When a franchise hits a 20-year stride like Mission: Impossible has, it's lucky to have the track record that it's earned over the course of its run. And through over two decades of history, this series hasn't lost its stride or gone completely off the deep end like other franchises that have come before it. Of course, that doesn't mean that we can't play favorites in the world of Ethan Hunt and the Impossible Mission Force. And since we're on the subject already, we're going to give you our ranking of Mission: Impossible films, from good to absolutely mind melting.
6. Mission: Impossible 2
Apologies to the Mission: Impossible 2 fans out there, and we know that you're out there, so there's no use hiding. As far as the merely "good" end of the spectrum is concerned, M:I 2 makes the lower end of the canon its home. It's not as polished as future missions, but the credit it can be given is that it's still slick as hell. John Woo's action sensibilities gave us a Mission: Impossible that we didn't expect, and it's as unique as it is exhilarating. Not to mention that final fight between Ethan and baddie Sean Ambrose really was a hell of a brawl.
5. Mission: Impossible
Two movies in the Mission: Impossible series have a love affair with Alfred Hitchcock-style spy thrills. The first, and most obvious, is Brian DePalma's initial foray into the adventures of the IMF. Without this film, we wouldn't have the mask pulls, the daring stunts, and Tom Cruise saving the world by outrunning and outthinking the competition. Plus, once the reveal pertaining to Jim Phelps' role in the whole story kicked in, it set the precedent for twists and turns to come in the Mission series. While this is definitely the slowest paced of the series, it built a foundation so rock solid, it let future installments really let loose.
4. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Mission: Impossible -- Fallout is the relative new guy on the block, so time may tell if it rises through the ranks. What can be said at this moment is that Fallout has long stretches of time where it starts the action and never lets up. The only real point deductions on this one come from the sort of hero worship that's paid towards Ethan Hunt in pieces of the film's dialogue, but that's a small price to pay for the insane stunts that take place in this movie. That Paris motorcycle chase is so harrowing, anyone who's afraid of traffic circles is going to have nightmares. Though we have to wonder, what the hell will they think of for Mission: Impossible 7, should Paramount decide to accept that challenge.
3. Mission: Impossible 3
How in the hell is Mission: Impossible 3 J.J. Abrams' first film? Right out of the gate, his entry into the Hunt pantheon is a confident stride across the screen and into the record books. Naturally, being the mastermind behind Alias, Abrams has the espionage plot on lock, and executes it flawlessly. But his was the first film to inject true emotional weight, and cohesive team camaraderie, as part of the narrative. Not to mention, Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of, if not the best villain in Mission: Impossible history, as his Owen Davian is so methodically evil, he's downright scary. This is the template that the current form of the Mission: Impossible series was based off of, and the films that came after it are forever in its debt.
2. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
It was hard to pick between Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol or Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, simply because they feel so close in content and tone that it's hard to separate the two. Of course, that's due to the fact that Christopher McQuarrie did some uncredited work on Ghost Protocol, therefore sewing the seeds for Rogue Nation and Fallout accordingly. But a tie won't do for a series so adrenaline fueled as Mission: Impossible, and with that, Rogue Nation takes the still breathtaking second slot. The first McQuarrie proper entry in the series, the fifth film brings back some of Brian DePalma's Hitchcockian gaze to the world of international espionage, and mixes it with the crazier pacing and stunts of later era Missions. Plus, the addition of Ilsa Faust as a new regular gives the audience a new counterpart to see Ethan bounce his crazy schemes off of, and it works perfectly. It's a match made in heaven, and it only just barely lost out on that top slot.
1. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
It was a question that took a lot of thought to answer: what makes Ghost Protocol better than Rogue Nation? Is it the second, more confident Michael Giacchino score? Could it be Jeremy Renner's confident addition to the IMF team as William Brandt? While both of those things enhance this film, the biggest reason director Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible entry wins the top slot is, quite simply, it's the best team based Mission in the series. While Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt is undoubtedly the star, Mission: Impossible is at its best when it uses everyone in the team to full effect. Throughout the IMF Team's mission to stop a rogue party from initiating nuclear war, everyone gets their gags, all parties get to do something important, and each person's story gets time to be told on the screen. Wrap that up in some high altitude thrills involving Tom Cruise swinging around the Burj Khalifa, and it's a package to fantastic to reject.