Ranking the Mission: Impossible Films

The NOC list, chimera virus, rabbit’s foot, nuclear launch codes, the Syndicate, plutonium orbs. Track them down. Save the world. These are your missions if you choose to accept them.

For more than two decades, Tom Cruise and a host of talented co-stars and directors have been thrilling audiences with impossible mission after impossible mission. They’re all really enjoyable films, but which is best?

6. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
This is just brutal. Rogue Nation has two of the most immaculately choreographed set pieces of the entire franchise in the Vienna fight/shootout and the underwater … whatever it was. But Rogue Nation is also a weirdly paced film, especially on a rewatch. Wondering what Ilsa is up to was thrilling the first time around. Knowing what she’s up to saps Rogue Nation of some of its appeal. I still love the movie. It’s just not quite as good as the other five.

5. Mission: Impossible II
It’s not hard to imagine this placing last on at least 80 percent of lists like this. John Woo directed the first sequel in the franchise, which saw Ethan Hunt grow his hair out and start up a relationship with master thief Nia (Thandie Newton). This is probably the “maskiest” film in the series—how could the director of Face/Off not love this trope?—and its most iconic moment might be Cruise’s mountain climbing in the opening ten minutes, which doesn’t speak well for the rest of it. That said, it’s the first film in which Ethan Hunt is truly Ethan Hunt, and I give it some major credit for that.

4. Mission: Impossible III
This is maybe the most personal film in the bunch. We see Hunt get married to Julia. Then Julia gets kidnapped by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the franchise’s standout performance, and Hunt needs to get the “rabbit’s foot” to save her. The shootout on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is probably the film’s best moment, but Keri Russell and Laurence Fishburne are also outstanding, both in one-and-done performances.

3. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Burj Khalifa is the Mission: Impossible scene, in my opinion. Seeing it in IMAX was actually vertigo-inducing. Beyond that, it has the hilarious prison breakout in Russia, the fall of the Kremlin, and a pretty crazy sandstorm chase. Its weakest quality is its villain. And Brandt never really went anywhere. Sorry, Renner.

2. Mission: Impossible
This is by far the weirdest film in the franchise. Thanks, Brian De Palma. And while it doesn’t make a ton of sense, this one is probably packed from top to bottom with the most crackling individual moments. The Prague prologue, the confrontation with Kittridge, the meeting with Max, “Toast” at Langley. If it ended a little better, I think this is the top impossible mission.

1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Well, check out my review. I think it brings in the best qualities of everything that came before it. I think it’s the most relentlessly paced film. And I think whoever follows it up has an impossible mission of their own in front of them.

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