By Josh Reilly B. & George Bate
Mission: Impossible has quietly proceeded as one of the most consistently enjoyable franchises in recent years. So much so that there isn’t really a weak installment out of the seven films released to date. Nonetheless, there exists some variability in quality across the films. So, here’s our ranking of the Mission: Impossible films from worst to best.
7. Mission: Impossible
It seems particularly harsh to place Brian De Palm’as 1996 spy film at the bottom of this list, but that’s more of a testament to the strength of this franchise rather than the weakness of this installment. The action and suspense, in particular the CIA break-in and the climactic pursuit scene, are fantastic and De Palma brings a level of spectacle to the film that is far ahead of its time. Unfortunately, as is the case with many M:I films, the plot is convoluted and becomes difficult to follow.
6. Mission: Impossible 2
A decidedly different film than its predecessor, M:I-2 is a stylized, slow-motion filled adventure ride from the singular mind of John Woo. The film leans more heavily into its ludicrous set-ups and stunts, opting for a more surreal and visceral experience than the 1996 film. The twists and turns come fast, Hans Zimmer’s score is epic, and the brilliance of its action set-pieces make it easier to overlook the lack of character development.
5. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Dead Reckoning Part One is the series’ longest installment to date, and its excessive length can definitely be felt. Although the film benefits from a somewhat streamlined approach to plotting, it suffers as many M:I films do with such convoluted plotting. The action, on the other hand, is superb and intense, especially a suspenseful sequence in an airport and a frenetic car chase around Rome.
4. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Rogue Nation affirmed that the Mission: Impossible franchise was back and here to stay. Expertly crafted action is combined with Hitchock-esque spy thrills and a one-of-a-kind intensity brought by star Tom Cruise. Rebecca Ferguson makes her debut as Ilsa Faust here and steals pretty much every scene she is a part of, especially a fantastic opera sequence.
3. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Arguably the installment that breathed much-needed new life into the franchise, Ghost Protocol is an astonishingly entertaining film and one of the best action movies of the 21st century. Director Brad Bird propels the film forward at a brisk pace, making it easy to overlook points of confusion in a somewhat jumbled plot. Where Ghost Protocol excels is its series of stylized, intense set-pieces, the scope and scale of which are something to celebrate.
2. Mission: Impossible III
M:I-III is arguably the most overlooked installment of the franchise, but one that is more than deserving of audiences’ reappraisal all these years later. J.J. Abrams leans more heavily into the espionage elements of this series and co-writes a Mission: Impossible script updated for the post-Bourne and new Bond eras. Not only does the plot hold together better in III than any other installment of the franchise, the film also delivers a profound intensity as Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt character is pushed to his limit and the plot is made far more personal this time around. The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman provides a performance that easily makes him the most compelling antagonist of the Mission: Impossible franchise, while Abrams’ technical precision and nuanced handling of acting and pacing shines.
1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
It’s difficult picking a single installment to top this list, but the honor must go to Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Director McQuarrie masterfully crafts Fallout, making this installment feel grander, more cinematic, and more refined than any of the series’ previous installments. The action set-pieces, brought to life by an endlessly dedicated Cruise, are more ambitious and breathtaking than ever before with McQuarrie bringing a sleekness and tension to a range of high-intensity combat sequences. At this point, the franchise had settled into a core team with Ving Rhames, SImon Pegg, and Rebecca Ferguson joining Tom Cruise and each character brings something unique to the film. Sean Harris is menacing as the villain Solomon Lane and Henry Cavill brings an incredible presence to the film, perhaps best emphasized in the hand-to-hand bathroom sequence of the film. Mission: Impossible – Fallout is up there with Mad Max: Fury Road and John Wick: Chapter 4 as some of the best action movies of the century so far and even some of the best action movies of all time. If there’s one Mission: Impossible movie to watch, it has to be Fallout.