Mission: Impossible (Ranked & Reviewed)

Eighty6Prime (Nicholas)
5 min readFeb 6, 2020

Transcribed directly from an audio recording

I’ve mentioned many times before how much I love Tom Cruise. What I love most about Tom Cruise is his unwavering dedication to entertaining the audience by whichever means. The Mission: Impossible film franchise is an excellent example of this dedication. This franchise is truly his baby given that he has been responsible for starring and producing each film in the franchise. When the original film came out in 1996, it catapulted Tom Cruise into action hero stardom. The initial intention with this film franchise was to have a new director and a new vision in each subsequent film. Essentially, each new sequel was meant to feel completely different from the last. The original four films in the franchise met this mandate well and each one of them feels completely different from their predecessor. Each film had a new visionary director at the helm. For the fifth and sixth entries in the franchise, Tom Cruise chose the same director, Christopher McQuarrie to direct the films. Christopher McQuarrie was still able to maintain a distinct visual difference between his two films. Christopher McQuarrie is also slated to direct the upcoming seventh and eighth films in the franchise and he has promised to continue the mandate of delivering each new film with a different visual style.

The newest entry in the franchise is set to be released in July of 2021 and the next film after that is slated for release in August of 2022. For the next round of films, Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise intend to film them back to back. In anticipation for what will be excellent entries in the franchise, I thought this would be a perfect time to rank the currently released Mission: Impossible films from worst to best with a quick note about each.

Number 6 is Mission: Impossible 2.

This is probably the most over-the-top and stylized action film in the franchise. This film is directed by John Woo and it features Tom Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt in a plot revolving around destroying a dangerous weapon by the name of Chimera. This film is of its time and a great contemporary action film for its release date of May 2000. At the time, critics loved the direction, action sequences, the score, and the dramatic depth but took issue with some of the dialogue, the general plot and the pacing. I would one hundred percent agree. Even though I rank this film as the worst on the list, I still heavily enjoy it. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a long-haired Tom Cruise racing around on a Ducati with awesome Oakley’s from the turn of the century with a theme song written by Limp Bizkit.

Number 5 is Mission: Impossible III.

This third film in the franchise is director J.J. Abrams’ first globally released theatrical film and his touches are all over it. It is easily recognized as a film of his. There is a solid supporting cast including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, and Keri Russell and generally speaking, I like the plot of this film probably more than other entries on this list. I heavily enjoy many sequences in the film including the car explosion scene and the Vatican scene. I also enjoy some of the smaller details in the film like the lip-reading scene. The choice to revolve the plot around the marriage of Ethan Hunt is a good one. This is a solid enough entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise, although I’m not a huge fan of some of the directorial choices of J.J. Abrams including the countless lens flairs and shaky camera work.

Number 4 is Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.

Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol is directed by Brad Bird in his first live-action feature film. He is primarily known for his great animation work and Tom Cruise felt like he was the best guy to sit in the director’s chair for this fourth film. This film ups the ante for stunt work in this franchise, including the epic scene with Tom Cruise running down the Burj Khalifa. The cast is expanded heavily with additions of Jeremey Renner and Alec Baldwin. Simon Pegg also has a more noticeable role in this film. This is the first film in the franchise to be partially filmed using IMAX cameras and is also the second highest-grossing film in the franchise. Critical reviews started to improve from this film forward. It currently has a ninety-three percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Each subsequent film after Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol really improved the overall scale of stunts and action. This is the film in which I think Tom Cruise and the filmmakers really caught their stride in this franchise.

Number 3 is Mission: Impossible.

This is the film that started it all. It’s wonderfully stylized by Brian De Palma and his team and they really upgrade the Mission: Impossible television series substantially to a modern age. Some fans of the original television series were upset that Jim Phelps, the leader of the team is turned into the villain but with that said, this film is viewed as a huge success and started this franchise off on the right foot. The score is provided by Danny Elfman and the theme song is written by Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. of U2 fame who update the song significantly for the nineties. “Red light/green light” is often quoted today and the infiltration scene at the CIA headquarters in Langley is still very iconic. I’m glad Tom Cruise chose to resurrect this franchise and I’m glad he put an excellent team together to produce this first film.

Number 2 is Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.

This film is directed by Christopher McQuarrie, his first film in the franchise. This film excelled with beautifully shot action and stunt sequences, beautiful locations and a strong plot. At the time of release, it was a box office success and is still critically revered as one of the best action films of all-time. This film has a talented supporting cast that truly helps Tom Cruise be the best he can be. The Airbus A400M Atlas scene and the six-minute underwater held breath scene is completely mind-blowing. This film confirms Tom Cruise’s dedication to entertaining fans. It also heavily uses IMAX cameras and it is beyond obvious that this film is meant to be viewed on larger formats.

Number 1 is Mission: Impossible — Fallout.

This film is the best the franchise has offered up to this point. Without a doubt, Mission: Impossible — Fallout delivers the best action, the best stunt sequences, the most beautiful locations and the best supporting cast in the franchise. This film is the epitome of perfection and currently holds a ninety-seven percent on Rotten Tomatoes, deservedly so. The fight choreography is some of the best we’ve seen in film, period. The aerial chase sequence is baffling and completely realistic. This is the first film in the franchise to be directed by a previous director in the franchise. This is also Tom Cruise's highest-grossing film to date and the highest-grossing film in the franchise. Production was even halted for several months while Tom Cruise recovered from a severely broken ankle that he broke during an action sequence. Everything about this film is nearly perfect. I vividly remember viewing this in IMAX in Seattle at the Pacific Science Center and it still remains the greatest IMAX film I’ve ever seen.



Eighty6Prime (Nicholas)

Collector, Cinephile, and Pop Culture Historian