Tom Cruise is off on an impossible mission. Again.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth entry in the M:I franchise, hits theatres this weekend, with just as many death-defying stunts and imaginary gadgets as ever before.

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 not-so-good film) in the spy franchise. No death-defying stunts were attempted in the creation of this ranking.

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6. ‘Mission: Impossible II’ (2000)

MI: II is just not a great film, especially compared to 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 do not 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 has got plenty of his signature shaky cam and a part for Felicity herself, Keri Russell. It is a perfectly fine entry, even if Ethan’s wife (Michelle Monaghan) exists only so the movie can put her in danger, an unfortunate trope. And it has the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman as its villain, and he chews the heck out of every scene he is in (even when he is playing Cruise playing him wearing one of those ridiculous masks). It does not 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 instalment, and you can tell that there is some consistency behind the camera. The film is a continuation of the plot of Rogue Nation, 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 maintaining the important traits.

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3. ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ (2015)

The only thing that Rogue Nation suffers from is that it came after Ghost Protocol, which was hard to beat. The film is just delightful all round, 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. It is the funniest of the films, featuring the comic stylings of Simon Pegg, as well as some 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)

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 us 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 is a reason each subsequent movie has had to work so hard to up the stakes and make the missions even more impossible, because that image of Tom Cruise hanging from the ceiling of the CIA headquarters is 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 are welcome, universe.

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