The 8 Most Shocking Mission: Impossible Mask Rip Reveals

Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
(Image credit: Paramount)

SPOILER WARNING: The following article, should you choose to continue reading it, gives away many important scenes from throughout the Mission: Impossible franchise. So, if you are not caught up on all seven movies so far, proceed with caution.

Most people go to see the latest Mission: Impossible movie in anticipation of Tom Cruise’s latest death-defying stunt. Well, that stuff is all fine and dandy, but what I look forward to with each new installment of the spy franchise – the latest of which is Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One – is the epic reveal of who is hiding under those cutting edge masks.

Borrowing a concept from the 1960s TV series that inspired it, the Mission: Impossible movies have seen Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his fellow IMF colleagues use hyper-realistic disguises to fool their enemies and audiences alike. The question is, which of these mask reveals has shocked us the most? Let’s go through the ones that we know were meant to be a surprise and rank them in ascending order by just how surprising they proved to be.

Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

(Image credit: Paramount)

8. Unnamed Adjutant Reveals He Is Ethan Hunt (Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One)

There was a time I believed the M:I mask reveals only got better with each installment, until I saw the most recent mission, Dead Reckoning Part One -- whgich releasing on digital October 10, 2023. The story begins with an extensive cold open that concludes after a meeting between various intelligence agency officials, including IMF director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny). An adjutant who recently walked in eventually hands Kittridge a gas mask before releasing something that knocks out everyone else in the room and pulls off his artificial face to show it was Hunt the whole time. 

I actually enjoyed this scene quite a bit, but I am ranking it at the bottom because, out of every other reveal on our list, it is the easiest to see coming, especially with how often the camera cuts back to the never-before-seen character. Perhaps the reason I was, admittedly, fooled by it is because I was distracted by how much the actor (Marcello Walton) resembles Willem Dafoe.

Jon Voight in Mission: Impossible

(Image credit: Paramount)

7. Jim Phelps Reveals He Is Ethan Hunt (Mission: Impossible)

Cruise made his first appearance as top IMF agent Ethan Hunt after ripping off a mask that is not very convincing by today’s standards at the beginning of the first cinematic installment in 1996. However, a much better disguise, like the ones we are used to, would make its debut near the end of the film.

Much of Mission: Impossiblefrom director Brian De Palma – is centered on Hunt’s team-up with Claire (Emmanuel Béart), the wife of the assumed dead Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), but little does Hunt know that Claire and Jim are in cahoots to frame him for the sabotage that cost the lives of several IMF agents. This is confirmed when Claire relays the plan to Jim, only to discover that it is really Hunt in disguise, prepared to turn the tables on his formerly trusted colleagues.

Dougray Scott in Mission: Impossible 2

(Image credit: Paramount)

6. Ethan Hunt Reveals He Is Sean Ambrose (Mission: Impossible 2)

The second movie – directed by Chinese action movie auteur and dove enthusiast John Woo and famous for its Limp Bizkit cover of the theme song – is the first one to really go crazy with the whole mask thing. In fact, it reveals very early on that even the bad guys like to wear disguises in a scene when Dr. Vladimir Nekhorvich (Rade Šerbedžija) boards a plane with his friend, Dimitri – which is one of Hunt’s aliases. 

However, after he kills Nekhorvich and steals his cure for a deadly virus, we learn he is actually disavowed IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) in the first of two instances in which he impersonates his rival in the film. What I love about this moment from the otherwise widely reviled Mission: Impossible 2 is the shock that comes from Cruise making his first appearance since the original as an entirely different character and how it introduces the stick-on voice-changer gadget that Ambrose initially forgets to remove.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, about to be revealed to be Richard Roxburgh as Hugh Stamp in Mission: Impossible 2

(Image credit: Paramount)

5. Ethan Hunt Is Revealed To Be Hugh Stamp... And Vice Versa (Mission: Impossible 2)

However, the better mask reveal from M:I–2, in my opinion, occurs in the third act when Ambrose gets an epic taste of his own medicine in a brutal way. After his right-hand man, Hugh Stamp (Richard Roxburgh), supposedly hands over a captured Hunt, Ambrose takes the satisfying liberty of shooting his adversary dead, until he notices his bandaged pinky (a callback to when Ambrose cut off Stamp’s finger tip with a cigar cutter). 

Ambrose then removes the mask to discover he just killed his partner before going after Hunt, who had been posing as Stamp the whole time. Now, I imagine there are some who figured this was the case all along, considering the franchise would never let its main hero die (at least in a way that does not involve some dangerous stunt). However, it is the execution of the reveal that I find satisfyingly clever.

Simon McBurney in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

(Image credit: Paramount)

4. Atlee Reveals He Is Ethan Hunt (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation)

It appeared that the franchise was slowing down on masks after the fourth installment, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, put the team’s mask-maker machine on the fritz and the follow-up, 2015’s Rogue Nation, made Benji’s debut in the disguise a fantasy sequence. Yet, it turned out that director Christopher McQuarrie’s first mission was just taking its time, and the wait was worth it.

During a meeting with the British Prime Minister (Tom Hollander) and MI6 director Atlee (Simon McBurney), CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) learn that the elusive terrorist organization, the Syndicate, was Atlee’s brain child before it was commandeered by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). After Atlee shoots the Prime Minister with a mild tranquilizer dart, we learn – much to  Hunley’s surprise – that he is the very rogue agent he has been trying to find: Ethan Hunt.

Davian's Translator disguised as Ethan Hunt's wife, Julia, in Mission: Impossible III

(Image credit: Paramount)

3. Julia Hunt Is Revealed To Be Davian’s Translator (Mission: Impossible III)

The intense flash forward that introduces J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III sees Hunt strapped to a chair across from his incapacitated wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan). Ruthless arms dealer Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) threatens to kill her if Hunt does not disclose the location of the mysterious “Rabbit’s Foot.” When he claims to have given him the MacGuffin, Davian pulls the trigger before an immediate switch to the opening credits.

At the top of third act, the traumatic moment is slyly paid off with a sigh of relief when a heartbroken Hunt is informed by IMF agent John Musgrave (Billy Crudup) that the woman Davian killed was his personal translator (Bahar Soomekh) wearing a mask resembling his wife. Hunt escapes and, with help over the phone from then-IMF technician Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), sets off to locate the real Julia, held as Davian’s hostage.

Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), revealed to be disguised as Solomon Lane in Mission: Impossible - Fallout

(Image credit: Paramount)

2. Solomon Lane Is Revealed To Be Benji Dunn (Mission: Impossible - Fallout)

At the climactic halfway point of returning director McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Hunley (now the IMF's secretary) tries to take Hunt in on suspicions of being terrorist leader John Lark, forcing him to incapacitate Hunley and have Benji impersonate Lane in the hope of retrieving missing plutonium. CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill) is left alone to watch over the real Lane, with whom he converses about their plan to frame our hero.

Walker soon realizes, after pulling off his mask, that he has unwittingly revealed himself to be the real John Lark to Benji, the real Lane is with Hunt and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) who are not far behind, and Hunley is awake and ready to take him in. However, I do not think even that jaw-dropping moment is the best mask reveal in that film or in any of the Mission: Impossible films, for that matter.

Wolf Blitzer (really Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn) with Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames in Mission: Impossible - Fallout

(Image credit: Paramount)

1. Wolf Blitzer Reveals He Is Benji Dunn (Mission: Impossible - Fallout)

After failing to intercept plutonium from the Apostles, Hunt and Luther visit the sealed off hospital room of nuclear weapons expert Nils Debruuk (Kristoffer Joner), who is giddily watching CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer report on the terrorist group’s devastating attacks. He tells the IMF agents he would give up the plans for his portable weapon if Blitzer read a manifesto by John Lark live on the air, to which they begrudgingly comply.

However, to Debruuk’s horror, his hospital room is a fake, no terrorist attacks been committed, and Blitzer was actually Benji, acting on camera just a few feet away – all part of the agents’ brilliant interrogation trick. This mind blowing moment (complete with a hilarious celebrity cameo) occurs even before Fallout’s opening credits, earning itself the honor of being my choice as the best M:I mask reveal and, also, one of the franchise’s quickest and most memorable fake outs.

Strangely – despite my affinity for mask reveals in the Mission: Impossible movies – my personal favorite Mission so far, Ghost Protocol, is the one with the least use of any disguises (save a henchperson revealed to be Michael Nyqvist as the main villain and Ethan donning a fake nose). I suppose the many other great examples throughout the franchise help me miss it less in that otherwise thoroughly exciting installment. Still, I hope we one day add to this list when we see Dead Reckoning Part Two appear on our 2024 movie release schedule

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.