All Mission: Impossible Films Ranked! | LRM Ranks It

Mission: Impossible is one of the longest-running franchises driven by a single lead. Tom Cruise has defined the franchise, the only franchise left today that relies on star-power more than the brand. The stakes on these movies keep getting higher and higher, with no end in sight, considering Mission: Impossible 7 & 8 are on the way from the same director as Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Fallout, Christopher McQuarrie. So, let’s take a look at a true four-quadrant franchise, Mission: Impossible!

Nick: Let’s let Stephon quickly name his #6-#4 so we can move on to the top 3!

Stephon (#6-4)My order for these films starting with my least favorite of the bunch. Mission: Impossible II. Followed by Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. M:I-II, because it was too shootemup and relied on that disguise mask and had a weak unlikeable villain. Also, not a fan of the convenient early setup between Hunt and Thandie Newton. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol because I felt like we’d already gotten enough plots dealing with Hunt framed and on the run. Also not a big fan of the addition of William Brandt to the team. And Mission: Impossible – Rouge Nation because it again dealt with a pretty similar plot with Ethan again at odds with the agency. And we also have William Brandt again. Nothing against Renner who I first dug since seeing his film S.W.A.T. which I initially went to see because of Samuel L Jackson’s and L.L. Cool J’s involvement. Renner’s a great actor. Just look at Hurt Locker.

Nick: My bottom three include Mission: Impossible 2, 3, and Ghost Protocol. Mission: Impossible II is awful, M:I-III improves a bit, and Ghost Protocol aka #4 is a major step in the right direction. I only wish I could include Brad Bird’s first live-action film in my top three! But there are three better films here…

Stephon’s #3: M:IIII

For me, number three restarted this franchise. I don’t think too many people were looking out for another M:I film after II. But along comes JJ Abrams to prove me wrong. Number one this film has a strong villain in the form of Owen Davian. Davian was a threatening and imposing bad guy who came across like he ate IMF agents for breakfast. Just look at what he does to IMF agent Lindsey Farris early on before you’ve eaten half your popcorn. Also, we got the addition of IMF Director Theodore Brassel who says that powerful line “You can look at me with those judgmental eyes all you want, but I bulls**t you not, I will bleed on the American flag to make sure those stripes stay red”.

Nick #3: Mission: Impossible

It is very rare for me to not rank the original film as the #1 movie in such a classic franchise, but director Christopher McQuarrie has improved on the original, despite the franchise transitioning from a spy thriller to straight-up action film from Mission: Impossible to M:I II. Yes, #2 sucks, but Tom Cruise and McQuarrie found the perfect formula to further the franchise. The first film is not what I’d consider an action film, despite the action-heavy finale. It is a tight thriller/mystery with Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt out to find who really betrayed his team, under the sudamine “Job” like the Bible. Yes, it’s easy for a casual fan to forget the betrayal of his team, including the graphic death of Emilio Esteves, but it’s impossible (pun intended) to gloss over the classic scene of Ethan hacking the CIA, including his moment just inches from the floor. It may not be as impossible a stunt as what McQuarrie brings later, but it is an impressive feat of body strength, setting the tone for the action films that follow. Also… “Red Light… Green Light!” If you don’t remember that, give this film another watch!

Stephon’s #2 – Fallout

For me, Fallout is the strongest in the series as far as sheer thrills go. Also gone is IMF Agent William Brandt and in is Special Activities Operative August Walker. Enough said about that. The fights are kinetic and brutal, and Tom Cruise once again proves no one in Hollywood pulls off their own stunts in such a spectacular fashion. I’m not sure how those films get insured, but I imagine it has something with Cruise diving into his Les Grossman role to pull some strings.

Nick #2 – Rogue Nation

This used to be ranked below the original Mission: Impossible until Fallout added new context to the film, being a direct sequel featuring the same villain (a first from the franchise) and Rebecca Furgeson returning as Isla Faust two movies in a row – the franchise always drops the female lead.In addition to the best stunts put on film, until Fallout, Rogue Nation. Rogue Nation adds a creepy villain, played by Sean Harris, who we don’t get to see in action in this film, but is truly terrifying at pulling all the strings. The opera scene is amazing, as are the aforementioned stunts, including the opening scene with Tom Cruise clinging to an Airplane as it takes off…  for real. Writer/Director Christoper McQuarrie set a new standard for the franchise, balancing non-stop action with all the twists and gadgets one expects from a spy film. A home run… until my next choice…

Stephon #1 – Mission: Impossible

There’s nothing like the original. Without it, there’d be no sequels. It set the bar so high M:I-II paled in comparison to the sheer magnitude of competent filmmaking on display by masterful craftsman Brian De Palma. Also since when has a film helped birth meme culture. I don’t think there’s anything from the ’90s that’s been spoofed as much as the heist scene. In addition, I don’t think we’ve gotten a videogame spawned from a Mission: Impossible film since then. So for me, Mission: Impossible has got to be my number one choice.

Nick #1 – Fallout

Simply put, Mission: Impossible: Fallout is the best action film since Raiders of the Lost Ark. You can’t find stunts like this in any Hollywood film these days! Yes, doing the first Halo jump on film, which almost caused me to hold my breath until I almost passed out on the first viewing, we also have Cruise nearly dying in a few drops, as well as the jump that actually broke his ankle. Driving an unsafe motorcycle on wet Paris streets, Cruise cements himself as an actor who does whatever it takes for entertainment value, which is why I love him. There is no one like him working today. The film is an absolute action film from start to finish, with a pause only for some silent, art film type sequences in which most blockbuster films would have used cheesy dialog to contrive. Henry Cavill rocks as the villain, especially in the final helicopter fight, flown by Cruise himself, finally paying off Soloman Lane as a trained fighter. I don’t know how the franchise can improve from here, but it better for Mission: Impossible 7 & 8!

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Joseph Jammer Medina

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and contributor at LRM Online. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.

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