Ranking the Mission: Impossible Movies

With Mission: Impossible – Fallout hitting theaters on July 27, 2018, Paramount has released the first five films on 4K Ultra HD.

AKA it was time to re-watch the first five films.

James Bond may be the go-to spy for most, but Tom Cruise has quietly built the most consistent and reliable spy franchise—yes, even better than the Bourne series, which followed up three great movies with two instantly forgettable ones. Bond wins the numbers game—with 25 films under his belt, it’s hard not to—but the Mission: Impossible franchise wins when it comes to percentages.

And the oft maligned second film is still arguably better than several of the Bond films.

5. Mission: Impossible 2

The oft maligned John Woo sequel has plenty of issues—overuse of slow motion, way too many doves, Tom Cruise’s long hair—and offers a pretty dumb, high stakes plot that doesn’t live up to the Mission: Impossible brand. But as cheesy as it is, the movie boasts some decently staged action sequences and is arguably better than several of the lesser Bond films.

As a side note, if you read my review—written when I was in high school—I absolutely loved the movie, calling Dougray Scott’s performance “exemplary” (really?), praised it for Cruise’s “full body twists, double kicks in the air, double-handed gunfire” and said its weakest aspect for its limited usage of the theme song.

4. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Brad Bird’s live-action debut is a high-octane thrill ride, full of massive action sequences and thrilling stunts. The action is also unrelenting, with Hunt and his crew barely stopping to catch their breath once the story begins. Bird relies a little too heavily on humor—which takes away from Ethan Hunt’s, and the movie’s, intensity—but try watching that building scaling scene on a big scream and not getting sweaty palms (it plays less impressively on the small screen).

3. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Rogue Nation and Ghost Protocol blend together for me, but it stands out as being a bit smarter than its predecessor—introducing the most intelligent plot since the original—and featuring an entertaining, easy-to-hate villain in the form of Sean Harris (who, in my review, I call a “bitch-faced Simon Pegg”). Director Christopher McQuarrie (returning for Fallout, the first time a director has made two Mission: Impossible movies) stages some incredible action sequences, most notably a scene with Tom Cruise hanging on for dear life to the side of an airplane, and a motorcycle race that makes you feel as if you’re going 150mph.

2. Mission: Impossible

At the time—I was 14—Mission: Impossible did little for me. I called it “almost impossible to like,” said, “the story is way too complex” and called it “extremely boring.” Years later, once I matured a bit, I came to respect Brian De Palma’s thriller for what it is: a smart, twisty, and complex spy thriller that doesn’t need explosions left and right to be great. The movie delivers many timeless scenes—the CIA infiltration sequence is brilliant, and the speed train scene is breathtaking, to name a few—and a sensational performance by Cruise.

1. Mission: Impossible 3

Not long after Cruise’s infamous couch-jumping fiasco, J.J. Abrams made his big screen debut with this stripped down action-thriller that is not only the most streamlined Mission: Impossible movie but also its most emotionally intense, forcing Hunt to go on a mission to save his kidnapped wife from the franchise’s most enjoyably ruthless bad guy, played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Though it does take a few unfortunate shortcuts, Mission: Impossible 3 is a smart, highly entertaining and breathlessly good action film, and the franchise’s best to date.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Top 10 Movie Lists