Tom Cruise is off on an impossible mission. Again.
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” the sixth entry in the “M:I” franchise, hits theaters this weekend, with just as many death-defying stunts and imaginary gadgets as ever.
And while Cruise is off trying to take down new villains the Apostles and John Lark, our mission, that we definitely choose to accept, is to rank the five very good movies (and one that’s not so good) in the spy franchise. No death-defying stunts were attempted in the creation of this ranking.
6. ‘Mission: Impossible II’ (2000)
Unfortunately, “MI:II” just isn’t a great film, especially compared with the rest of the franchise. It relies too much on the hacky mask gag to move the plot along and, even for an action movie, has far too many battles in the final act. It’s the “Mission: Impossible” franchise without the heart or the winks. Too much action, too complicated a plot and not enough fun. And don’t get us started on the slow-motion doves.
5. ‘Mission: Impossible III’ (2006)
“MI:III” is J.J. Abrams’ chance to try his hand at the franchise, and it’s got plenty of his signature shaky cam and a part for Felicity herself, Keri Russell. It’s a perfectly fine entry, even if Ethan’s wife (Michelle Monaghan) exists only so the movie can put her in danger, an unfortunate trope. Plus, it has the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman as its villain, and he chews the heck out of every scene he’s in. (Even when he’s playing Cruise playing him wearing one of those ridiculous masks.) It just doesn’t quite rise as high as some of the other films, and so falls this low on our list.
4. ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ (2018)
Christopher McQuarrie, who directed “Rogue Nation,” returns for the latest installment, and you can tell that there’s some consistency behind the camera. The film is a continuation of the “Rogue Nation” plot, bringing characters back and using an extension of the same villain. It feels very different than the other “Impossible” films, but it’s a bold new direction for the franchise, while still maintaining the important traits.
3. ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ (2015)
The only thing that “Rogue Nation” suffers from is that it came after “Ghost Protocol,” which was pretty hard to beat. The film is just delightful all around, propulsive and genuinely intriguing, and featuring the best female co-star for Cruise (Rebecca Ferguson) in all of the movies. Cruise may not hang off the side of a building, but he does hang off a plane and hold his breath for a really long time. And it’s definitely the funniest of the “M:I” films, featuring not only the comedic stylings of Simon Pegg, but also some just hilarious back-and-forth between Alec Baldwin’s and Jeremy Renner’s characters. Come for the stunts, stay for the witty dialogue and everything Ferguson does.
2. ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ (2011)
We have to admit, back in 2011, a new “Mission: Impossible” movie might have sounded a little dated. Enter Brad Bird, director of the absolutely wonderful “The Incredibles,” who gave the “Impossible” franchise the fresh coat of paint it needed. You want more comedy? Let’s up Pegg’s role. You want higher stakes? The bad guy wants to start a nuclear war. You want more impossible stunts? Well, here’s Tom hanging off the side of the tallest building in the world. The film is slick and fun, and it was totally unexpected.
1. ‘Mission: Impossible’ (1996)
The original and the best. There’s a reason that each subsequent movie has had to work so hard to up the stakes and make the missions even more impossible. That image of Tom Cruise hanging from the ceiling of the CIA headquarters is just so iconic. The movie had just enough of the camp from the old TV series, and made all the right choices when it came to casting (Tom Cruise plays Tom Cruise! Vanessa Redgrave plays an arms dealer!), director (the one and only Brian De Palma) and heart-stopping action. This is the movie that gave us Tom Cruise: Action Star. You’re welcome, universe.
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