The Mission: Impossible movies are one of the greatest action movie franchises. It has survived for over 20 years and shows no signs of slowing down. Its five films have stretched over 20 years with the latest installment, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, releasing July 27th. The longevity of the franchise is incredibly impressive. Its films have been released pretty consistently and its success has been just as consistent. Up to this point, the franchise has accumulated just under a billion dollars, which makes it one of the more successful franchises as well. Mission: Impossible isn’t known for its success or even its longevity, it’s known (and beloved) for its innovative gadgets and action scenes. Some of the greatest action set pieces ever are apart of this franchise. I personally remember each film not by name but by a memorable set piece from it. This franchise has been able to stay so consistent because it knows what it is, what it’s best at and it never strays from that. It consistently delivers a good time and provides just enough espionage to keep your brain active. It further solidified Tom Cruise as one of, if not the greatest action movie star of all time. Mission: Impossible is the perfect action movie franchise and that’s why it continues to work. To celebrate this great franchise and the release of its sixth installment I’ve ranked the first five films in the franchise.
- Mission: Impossible II (2000)
Mission: Impossible II comes in last on the list mainly because of its pacing. It drug a little in the end of the second act and the start of the third act. Despite it being overlong it still had some very fun moments. The motorcycle sequence is the best part of the film and is responsible for some of the franchise’s iconic imagery. It’s a thrilling sequence and remains one of the best motorcycle sequences I’ve ever seen. The final fight scene (while bordering on ridiculous) was another great sequence.
Everything about this film screams the year 2000. The fancy scene transitions, consistent slow motion sequences and some over acting. Watching this film now feels like a time capsule and that has helped it remain a fun watch to this day. The effects are solid and hold up pretty well but the real star of this film was Thandie Newton. She is excellent all throughout the film. She’s captivating, fun and it’s impossible to take your eyes off her. Alongside one of the biggest movie stars of all time, she more than holds her own. She’s reason enough to watch the film and I wish she was in some of the others.
- Mission: Impossible (1996)
Being the first film in the franchise it does well to set the tone of the franchise. They appeared to know early on what they have with this film and it brought out a lot of the great ideas we see today. This is the film that introduced the iconic theme song that is easily one of the best themes of all time. It also delivered the iconic shot of the franchise, Tom Cruise hanging parallel to the ground. That sequence is one of the great sequences in all of film and still plays great over 20 years later. On a nostalgia and respect front, the film still works and experiencing some of these great moments is why this movie is worth watching.
This falls in fourth place on the list because it is paced pretty badly and the effects don’t hold up all that well. Both of these problems may be due to the fact that I watched this long after it actually came out and I was accustomed to the newer films. Either way, there is a decent stretch of this film that is very slow and almost takes you out of it. In regard to the effects, that can be chalked up to the year it was released and the big leap in technology after this film. All in all, it’s a classic film with some truly iconic moments that should be experienced by all film fans.
- Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
Two of my favorite sequences in the whole franchise are from this film. The sequences at the Kremlin and at the hotel are nothing short of incredible. The Kremlin sequence works on several different levels. It works from an action sequence standpoint and from an espionage standpoint. One of the great things about these movies is seeing incredible things get done in ways that we never expect. That is exactly what happens in these sequences. All of the gadgets and amazing Tom Cruise moments make these sequences very intense and yet so much fun!
This also brought the introduction of Jeremy Renner into the franchise, which was a brilliant move. He is another person that can carry action sequences and he is full of charisma. He brings humor to the franchise in a more natural and unexpected way. He belongs in this world and the only shame is that he was added so late to the franchise. Ghost Protocol also has an incredible story and really got the pacing right. They spend just enough time setting up all of their espionage storylines and keep the action up.
- Mission: Impossible III (2006)
This makes it so high on the list partially due to nostalgia. This was my introduction to the franchise and it was quite the introduction. From the opening scene I was on the edge of my seat and fully engaged. I never felt like I fully understood what was happening but in a good way. It had me constantly guessing as to what was going on and surprised me with each reveal. For the first time in the franchise there was a great villain and it was a bit more straightforward with its espionage story. That all worked very well.
The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman played the great villain that I mentioned earlier and that’s another reason why I love this film so much. He never makes films worse and that is true in this case. He was also very believable as a villain and was a great foil for Tom Cruise. It’s rare to mention the acting in this franchise but there was some legitimately good acting throughout this film. Hoffman brought it and so did Cruise at times. This film also has the best opening scene in the whole franchise.
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Rogue Nation tops the list because it is my favorite film to watch from start to finish. It doesn’t contain any of my favorite sequences but it is packed full of excellent ones. There is another great motorcycle sequence in this film that is preceded by an excellent car chase. It’s paced perfectly, funny and fun. Rogue Nation is one of my favorite action movies of all time simply because it never lets up. It has all of the twists that have become standard in the franchise but it’s also fun. Tom Cruise is hanging off a plane and it is both funny and thrilling.
This also has another great addition to the franchise, Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa Faust). She is a different kind of woman for the franchise. She isn’t simply a love interest or someone for Cruise to save. She is a bad ass on her own and she keeps pace with Cruise throughout the whole film. With her, Renner and Cruise there is no doubt as to why this is the most fun; regardless as to who is on screen, something great is happening. It is a near perfect action movie and that final sequence is breathtaking.