On this date in 1966, the iconic Mission Impossible TV series began it’s on-and-off-and-on again run through 1990. We all know that theme song! After the 1988 reboot of the series, Paramount decided to make a movie to continue Mission Impossible. The Tom Cruise-lead Mission Impossible would hit theaters in 1996 change spy movies forever.
Cruise was brought on as a producer which is what took that movie and subsequent films to the next level. Nearly every movie was directed by a different director with a unique style and EVERY movie pushed the bar for what stunts Tom Cruise is willing to do. So, each Mission Impossible movie is unique and easy to identify. And, they’re all very cool in terms of action movies. How do they rank though?…
#6 – Mission Impossible 2 (2000) – Mission Impossible 2 is a really fun mess. It’s a great bad movie and there is nothing wrong with loving it. Directed by John Woo, this movie is so overly dramatic at times and can be very campy. But, the stunts do look great, albeit impossible (pun unintended). Notably, there’s the moment where Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is walking in slow motion behind flames with a dove flying by from the perspective of the movie’s villain. It’s accompanied with an epic score and… it makes you laugh when you see it. There’s also a moment where Hunt and film baddie, Sean Ambrose, leap in the air off of motorcycles that are speeding at each other.
This movie does feel out-of-place with the franchise as a whole and is often not referenced in the other movies. But, it’s not one I personally skip. Fun fact: Dougray Scott who plays Ambrose in the movie actually turned down playing Wolverine in the first X-Men movie to do Mission Impossible 2 instead… That was either a HUGE mistake or a great sacrifice that gave us all Hugh Jackman as the iconic, mutant antihero.
#5 – Mission Impossible 3 (2006) – No one really thought about Mission Impossible very much since 2. Then, Director J. J. Abrams came along with MI3 and course-corrected the series from its over-the-top predecessor. Mission Impossible 3 introduced us to a suddenly engaged Ethan Hunt who is retired from doing field missions. He’s suddenly pulled back into the action scene when one of his former trainees is killed by the movie’s villain, arms dealer Owen Davian, played brilliantly by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
This one is often not as memorable as the other movies, but it is really good and arguably a big part of why we still get new Mission Impossible movies today. The movie also introduced new mainstay Benji Dunn, played by Simon Pegg, and Ethan Hunt’s fiancé (and then wife in the movie) Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan) who would play a role in future movies.
#4 – Mission Impossible (1996) – The first isn’t always the best, but Mission Impossible is definitely iconic. We meet the young Ethan Hunt as a member of what’s actually supposed to be the TV series’ IMF (Impossible Missions Force). Some of the cast of the TV series were intended to return to the film, but ultimately did not; notably Peter Graves who played IMF Director Jim Phelps in the TV show did not want to do the movie when he learned (Spoiler alert for an over 20-year-old movie) his character would be the surprise villain of the movie.
Mission Impossible was great at the time, but can feel slow and underwhelming compared to it’s successors. We did get iconic scenes: most notably Hunt dangling above the floor from a rope as he hacks a computer, and some cool stunts like the giant fish tank explosion at the Prague restaurant. Mission Impossible also introduced series recurring character, Luther Stickell played by Ving Rhames.
You can currently rent Mission Impossible on YouTube check out the trailer with the iconic theme below.
#3 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) – This is where the modern Mission Impossible movie really began. Ethan Hunt is BACK in more ways than one. Tom Cruise returned for this fourth movie in the Mission Impossible franchise and the first of what would finally be an on-going consistent franchise. Directed by Brad Bird, Ghost Protocol was an invigoration for the series that felt like a spy thrill ride. It was also the first Mission Impossible movie with the staple mega stunt: this is the one where Tom Cruise really scales the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai 1700 feet above the ground. This was also the first time they shot stunts with an IMAX camera. From this movie on, these were must-see’s in movie theaters.
#2 – Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018) – The latest in the film franchise, it can be argued as the best of the series. This movie, start-to-finish is just pure fun. The stunts in this 6th Mission Impossible film are unbelievable. There’s a helicopter chase that Cruise did in real life that looks so good only because it was all real. And, that halo jump onto the Paris Nightclub is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, BECAUSE IT’S REAL!! Car chases, heists, amazing action: this movie checks all the boxes. Henry Cavil is a welcome addition to this movie as the “Whose side is he on?” CIA Agent August Walker. This movie also pulls together plot points and characters from as far back as Mission Impossible 3. For those who have followed the full franchise, there’s some treats just for you. For everyone else, this is a spectacular ride with twists and turns that will have you on the edge of your seat. So, what could be better?
#1 – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) – This movie JUST edges out it’s successor. Film 5 in the MI franchise finally broke the formula for the perfect Mission Impossible movie. The scenes in this movie are unforgettable: you mention the opera house scene and people know what you’re talking about. This movie, and all subsequently planned MI movies, was directed by Christopher McQuarrie. McQuarrie proved himself to be THE Mission Impossible director with perfectly coordinated and shot stunts that NEEDED to be seen on a theater screen. While it’s predecessor introduced us to the must-see stunts, this one tightly strung those together with the story to deliver us an amazing movie from start to finish.
Rogue Nation also gave us two new mainstays including Ethan Hunt’s match in disavowed MI6 agent Ilsa Faust and a villain you love to hate from the first time you meet him in former MI6 agent Solomon Lane. From start to finish (especially the ending) this movie is so satisfying.