With the five-year gap between Fallout, the franchise’s sixth entry, and this month’s seventh entry, Dead Reckoning Part One, many fans have had plenty of time to revisit the entire trilogy, which at this point has spawned almost three decades. Can you believe that? A child born when the first Mission: Impossible came out in 1996 is already a fully-fledged adult.
And that adult will surely agree that few franchises in that time have been as consistent as Mission: Impossible. Star Tom Cruise and a growing cast of supporting characters and filmmakers have stepped up the game seemingly every single time, resulting in a franchise that has had a great overall arc, but has also produced films that work individually, too.
So where does each film stand? What follows is our ranking of the Mission: Impossible movies, up to and including Dead Reckoning Part One, which opens July 12.
7. Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
Here’s the thing with Mission: Impossible 2. It’s not bad. Not by a long shot. It’s directed by John Woo, for crying out loud. The issue is it was the first sequel, so the franchise wasn’t quite sure what it wanted to be yet. As a result, the movie has big Halloween III vibes — like maybe at this point, each entry was going to feel wholly different. Because this feel very different. Much more gunplay than the other entries. So, it’s entertaining, but definitely the least-recommended of the series.
6. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
And the controversy begins! OK, Rogue Nation was Christopher McQuarrie’s first Mission: Impossible movie and it’s awesome. Legitimately awesome. But so are the other five movies above it on this list. The reason I put Rogue Nation here is because when you watch it — especially in context of the films that came before and after it — it just feels a tad smaller. Like McQuarrie and Cruise were just getting to know each other and didn’t want to try anything too wild. And so we’re left with a great movie that feels just slightly less epic than the others.
5. Mission: Impossible III (2006)
More controversy! If you talk to most people, they’d probably agree Mission 2 is the “worst” followed closely by three. But I disagree. Obviously. The main reason is that Ethan Hunt is given an actual backstory here, complete with love interest played by Michelle Monaghan, which adds a whole other layer of emotions. Then, you have Philip Seymour Hoffman playing the villain and J.J. Abrams with suitably dynamic filmmaking that set the tone for the remainder of the franchise. Mission 3? Very good.
4. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)
The latest Mission comes in right at the middle of the list. It’s excellent, but not quite as good as a few of the other entires. (Plus, if it was one full movie and not half a movie, it probably would have been higher.) Read the full review here.
3. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
J.J. Abrams walked so Brad Bird could fly. After Mission 3 sort of redefined the Mission franchise, Bird set the tone of what it would become and continue to be. Ghost Protocol isn’t just a hugely exciting, massive action movie, it also established Cruise as a man who was willing to do his own death-defying stunts, which added a whole other level of scope to the franchise. Plus, a supporting cast that includes Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and a larger role for Simon Pegg brings things up another notch.
2. Mission: Impossible (1996)
Because it’s almost 30 years old, it’s easy to forget that Mission: Impossible wouldn’t be where it was today if the first film wasn’t excellent. And Brian De Palma’s film is all that and more. The story is incredible, the stunts are jaw-dropping, and it feels as complete and whole as the franchise has since. It’s truly the ultimate Mission: Impossible movie. If only it could have done all that on a larger scale…
1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
In what other franchise can you even consider the sixth film to be the best? Talk about wild. But, yes, in our mind Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the best of the bunch. It’s got everything you love about all the other movies — the death-defying stunts, the crazy stakes, the twisty story, an awesome supporting cast — but then it turns everything up to 11. The movie escalates in incredible ways throughout while also having, arguably, the most formiddable villain of the bunch, played by Henry Cavill. This was Cruise and McQuarrie swinging for the fences and hitting a grand slam.