Every Mission: Impossible Film Ranked From Best To Worst

Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)

Why do audiences love spy movies? Maybe it's the numerous plot twists, the incredible fight scenes, the constant betrayals, or the villains’ over-the-top plan for world domination. Whatever the reason, spy movies are one of the most popular action genres out there (hence the genre still going strong after 26 James Bond movies).

Few movie series can rival the success of 007 as well as the Mission: Impossible movies hav. (Mission: Impossible’s theme song is as synonymous with the spy genre as James Bond’s iconic theme.) However, unlike the Bond franchise, which some might consider to have its best days behind it, Mission: Impossible only seems to get better with each new movie it releases.

With new entries in the hit spy franchise planned for the future, we thought it would be a good idea to rank every Mission: Impossible film thus far, best to worst.

Mission: Impossible — Fallout

Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill in Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The best entry in the Mission: Impossible series to date, Mission: Impossible Fallout can contend for a spot as one of the greatest action movies in recent memory. Director Christopher McQuarrie’s second Mission: Impossible movie and the sixth in the series, Fallout, follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team as they try to recover missing plutonium stolen by the remnants of Rogue Nation’s Syndicate, now known as the Apostles. Old and new allies help Hunt along the way, all of whom race against time to recover the plutonium before it’s too late.

Featuring a fantastic ensemble cast that includes Cruise, Rhames, Pegg, Baldwin, and Ferguson, as well as franchise newcomers Henry Cavill, Vanessa Kirby, and Angela Bassett, Fallout won praise for everything from its indelible action, acting, direction, screenplay, and soundtrack to its jaw-dropping stunts and cinematography, making this movie the crown jewel of the franchise.

Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The first of three Mission: Impossible movies that won critical acclaim from fans and critics alike ushered in a new era for the franchise. Ghost Protocol helped revolutionize the spy genre. After a terrorist bombs the Kremlin, Hunt (Cruise) and his Impossible Missions Force get framed and disavowed by the U.S., leaving them on their own to find the person responsible to clear their names.

If that plot sounds fairly similar to the original Mission: Impossible, don’t be fooled — Ghost Protocol improves on the first three entries in the series with tense action scenes, such as Cruise’s character scaling the side of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Director Brad Bird’s first live-action movie (he previously directed the popular animated films The Iron Giant and The Incredibles), Ghost Protocol d will leave viewers in awe at the visuals and intense action scenes.

Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One

Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)
Image Credit: Christian Black & Paramount Pictures.

The most recent addition to the M:I universe, Dead Reckoning Part One is the first of an ambitious two-part installment in the superspy series. Split into two acts, Dead Reckoning Part One follows Hunt (Cruise) and his team as they battle an omnipresent A.I. weapons system that’s managed to become self-aware.

A nightmarish meditation about the growing dangers associated with artificial intelligence, Dead Reckoning Part One thrives as yet another delightful sequel in the Mission: Impossible franchise. If nothing else, Part One sets up its second act, ending on an expertly-employed cliffhanger that will leave fans craving more.

Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation

Rogues nation 1
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The first Mission: Impossible entry from director Christopher McQuarrie, Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation could rival the distinction as being the best Mission: Impossible movie–although between Ghost Protocol and Fallout, the competition is tough.

In the series’ fifth movie, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) goes on the run from the CIA after the I.M.F.’s disbandment, trying to find evidence that proves the existence of the Syndicate, a secret organization composed of rogue field agents from spy agencies across the globe. Rogue Nation has plenty of strong points, including the chemistry between the movie’s co-stars (including Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, and Ving Rhames), and established Rebecca Ferguson as a breakout star. Like every great spy movie, Rogue Nation doesn’t take itself too seriously, allowing for an easy, enjoyable watch.

Mission: Impossible III

Mission Impossible 3 1
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The third entry in the Mission: Impossible series passed to a then-largely unknown director named J.J. Abrams, who made his directorial feature debut with the film. Fresh off the success of his earlier television work with Alias and Lost, Abrams’ the director crafted a tight narrative and developed Cruise’s iconic character.

After retiring from fieldwork, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) rejoins the action when an elusive arms dealer (Philip Seymour Hoffman) threatens Hunt and Hunt’s fiancee, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), in his quest to find a mysterious weapon known only as the “Rabbit’s foot.” M:I-III boasts a strong entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise, offering arguably the series’ greatest villain. It’s a fun, entertaining movie and the best of the first three M:I films.

Mission: Impossible

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Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

The movie that started it all, Mission: Impossible moved the spy movie away from the James Bond mold that had dominated the genre for years. Director Brian De Palma crafted a tense, fun, exciting thriller that successfully revitalized the hit ‘60s TV show. Mission: Impossible follows Ethan Hunt (Cruise), a once-promising I.M.F. agent hunting down the person who framed him for murdering his entire his team.

The first entry in the new Mission: Impossible series offers a mystery, a fantastic plot twist, and some amazing action sequences — including the now iconic image of Cruise dangling over an alarm-triggered floor. For fans of the original series, Mission: Impossible also continues the classic spy series rather than rebooting it outright, making it one of pop culture's most unique spiritual successors.

Mission: Impossible 2

Mission Impossible 2
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Famed Chinese action director John Woo may have bitten off more than he can chew with this one. M:I-2 follows everyone’s favorite I.M.F. agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise), tasked with finding a deadly biological weapon before it falls into a rogue I.M.F. agent Sean Ambrose’s (Dougray Scott) hands. Along the way, Hunt encounters Ambrose’s ex-girlfriend, a jewel thief (Thandiwe Newton), who agrees to assist Hunt on his mission.

M:I-2 has its fair share of Woo’s signature action sequences (such as a fantastic opening cliffhanger scene or the motorcycle chase between Cruise and Scott), but the movie falls flat elsewhere. The movie’s dud villain, lackluster character development, and endless action make M:I-2 easily the weakest of the Mission: Impossible movies.

 

Author: Richard Chachowski

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Classic Film, Contemporary Film and TV, Video Games, Comic Books

Bio:

Richard Chachowski is an entertainment and travel writer who has written for such publications as Wealth of Geeks, Fangoria, Looper, Screen Rant, and MSN. He received a BA in Communication Studies and a BA in Journalism and Professional Writing from The College of New Jersey in 2021. He has been a professional writer since 2020. His geeky areas of interest include Star Wars, travel writing, horror, video games, comic books, literature, and animation.