‘Mission Impossible’ Action Scenes (Including Dead Reckoning Part 1), Ranked

With a career decorated with outstanding action flicks, the last superstar of our generation, Tom Cruise, got his iconic action movie hero status primarily after taking on the role of Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible series. Even after two and a half decades of portraying the character of the efficient secret agent, Cruise has managed to hold on to that status by pushing the limits of his own physicality through dangerous action sequences and aspiring for a pioneering, practical, hands-on approach to filmmaking. As one of the few remaining actors who prefer to put their necks on the line while doing death-defying stunts on their own, an over-sixties Cruise is surely carrying the legacy of the daredevils of Hollywood’s golden era. With the latest entry in the MI franchise creating a buzz across the movie business, let’s take a look at some of the unforgettable action sequences the franchise has amazed audiences with so far.

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Spoilers Ahead


Break Into The CIA

The first scene in this list doesn’t include any crazy action or over-the-top stunt sequence, yet arguably it can be stated as THE hallmark of the franchise itself, which sets the unique tone of the action series. In the first entry, Mission: Impossible (1996), becoming a rogue agent in the course of his very first mission, Ethan goes to CIA HQ to steal a certain NOC list, a basic in-and-out mission with stealth as the only way to approach. The catch is that the vault is nearly impenetrable, as it is laced with heat detectors, motion detectors, and pressure detectors, which can go off if triggered by the slightest fluctuations. Assisted by Luther and Franz Kreiger, Ethan descends the chamber, successfully manages to take the NOC list, and flees—not before almost hitting the floor due to Kreiger acting jumpy after a mouse freaks him out. The scene is totally devoid of any score, and the silence heightens the suspense and claustrophobic factor, turning out to be an example of a perfectly crafted action sequence devoid of any major action. Tom Cruise reportedly hit his face on the floor multiple times while doing this scene, leading to a number of retakes.

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Hanging Off A Cliff

The introduction scene of Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible 2 remains one of the coolest scenes of the franchise, as viewers see Ethan free soloing on the rough, barren, rocky landscape of Utah, without any support or assistance, as he jumps from one cliff to another. And no, it was not a part of Ethan’s mission; it’s just the way he likes to spend his vacation. No wonder the super spy has performed so many high-risk maneuvers over the years. Reaching the peak, Hunt receives specialized goggles, which bring him up to speed with his latest mission.

The cliff-hanging scene reportedly caused Cruise a muscle tear or two, and a 15-foot jump across the edge might well be responsible for those in the first place. Always the perfectionist, Cruise opted for practically filming the scene on location with the bare minimum of safety gear, and the result is one of the most memorable 90s adventure action scenes.

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Eyepiercer

In the same movie, the climactic fight between Ethan and rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose, although very 90s in visual styles (explosion flairs, slow motion), leads to a significant stunt scene. Going against each other while riding bikes, Hunt and Ambrose collide, and their fight ends up on the beach nearby. During their hand-to-hand combat, Ambrose’s knife tip almost touches Hunt’s eyeball, and the dangerously close stunt was requested by none other than Tom Cruise himself.


Shanghai Jump 

The most emotional out of all MI movies, Mission Impossible 3, will remain memorable for the performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman as the ruthless Owen Davian and most of the stunt sequence set in Shanghai. In order to secure the movie’s McGuffin, Ethan jumps from the top of a building, swings across to another, lands on a slanted roof, slides through, and ends up on the road below. The cinematography is gorgeous, with the nightlight-lit cityscape turning the agent into almost a superheroic vigilante-like figure in action. The camera movements, however, are a bit dated and don’t do justice to the unthinkably badass stunt Cruise decides to perform, which is a shame because the thrill factor could have been maximized if shot through a steady cam.

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Any Bike Chase Sequence

The inclusion of bike chase sequences has become a staple of the franchise by now, but the most notable ones were featured in Rogue Nation and Fallout. Upshifting through a crowded place has never looked cooler than when we see Tom Cruise revving across to chase his targets or evade the authorities. In Rogue Nation, where we are first introduced to the character Ilsa Faust, The adrenaline rush of seeing Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson’s characters racing through congested highways definitely causes major goosebumps among viewers.


Unconventional takeoff

This scene, which starts director Christopher McQuarrie’s tenure as the franchise director in Rogue Nation, can easily be called the most daring, unbelievable stunt sequence across global cinema, period. To stop the terror group Syndicate from committing a global-scale crisis, Hunt decides to infiltrate their aircraft while Benji and Luther assist through communications. However, Benji fails to open the door of the aircraft in time, leading to Hunt hanging from the aircraft even as it takes off. It is one thing to do one’s own stunt, and it is another to literally run on the wings of an airplane while it’s still in full motion, jump down, and hang on the doors while the plane runs and soars to 10,000 feet. Sequences like this surely caused a major panic attack for the director, producers, and film crew, and it makes us wonder if any insurance company even exists to provide their service to the madman that is Tom Cruise.


Rough Train Ride

Creating a functioning train with an engine, making it run through the Austrian Alps, and having the lead actor and the antagonist fight atop it is the basic routine for the makers over at the MI movie franchise. In the latest release, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part I, the climactic battle between Ethan and his nemesis Gabriel occurs on top of the Orient Express, and the scene only gets better through the approach of practical filmmaking. To mark a proper ending to the sequence, the engine was destroyed by throwing it off a destroyed rail bridge.


Bike Off A Mountain

Just before the train fight sequence, the major action setpiece, which turned out to be the highlight of Dead Reckoning, takes place, which further establishes Tom’s commitment to entertaining the audience by doing unthinkably crazy feats he refers to as stunts. Riding from the rocky terrain of the Alps on a dirtbike, Ethan jumps across a cliff, freefalls for several thousand feet, and, using his parachute, crashes into the train. Tom Cruise perfected the stunt by practicing it dozens of times, and the breathtaking results are visible in theaters now.

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Helicopter Rush And Skydive

The previous entry in the franchise, Fallout (2018), includes numerous brilliantly made action sequences, but the hook sequence of the movie was a skydiving scene, where Hunt and agent August Walker perform a Halo jump from over 10,000 feet. However, an even more nail-biting sequence takes place during the climax, where Hunt hangs from the cargo net of a helicopter for a significant amount of time, even as he’s pushing into his sixties. Cruise performed both of these scenes with such ease that it almost makes viewers think that he was biologically designed to be a daredevil.


Top Of The World

Ending the list with one of the most well-known scenes of the franchise, where Hunt climbs using specialized gloves (a single one, as the other malfunctions) on the highest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, to retrieve codes from an inaccessible server during the events of Ghost Protocol. Wind effects and vertigo leaving an impression across the lead actor’s face, as the rest of the world seems like a microscopic version of the real thing, is surely a sight to behold.

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In an age where green screens are replacing real locations, but the real-life stakes go along with them as well, Tom Cruise’s effort to honor the craft of moviemaking by promoting practical movie craft by pushing his every physical limit to enhance a spectacle deserves every praise we can garner him with and more. Despite not joining any major superhero franchise to date, Cruise has proven time and again that his heroics are in a league of their own, and we can’t wait to see whatever batshit crazy he has planned for fans in the next part of Dead Reckoning.


Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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