paris; seem like our fantasy travel bucket list. It is pretty remarkable that even with that kind of traveling around, it is not the most expensive film in the franchise. The film saw the introduction of Jeremy Renner as Agent Brandt. Cruise and his team faced the prospect of being disavowed for eternity as a nuclear war threat scaled up. It creeps closer to manifesting physically, as a fanatical Russian scientist envisages the end of the world. 

Director Brad Bird uniquely positions Ghost Protocol with relentless pacing. We just don’t stand still and wait for the narrative to take shape. Due to the immediacy of their severe predicament, Cruise and his team are forced to seize the situation by the scruff of the neck. Like all other films, Ghost Procol has some awe-inspiring action set pieces. The strangely titillating spy gadgets like the one Benji and Ethan use in the Kremlin keep up the excitement.

Cruise’s Burj Khalifa selfie launched Ghost Protocol into mass fame – as if it needed anymore. His iconic sequence in the film itself was a pivotal moment in the franchise – anything is possible if you have an open mind. In our “reckoning,” Ghost Protocol is the best film in the Mission Impossible franchise.

Related Read: All 44 Tom Cruise Movies, Ranked

Mission Impossible Films Links: IMDb

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