Mission Impossible Movies Ranked: From Worst to Best

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read our Mission Impossible Movies Ranked list. From worst to best, they’re all here.

Mission: Impossible

When Tom Cruise accepted his first mission as Ethan Hunt, I bet the star never thought that he’d still be playing the character nearly thirty years later, with no plans to stop anytime soon even if the next one, which won’t be called Dead Reckoning Part 2, is going to be delayed a year. But, as any franchise fan can tell you, not all Mission: Impossible movies are created equal, and we’re going to try to break them down from worst to best in our Mission Impossible movies ranked list!

7 – Mission: Impossible II:

mission impossible 2 motorcycle

Here’s the thing – many people hate this movie. I honestly don’t know why. Is it the worst Mission: Impossible movie? Sure. But, simultaneously, “worst” doesn’t mean the same thing for this franchise that it does to others. Even if it is the worst Mission: Impossible movie, there’s still plenty to like about it. Arguably, John Woo was the one who transformed Tom Cruise into an action hero, as we’d never really seen him do big action scenes before this movie. While the first hour is dull (it’s basically an unconvincing riff on Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious), and the film relies way too much on the IMF’s mask tech (always my biggest problem with the franchise), the last hour has some dazzling action. This includes (for my money) the franchise’s best mano-a-mano scrap, between Tom Cruise and Dougray Scott. Plus, Thandie Newton is great as Hunt’s love interest in this one, and the score by Hans Zimmer is excellent.

6 – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation:

mission impossible rogue nation motorcycle

Again, even if this ranks closer to the bottom of our Mission Impossible movies ranked list, that doesn’t mean this is a bad movie. Far from it. It’s one of the most influential films in the franchise, as it was the first time Christopher McQuarrie sat in the director’s chair, and it also introduced us to Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust. My only real issue with the movie is that it blows its load too early, with the motorcycle chase so breathtaking that the movie’s conclusion can’t help but feel slightly anti-climactic.

5 – Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol:

mission impossible ghost protocol

While this one has my favourite Tom Cruise stunt of all time (Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa in Dubai), like Rogue Nation, the ending feels a little anti-climactic, with Cruise’s hand-to-hand opponent (the late Michael Nyqvist) not quite imposing enough. It’s also overstuffed with characters, including Jeremy Renner’s Brant. The reason for this is that, at the time, Cruise’s career was on a downslide, and many thought Renner, who was a rising star, was being poised to take his place as the lead. That said, the second Cruise dangled from the top of the Burj Khalifa; there was never any doubt that the franchise would always be his. Also, director Brad Bird gives the movie a cinematic scope thanks to some well-shot IMAX sequences that cemented the series as a must-see on the big screen. If only Paramount would release the IMAX version of this movie on streaming or Blu-ray!

4 – Mission: Impossible Fallout:

Henry Cavill Mission: Impossible

Another massive production that features some staggering action, including a terrific bathroom brawl early on that introduces Henry Cavill as Hunt’s new ally turned antagonist. Unlike many villains in the series, Cavill is a legit physical threat to Cruise, making their climactic helicopter battle a nail-biter. It also gives Hunt a nice full-circle moment with a bittersweet payoff to his relationship with Michelle Monaghan’s Julia. More on her later…

3 – Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning

This is one of the most perfectly mounted action thrillers ever made, with action sequences so thrilling that, well, if you aren’t having fun, you may not have a pulse. However, the story, where Hunt faces off with an AI called “The Entity,” has yet to pay off, although this may happen in the sequel. Even still, it’s so much fun, with Hayley Atwell a great addition to the franchise. Sadly, the film was a box office disappointment, and the proposed Dead Reckoning Part Two label has been dropped from the next sequel.

2 – Mission: Impossible:

I like this movie so much because it’s the only one that feels like an episode of the show. The action is lower key, the face masks are realistic, and Hunt isn’t quite the Superman he’d become in later instalments. It also has the best-set piece in any of the films, the vault break-in, superbly mounted by director Brian De Palma. My only issue is that it comes up pretty short as far as action goes, and the plot is pretty complicated. Still, it’s a great introduction to Hunt.

1 – Mission: Impossible III:

Mission: Impossible III

This brings me to the third film in the franchise. While this was the worst-performing entry financially, it features Cruise’s best performance as Hunt. What’s great about this movie is that it grounds the action by giving Hunt a legitimately affecting love interest, with Michelle Monaghan’s Julia, the doctor he wants to give up the IMF game for. No other entry has mixed drama, romance and action so well, and it helps that Philip Seymour Hoffman is the best villain the franchise ever had. This movie has it all, including a thrilling bridge shootout that remains one of the series’ best action set pieces. It’s by far the best movie J.J. Abrams ever directed.

What do you think of our rankings? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.