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Ranking the Films in the ‘Mission: Impossible’ Franchise So Far

Few franchises have showcased what we see in Mission: Impossible. A blockbuster that somehow still gets bigger, and in many cases, better with each outing? That’s almost unheard of. What started as a remake of a television series hoping to piggyback off of Tom Cruise as a movie star has now become the biggest action epics in the industry. Plus, Cruise is arguably bigger than ever before. So, it’s safe to say that the series is on firm ground. With the latest installment in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One opening, what better time is there to look back on what has come before?

Below, you can see how I rank the films in the Mission: Impossible franchise. This group of flicks, now seven strong, with an eighth well on the way, has an impressive bit of consistency. While the top tier are above and beyond, even the lease of the series is still thoroughly entertaining. Cruise and company sure are dedicated to making sure that you have a blast when you sit down to something with this name attached. So far, he’s been pretty spectacularly successful, as you’re about to notice…

Here now is how I’d rank the Mission: Impossible series:

Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning – Part One from Paramount Pictures and Skydance.

7. Mission: Impossible 2 – While this is the nadir of the series, it’s still a decently solid action flick. At the same time, you’d think that John Woo and Tom Cruise would make sparks fly. Instead, it’s as close to anonymous as this property ever came. Establishing itself as the first sequel was a tall order, and while it does more right than it does wrong, Mission: Impossible 2 is easily the most flawed of the sequels.

6. Mission: Impossible III – A strong villain in Philip Seymour Hoffman goes a long way here. J.J. Abrams in the director’s chair just wasn’t as exciting a fit as we’d see afterwards. This isn’t a bad film, but it did show that something else was needed to keep the franchise from getting stale. Luckily, that did happen, so even if this is one of the lesser installments, it did manage to inspire the heights of the series in short order. So, if nothing else, Mission: Impossible III is notable for achieving that.

5. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One – I reserve judgment until part two, but this is a middle of the road effort, at least for now. My review here includes this opening section: “The Mission: Impossible franchise has not just had some incredible longevity, it’s also one of the rare ones that has also reinvented itself. What started out almost quaint in comparison has now become some of the biggest cinema on the planet. Tom Cruise has shepherded this collection of films to the pinnacle of the action genre. Usually, the movies just build on what they’ve been doing well, ever since the big change between the third and fourth flicks. Here, we have something else going on. Opting for their first two parter, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One tries to do some different things than usual. The result could be a bit more of a divisive entries into the series yet. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is a step back from the recent highs of the franchise, but that’s partly in comparison to how good they’ve been of late. We won’t fully be able to judge this one until we see Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two next year, but while Ethan Hunt is showing no signs of weakness, this is the least satisfying outing since the first two sequels. Make of that what you will.”

4. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Oddly, this installment feels a little less memorable than some, but it also has among the least things to complain about. It’s clear the formula is running like clockwork. This is also where Christopher McQuarrie stepped into the directorial gig, which he’d be aces in the next time out. Here, he’s found his footing, but what was about to come would be above and beyond what Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation offers.

3. Mission: Impossible – If you haven’t seen the original in a while, go back and revisit it. It’s very much a Brian De Palma film, with all of the angles to prove it. Mission: Impossible is almost quaint by comparison, but the vault sequence is still one of the absolute best in he franchise. The style on display is unlike anything else in the franchise. I would argue that this is the best directed of the lot, with one of the best and twistiest plots, too. Of all the films, this is consistently the most underrated one.

2. Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Wire to wire, this is the most consistently thrilling installment in the franchise. So much of Mission: Impossible – Fallout is just amazingly efficient, entertaining, and exciting, it makes it seem so much easier than it actually is. Cruise is at the height of his movie star powers, everything works, and it’s pretty much exactly what you want from Mission: Impossible. Having this one any lower than number two or three is pretty much madness. It’s just actually that good, folks.

1. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – The tiebreaker here is the quirk that the technology Ethan Hunt and his IMF team utilize almost never works properly. Plus, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol does feature the franchise’s best sequence/stunt in the Burj Khalifa scene. Brad Bird is clearly having a blast putting Cruise through his paces here, as McQuarrie currently does, and it shows. It’s close, but this is the best of the franchise, to me.

How do you rank the Mission: Impossible films? Let us know!


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Robert Hamer
4 months ago

You are far more generous to Mission: Impossible II than I’ve ever been. There is one firefight and one knife fight in the entire feature that are decently well-choreographed, and they’d both be considered the weakest action sequences if they appeared in Hard Boiled or The Killer. And that looooooooooooooong stretch of time Ethan is trying to cajole Nyah to join his team? Just fatally boring.

I cannot imagine how torturous John Woo‘s originally-conceived three-and-a-half-hour cut of the film would have been like to sit through…

Robert Hamer
4 months ago
Reply to  Joey Magidson

Also, if I may offer a defense of Rogue Nation, even though I agree it doesn’t quite equal Ghost Protocol or Fallout, there are still two very special things it has going for it:

1) Introducing my absolute favorite character in the entire series, and

2) Boasting that infamous “living manifestation of destiny” speech.

Those are pretty substantial notches on its belt.


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Written by Joey Magidson

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