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How to Watch Mission: Impossible Movies In Order
If you want to watch the Mission: Impossible movies in order and see Ethan Hunt get in his daily steps, fall from high up, take a deep breath, defy mask policy, catch a plane, and kick ass and chew bubblegum (he gets them from the IMF snack room), you can watch the movies as they released, no prequel plotting here.
- Mission: Impossible (1998)
- Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
- Mission: Impossible III (2006)
- Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
- Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
- Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)
Now, if you’re new to the series, do you actually need to watch all the Mission: Impossible movies in order? If you were a big fan of the original TV series , you’d probably give a bellowing NO, since the 1996 Mission: Impossible movie re-introduced the Jim Phelps hero role and then gave him a thoroughly impressive character assassination. But that’s just director Brian de Palma taking the piss out of the blockbuster and Tom Cruise taking the reins of the IP on his own terms.
So the first M:I movie is a perfectly good place to start if you’ve never seen the TV show, likely since it’s over 50 years old at this point. It’s also more of a spy thriller — all dense plotting and subdued action, but with an explosive set piece or two that would become the series’ trademark. There isn’t really an overarching story to Mission: Impossible until the latter-half of the franchise, but this movie does introduce support characters like hacker Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames, who’s appeared in every movie) and then-IMF director Eugene Kittridge, who returns for Dead Reckoning .
Mission: Impossible 2 is the most skippable of the series, both in story and quality. Anyone who’s seen director John Woo’s Hong Kong stuff will likely find this one more palatable, believing that a man can fly and motorcycles can duel.
Cruise hand-picked J.J. Abrams to direct a soft reboot for Mission: Impossible III , which expands more of Hunt’s IMF team (including Simon Pegg’s Benji) and introduces Michelle Monaghan as Ethan’s fiancée Julia.
For the fourth Impossible , Ghost Protocol , Cruise made another unlikely choice for director: Brad Bird, making his live-action debut. This is where the series really establishes itself in the upper echelon of action filmmaking, and set the standard for death-defying practical stunts for each release.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) 97%
Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning, Part One (2023) 96%
Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (2015) 94%
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011) 93%
Mission: Impossible III (2006) 71%
Mission: Impossible (1996) 66%
Mission: Impossible II (2000) 56%
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How to Watch Mission Impossible Movies in Chronological Order
Catch up with ethan hunt and imf ahead of dead reckoning part two..
In 1996, 30 years after the Mission: Impossible TV series first aired on CBS, Paramount Pictures recruited Tom Cruise to bring the franchise to the big screen. In the 27 years since, Cruise has led the franchise through seven spy films (soon to be eight) and a $4 billion USD box-office haul to rest comfortably among the best action franchises of all time.
Following the thrilling release of this year's Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One - and the highly-anticipated release of its direct sequel Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two next year - we've compiled a spoiler-free* list of every Mission Impossible movie ordered by narrative chronology and release date, from oldest to newest, so you can watch or re-watch the movies in their proper order.
- How to watch in chronological order
- How to watch by release order
Mission Impossible Movies in Order
How Many Mission Impossible Movies Are There?
There have been seven Mission: Impossible movies released since the series’ inception in 1996. An eighth is set to release next year on June 28 as well. See our guide on where to watch all Mission Impossible movies for streaming info on every film.
Mission Impossible Movies in Chronological Order
Following the Mission Impossible chronology is as easy as watching the movies in the order they were released: the narrative chronology follows the release order from 1996’s Mission Impossible to 2018’s Fallout.
The list below outlines the definitive order in which to watch the Mission Impossible movies. We've added broad plot overviews and information on each movie’s critical and commercial reception.
*The blurbs below contain character/actor names and broad plot overviews.
1. Mission: Impossible (1996)
1996’s Mission: Impossible introduced us to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, a highly capable agent within the elite Impossible Mission Force (IMF) espionage agency. Hunt, believed to be a mole within the IMF, flees and sets out to discover the traitor’s true identity.
Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, and Henry Czerny star alongside Cruise, as does the series’ most recurring support actor, Ving Rhames (Luther). It’s the only film in the franchise directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface).
2. Mission: Impossible II (2000)
Ethan Hunt returned four years later for Mission: Impossible 2 , a sequel that tasks the agent with recovering a dangerous bioweapon and its cure from the hands of a nefarious pharmaceutical company and its lackeys.
The sequel weaves another spy-thriller plot through explosive stuntwork, chase scenes, and the drama of blackmail and stolen identity. It’s the only movie in the series directed by action-film legend John Woo.
3. Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Mission: Impossible 3 introduces a love interest for Ethan in Michelle Monaghan’s Julia Meade. The plot sees Julia unwittingly mixed up in Ethan’s espionage work, which once again focuses on the recovery of a bioweapon.
Ving Rhames again reprises his role as Ethan’s trusted colleague Luther. Other cast members include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Keri Russell, Simon Pegg, and Laurence Fishburne.
Mission: Impossible III was J.J. Abrams’s feature-film directorial debut. It’s the only movie in the franchise he directed.
4. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
The first of the more-modern Mission Impossible movies, Ghost Protocol was a big success for Paramount, grossing nearly $700 million USD worldwide and earning 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Another tale of deception with potentially earth-shattering consequences, Ghost Protocol tasks Ethan and co. with tracking down Russia’s stolen nuclear codes. The movie ends by setting up The Syndicate terrorist network as the next film’s big bad.
Ghost Protocol was directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles). Cruise and Pegg returned from M:I 3 and were joined by newcomers Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton.
5. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Christopher McQuarrie took over the franchise’s directorial duties with Rogue Nation and has held onto them since. A frequent collaborator of Tom Cruise’s, McQuarrie has made the two most critically acclaimed M:I movies and two of the three highest-grossing.
Rogue Nation is another globe-trotting spectacle filled with stuntwork and sabotage. This time around, Ethan Hunt faces off against The Syndicate, a shadowy terrorist organization set up at the end of Ghost Protocol.
Joining Cruise, Pegg, Renner, and Rhames in Rogue Nation are Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Simon McBurney, and Alec Baldwin.
6. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
The previous new Mission Impossible entry is the franchise’s most critically and commercially successful film. Fallout features healthy servings of M:I’s staple ingredients — government conspiracies, double-crosses, bombastic set-pieces — but as stated in IGN’s review, the main draw is watching “Tom Cruise do his death-defying thing.”
The Syndicate, rebuilt as The Apostles, returns as the antagonist organization in Fallout. Ethan Hunt, accompanied by Henry Cavill’s August Walker, is tasked with recovering three plutonium cores to prevent the detonation of three nuclear bombs.
Cruise, Pegg, Rhames, Monaghan, Ferguson, Baldwin, and Harris all return from the series’ past, while Cavill leads a group of newcomers that includes Angela Bassett, Wes Bentley, and Vanessa Kirby.
7. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)
As the newest title in the Mission Impossible series, Dead Reckoning Part 1 brings new stunts, cast members, and all of the action you'd expect. Directed by Christopher McQuerrie and led by the ridiculous stunts of Tom Cruise, it's one of the best movies in the series to date.
The story follows Ethan Hunt and his team embark on a dangerous mission to track down a terrifying new weapon that threatens all of humanity. Confronted by a mysterious and all-powerful enemy, Ethan is forced to weigh the importance of his mission over the lives of the people he cares about most.
The new cast members added to Dead Reckoning include Hayley Atwell, Pom Klementieff, Shea Whigham, Esai Morales, Indira Varma, Cary Elwes, and Mark Gatiss. You can expect Dead Reckoning Part 2 to arrive sometime in 2024. Box Office: $567,535,383 (Rank: 4/7) | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96% (Rank: 2/7)
Upcoming Mission Impossible Movies
Mission: impossible – dead reckoning part two (2024).
Dead Reckoning Part Two will be a direct sequel to Dead Reckoning Part One. It’s scheduled to be released just shy of a year later on June 28, 2024.
How to Watch the Mission Impossible Movies By Release Date
- Mission: Impossible (1996)
- Mission: Impossible II (2000)
- Mission: Impossible III (2006)
- Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
- Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
- Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)
- Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two (2024)*
*Not yet released
Jordan covers games, shows, and movies as a freelance writer for IGN.
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All the Mission: Impossible movies, ranked from worst to best
In 1996, Tom Cruise starred in two movies. One of those movies, Jerry Maguire , earned the actor his second Oscar nomination. The other film was Mission: Impossible , a film that drastically changed the course of his career. As Ethan Hunt, Mission: Impossible elevated Cruise into a bonafide action star, as he started his transition from dramatic and comedic movies to more action and sci-fi films.
Thirty years later, the Mission: Impossible franchise remains one of the most consistent series in Hollywood. Mission: Impossible continues to raise the stakes with each entry as Cruise risks his life with each death-defying stunt, all in the name of entertainment. Before Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One , we have a task for you to complete. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read the Mission: Impossible movie rankings below and discover which one is the best in the series. Cue the theme song .
Note: Every Mission: Impossible movie is streaming on Paramount+ .
6. Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
On paper, Mission: Impossible 2 should have worked. After having Brian de Palma direct Mission: Impossible , John Woo was chosen to direct the sequel. Bringing in Woo, an iconic Hong Kong filmmaker specializing in action films, was a fantastic choice. Woo’s signature elements – slow-motion, flying kicks, gun fu – are all littered throughout the film.
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Though the action sequences are highly-choreographed and technically sound, it doesn’t feel like a Mission: Impossible film. The spinning, slow-mo kicks would be useful additions in another series but feel out of place in the Mission: Impossible universe. The plot is quite absurd, as Ethan must stop Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) from releasing a destructive manmade virus into the world. Woo clearly emphasized action over the plot and character development. I’m glad that Mission: Impossible 2 exists, but it’s easily the worst film in the franchise.
5. Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Mission: Impossible III is better known as “the one with Philip Seymour Hoffman as the villain.” Hoffman stars as Owen Davian, a ruthless arms dealer after a biological hazard known as the “Rabbit’s Foot.” Mission: Impossible III establishes Hoffman as the scariest villain the franchise has ever seen in the opening scene. Hoffman throws 100mph in the opening sequences as he points a gun at Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), threatening to kill her as he sadistically counts to 10, with Ethan begging for mercy as he nervously looks on.
Mission: Impossible III features some of the best monologues in the series, with Hoffman chewing up every line of dialogue. However, the action was put on the back burner as Ethan’s personal life with Julia took center stage. There was some action, as the bridge ambush and Shanghai building jump are the standout set sequences. Mission: Impossible III ‘s heart was in the right place, but the execution in subsequent films in the franchise is far superior. Plus, Hoffman should have been the lone villain. The twist involving Billy Crudup’s character was unnecessary. Fun fact: Mission Impossible III served as the feature directorial debut of J. J. Abrams , who would later direct two films in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy .
4. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol became the turning point in the franchise as its distinct style created the modern blueprint for future Mission: Impossible films. Brad Bird, best known for directing The Incredibles and Ratatouille, was hired to direct Ghost Protocol , while Abrams shifted to a producing role. After the Kremlin is bombed, Ethan and his team — Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Jane Carter (Paula Patton) — are blamed for the disaster, forcing them to operate outside the IMF to clear their names and prevent another attack.
The biggest takeaway from Ghost Protocol is the Burj Khalifa sequence, where Hunt scales the outside of the 2,722-foot building with suction gloves. The stunt added to the legend of Cruise and his commitment to practical effects. Matt Damon famously told a story where Cruise discussed how he dreamed of doing this sequence for 15 years and needed to find a safety guy who would OK the stunt. Ghost Protocol is the first film since Mission: Impossible to focus on the development of Hunt’s team as Benji became an integral role in the series. More importantly, Ghost Protocol is Christopher McQuarrie’s introduction to the franchise as he completed an uncredited rewrite.
3. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Ghost Protocol may have provided the formula, but Rogue Nation strengthened it. One of those reasons can be attributed to McQuarrie, who made his first directorial effort in the franchise. McQuarrie shaped Rogue Nation as a spy thriller that featured memorable action sequences. It’s the perfect balance of intrigue and thrills. In Rogue Nation , the IMF is disbanded, forcing Ethan to go off the grid and fight the Syndicate, a terrorist organization of rogue agents led by former MI6 agent Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).
The main reason why Rogue Nation makes the top 3 is the introduction of Ilsa Faust, played by the terrific Rebecca Ferguson ( Silo ). Faust is a disavowed MI6 who works for the Syndicate. However, Ilsa helps Ethan escape captivity and proceeds to help him along the way despite being employed by the terrorist organization. As the femme fatale , Faust is the best female character in the entire franchise, and Cruise’s chemistry with Ferguson is magnetic. Ilsa is the first female that goes toe-to-toe with Ethan, and it’s believable that she could defeat him in combat.
2. Mission: Impossible (1996)
Before 1996, Mission: Impossible was known as a television series with a memorable theme song. In 1996, Mission: Impossible became an iconic action franchise and kickstarted the long-running franchise that catapulted Cruise into action superstardom. It’s the first film produced by Cruise, who has gone on to become one of the most prolific actor-producers in the business.
Directed by noted auteur Brian De Palma, Mission: Impossible introduces Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, an IMF agent forced framed for murder who must retrieve a computer file that will help prove his innocence. The decision to kill Ethan’s team, which included well-known actors such as Emilio Estevez and Kristin Scott Thomas, was genius, creating a template for future entries to include swerves, plot twists, and shifting loyalties. De Palma is also a master of suspense and detail, adding to the overall tension of the film. The Langley invasion, which sees Ethan floating from the ceiling to acquire the NOC list, is still the most memorable image of the franchise. Mission: Impossible remains one of the best entries in the franchise , thanks to Cruise’s committed performance and De Palma’s stylish direction.
1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
What other franchise can say that its sixth film is its best entry? Mission: Impossible Fallout is the high point of the series, as it incorporates the best elements of the previous films and raises the stakes to the highest it has ever been. In Fallout , the remains of the Syndicate formed the terrorist organization known as Apostles, led by their mastermind John Lark. The Apostles plan to use plutonium to detonate nuclear bombs that would wipe out one-third of the human population. Ethan and his team — Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Benji Dunn, and Ilsa Faust — are the only things that can prevent the fall of humanity.
You know a movie is an action classic when there are three distinct action sequences in the running for the best stunt. The sequences include the halo jump, the bathroom fight, and the helicopter chase. These three jaw-dropping scenes elevate Fallout into rare territory with Mad Max: Fury Road and The Dark Knight as the best action film of the 21st century. Henry Cavill is a terrific villain, while Luther, Benji, and Ilsa form Ethan’s best team in the series. Fallout is Mission: Impossible at its peak.
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Stunt work continues to be one of the most impressive and underappreciated aspects of filmmaking. Time and time again, stunt performers perform jaw-dropping feats to entertain an audience. What would action filmmaking be without the stunt performers? It's why Chad Stahelski and Christopher McQuarrie have campaigned for a stunt category at the Academy Awards.
From Buster Keaton and Jackie Chan to Zoë Bell and Tom Cruise, stunt work continues to evolve and improve with the dawn of new technology. To honor stunt work in movies, watch seven of the greatest death-defying stunts below. Collapsing house - Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) Buster Keaton's famous stunt from Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
If there's one genre that audiences never seem to get tired of, it's action movies. By comparison, there haven't been many big-screen comedies, sci-fi adventures, or fantasy flicks in 2023. But action films are in abundance, both in the streaming realm and in theaters. If you happen to love action like we do, this is a very good thing. And some of the action movies that hit theaters this year may be among the best of the last 10 years.
It may be a little premature to name any film as the best action movie of this year. But since we are currently almost seven-and-a-half months through the year, we can confidently say that the following films are the five best action movies of 2023 so far. 5. Extraction 2
Tom Cruise has been storming the Hollywood blockbuster scene as of late, and his latest hit is Paramount Pictures and director Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One. McQuarrie has a fantastic eye for action thrillers, making it easy to get lost in high-stakes fight scenes or massive set pieces, and Netflix has a respectable catalogue of similar films that are every bit as good.
The streamer is still one of the leaders in the crowded TV and movie streaming market, with plenty of action movies to satiate viewers' hunger for thrills. From the British equivalent of the Mission: Impossible franchise in the form of the James Bond movies to original productions like Extraction, Netflix has a few movies that are more than worth watching after you check out Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One. Skyfall (2012)
Mission: Impossible gadgets, real-world tech show how far we've come since '96
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to join us for this retrospective ahead of Mission: Impossible -- Fallout.
Ethan Hunt climbs the Burj Khalifa in Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, one of the series' wild stunts that showcases a cool gadget.
The adventures of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) have seen him and his Impossible Mission Force (IMF) teams employ some pretty wild gadgets and cutting-edge real-world tech as he hunts down the bad guys.
Over more than two decades, the series has evolved from espionage-heavy conspiracy thriller into a globetrotting, stunt-driven action extravaganza for the information age. However, laptops, spy cameras and all manner of increasingly implausible gadgets remain as crucial to each fight as fists and firearms.
With Mission: Impossible -- Fallout , the sixth movie in the franchise, out this week, let's look at how the gear in the films has evolved in the 22 years since the original.
Jack Harmon (Emilio Estevez) shows Hunt the explosive chewing gum that'll save him twice in the first Mission: Impossible.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
The first movie was directed by Brian De Palma, and its convoluted plot centers on a mole trying to sell on the black market a disc containing the names of all the CIA's undercover agents, with Hunt framed for the crime.
It's a little weird that all this sensitive data would be kept in one place -- the nonofficial cover (NOC) list -- but it certainly ensures that the stakes remain high.
The film opens with a scene where Hunt tears off one of the series' signature latex masks, which look back to the TV show that inspired the movies.
They're used on three occasions during the movie, but the first two are just Cruise wearing impressive latex masks (kudos to makeup artist Rob Bottin ), and the removal of the last one -- when Hunt impersonates Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) -- now looks like something out of a video game cut scene from this era.
You can definitely trust Jim Phelps. For sure.
We also get a little reminder of the past when Jim smokes on a plane to cover up the self-destructing of the mission briefing tape, which he receives after a coded conversation with a flight attendant.
The movie's most famous scene sees Hunt being lowered into a secure mainframe room in the CIA headquarters to retrieve the NOC list, and the computer's old-fashioned trackball mouse stands out by a mile.
This movie's last major gadget is explosive gum, which Hunt uses to blow up a fish tank in his escape from the IMF early on and later slaps onto the helicopter to kill two treacherous double agents after a spectacular chase sequence on a bullet train going through the Channel Tunnel.
The Channel Tunnel, which connects Britain to France, was pretty fresh at this point, having opened in 1994.
Hunt's team uses gadgets such as glasses that transmit unrealistically sharp video to remote watch display, floppy discs, phone booths and a gloriously chunky 1994 Nokia 232 phone.
You know this scene, right?
It also includes an early example of Apple product placement , with the PowerBook 5300c showing up several times in the movie. The company was struggling at the time (having just reported a quarterly loss of $740 million), but it set up a $15 million promotional tie-in for Mission: Impossible.
This included a "web adventure" site, which is still viewable but sadly no longer playable.
We also get a reminder of the internet's early days, when Hunt accesses Usenet -- a server protocol started in 1980 and used for sharing messages in groups based around common interests.
In a Bible discussion group, Hunt uses coded language to contact arms dealer Max. This illicit exchange was mirrored in real life (in a less dangerous way) as Usenet became an "under the radar" file-sharing system in the early '10s.
Also, Hunt doesn't even fire a gun in this movie. But that would change in...
Things get a whole lot more ... impossibler in the second movie.
Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
This is the one with motorcycle jousting. Easily the most "of its time" entry into the series, Mission: Impossible 2 is the movie where Hunt transforms from spy into a near-superhuman action hero.
It's directed by the legendary John Woo, and his trademarks -- doves, slo-mo and impractical-but-so-darn-cool dual pistols -- are all here. They're enhanced by a Limp Bizkit version of the theme song and Hans Zimmer's dramatic score.
This "extreme" mentality is even evident in the gadgets, with Hunt getting his mission from a pair of Oakley Romeo sunglasses (with a HUD on lenses) that were fired to him by rocket from a helicopter as he's standing on top of a cliff in Moab, Utah.
The masks become more effective with the addition of a voice changer strip that agents stick on their throat. It's a little ridiculous, but it allows them to blend in far more than they could in the previous movie and makes the reveals that much more dramatic -- and there are plenty of them.
Nyah Nordoff-Hall and Hunt compete for the most beautiful hair.
When femme fatale Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton) is charged with infiltrating the bad guys' base, she has an untraceable transponder injected into her, allowing Hunt to creepily track her via satellite as she feeds IMF information about her evil ex -- rogue agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) -- and his diabolical scheme.
Turns out he's trying to acquire the genetically modified Chimera virus, which kills victims horribly, so he can sell it to the highest bidder. The odd love triangle is one of the movie's similarities to Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious, as highlighted by ComingSoon .
The movie might be more extreme, but there's some recognizable real-world tech in it too. Apple continued its partnership with the franchise and Apple Powerbook G3s are seen several times.
We also catch sight of a Kodak DC290 Zoom camera and a distinctive, unidentified Motorola phone. We reached out to the company about this, but they had no info about it, so it's most likely an unreleased prototype or prop.
Hunt uses the timer on a Casio G-Shock DW-6900-1V for the dramatic countdown after Nyah is infected with the virus.
IMF must have upped its agents' conditioner allowance for the turn of the century, because Hunt's hair is pretty spectacular in this movie. The real impossible mission here is not getting hypnotized by it during the more balletic scenes.
Keep a eye out for Dominic Purcell (who's since starred in Prison Break, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow) as one of Ambrose's goons.
Hunt's hair might be less beautiful, but he's found love with Julia.
Mission: Impossible 3 (2006)
JJ Abrams took over as director and co-writer for the more grounded third movie. This is exemplified in how Hunt receives his mission -- from a disposable Kodak Power Flash camera with a retinal scanner -- and the focus on his personal life, with the introduction of his fiancee, Julia.
The tech gets smaller too, from the microbombs the bad guys plant in people's heads to the microdot video that gives Hunt his first hint of a traitor working in IMF.
Never stop running, Ethan! He's holding a Nokia N92.
This traitor is helping ruthless arms dealer Owen Davian (a terrifying Phillip Seymour Hoffman) acquire the Rabbit's Foot -- a WMD he plans to sell to terrorists. Davian is a particularly effective villain, especially in the chilling precredits scene.
We get a better sense of the tech behind the masks in this movie, when they make one midmission. After mapping Davian's face with multiple covert photos, they 3D print a mask and spray paint the skin tone.
When Hunt puts the mask on, a clever camera pan hides the transition from mask to CGI to Hoffman's actual face.
The voice changer strip is explained too -- Hunt forces Davian to read a phrase that's transmitted to Luther, who remotely uploads the voice match to Hunt's strip. It's nuts, but it creates a nice moment of tension as he waits for his voice to change.
Luther Stickell returns in the third movie, which also introduces Benji Dunn.
This movie also features some remote-controlled gadgets. IMF computer hacker Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) operates several sentry machine guns with a trackerball mouse early in the movie, and drones are used in the spectacular bridge sequence.
In terms of real-world tech, this is the first movie in the series without any Apple products. Luther uses a heavy duty Getac 5128 laptop during the Vatican operation and several characters use Nokia N92s.
Mission: Impossible 3 reveals IMF headquarters, hidden under the Virginia Department of Transport, for the first time, and during his escape from this location, Hunt steals a Motorola DTR650 walkie-talkie.
The agency must have cut its conditioner budget too, as Hunt's hair is much shorter and more practical.
Also, check out a pre-Breaking Bad Aaron Paul as Julia's clueless brother.
Benji explains the dangers of Hunt's electro adhesion gloves in Ghost Protocol.
Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (2011)
It looks like someone told Hunt to eat an Apple a day, because the company's devices are back in a big way in the fourth movie, which was director Brad Bird's first live-action project -- his previous work included The Iron Giant, The Incredibles (and now Incredibles 2 !) and Ratatouille.
Ghost Protocol takes a fresh approach to gadgets, as the entire IMF is disavowed -- Ghost Protocol -- after a rogue nuclear strategist frames Hunt and his team for bombing the Kremlin.
Left without their usual support network, their equipment isn't so effective. Our first hint of this comes early, when Hunt gets his mission from a screen hidden in a grungy phone booth (protected by a retinal scanner) -- he is forced to hit it when the usual self-destruct sequence fails.
The gadgets continue to fail when the team goes to Dubai and their plan is ruined by a malfunctioning mask-maker. In fact, the only mask we see in this movie is worn by the villain, Kurt Hendricks, in a slightly bewildering bait and switch.
Agent Jane Carter gets ready to light the fuse.
As a result of mask failure, Hunt must engage in the movie's most famous sequence. He climbs up the outside of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world, using a pair of electro adhesion gloves to reach a server room on the 130th floor.
The audience is primed for something to go wrong when Hunt learns that a blue indicator means the gloves are sticking (blue is glue) while red means they aren't (red is dead). When they start to malfunction, we get one of the series' most engaging stunts as he must make do without them.
In a nice throwback to the second movie's sunglasses, he wears a pair of clear Oakley Wind Jacket goggles during the climb.
This movie introduces high tech contact lenses that allow agents to scan crowds and identify faces, as well capture images of nuclear launch codes and send them to a briefcase printer (with scrambled numbers).
As part of the effort to stop Hendrix, Agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) must levitate by donning a magnetic chain-mail suit held aloft by remote control robot as he tries to deactivate a satellite.
Things get heated when Hunt confronts William Brandt.
After this, Hunt drives a BMW i8 hybrid sports car with a HUD and collision detector, ahead of his final battle with Hendrix in an automated car park, purpose built for the movie , in Mumbai. The inspiration came from Volkswagen's Autostadt in Germany.
Looking at the real world tech, Apple products save the day when the IMF team infiltrates the Kremlin archives.
Hunt uses an iPhone 4 to generate codes that get them through doors, then he and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) use an iPad 2 and camera attachment to project an image of an empty corridor onto a screen -- fooling a guard into thinking there's nobody there (and offering a few visual jokes).
We also see Benji using a MacBook Air, with a protective cover, several times.
Ghost Protocol gets fancy in Mumbai.
It's not all Apple though. Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton) gathers intel with a Canon VIXIA-HV40 camcorder (which she later links to a balloon), while LG monitors can be seen in the IMF train safehouse in Moscow and Hunt tracks Hendrix through Dubai with a Dell Streak phone/tablet hybrid.
Things even take a luxurious turn when Carter uses a Vertu Constellation Ayxta phone in Mumbai.
The IMF returns to Apple for the movie's conclusion, when Hunt offers his allies iPhone 4s containing their next mission, which they choose to accept. This gives us our first hint of the Syndicate, leading directly into...
Hunt and Brandt spring a trap in Rogue Nation.
Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation (2015)
This is the one that opens with its biggest stunt, in which Hunt hangs off the side of an Airbus A400M military transport plane.
The fifth movie is directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who rose to fame as co-screenwriter of The Usual Suspects and previously teamed up with Cruise as director of Jack Reacher.
After the high-octane precredits scene, we go old-school for Hunt's briefing, which he receives in a London record store after going through an elaborate jazz music trivia Q&A. Using hand print authentication on the turntable, his vinyl briefing has a suitably warm, scratchy sound until it takes a sinister turn.
We learn that his briefing has been sent by the aforementioned Syndicate -- an "anti-IMF" shadow organization committing acts of terror -- just before Hunt is gassed and his contact killed in front of him.
Ilsa Faust can match Ethan at every turn.
He later encounters disavowed MI6 agent Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who proves to be his match in every way as they play a cat-and-mouse game to take down the Syndicate, led by ex-MI6 agent Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).
The situation isn't helped by CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), who sets out to dismantle the IMF and deconstructs Hunt as being "both arsonist and fireman" for his wild stunts over the years -- he has a point! He doesn't believe the Syndicate exists, so the IMF is shut down.
Early on, we're treated to a slick, gadget-rich sequence at a Vienna opera house where an on-the-run Hunt is trying to identify Lane.
Deep breath... Benji is briefed via glasses with a HUD, scrambles security with a tiny device he attaches to the main power circuit and then uses a twinned device to transform an opera brochure into a monitor that taps into security -- with a Kindle-style monochrome screen.
Benji is surrounded by gadgets in Vienna.
Hunt later realizes that an assassin trying to take out the Austrian chancellor has the same kind of contact lens connected to remote camera, hinting that the Syndicate has the IMF's tech. The chancellor is later killed by a car bomb hidden in a briefcase, suggesting that the bad guys have a crazy system of redundancies.
When the team goes to Morocco, Isla has a cool timer with a massive display on her wrist, hinting at the underwater sequence to come.
This movie only has a single instance of the mask being used (beyond Benji's fantasy infiltration) but it's extremely surprising and effective.
The branding of the real-world tech shifts in this movie, with the IMF favoring Nokia Lumia 930 phones and Microsoft Surface tablets. Members of the Syndicate use Dell XPS 15 laptops.
Ethan and Ilsa confront a trapped Solomon Lane, who'll appear in the next movie.
When we first meet Benji, he's playing a Microsoft Xbox One on a trio of Dell monitors -- a pretty sweet gaming setup -- and we catch sight of the nonexistent Self-Destruct Edition of Halo 5: Guardians (it's unlikely that real-world gamers would appreciate such an edition) before he makes a call on a Cisco phone.
In Hunt's safehouse, he shows Benji the presumed dead government agents who've joined the Syndicate on a TCL monitor.
When we reach the movie's climax, the IMF captures Lane in a bespoke, bulletproof glass cell, where he's gassed in a neat mirror of what happened to Hunt at the start.
However, this also means that Lane is the series' first villain to survive and he shows up (with a big old prison beard) in the trailer for Mission: Impossible -- Fallout -- which also brings the series' first returning director in McQuarrie.
We don't know what capacity Lane appears in yet, but we'll find out about that, Henry Cavill's mustache and the IMF's choice of phones when the movie opens July 27 in the US and UK, and Aug. 2 in Australia.
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All of Tom Cruise's "Mission: Impossible" movies, ranked from worst to best
- Tom Cruise has starred in seven "Mission: Impossible" movies since 1992.
- The actor recently reprised his role as Ethan Hunt in 2023's "Dead Reckoning Part One."
- Here are all of the "Mission: Impossible" movies, ranked from worst to best.
7. "Mission: Impossible 2" (2000)
"Mission: Impossible 2" should be given way more love than it gets — mainly because Hong Kong cinema legend John Woo helmed it. Yes, the "Hard Boiled" and "Bullet in the Head" director brought his signature bullet ballet style to the "Mission: Impossible" sequel, with all the slow-motion flair you could ask for.
Is it cheesy? Sure. Does the script need some work? Definitely. Is there any smart subtext or meaning underneath all the action? Absolutely not. This is a peak 2000s action movie, and it knows it.
"Mission: Impossible 2" is so over the top that once you've made peace with it, it's best to just go along for the ride. Come on, Tom Cruise and Dougray Scott play motorbike chicken with each other before a mid-air tackle sends them both crashing to the ground… What's not to love? It's the type of vehicular chaos that Dominic Toretto would be proud of.
Even so, "Mission: Impossible 2" ranks at the bottom of the bunch.
6. "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" (2011)
The 2011 film "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" takes the franchise into the modern era. It follows Ethan Hunt and his team as they're forced to go on the run when they're framed for bombing the Kremlin.
It quickly becomes a race to stop nuclear strategist Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), who wants to start a nuclear war so that only the strongest members of humanity will survive.
It's this plot that keeps "Ghost Protocol" from ascending the list, because, as spy thrillers go, stopping a nuclear war feels predictable, and the film fails to do anything unique with the premise. Plus, there's nothing particularly extraordinary about Hendricks as a villain.
But generic plot devices aside, the film features some brilliant fights and gripping set pieces. The stand-out moment is when Cruise's hero climbs the Burj Khalifa in Dubai with nothing but sticky gloves and rope.
It's a nail-biting scene, especially when the gloves begin to fail and Hunt must stop himself from tumbling off the side of the building.
One of the most surprising elements of the film is Jeremy Renner 's William Brandt, a disgraced former agent who's grappling with the guilt of failing Ethan on a former mission. That sub-plot works very well amongst the rest of the action, and it's a clever way of injecting a bit of heart into the mission.
5. "Mission: Impossible 3" (2006)
Two words: JJ Abrams . The "Lost" and "Fringe" creator took to the big screen in 2006 with "Mission: Impossible 3," which takes a mid-noughties approach to the Impossible Mission Force and gives it a brutal edge.
The sequel pits Ethan, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Zhen (Maggie Q), and Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) against nefarious arms dealer Owen Davian, played by the incomparable Phillip Seymour Hoffman .
Part of what elevates "Mission: Impossible 3" from previous films is that it never actually explains what Ethan and the gang are chasing. It's known only by its mysterious codename, the Rabbit's Foot. It could be an infectious disease, a computer virus, a hard drive teeming with currency, or nuclear codes… And that's what makes it so compelling.
It's also refreshing to see Ethan settled and in love with Michelle Monahan's Julia Meade. What does married life look like for a superspy? How does that complicate his responsibility to save the world?
The sequel feels very busy, as Abrams packs a lot into a tight two-hour run time. And some beats don't quite work, like Ethan's dynamic with his young mentee Lindsay Farris (played by Keri Russell). But there are some stellar sequences throughout, like the ballistic shoot-out on the bridge — which is an eye-popping piece of action choreography.
4. "Mission: Impossible" (1996)
Taken from the 1966 TV series of the same name, 1996's "Mission: Impossible" introduces Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as he works for Jim Phelps ( Jon Voight ), the main character from the show.
It has audiences instantly on their toes when Ethan's entire team, and Phelps, are assassinated by a double agent in the opening — and the hero goes on the run after being framed for their deaths.
"Mission: Impossible" earned itself a place in cinema history thanks to the brilliantly intense break-in scene, where Cruise is suspended on wires while hacking a CIA mainframe computer.
And of course, the high-octane ending on top of the channel tunnel train is a pulse-pounding affair set to the iconic theme music.
Cruise effortlessly brings Hunt to life alongside top-notch performances from Voight, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Ving Rhames , which really help sell the paranoid atmosphere that director Brian De Palma bakes into the adventure.
3. "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" (2015)
"Rogue Nation" is where frequent Tom Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie properly put his stamp on the franchise, and he expands the world in a fascinating way with the introduction of the Syndicate, a vast organization made up of rogue agents from every intelligence agency on the planet.
Their mission (should they choose to accept it) is to create disorder and chaos to destabilize the global intelligence community, although their true goals don't become apparent until 2018's "Mission: Impossible - Fallout." Hunt is determined to root out the Syndicate, and its sinister leader, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).
"Rogue Nation" also introduces Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a murky British agent who has a delicious will-they-won't-they dynamic with Cruise's hero.
A brawl in the rigging above an opera stage in Vienna is a stunning highlight, as is Cruise's dive into a submerged computer program. Cruise actually broke the world record for holding his breath for six minutes while completing that stunt in 2014.
2. "Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One" (2023)
"Dead Reckoning Part One" sees Hunt's IMF team chasing a key that will lead them to an unstoppable AI that could wreak havoc on the world if left unchecked.
And, of course, every government agency in the world wants to get their hands on it — so Hunt and his team are effectively on the run from everyone.
"Dead Reckoning's" focus on AI gives it a grounding in the real world, but the film also continues to elevate the sheer scale of action that audiences have come to expect from the "Mission: Impossible" franchise.
That jaw-dropping mountain jump in the movie's climax has to be seen to be believed, and it only gets more bonkers after that.
It's a testament to Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie that MI films continue to feel fresh and new — even though "Dead Reckoning's" script does drag on at points.
Then again, audiences are coming to see Cruise throw himself off a mountain, not to hear Oscar-winning dialogue.
Let's hope "Dead Reckoning Part Two" is just as fun.
1. "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" (2018)
There's no question that Christopher McQuarrie's "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" is the best movie in the franchise, which is saying something considering it's the sixth outing for Hunt and the gang.
It continues the Syndicate storyline from "Rogue Nation" and dives further into Solomon Lane's (Sean Harris) world-threatening scheme. He wants to destabilize the world by irradiating the Siachen Glacier, which supplies water to India, Pakistan, and China. This would kill off a third of the world's population and drastically change society in the process.
But the bulk of the story revolves around a CIA and IMF mole who goes by the codename 'John Lark.'
The hunt to find this rogue agent crosses the world, introducing the likes of Henry Cavill's CIA agent August Walker and Vanessa Kirby's underworld matriarch, Alanna Mitsopolis.
The scope of McQuarrie's movie is massive, and its huge stunts mirror that size. A gobsmacking scene sees Hunt dive with Walker from a plane and parachute into Paris. Cruise shot the stunt alongside a cameraman to properly capture the chaotic dive .
Then, of course, there's the film's exhilarating helicopter chase through a New Zealand mountain range — just another example of McQuarrie and Cruise's commitment to filming these stunts in the most jaw-dropping way possible.
"Fallout" is a thrilling chapter of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise that deepens the audience's understanding of Cruise's hero while delivering a stunning cinematic experience.
Every ‘Mission: Impossible’ Movie, Ranked From Worst to Best
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The stunt work was sensationally spectacular and Tom Cruise did much dauntless derring-do. But some may forget that when the “Mission: Impossible” series first began in 1996, there were heated arguments about the franchise’s big screen debut. Some critics were positively incensed that the heroic lead character in the popular 1966-1973 TV series that inspired the film had been reconstituted in Brian De Palma’s big-screen reboot as a treacherous turncoat. Indeed, a few malcontents went so far as predicting the film would be angrily rejected by likeminded fans of the source material — and probably shrugged off by whippersnappers with no memory of the original show.
Which, of course, is exactly what happened – not!
Now, “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” — the latest entry in what has turned out to be the second-longest running movie franchise (after “Star Trek”) ever spawned by a live-action television series — has arrived in theaters and drive-ins everywhere. And while there have been better and lesser sequels, Tom Cruise’s charismatic portrayal of Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt — a character turbo-charged by alternating currents of ice-cold calculation and death-defying spontaneity, selfless loyalty and self-assured snark — has remained a reliable constant.
Here is Variety’s slightly revised ranking of all seven “Mission: Impossible” movies. At least one film has been moved up a notch, after certain titles were reappraised during the extended COVID lockdown (which, not incidentally, delayed production of the new “M:I” opus). For the most part, though, the ranking has remained consistent. Just like Ethan Hunt.
'Mission: Impossible III' (2006)
THE PITCH: When he isn’t busy wooing, and eventually wedding, Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), a nurse who knows nothing about his spy-guy activities, Ethan Hunt leads his IMF team in pursuit of a MacGuffin-ish device (known as “Rabbit’s Foot”) coveted by arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
THE RUNDOWN: Despite the game efforts of director J.J. Abrams to humanize Ethan by supplying a civilian romantic interest — and showing he’s not so ruthless that he’d make good on his threat to drop an uncooperative bad guy (a well-cast Hoffman) out of an airplane — the threepeat is a curiously bland spectacle that is nothing more (but, to be fair, nothing less) than the sum of its sporadically exciting action set pieces. Not surprisingly, it is the lowest-grossing entry in the entire franchise (so far).
'Mission: Impossible II' (2000)
THE PITCH: Ethan Hunt convinces beautiful thief Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton) to renew her affair with IMF turncoat Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) in order to retrieve vials of an artificially created virus. Complications arise when Hunt falls for Nyah — and she is infected with the virus.
THE RUNDOWN: Although relatively restrained when compared to director John Woo’s dizzyingly kinetic and flamboyantly stylized previous films (“The Killer,” “Hard Boiled,” “Face-Off,” etc.), this chronically and unfairly underrated sequel serves up a generous amount of suspense-fraught thrills and impressively choreographed spills, along with a side order of borderline-operatic emotional intensity. Yes, the climactic seaside confrontation between Ethan and Ambrose (first on motorcycles, then up-close and lethal) is outrageously over the top. But, well, it’s supposed to be. Also worth noting: The clever homages to Alfred Hitchcock classics, especially “Notorious” (the racetrack sequence and the entire Ethan/Nyah relationship) and “North by Northwest” (Ambrose’s back-and-forth with an underling played by Richard Roxburgh echoes the vaguely kinky give-and-take between James Mason and Martin Landau).
'Mission: Impossible' (1996)
THE PITCH: After IMF chief Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) dies in the line of duty — yeah, right — special agent Ethan Hunt must assume command of a mission to keep a list of deep-cover CIA operatives from being sold by an IMF mole.
THE RUNDOWN: Years later, the most striking thing about director Brian De Palma’s franchise kick-off is the quaintly retro look of formerly cutting-edge technology (note the floppy discs and portentous references to — dun-dun-DUN! — “The Internet”). On the other hand, some things never look dated: Hunt’s wire-supported drop into a high-security CIA vault remains one of the most suspenseful (and frequently imitated) heist sequences in all of movie history. And there’s still something richly amusing about the shameless flirting between Tom Cruise’s boyish Hunt and Vanessa Redgrave’s bemused arms dealer.
'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' (2011)
THE PITCH: After Ethan Hunt is (wrongly) blamed for destroying a significant section of the Kremlin, the Impossible Missions Force is temporarily disbanded. On his own, he employs three comrades — techie Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), special op Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and “intelligence analyst” William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) — to stop a deranged Russian nuclear strategist (Michael Nyqvist) from triggering World War III because… because… well, because he wants to.
THE RUNDOWN: Making a smashingly successful debut as a live-action director, Brad Bird (“The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles”) propels the globe-hopping narrative at an entertainingly brisk clip, pausing only for such sensational set pieces as Ethan’s death-defying dangling outside an upper-floor of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (a.k.a. “The Tallest Structure in the World”) and a climactic confrontation on various levels of a Mumbai automated parking garage. And yet: The primary appeal of “M:I 4” is its willingness to sporadically demonstrate how the high-tech gadgetry sometimes doesn’t work — at one point, even the usually reliable mask-making thingamajig glitches — forcing Ethan and his teammates to improvise while ratcheting up the suspense. (This occasionally happened on the old TV show as well.) Only complaint: Franchise mainstay Ving Rhames appears only in a fleeting cameo as ace computer hacker Luther Stickell. (By the way: You know that Ethan/Julia marriage in in the third “M:I” movie? It is more or less removed from the equation here.)
'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation' (2015)
THE PITCH: Overcoming efforts by CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) to absorb the IMF into his agency, Ethan leads compatriots Benji Dunn, William Brandt and Luther Stickell in a mission to neutralize The Syndicate, a rogue outfit led by fanatical former British spy Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Another Brit operative — the formidable Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson)— may be friend or foe.
THE RUNDOWN: Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie keeps the franchise firing on all cylinders while effectively emphasizing, to a degree greater than in previous “M:I” films, IMF teamwork as much as Ethan’s solo heroics. The most memorable sequence is at once low-tech and highly suspenseful, an ingeniously sustained, cleverly Hitchcockian backstage skirmish during a performance at a Vienna opera house. (Bad guys wish to assassinate someone; Ethan doesn’t want that someone to be assassinated.) And it’s nice to see Ethan isn’t the only one who gets to kick ass during a final-reel face-off: Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust is a knockout as she causes grievous bodily harm to a villain who foolishly mistakes her for just another pretty face.
'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' (2018)
THE PITCH: Ethan once again deals with a hostile takeover attempt as new CIA boss Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) demands that her hand-picked operative, August Walker (Henry Cavill), accompany the IMF team to observe and report (and, maybe, eliminate) while they attempt to retrieve three plutonium cores seized by The Apostles, an offshoot of The Syndicate (see “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation”).
THE RUNDOWN: The sixth entry in the seemingly unstoppable franchise certainly can stand on its own as a rousing rush of breakneck excitement and sensational stunt work. (Credit writer-director Christopher McQuarrie with leaping over the bar he raised in “Rogue Nation.”) But for anyone who’s been following the adventures of Ethan Hunt since 1996, “Fallout” is all the more satisfying as a cinematic class reunion, with pointed allusions to images and incidents from previous “M:I” movies (note the reprise of Ethan’s rock-climbing from the opening of “M:I 2”) and welcome return appearances by long-time and recently introduced series regulars. As Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise has aged gracefully into something like gravitas while maintaining his boundless and infectious enthusiasm. And Ving Rhames’ Luther Stickell and Simon Pegg’s Benji Dunn do standout double-duty as backup crew and Greek chorus, playing it fast-and-frantically straight during the action sequences but also offering wink-wink observations about Ethan’s trademark penchant for unpremeditated risk-taking. All that’s missing is a paraphrase of Britney Spears: “Whoops! He did it again!”
'Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One' (2023)
THE PITCH: The hits just keep on coming as Ethan is tasked with retrieving two halves of a cruciform key that could enable anyone who possesses it to control — or neutralize — a rogue artificial-intelligence dingus known as “The Entity.” (Timely, huh?) A few old friends, and at least one old enemy, are along for the wild ride.
THE RUNDOWN: Yes, it’s true — the “Mission: Impossible” movies have come to constitute that rare (if not unprecedented) franchise in which each new episode seems bigger, bolder and better than its immediate predecessor. The chase sequences, both high-speed and footrace, are alternately exhilarating and heart-pounding (and sometimes both at once), plus the set pieces that have Tom Cruise eschewing CGI and defying death dial it up to 12, then a few notches higher. Along the way, Ethan Hunt has become a more intriguing, conscience-bothered hero — without depleting his cockiness. (At one point, he refrains from killing a female adversary because, well, maybe he’s just too damned tired of women dying on his account.) But a major part of the fun for longtime fans of the franchise is catching the wink-wink allusions to previous “M:I” adventures, including a malfunctioning mask-maker (a reprise from “Ghost Protocol”), pointed references to classic Hitchcock thrillers a la “M:I 2” (here, a hostile couple handcuffed as in “The 39 Steps”) and an exciting climax aboard a speeding train that is much, much more spectacular than the 1996 scene it faintly echoes. Speaking of the first “Mission: Impossible”: Not only do two characters from that film — one bad, one flexible — make return appearances here. Because the Entity can control just about all digital communications, characters must often resort to using the sort of dated technology that seemed state-of-the-art back in the 1996 flick. There’s even a brief scene in which people use — Are you ready for this? Are you sitting down? — typewriters. Remember those?
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The Correct Order To Watch The Mission: Impossible Franchise
There aren't many film franchises nowadays that are more well-known or beloved than "Mission: Impossible." The Tom Cruise-led film series, which is based on the 1966 TV show of the same name, is on the verge of releasing not only its seventh installment but also its eighth. That'd be seen as an undeniable achievement for any film franchise, but seems like a particularly special one when it comes to "Mission: Impossible," which released its first installment all the way back in 1996.
Over the years, directors like Brian De Palma, Brad Bird, and Christopher McQuarrie have all brought their own perspectives to the "Mission: Impossible" series. In addition to Cruise, who has led every "Mission: Impossible" movie to date, the franchise has also gradually built an impressive rotating cast of supporting players. However, while that means the "Mission: Impossible" franchise has the ability to assemble a new ensemble for each of its installments, the ever-changing nature of the series' cast can also make it difficult for new viewers to fully get their heads around the ongoing story and adventures of Cruise's Ethan Hunt.
With that in mind, here's the correct order in which viewers should watch the "Mission: Impossible" movies .
Mission: Impossible (1996)
It all began back in 1996. That's the year "Mission: Impossible," the Brian De Palma-directed, loose continuation of Bruce Geller's iconic TV series, was released in theaters. The beloved thriller also marks Tom Cruise's screen debut as Ethan Hunt, the Impossible Mission Force agent that he has gone on to play an additional five times to date.
While the "Mission: Impossible" film franchise has evolved quite a bit in the years since its 1996 debut installment was released, De Palma's big-screen thriller set the tone and laid the groundwork for everything that has come after it. Based on a script written by David Koepp and Robert Towne, the film follows Cruise's Ethan Hunt as he is forced to uncover the identity of the secret double agent working within the very organization he's dedicated his life to supporting.
With De Palma at the helm, "Mission: Impossible" makes a lasting impact as a pulse-pounding spy thriller that features more than its fair share of now-iconic set pieces. That includes a covert infiltration of CIA headquarters, which remains one of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise's most memorable action sequences. For that reason and more, this 1996 thriller remains a strong entry point into the "Mission: Impossible" franchise.
Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
Coming four years after the release of its predecessor, 2000's "Mission: Impossible 2" takes place after the events of 1996's "Mission: Impossible." Unlike the latter film, though, "Mission: Impossible 2" was not directed by Brian De Palma, but by acclaimed Hong Kong action filmmaker John Woo. The film, consequently, not only looks and feels different than the "Mission: Impossible" franchise's first installment, but it also moves at a far different rhythm and pace.
Starring "Westworld" alum Thandiwe Newton, the 2000 film follows Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt as he teams up with a professional thief (played by Newton) in order to locate and destroy a dangerous, genetically modified disease. The disease in question just so happens to be in the possession of a former Impossible Mission Force agent (played by Dougray Scott) that Newton's thief once dated.
The "Mission: Impossible" films that have followed this Woo-directed entry have referenced it a surprisingly small number of times, and it remains one of the franchise's lesser-beloved movies. However, it deserves to be seen not only for its handful of truly memorable action sequences but also so that the full breadth of Ethan Hunt's espionage adventures isn't ever lost on "Mission: Impossible" viewers.
Mission: Impossible 3 (2006)
This 2006 installment in the "Mission: Impossible" franchise is narratively one of the series' most important. Picking up years after the events of its 2000 predecessor, "Mission: Impossible III" finds Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt living a happy life in the suburbs with his fiancée, Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan). Ethan is pulled back into active spy duty, however, when he's asked to rescue a former protégé. That mission sets off a series of events that force Ethan into a head-to-head battle with Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a dangerous arms dealer.
As is usually the case with the "Mission: Impossible" franchise, this J.J. Abrams-directed blockbuster is a thrilling piece of spy-centric entertainment. Beyond that, the film introduces several characters and storylines, including Ethan's relationship with Julia, that have since been referenced and revisited multiple times in the "Mission: Impossible" movies that have followed it. In other words, of all of the franchise's early films, "Mission: Impossible III" is undoubtedly the one that's worth watching before moving on to any of the series' subsequent installments.
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011)
Following the release of "Mission: Impossible III," the "Mission: Impossible" franchise took a five-year break. The series made an impactful return, however, when "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol" was released in theaters in December 2011. Directed by "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille" filmmaker Brad Bird, "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol" picks up several years after "Mission: Impossible III" and finds Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt actively working again as a field agent for the Impossible Mission Force.
After Ethan fails to prevent a dangerous attack overseas, the film follows him and the members of his latest team as they are forced to go without their usual resources or governmental support on a mission to both save the world and rescue the IMF's oft-maligned reputation. Outside of its thrilling plot, "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol" is likely best known for its centerpiece action sequence, which follows Cruise's Ethan as he literally scales the outside of the world's tallest building , the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
The sequence in question, notably, marks the beginning of a new era for the "Mission: Impossible" franchise, one in which the series' installments are more often remembered for their jaw-dropping practical stunts than they are for their plots or characters. That fact alone makes it one of the more important entries in the ongoing "Mission: Impossible" franchise.
Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (2015)
Unlike "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol," which directly references the events of its predecessor, 2015's "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation" functions as one of its franchise's more standalone entries. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation" opens with an awe-inspiring sequence in which Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt is forced to hold onto the outside of a cargo plane as it takes off into the air. From there, the film ultimately follows him on yet another twisty, complicated spy adventure.
Outside of its memorable stunt sequences, "Rogue Nation" is perhaps most well-known for introducing not only Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who ranks as one of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise's most noteworthy villains, but also Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), the MI6 agent who quickly became one of the series' biggest, fan-favorite characters. Additionally, while "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation" bears very few major connections to the films that have come before it, the film's story does directly lead into the plot and events of 2018's "Mission: Impossible — Fallout."
That, in other words, makes this 2015 outing yet another "Mission: Impossible" film that must be watched before its sequel in order for any possible confusion to be avoided.
Mission: Impossible — Fallout (2018)
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, "Mission: Impossible — Fallout" picks up shortly after the events of "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation" and follows Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt as he is forced to break his most recent foe, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), out of his prison in order to track down three plutonium cores that have fallen into the wrong hands.
Along the way, Ethan teams up with August Walker (Henry Cavill), a formidable CIA assassin, and finds himself coming face-to-face again with figures from his past, like Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and his former fiancée, Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan). "Mission: Impossible — Fallout" also, notably, features some of its franchise's biggest action sequences to date, including a high-octane chase through the streets of Paris, a death-defying helicopter chase, and a practical high altitude—low opening (HALO) jump out of a cargo plane.
In addition to its impactful stunts and character reunions, "Fallout" also happens to be the most recent "Mission: Impossible" film to date, which means it's the latest chapter in the series' ongoing story. In other words, once first-time viewers watch this 2018 thriller, all they'll have left to do is go back and rewatch the "Mission: Impossible" franchise's past installments while they wait for its next entries to be released.
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William Alexander Brandt (born January 7, 1972) is the deuteragonist of the 2011 film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and a major character in the 2015 film Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation . Brandt was assigned by the IMF to protect Ethan Hunt and his wife Julia in Croatia. After his team failed to do this and Julia was allegedly killed, Brandt asked to be removed from field duty, due to not wanting to go through a life-or-death situation again. Brandt then became Chief Analyst to the Secretary of the IMF. He became a field agent again after a new mission with Ethan Hunt and his team.
- 1.1.1 Protection Detail
- 1.1.2 Preventing Nuclear War
- 1.1.3 Mission from Ethan
- 1.1.4 Confronting The Syndicate
- 2.1 Personality
- 3.1 Abilities
- 5.1 Appearances
Biography [ ]
Imf service [ ], protection detail [ ].
Brandt was assigned to guard Ethan and Julia Meade-Hunt against a 6-man Serbian hit squad in Croatia. He felt the job would be simple due to them knowing of the coming force, but felt he should warn Ethan and Julia nonetheless. However, he considered that orders are orders and kept quiet about the coming danger. One day, Ethan went for a run and Brandt followed, leaving two agents with Julia.
When Brandt returned, the two agents were unconscious and Julia was missing. Days later, Julia's body was reportedly found, causing Brandt to retire from his position as a Field Agent and become an Analyst.
Preventing Nuclear War [ ]
Brandt travels with the Secretary of the IMF to retrieve Ethan from Russia after his mission to infiltrate the Kremlin was aborted and the building bombed by a man code-named Cobalt. During their extraction, the Secretary assigns Ethan a mission to retrieve stolen nuclear launch codes from Kurt Hendricks , who Ethan realizes is Cobalt. Brandt is confused by the Secretary's reasoning but is motioned to keep quiet.
After Ethan accepts the mission, set to begin on an IMF train, the vehicle they were riding in is attacked by Russian agents and the driver and Secretary are killed. The vehicle plunges from a bridge into the water below. Ethan leads Brandt out of the submerged vehicle and the two escapes after Ethan lights up a flare and attaches it to the Secretary's body as a diversion. Brandt and Ethan then walk to the rendezvous point where they are told Jane Carter and Benji Dunn would be waiting.
After searching for and finally spotting the train, the two are forced to run for it as the train is already in motion. After a code is entered and Ethan uses the retinal scanner to confirm his identity as an IMF agent, the two boards the train. After regrouping with Benji and Jane, the group formulates a plan to stop Hendricks and his right-hand man Marius Wistrom , by intercepting an exchange between the terrorists and an assassin named Sabine Moreau at the Burj Khalifa .
When the mission goes awry, Brandt reveals his past as an agent to Benji and Jane. After learning that Hendricks requires a defunct Soviet military satellite in order to launch the missile, Brandt and the team head to India to stop the launch. Equipped with a special magnetic vest, Brandt enters the server room to deactivate the satellite. However, Hendricks ultimately succeeds in launching the missile. As the group head to the broadcasting station to acquire the launch-control device, Hunt pursues Hendricks whilst Brandt and the others attempt to bring the broadcasting station back online.
However, Wistrom turns the power off, leading Brandt to search for the generator. In an ensuing struggle with Wistrom, Brandt finds himself unable to overpower the terrorist and reach for the switch. Benji intervenes in the nick of time, shooting Wistrom and allowing Brandt to reactivate the generator, leading Hunt to prevent the missile from detonating.
Mission from Ethan [ ]
Eight weeks after stopping Hendricks' plan, Ethan asked the team of Benji, Jane and Brandt to take new missions. Benji and Jane quickly agreed, but Brandt attempted to leave without accepting. Ethan stopped him and asked him how he knew Julia was actually dead. He asked Brandt if he had seen the body and then revealed to him that he faked Julia's death to protect her. With closure and relief, Brandt accepted the next mission, leaving Ethan to watch his wife from afar.
Confronting The Syndicate [ ]
After the Secretary's death, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Alan Hunley , and Brandt go to the senate committee to discuss on the IMF and a whole, ending with the CIA and IMF merging. When Hunt is captured by operatives working for a British proposed project-turned powerful terrorist organization The Syndicate and later branded a traitor, Brandt warns him to stay undercover and avoid Hunley, but later goes to Hunt's oldest partner Luther Stickell to help him find Hunt and Dunn through a woman Ethan knows and trusts, which is revealed to be Ilsa Faust , a British undercover agent. With his help, the team, alongside Ilsa, successfully stop former MI6 agent Solomon Lane , including the arrest of Chief Atlee for his attempted cover-up of The Syndicate's creation and existence, and the IMF is reinstated once again, with Hunley becoming the new Secretary of the IMF.
Following his help in capturing Lane, Brandt would retire from the team.
Characteristics [ ]
Personality [ ].
William Brandt changed after Julia's "death" during his mission, he blamed himself and left the field to become an analyst. Having hid this from Hunt, he feels guilty for the incident, and has trouble meeting with the former again. During the events of Ghost Protocol , he shows himself to amazed at Ethan's luck and skills, notably when he used a flare to trick the Russian security forces into believing it was him, asking Hunt on how they would shoot at the flare, with Ethan replying he knew they were not thinking. Additionally, he was pessimistic and cynical on their mission, doubting that Ethan had enough time to get to the manual control room for controlling the security cameras and elevators. Brandt was a "by the book" agent, preferring to stick to the mission and his orders. When Jane had killed Moreau, he argued with her on following mission procedure. However, Brandt is shown to have a dry sense of humor, cracking jokes and sarcastic comments in and out of missions.
After the mission was done, he believed that Ethan wanted nothing to do with him, expressing this by rejecting the new mission from Ethan, however accepted this after learning that Julia's death was planned and she is alive. After this, he became happier and loyal to Hunt, especially in the time of Rogue Nation when telling the former to stay undercover when Alan Hunley was looking for him. Brandt is also good with standing up for his team and speaking to senates, notably shown in the committee when talking on the IMF's actions. After working with them, Brandt is more comfortable with his teammates, notably Benji and Jane, and especially Ethan Hunt.
Allies and Enemies [ ]
Allies: Ethan Hunt, Julia Meade-Hunt, Benji Dunn, Jane Carter, Luther Stickell, Ilsa Faust, Alan Hunley, IMF Secretary (Tom Wilkinson), Prime Minister
Enemies: Kurt Hendricks, Marius Wistrom, Sabine Moreau, Leonid Lisenker, Brij Nath, Solomon Lane, Atlee, Janik Vinter
Abilities [ ]
- Master Martial Artist : Brandt is an extremely skilled and formidable hand-to-hand combatant and martial artist, having trained extensively in various forms of martial arts as an IMF, making him one of the most powerful and best fighters on the planet. He takes down Moreau's henchman down with ease, and his skills appear to be greater than Ethan Hunt's as he is able to disarm him twice. He also stands a fight against Marius Wistrom, and the only reason he does not beat him there and then is because he is busy trying to disarm the bomb through the electricity panel simultaneously.
Gallery [ ]
Behind the Scenes [ ]
William Brandt was portrayed by American actor Jeremy Renner in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation . Renner was set to reprise the role in Mission: Impossible – Fallout but he was forced to drop out of the project due to his commitments to his role of Hawkeye in Avengers Endgame .
Appearances [ ]
- 1 Julia Meade-Hunt
- 2 Ilsa Faust
- 3 Ethan Hunt
Mission: Impossible II (2000)
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All Mission: Impossible Movies, Ranked by How Expensive They Were to Make
The Mission Impossible movies are a treat to watch, but are also expensive to make. Here's how they rank in terms of production budget.
Casting Tom Cruise in the lead, the Mission: Impossible franchise is arguably one of the best action-filled spy series to date. The (currently) eight-part franchise sees Ethan Hunt, the formidable spy of Mission Impossible Force (IMF), along with his trusted team getting involved in highly sensitive international missions to save the world from deadly threats and catastrophes. Naturally, as an outing putting Cruise in the center stage, the franchise has to have high-octane stunts, car chases, dogfights, and drama. And rightly so, these films are some of the most expensive to be produced in recent times.
Currently, there are six released Mission: Impossible movies, with Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) being the last entry. That said, this year will see the seventh iteration in the series , Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 , hitting the screens on July 14, while the eighth entry Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 2 , will make its way into the theaters next year. Till that happens, here is the list of every MI movie ranked by how expensive they were to make.
7 Mission: Impossible — $80 Million
Released in 1996, Mission: Impossible marked the beginning of the stories of the fabled American spy Ethan Hunt. As the first installment in the franchise, this movie was to decide whether Hunt’s story would be told in multiple parts or just as a standalone, so it made perfect sense that the studio decided to keep the expenses limited for the film. Indeed, Mission: Impossible had a meager budget of $80 million when compared with other movies. Despite lesser expenditure, the film did wonders at the box office and went on to gross $457.7 million. Honestly, if that’s not impressive, then what is?
Related: Mission Impossible: 6 Actors Almost Cast in the Franchise
6 Mission: Impossible II — $125 Million
The second entry in the franchise, Mission: Impossible II was, no doubt, an even better rendition of the fan-favorite action character, Ethan Hunt. The film brimmed with some of the most iconic stunts that were a treat to watch for any action-lover. From the infamous knife to the eye sequence to jumping from the cliff, everything in the movie felt like a visual effect. But it was indeed a very pragmatic stunt performed by Cruise.
That said, naturally, with such precise stunts that demanded higher professional guidance along with featuring expensive filming locations, the budget shot higher than the previous film. Undeniably, M:I II was made with $125 million, the first film in the series to enter the $100 million-club in terms of budget.
5 Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol — $145 Million
With every passing movie, Cruise has been elevating the standards and dangerousness of his stunts. Even more, the studio has been chequing the best possible cast in the industry for the films. And that is why, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ghost Protocol was billed at $145 million. But, in this case, the burning of the cash didn’t really go in vain, as the film became the big-budget entertainment movie that soared as the second-highest box office grosser in the franchise, amassing approximately $694 million. Truly, those are some impressive numbers.
4 Mission: Impossible Ⅲ — $150 Million
The third iteration was sadly the least revenue-generating movie in the M: I franchise. It grossed close to $400 million. Though, without a doubt, the collection of the film was way north of the breakeven point. Paramount Pictures spent $150 million on the filming of Mission: Impossible Ⅲ , and given the box-office collections and critical acclaim the movie received, the expense now seems quite worth it.
Related: Mission: Impossible: Best Villains in the Franchise, Ranked
3 Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation — $150 Million
Rogue Nation , too, was billed at $150 million. But unlike M:I Ⅲ , the fifth iteration was a commercial hit. It grossed almost $700 million, which is again an impressive sum. The film cast some of the leading names in the industry like Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin, and Rebecca Ferguson. Also, as a staple Tom Cruise film, Rogue Nation boasted some of the impressive stunts, like the time when Ethan hung midair from a plane and when he engaged in an action-packed motorcycle chase.
2 Mission: Impossible - Fallout — $178 Million
Starring Henry Cavill in the prime antagonist role alongside Cruise, Fallout is, so far, the most commercially successful film in the franchise. The film, undeniably, collected a whopping sum of $790 million. Of course, Fallout was also an expensive Paramount production. The film was billed at $178 million, which, frankly, is quite pricey for any action film of the generation. Nonetheless, it was still an economical bet for the production house when compared with what was spent on Dead Reckoning Part 1 .
1 Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1 — $290 Million
Dead Reckoning Part 1 , which is scheduled to hit theaters in July, will be the most recent and most expensive addition in the Mission: Impossible saga. The film is already garnering buzz worldwide for its over-the-top stunt delivery by Cruise and his team and, of course, the extravagant cinematography. In fact, the upcoming iteration will also see some new cast members like Pom Klementieff and Hayley Atwell joining forces with Cruise. Naturally, with so much to offer to the audience, Dead Reckoning Part 1 's budget skyrocketed to a whopping $290 million, making it one of the most expensive films to be ever made in cinematic history.
What happened to mission: impossible 4’s jane will paula patton return.
IMF agent Jane Carter hasn't returned after her debut in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Here's what is known about Paula Patton's future.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol introduced Jane Carter, but the franchise has not utilized Paula Patton's character since then. The 2011 film introduced a few new characters as part of Ethan Hunt's (Tom Cruise) latest team of IMF agents. Jeremy Renner's William Brandt was the biggest addition thanks to plans for him to become the new Mission: Impossible franchise lead, but Paula Patton's Jane Carter also joined the team. She proved to be a valuable member of the operation and had extra motivation to take down the movie's villain after they killed her lover.
Despite the positive response to Jane Carter's role in Mission: Impossible 4 , she did not return in the sequel. It made Jane another example of Mission: Impossible 's female lead problem , where the movies failed to bring them back before Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) broke the trend. Since it has been over a decade since Jane Carter was last seen, questions linger about what became of Paula Patton's character. Just because Jane has not returned since Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol does not mean the franchise totally forgot about her, as there have been discussions about her returning.
Related: Ilsa Faust’s Eyepatch Teases How Dangerous Mission: Impossible 7 Is
Why Paula Patton Didn’t Return For Mission: Impossible 5
Paula Patton did not return as Jane in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation , but she was meant to. Director Christopher McQuarrie confirmed in the past that there were ideas in place for Jane to come back. Paula Patton was approached to return in Mission: Impossible 5 , along with Maggie Q as Zhen Lei , but the scheduling did not work. It is unclear what project kept the actress too busy to make Jane's Mission: Impossible return possible.
Although it is known that Paula Patton could have returned as Jane in Mission: Impossible 5 , the nature of her role remains a mystery. Neither she nor McQuarrie has discussed how Jane would have factored into the story. The most likely outcome could have been a relatively small appearance for Paula Patton. Her character could have been part of Ethan's mission at the beginning of Rogue Nation or have been drawn into the IMF investigation storyline with Jeremy Renner's Brandt .
Will Paula Patton Return As Jane In Mission: Impossible 7 or 8?
There is no confirmation currently that Paula Patton's Mission: Impossible return is happening soon, so Jane's potential role in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One and Part Two is unclear. It would seem unlikely at this stage considering how open McQuarrie has been about revealing which cast members are involved. The director has gone as far as to tease surprise Mission: Impossible - Fallout cast members returning in Mission: Impossible 8 . However, no such teases have come for Jane Carter's return after Mission: Impossible 4 .
It would not be a complete shock if Paula Patton does return in either Mission: Impossible 7 or Mission: Impossible 8 . McQuarrie has confirmed his past interest in bringing the character back, and the next two movies are expected to wrap up Ethan Hunt's storyline. With Henry Czerny's Kittridge from the first Mission: Impossible coming back for both sequels, seeing Paula Patton's Jane once more could be part of the plan to connect the two-part finale to every previous film. But, the movies also have a huge cast already, so Jane's return after Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol could be one idea too many.
More: Mission: Impossible 8 Really Only Has 3 Options To End Ethan Hunt's Story
The Correct Order In Which To Watch The Mission: Impossible Franchise
When the first "Mission: Impossible" film hit theaters in 1996, success seemed like a mission impossible. Directed by Brian De Palma and starring Tom Cruise , the initial movie brought the beloved 1960s TV series to the big screen with a fresh and action-packed approach. "Mission: Impossible" received positive reviews from critics and audiences alike, earning over $457 million worldwide and becoming one of the year's biggest hits. Mission accomplished.
Even more remarkably, this initial installment launched a long-running series of films: "Mission: Impossible II" (2000), "Mission: Impossible III" (2006), "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol" (2011), "Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation" (2015), "Mission: Impossible – Fallout" (2018), and " Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One ." Each film offered a unique take on the franchise's formula, though they primarily served as showcases for Cruise's extraordinary talent for thrilling stunts.
With so many chapters to explore, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the intricate web of spies and double-crossers spun by Cruise's iconic character, Ethan Hunt, and his IMF team. But fear not, for we are here to guide you through this perilous world and help you navigate the "Mission: Impossible" franchise with precision. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read the following article before it self-destructs. Good luck!
Mission: Impossible (1966-73)
Fun fact: " Mission: Impossible " didn't always revolve solely around Tom Cruise's stunt work. While older folks are acquainted with the series' origins, younger audiences might be unaware that the spy saga originated on the small screen in the late 1960s. The popular TV show, which aired from 1966 to 1973, introduced iconic elements such as Lalo Schifrin's incredible theme and those mind-boggling masks. Starring Barbara Bain, Greg Morris, Peter Graves, Martin Landau, and even Leonard Nimoy for a time, the show followed the IMF's dangerous missions mounted under the leadership of Jim Phelps. These missions required precise execution and a fair share of luck to achieve positive outcomes.
That's why there was significant discontent among fans after the release of the original "Mission: Impossible" film in 1996, which abruptly killed off Mr. Phelps (portrayed by Jon Voight) and depicted him as a villain. According to Landau, his co-star Graves was unhappy with how his character was portrayed, and many cast members refused to appear as a result. Landau revealed to MTV , "When they were working on an early version of the first one — not the script they ultimately used — they wanted the entire team to be destroyed, done away with one at a time, and I was against that. It was basically an action/adventure movie and not 'Mission.'"
Nevertheless, fans of the film series would benefit from investing some time in the classic TV show to appreciate its contributions.
Mission: Impossible (1988-90)
After its cancellation in 1973, "Mission: Impossible" faded into obscurity until ABC decided to revive the series in the late 1980s. Peter Graves reprised his role as Jim Phelps, now overseeing a new team of agents portrayed by Thaao Penghlis, Tony Hamilton, Phil Morris (the son of Greg Morris), Terry Markwell and Jane Badler.
While this revamped version of "Mission: Impossible" offered entertaining upgrades from the 1960s series, it mostly recycled elements and episodes from its predecessor, such as "The System," "The Killer," and "The Legacy," with a few new tweaks added for good measure. The show introduced a range of unique gadgets and featured plenty of twists and turns. While it's not necessary viewing material, it's worth watching as a precursor to the later big-screen adaptations. For those who want to delve into the franchise, starting with the original series and then transitioning to the 1996 film "Mission: Impossible" would be the recommended path. However, if one chooses to watch the 1988 iteration, this would be the appropriate place to do so — after the original show and before the first movie.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Several years after the rebooted TV series failed to gain traction, Tom Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner took charge and collaborated with renowned director Brian De Palma to develop a feature-length film. The result was a twisted, complex, and intelligent spy thriller featuring captivating performances from Cruise and his co-stars Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, Ving Rhames, and Vanessa Redgrave, complemented by an incredible musical score from composer Danny Elfman.
In " Mission: Impossible ," we are introduced to Ethan Hunt (Cruise) as he embarks on a mission to intercept a disk containing the CIA NOC list. When the operation goes awry, leaving Ethan and Claire (Béart) as the only survivors and accused of being double agents, they must go rogue to clear their names and apprehend those responsible for framing them.
This film sets a different tone compared to later entries in the series, with De Palma opting for a paranoid thriller instead of emphasizing action. While the middle section may drag a bit, the climactic sequence aboard a speeding train concludes the film on a strong note. Memorable set pieces such as the renowned CIA break-in, where Cruise skillfully hangs over a pressurized floor in complete silence for an intense 10 minutes, showcase both suspense and enjoyment. Notably, "Mission: Impossible" introduces Luther (Rhames), a recurring character in subsequent films, and Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny), who reappears in "Dead Reckoning."
Mission: Impossible II (2000)
" Mission: Impossible II " is often regarded as the weakest installment in the "Mission: Impossible" franchise. It deviates from the typical "Mission: Impossible" feel and fails to provide significant character development for our main protagonist, Ethan Hunt. Instead, it functions more like James Bond, and lacks the cleverness of its counterparts.
In this film, Ethan's mission involves stopping a madman named Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) from using a deadly virus for financial gain. To achieve his goal, Ethan recruits and falls in love with Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandiwe Newton), Sean's former lover, creating a complicated love triangle that adds some much-needed tension to the story. While Ethan assembles a team consisting of Luther and a helicopter pilot named Billy Baird, he predominantly handles the mission on his own. The film heavily revolves around Tom Cruise, with the actor stealing the spotlight and leaving little for his co-stars to do apart from admiring his character's greatness.
Directed by action maestro John Woo, "MI:2" features his signature style, which doesn't align well with the established "Mission: Impossible" formula. The film, as noted, embraces a more James Bond-like approach, with stunning car chases, stylized gun battles, extravagant explosions, and doves ... lots of doves (a typical Woo flourish). While the spectacle is undeniably entertaining, the film doesn't contribute significantly to the overall narrative of the franchise. As such, viewers could easily skip "Mission: Impossible II" and proceed directly to "Mission: Impossible III" without feeling like they've missed crucial plot or character developments.
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
After a significant gap, Tom Cruise teamed up with J.J. Abrams for " Mission: Impossible III ," delivering a remarkable chapter that captured the essence of the original TV show. Here, Ethan Hunt retains his role as the primary leader and point man, but he also enlists the support of a colorful IMF crew consisting of Luther, Zhen Li (Maggie Q), and Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). Notably, the introduction of Benji, played by Simon Pegg, leaves a lasting impact and secures his place in later sequels. Together, this diverse team must work together to defeat Owen Davian, portrayed brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who emerges as — and remains — one of the franchise's most memorable villains. Their mission is to prevent Davian from acquiring a mysterious device known as the Rabbit's Foot.
"Mission: Impossible III" offers well-executed action sequences, cleverly crafted set pieces, and the expected array of disguises, twists, and double-crosses. What sets this film apart is the emotional core that Abrams adds by emphasizing Ethan's relationship with his love interest, Julia, played by Michelle Monaghan. The film creates a more engaging narrative than any seen in the first two entries by elevating the personal stakes beyond the usual world-threatening scenarios. While Cruise doesn't perform any acts of derring-do here, he and Abrams work hard to make Ethan a character worth rooting for.
Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (2011)
Despite giving the franchise a fresh coat of paint, "Mission: Impossible III" didn't exactly ignite the box office, grossing just under $400 million worldwide — the least amount of money earned by any chapter in the series. No matter, five years later, Cruise returned with a fresh set of faces for Brad Bird's " Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol " and took the spy saga to dazzling new heights. Literally. This is the one where Cruise scales the Burj Khalifa and delivers the first of many insane stunts that now define the franchise. Oh sure, we marveled at the actor's rock-climbing and motorcycle abilities in "Mission: Impossible II," but seeing Cruise scale the 160-plus story building remains a thrilling spectacle to behold more than a decade later.
As for the rest of the film, "Ghost Protocol" lacks the energy of its predecessor or the psychological intrigue of Brian De Palma's original, but there's still plenty to admire here. Bird ensures supporting players like Benji, Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Carter (Paula Patton) meaningfully contribute in the exercise, allowing them to connect with Ethan personally. On a negative note, the villains, played by Michael Nyqvist, Samuli Edelmann, and Léa Seydoux, fail to leave much of an impression, and the plot feels rather rudimentary.
No matter, "Ghost Protocol" introduces elements that figure prominently later on, making it a pivotal entry for fans of the franchise.
Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation (2015)
" Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation " remains my favorite franchise entry thus far. Brimming with hard-hitting fight sequences, a smartly executed plot, incredible stunts, and Joe Kraemer's pulse-pounding score, the fifth installment in the venerable spy series rates as an absolute blast from start to finish. Here, everything comes together and forms a masterful piece of popcorn entertainment that gets better with each viewing.
Returning cast members Cruise, Pegg, Renner, and Rhames provide important continuity, but Rebecca Ferguson serves as the film's secret weapon. She swoops in and all but steals the show as the resourceful and cunning Ilsa Faust. The actress shines alongside Cruise and creates a nuanced character that has understandably become an audience favorite. Ilsa works for Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), a former MI6 agent man hellbent on assembling a terrorist organization known as The Syndicate. Naturally, Ethan must stop Lane before he attains the resources necessary to complete his devious plan, all the while evading CIA director Alan Hunley (a wonderful Alec Baldwin), and disregarding his obvious attraction to Ilsa.
Under the direction of Christopher McQuarrie, "Rogue Nation" represents the pinnacle of the "Mission: Impossible" series. The film opens with a breathtaking prologue featuring Cruise hanging from the side of an A400M cargo plane, setting the stage for the thrilling action that follows. From a high-speed motorcycle chase to a tension-filled finale, this sequel delivers on all fronts, leaving audiences thoroughly satisfied. With key characters like Ilsa, Luther, Benji, Lane, and Hunley carrying over to the next installment, this is one mission you definitely must accept.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
How do you top a sensational movie like "Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation?" Why, you produce " Mission: Impossible – Fallout ," of course, better known as the one where Tom Cruise broke his foot whilst jumping from a roof. This is also the chapter where the daredevil actor leaps onto a helicopter and risks his life all for our entertainment.
While "Fallout" may not surpass "Rogue Nation" in terms of overall quality due to some plot contrivances and the handling of Henry Cavill's character, August Walker, no one can deny the jaw-dropping action on display. Director Christopher McQuarrie and Cruise continue to push the boundaries of stuntwork, solidifying their place in cinematic history. The film's third act alone is a masterclass in sweat-inducing tension and exhilaration.
Cruise remains a magnetic presence, and Rebecca Ferguson shines as Ilsa Faust, even with a slightly reduced role. Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames bring heart and soul to their returning characters, Alec Baldwin impresses as the new IMF director, Sean Harris exudes villainy as Solomon Lane, and Vanessa Kirby adds intrigue as a mysterious handler. "Fallout" can be viewed as a direct sequel to "Rogue Nation," with plot points and character arcs that seamlessly flow into "Dead Reckoning," and aside from a few minor nitpicks, it remains one of the best action movies of the last decade.
Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One
One fascinating aspect of each "Mission: Impossible" film is its ability to function as a self-contained story while leaving room for future installments. In the event of any film's failure, Tom Cruise could easily step away, content with the previous entry serving as a fitting conclusion to Ethan Hunt's journey. "Mission: Impossible III" sees Ethan heading into the sunset with Julia, seemingly retiring from his spy life. "Ghost Protocol" concludes with Ethan disappearing into the darkness, choosing to continue his IMF career alone. The final moments of "Fallout" allow Ethan to bid farewell to Julia and embrace his connection with Ilsa. While these endings are not definitive closures, they provide enough resolution for audiences to move forward.
However, with "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One," the franchise presents its first two-part story, with the second half set to release in Summer 2024. Once again, this ambitious new chapter, centered around concerns about artificial intelligence, provides its own self-contained adventure. Yet, that hasn't stopped Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise from teasing plans for a ninth installment . How long can they continue this journey? It doesn't matter, as long as the quality remains consistently high.
At some point, it would be enjoyable to witness the return of every surviving hero and villain from the franchise for a grand finale akin to "Avengers: Endgame." Who would be crazy enough to turn down that mission?
The Mission: Impossible Movie That Stands Alone Within Its Own Franchise
This installment is a messy yet fascinating anomaly in the Mission: Impossible saga.
The Big Picture
- Mission: Impossible III took a more grounded approach compared to its predecessors, with fewer gadgets and a darker tone.
- The film's camerawork mimicked the shaky-cam style popularized by The Bourne Supremacy , abandoning traditional filming techniques.
- The movie incorporated explicit political commentary, with the villain Musgrave representing criticism of the American government during the George W. Bush era.
It took a minute for the Mission: Impossible franchise to really kick off as a pop-culture juggernaut. While the original 1996 movie was a massive hit, the first sequel in 2000 was divisive enough (though also enormously lucrative) to provide questions about what the long-term future of the series would be. The fourth film, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in 2011, revived both the franchise and the box office clout of Tom Cruise , in the process ensuring that the saga could continue on for the indefinite future. Since then, new Mission: Impossible titles have arrived at a steadier pace and with a lot more anticipation than the uncertainty that greeted the release of the sort of stuck-in-the-middle Mission: Impossible III . The recent showing from Ethan Hunt with Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One also had a disappointing box office ( the lowest since the third film ).
Divorced by nearly two decades since its initial release, Mission: Impossible III now stands out as a time capsule of 2006 pop culture , and not just because of the kind of chunky cell phones these characters wield. Mission: Impossible III capitulated to a lot of filmmaking and tonal norms dominating the blockbuster movie scene in this era. These qualities have made it stand out starkly compared to its predecessors and successors, for good and for ill.
Mission: Impossible III
IMF agent Ethan Hunt comes into conflict with a dangerous and sadistic arms dealer who threatens his life and his fiancée in response.
How Is 'Mission: Impossible III' Different?
Above all else, Mission: Impossible III is notable in this franchise for being the most grounded entry in the series by far . Nifty gadgets are kept to a minimum, face masks are only occasionally peeled off, and a grim color palette permeates the proceedings. Mission: Impossible III came less than a year off Batman Begins , which redefined what Batman could look like on the big screen. Studios were already following that success by turning everything in sight into grim and gritty spectacles. That trend undoubtedly influenced the direction of Mission: Impossible III , as did criticisms of Mission: Impossible II for including too many stylized touches ( like non-stop instances of characters ripping off face-concealing masks ).
Going this route also informed a notable visual detail of Mission: Impossible III — its camerawork. Director Brian de Palma informed the original Mission: Impossible with crisp wide shots that always made it clear who was fighting who and why. There was an intricacy to the blocking, a subtle way to remind viewers to keep their eyes peeled for anything and everything in the frame. By contrast, Mission: Impossible III was all about mimicking Paul Greengrass’ shaky-cam style of filming from The Bourne Supremacy . An at-the-time new way to approach American action movie sequences, this style proved dominant in punching-heavy motion pictures starting in the mid-2000s. Unsurprisingly, tripods are abandoned for many of the most intense Mission: Impossible III set pieces, which are filmed with volatile camera movements.
The script for Mission: Impossible III reinforces this more realistic approach while also adhering to the creative sensibilities of its writers and director. When it comes to filmmaker J.J. Abrams , Mission: Impossible III established that this debut feature-length director would be carrying over his love for mystery box narratives from television to the world of theatrical entertainment. The lack of clarity over the central MacGuffin, The Rabbit’s Foot, is carried all the way to the final scene of the feature, where a reveal is teased only to be taken away from the audience at the last minute.
Meanwhile, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman worked with Abrams here before further collaborating with the director on projects like the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Orci's love for government conspiracies, which appears to intersect with his 9/11 truther beliefs , is very much apparent in the big secret villain reveal of Mission: Impossible III . Much like how Star Trek Into Darkness and the Transformers movies would feature elaborate government cover-ups driving much of the action, so too did Mission: Impossible III thrive on the idea of a powerful political figure pulling the strings of a blockbuster narrative . These traits aren’t super exclusive to the Mission: Impossible franchise, but they are emblematic of the people who brought this installment to life.
The Uniquely Political Side of 'Mission: Impossible III'
That big villain reveal centers on John Musgrave ( Billy Crudup ), an IMF Assistant Director who initially poses as a close ally to Ethan Hunt before revealing his true colors as a collaborator with arms dealer Owen Davian ( Philip Seymour Hoffman ) . While Hunt is tied up in a chair, Musgrave calmly explains that he's had an elaborate plan to betray the IMF and destroy the terrorists Davian is currently in the employment of. With this plan, Musgrave believes that the U.S. can "do what it does best" in firing away at potential threats and picking up the subsequent rubble.
This sequence brings something new to the Mission: Impossible franchise: explicit political commentary . One can extrapolate endless political interpretations of the individual installments of this saga, but these films as texts aren’t necessarily looking to afford commentary on the wider world they inhabit. Just look at the villains inhabiting the trio of Mission: Impossible titles following Mission: Impossible III . They’re all adversaries who are varying degrees of entertaining, but they’re folks obsessed with nuclear warheads and global chaos in a way that feels divorced from reality. They’re not necessarily built from the ground up to evoke the fascists, government leaders, and bigots causing so much turmoil on the geopolitical scene in the 2010s.
This Early Mission: Impossible Heist Is Still the Franchise’s Best
By contrast, Musgrave is clearly meant to be a commentary on the American government circa 2006 under the leadership of George W. Bush. Returning to Orci’s off-screen obsessions, the idea of a key American government official allowing weapons to get sold to terrorists plays into a 9/11 truth conspiracy regarding the U.S. government “allowing” the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to happen. Meanwhile, Musgrave’s comments about attacking countries before their citizens commit crimes evoke the initial justification for the Iraq War concerning potential Weapons of Mass Destruction. As part of Mission: Impossible III’s adherence to a more “realistic” aesthetic, one of its central villains is also more grounded in political reality .
Trying to engage in real-world politics isn’t something Mission: Impossible III proves especially good at. Musgrave ends up being superfluous to the plot (he doesn’t even get dispatched in an especially memorable manner) while the mystery-heavy narrative instincts of Abrams keep the politics of the rest of the film unnecessarily murky. Musgrave functioning as an allegory for the Bush-era of American government mostly just feels like a strange detour . However, it does further reflect the ways Mission: Impossible III tries to do some new things within this franchise and establish its own identity.
'Mission: Impossible III' Is Undeniably Its Own Creature
In the middle of Mission: Impossible III , an incarcerated Davian sees his transportation vehicle attacked by a group of mercenaries sent to rescue him. Hunt, who is just behind this prison transport vehicle in another car, engages in a high-speed chase on a crumbling bridge to stop this rescue operation. During this sequence, Hunt’s stunts are noticeably smaller-scale than other big Mission: Impossible set pieces (jumping over a chasm in a bridge feels like small potatoes compared to the helicopter chase in Mission: Impossible — Fallout ) and the camera lingers on civilians caught in the middle of this mayhem. One woman screams in pain about how much she’s bleeding while innocent people get mowed by gunfire.
It’s not a scene that screams “summer blockbuster excitement,” but it does function as a microcosm of the darker tone Mission: Impossible III is aiming for . In the context of the larger franchise, it’s easy to admire those distinctive creative impulses, especially since they allow Hoffman to inhabit a baddie who wields a tangible sense of menace. The Mission: Impossible saga is a unique long-running blockbuster franchise in just how many different filmmakers and writers have worked on individual titles . The fact that Mission: Impossible III , for good and for ill, can stand so starkly apart from everything that came before and after it speaks to the excitingly nebulous nature of Tom Cruise’s most enduring saga. With Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part Two in the distance , looking back at the earlier Mission: Impossible films shows us the growth that we've seen Ethan take over the years and one of the biggest shifts happened during the third film in the franchise.
Mission: Impossible III is available to stream on Netflix and Paramount+ in the U.S.
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