Ranking Mission Impossible films on its 25th Anniversary

MI franchise

Boy, don’t I feel old!! Can’t believe the Mission Impossible FILM franchise is now 25 years old. The first film opened on May 22, 1996. I remember watching the TV series, created by Bruce Geller, quite regularly and they were a lot of fun. The TV series is more on an ensemble cast, with Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) as the one receiving the classified recording telling him of his team’s mission, which then self destructs.

Now, I thought the first MI movie felt decidedly much darker, and this time instead of an ensemble, we’ve got the protagonist Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) who always receives the message that he then relays to the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team. Even the poster above only features his famous profile, and he remains the top draw of the entire franchise. The series features more and more daring stunts, given Cruise is such an adrenaline junkie, but fortunately, since Christopher McQuarrie came on board after they had a good working relationship in Jack Reacher, the movies have improved as well.

MI-movies

Now, having seen the latter 3 films fairly recently, I thought I’d rank the six films in the order of WORST (least favorite) to BEST:

6. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II (2000)

Directed by: John Woo

IMF agent Ethan Hunt is sent to Sydney to find and destroy a genetically modified disease called “Chimera”.

I barely remember much about this movie as I haven’t rewatched it since seeing it the first time. I think the opening with Cruise hanging off a rock was pretty cool, but Dougray Scott made for a lame villain as disavowed I.M.F. Agent. He just isn’t menacing and comes across melodramatic and whiny. Poor Thandie Newton also comes across as nothing more than a damsel in distress.

5. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (1996)

Directed by: Brian De Palma

An American agent, under false suspicion of disloyalty, must discover and expose the real spy without the help of his organization.

I actually quite like this one despite being oh-so-serious. For one, I like Kristin Scott Thomas in an action movie and the setting in Old Town Prague is really atmospheric. It’s also got some top-notch actors, i.e. Jon Voigt and Vanessa Redgrave. I have to say that the multiple double-crossing plots questioning Ethan’s loyalty proves to be too convoluted that it takes the fun out of it. But at least some of the action scenes are memorable, especially the server room scene that’s iconic and full of suspense. The final chase scene involving a chopper, bullet train inside a tunnel is beyond ridiculous but of course so exhilarating to watch.

4. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III (2006)

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

IMF agent Ethan Hunt comes into conflict with a dangerous and sadistic arms dealer who threatens his life and his fiancée in response.

Still sad that Philip Seymour Hoffman is gone. He’s an intriguing choice as a villain and he’s believably sadistic. I think I’m just not too crazy about the love story between Ethan and Julia (Michelle Monaghan), though later in the franchise, they figured out a nice closure for the two. It’s still very much an Ethan-centric story that talented people like Keri Russell and Billy Crudup are pretty much wasted here.

3. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – Ghost Protocol (2011) – full review

Directed by: Brad Bird

The IMF is shut down when it’s implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization’s name.

This is the one with the Burj Khalifa and perhaps one of my all time favorite action scenes (not just in a Mission Impossible movies!). It’s also the first time Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is introduced and he’s been an interesting character to follow. I also feel like the tone is decidedly lighter here and feature more of an ensemble piece with Simon Pegg + Paula Patton (who brings such sexy vibe to the team), though I miss Ving Rhames in this one. Despite having a so-so villain (Michael Nyqvist), this one plays like a popcorn Summer blockbuster despite being released during the holiday season. 

2. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – Rogue Nation (2015) – full review

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Ethan and his team take on their most impossible mission yet when they have to eradicate an international rogue organization as highly skilled as they are and committed to destroying the IMF.

Thank you McQuarrie for making an already watchable franchise and truly make it great. Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust is perhaps my favorite casting pick in the entire franchise, she is absolutely dynamite–smart,sexy, no-nonsense–I think she’s Ethan’s equal in the spy game as she’s a former MI6 agent. Ferguson also gives Cruise a run for his money in the charm department, which is why the Vienna Opera House scene stands as one of my favorite action sequences in the MI movies. I quite like seeing Alec Baldwin as a CIA operative, but I can’t say I’m too fond of Sean Harris as the villain, mainly because of his gravely voice. Still, there are more good than bad that I still rate this movie pretty highly.

1. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – Fallout (2018) – full review

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.

I was thrilled to see McQuarrie back directing an MI movie AND to have Rebecca Ferguson back, yay! Pretty much the regular MIF team are back, with Angela Bassett + Henry Cavill added as CIA agents, and Vanessa Kirby as a mysterious woman called the White Widow. Cavill proves to be a pretty darn good addition and I actually enjoy him SO much more than in his role as Superman (aside from Man of Steel). LOVE the sequence in Paris night club, plus it’s got a fantastically-bombastic finally involving in yet another chopper chase. Having rewatched this several times, I definitely would rate Fallout as the best Mission: Impossible film to date. It’s full of humor, great tensions and spectacular actions sequences that you can’t wait to see what crazy Cruise will tackle next!


So, are you a fan of this franchise? How would YOU rank the six MI movies so far?