All Mission: Impossible Movies Ranked (2023)

The Mission: Impossible films are incredible action movies and one of cinema’s greatest franchises. With the release of Dead Reckoning Part One, here’s my ranking from worst to best.

7. Mission: Impossible II

Mission: Impossible II

“Mission: Impossible II” is the only dud of this otherwise consistent franchise, mainly because it feels so out of place. Ethan Hunt feels and acts completely different from all the other films, as he’s more of a James Bond womanizer type here. Hunt is never supposed to be the suave romantic action hero; he’s an extremely dedicated and focused operative with a heart of gold. This film is mainly just a lame romance flick starring Tom Cruise and Thandiwe Newton (who share as much chemistry as oil and water). The direction by John Woo, while confident, is utterly distracting and often annoying, especially with those dreaded doves. MI2 is no abomination, but it’s persistently dull and misguided.

6. Mission: Impossible III

Mission: Impossible III Phillip Seymour Hoffman

As everyone familiar with this franchise knows, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Owen Davian is the best Mission: Impossible villain. Hoffman’s ice cold, almost dead line delivery is spine-chilling. There’s nothing over-the-top about his mannerisms; Hoffman plays the character so matter-of-fact that he completely transforms into this frightening character. Aside from that phenomenal performance (and the fiery opening scene), the rest of the film is just average. The story is entirely forgettable and uninspired. Whenever Hoffman is off-screen it’s challenging to stay invested. I also think that J.J. Abrams is the weakest director of the franchise. He uses that repugnant shaky cam/quick cut editing technique to shoot not just action, but pretty much every scene. Sometime it gets to the point where I can’t even see an actor’s face because Abrams is too busy slapping the camera (which is an actual technique he uses — watch the “Star Trek” (2009) behind-the-scenes). Overall, this is still a good film that far surpasses MI2, but it’s unremarkable nonetheless.

5. Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible 1996

The fact that this is only in fifth place shows how extraordinary this franchise is. What a thrill-ride. Out of all the movies, this has the least action but remains one of the most suspenseful due to Brian De Palma’s meticulous direction. Ethan Hunt never fires a gun in this film but his exploits are massively entertaining nonetheless. The iconic CIA wire heist is a masterclass in building tension, as is the shocking opening mission. Cruise is incredibly likable out of the gate as Ethan Hunt, with fire pulsing through his veins as he sprints through the film. What holds this one back is its jumbled mess of a plot that doesn’t quite tie together at the end.

4. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

MI5 is a terrific spy thriller. The clear standout of the film is Rebecca Ferguson as femme fatale Isla Faust, the most compelling side character of the whole franchise. The screenplay effectively makes her actions and motivations unpredictable, enabling Ferguson to craft this dangerously seductive rogue. It’s clear why this was Ferguson’s breakout role. MI5 also has the most gorgeous cinematography of the entire franchise, as well as two of its most thrilling stunts: the airplane sequence and the underwater heist. It’s impossible not to sweat watching some of the challenges Cruise takes on. However, this film suffers from an incredibly forgettable plot and from being a little too long. If ten minutes were cut, this would move a lot quicker and be far more digestible.

3. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

This is easily one of the most rewatchable entries in the franchise. Director Brad Bird instills an incredible energy throughout the film, especially during the first two acts. This thing just moves. We go from a prison break to infiltrating the Kremlin to running from the exploding Kremlin to what is, for my money, still Cruise’s finest stunt: the Burj Khalifa climb. It doesn’t get more nail-biting than watching Ethan Hunt clumsily scale the world’s tallest building with faulty suction gloves. The film also benefits from the incredible team dynamic, which might be the best out of all these movies. Each team member has their own complexities and unique traits that make them work so well together. A common complaint is that this film loses steam after the Dubai sequence, and I don’t necessarily agree. It still has momentum for another twenty minutes. The final climax is when MI4 goes downhill — really downhill. It’s embarrassing how this film ends: Ethan Hunt struggles to defeat an out of shape 55-year-old man in a parking lot, who then kills himself for no good reason. That said, the rest of the film is tremendously memorable and some of the most exciting Mission: Impossible we’ve ever gotten, so I had to put it high on the list.

2. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

Somehow Tom Cruise keeps finding ways to top himself. MI7 has surprising heart and tragedy due to its exploration of Ethan’s relationships and how it all ties into Grace’s origin. I loved learning the process of becoming an IMF agent, though it’s odd we only discover this in the seventh movie. Then there’s the incredible action sequences we’ve come to expect, especially the chaotic car chase and the exceptional train escape. At 163 minutes the film somehow moves at a brisk pace without feeling too bloated. This is also the best edited movie in the franchise. Putting the performances, technical achievements, and emotional story together, MI7 is another fantastic Mission: Impossible flick.

1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

I say this without hyperbole: “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is one of the greatest action movies ever made, maybe even the greatest. It’s the most tension-filled, pulse-pounding flick I’ve ever seen. That ticking clock ending sequence, particularly the helicopter chase, is terrifying in the best, most heart-racing way possible. Then there’s the vicious bathroom brawl, the riveting motorcycle chase, the breathtaking halo jump, and tons more standout action sequences. Every single one is iconic and brilliant in its own right. Henry Cavill oozes badassery with his million-dollar mustache and reloading fists. This film is also the only one which really makes Ethan Hunt feel like an actual aging human, as he stumbles and struggles a lot more than he used to in earlier films. Everything about MI6 is utter perfection and it’s one of the most consistently compelling movies I’ve ever seen. This is Tom Cruise’s masterpiece.

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