With Mission Impossible: Fallout now in cinemas and having re-watched all the prior films in the series in the lead up to its release, I decided to rank the movies. I would consider the Mission Impossible franchise to be one of the best action movie franchises today. While most of them wouldn’t be considered action classics, most of them are decent and consistent at the very least, and excluding one instalment in the franchise, the Mission Impossible series really does get better with every film. This franchise has been running for over 2 decades and it shows no sign of slowing down or lacking in thrills anytime soon.
6. Mission Impossible 2
Pretty much every Mission Impossible ranked list will have 2 as the worst movie, and for good reason. I wouldn’t say that Mission Impossible 2 is a terrible movie, however I can see why some would call it that. Tom Cruise isn’t playing Ethan Hunt here, he’s essentially an American James Bond, being really goofy, spouting out one liners, not vulnerable at all, and acts like a playboy. Director John Woo’s style doesn’t fit with the Mission Impossible series at all, with big explosions, gunfights, big action scenes and tons of slow motion. The villain played by Dougray Scott is generic, uninteresting and doesn’t work at all. Probably worst of all however, the story is just so dull and uninteresting. Even if the story was overly simplistic, dumb or goofy, it would be at least somewhat memorable.
With that said, Mission Impossible 2 does have some enjoyment to it. Tom Cruise is effortlessly charismatic and throws himself completely into the role (even if it isn’t really Ethan Hunt), not to mention his commitment to all the dangerous stunts is well worth the praise. And John Woo’s direction is actually quite good if you forget that it’s supposed to be a Mission Impossible movie, it kind of works and the action is entertaining and done well, particularly in the third act where it gets gloriously ridiculous. It does feel a little over the top for an John Woo movie though, almost like someone was trying to make a parody of one of his movies. Also, its very jarring as its so far removed from the original Mission Impossible movies and the ones that would follow. Had the story been more wild, entertaining or interesting, it would’ve brought up the movie a lot, at least in terms of enjoyment. Instead we are left with a rather mixed bag, that is for the most part not memorable, in fact the most memorable part of it is that this movie caused Hugh Jackman to be cast as Wolverine in X-Men instead of Dougray Scott. To be fair though, at least it tried something different from the first movie, even if it doesn’t really work. Mission Impossible 2 does have some entertainment factor to it, however I do think that there’s a reason why the second movie is the only Mission Impossible movie not to be referenced by any of the following movies.
5. Mission Impossible
From this point in the list onwards there is a huge jump in quality in the movies, to being something decent at least. I will admit that I don’t love this movie as much as some people do, it’s just okay to me and wasn’t really all that great. Most of the other movies to me have done much better in both quality and enjoyment. However, it does deserve a lot of credit for starting the series off, especially with all the problems that it encountered during its production.
There’s not a lot of bad things with Mission Impossible, I just wasn’t that interested in the movie. On top of that, it is very complicated and convoluted (a little too much so), I had problems understanding the plot and I’ve seen this movie now 3 times. Mission Impossible is quite different from the series’ more recent direction, and it can’t help but feel rather dated. With that said, certain sequences like the dangling heist scene and the end train scene are very thrilling, and Tom Cruise in his first performance as Ethan Hunt is very solid (despite Hunt not having much of a character at that point in the series). While I wouldn’t rank this movie very high in the series, I think it’s still decent enough, just not as good as (most of) the sequels.
4. Mission Impossible 3
From this point in the series, every movie that would follow would be better than the previous one. It seems that this movie was overshadowed by the media surrounding Tom Cruise, and Mission Impossible 3 ended up being the lowest grossing movie at the box office. However, as a movie it’s really good and is actually many people’s favourite film in the series, and I can kind of see why.
From the intense first scene, Mission Impossible 3 is thrilling. It’s a lot more darker and intense from the previous movies (and most of the series come to think of it), making it really stand out. On top of that, this is the first time we see Ethan Hunt as a real character, and one who is put in some very vulnerable emotional situations, and not just Tom Cruise doing crazy ‘impossible’ stunts (even though he definitely does that here as well). Phillip Seymour Hoffman was great, really the first solid villain in the Mission Impossible movies, and it was all because of his fantastic performance. We also get the addition of Simon Pegg, who would return to the rest of the films in a more prominent role. JJ Abrams also did a good job with his directorial debut here, like with 2 there are some really good action sequences but it works better as a Mission Impossible movie. Not all of it works, there are too many close ups, lens flares and shaky cam (Abrams was clearly still finding his filming style), some aspects of the story don’t work as well, and while Phillip Seymour Hoffman elevated his role, the character itself isn’t that great and he’s rather underutilised unfortunately. Overall though, Mission Impossible 3 works quite well, with it being rather entertaining and thrilling. While I wouldn’t consider it to be my favourite in the series, I can see why it’s other people’s favourite.
3. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
This is the point where Tom Cruise and the other people working on the series knew where they were taking the franchise. Despite the solid Mission Impossible 3, the series’ future was uncertain… that is until Ghost Protocol. They focussed on more of the stunts and the action and director Brad Bird was such a great person to helm this film. Exciting, fun and creative, Ghost Protocol started off Mission Impossible’s second trilogy with a bang.
The whole movie is infused with so much energy, and you can really feel that from start to finish. Like with JJ Abrams with Mission Impossible 3, this was Brad Bird’s first live action film, and like Abrams, Bird did a really great job. This movie is very creative and it’s also worth praising for how practical a lot of the aspects are, whether it be with the famous Burj Khalifa climbing sequence (again, all Tom Cruise) or the car park climax. Ghost Protocol really brought back the team dynamic to the series, with all the characters being utilised and it not just being a Tom Cruise show (even though I like that as well). Out of all the 6 movies, this is the most ‘fun’ out of all of them, with the bright colours, the mostly light tone, the comedy and the action scenes. Things that do hold the film back a bit is that the Ethan Hunt isn’t really changing in the story like he was in the 3rd movie, he’s really just Ethan Hunt doing yet another mission, and the villain (played by the very talented Michael Nyqvist) is very forgettable and underutilised. The biggest problem that Ghost Protocol has is that the third act isn’t as thrilling as the second but it’s still rather strong. Ghost Protocol fully brought back the Mission Impossible franchise for good, and while I don’t love it as much as other people, it is really good and just really fun to watch.
2. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
The Mission Impossible series was left in a pretty good place after Ghost Protocol. The 5th instalment is directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who Cruise collaborated with previously. While I’m not sure if this is a popular opinion to have about it, Rogue Nation is right at the top level of quality of the series, with it getting pretty much all the necessary aspects of an action movie being satisfied very solidly.
Rogue Nation was the first Mission Impossible movie to feel very balanced to me, with all the necessary elements working well. It flat out opens with the major “Tom Cruise does another death defying stunt” moment (with him being strapped to the side of a plane as its taking off), and the rest of the movie feels very consistently solid throughout. The action scenes are pretty entertaining, you have a car chase, a bike chase, a foot chase, all of them are really solid. Another highlight was the introduction of Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, who is still one of the best characters of the series. Even Sean Harris’s villain as Solomon Lane was solid and rather overlooked, he’s not going to rank among the best villains of all time but we get to see a decent amount of him and he has a real presence to him. Rogue Nation is an entertaining, exciting and balanced action movie, everything works together to deliver the best movie of the series…
Well, at least until the next movie.
1. Mission Impossible: Fallout
There was a lot of hype for Mission Impossible: Fallout leading up to its release, and it was expected that it would be great, but yet it somehow surpassed all expectations. Everything from the cast, to the action sequences and direction has been absolutely perfected, to deliver not only the best movie in the long running series, but also one of the best action movies of recent years.
Mission Impossible Fallout is one of the most engaging and tense action movies I’ve seen, it has your attention from start to finish and doesn’t give you a chance to breathe (in a good way). Sure, the plot isn’t the most unpredictable and is quite similar to the other films in the series but it makes the best of that plot. The action sequences, 95% practical and 100% Tom Cruise, are all spectacular: the HALO jump, the bathroom fight, the motorbike chase, the car chase, the foot chase and the helicopter action sequence and more, if any of them was placed into any other great action movie, it would be the best action scene of that movie. Despite Christopher McQuarrie directing the previous movie, he made a real effort to make the next film feel completely different and it really paid off. The score by Lorne Balfe really elevated the movie, and is largely responsible for the tension throughout the entirety of the film. Fallout ties together the other Mission Impossible movies and is the first direct sequel, elevating it above the other films and making it a little special. It really takes the best elements from the previous films, like the espionage from 1, the wild stunts from 2, the darkness, intensity and character story of 3, the energy of Ghost Protocol and the balance of Rogue Nation, to deliver the best film in the series. Christopher McQuarrie, Tom Cruise and co. delivered a fantastic movie that is also one of the best action movies of recent years, and possibly of all time. I want to see more movies in the series, but I cannot see how they could possible top what they did with Fallout.
What is your ranking of the Mission Impossible movies? What are your thoughts on the series as a whole?