Tom Cruise helped revive a franchise in 1996 when he starred in the first Mission: Impossible film as Ethan Hunt, a member of a fictional spy agency called Impossible Missions Force, or IMF. The first film kicked off a successful movie franchise that’s run for 25 years, with the number of Mission: Impossible nearing the double digits. The entire series focuses on the daring and intelligent Hunt, and while playing the same character for more than two decades is no small feat, Cruise makes the impossible look easy.
While Cruise has been onboard for all of the Mission: Impossible films — six so far, with one in production and another already in development — the other actor who’s been by his side since day one is Ving Rhames, who plays Luther Stickell, an expert hacker at IMF and Hunt’s most trusted friend. Over the years, many great actors like Jon Voight, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Angela Bassett have had roles in the franchise, whether as allies or antagonists to Hunt.
Thankfully, for anyone wondering how watch the Mission: Impossible movies in chronological order or by release date, the action spy franchise isn’t as complicated as Hunt’s “impossible” missions. Here’s a straightforward guide.
Mission Impossible Movies In Order of Release Date
Here’s every film in the Mission: Impossible movie franchise, in the order they were released.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
Mission Impossible Movies in Chronological Order of Events
The timeline of the Mission: Impossible franchise is pretty straightforward, but if you’re wondering when Cruise climbed the Burj Khalifa, how many movies Isla Faust has been in, or who’s been on Ethan Hunt’s IMF team the longest, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a breakdown of how to watch the Mission: Impossible films in chronological order and the important details to remember.
Based on the TV series of the same name that ran from 1966 to 1973, Mission: Impossible, the first film in what is now a multi-billion-dollar-earning franchise, takes the original story and turns it on its head. When a whole team of IMF agents is killed during a mission, Cruise’s Hunt is left as the only survivor. Unfortunately, surviving doesn’t do him much good, as IMF, in turn, suspects Hunt as being a mole in the organization and the one responsible for the killings. In order to prove his innocence, Hunt goes on the run in search of the real mole, intent on stopping them before they do any more damage. Along with Cruise and Rhames, Mission: Impossible also stars Voigt as Jim Phelps, one of the original series’s characters, Vanessa Redgrave as an arms dealer named Max, as well as Kristin Scott Thomas and Emilio Estevez as other major characters. Directed by Brian De Palma, the 1996 film is more of a contained, paranoid spy thriller and ultimately, the franchise goes above and beyond the first film’s story and action sequences, but Mission: Impossible will always be the one that started it all.
Mission: Impossible 2
Released four years after the first film, Mission: Impossible 2, directed by John Woo, features the return of Hunt and the IMF, as Hunt is tasked with finding and disposing of a biochemical weapon called “Chimera.” The villain of this mission is a former IMF agent named Sean Ambrose, played by Dougray Scott. Other new additions to the cast are Thandiwe Newton as Nyah Nordoff-Hall, Ambrose’s ex-girlfriend who helps Hunt accomplish his task, as well as Brendan Gleeson as John C. McCloy, the CEO of Biocyte, the company that creates both the Chimera weapon and its antidote, “Bellerophon.” Ambrose aims to start a pandemic so that he can earn billions of dollars through selling the antidote, and Hunt and Nyah must secure the virus before it’s too late. The second film in the Mission: Impossible franchise ups the ante, with Hunt traveling all the way to Sydney, Australia to chase down Ambrose, and the action sequences are jam-packed in typical Woo fashion.
Mission: Impossible III
The third film in the Mission: Impossible franchise took the longest to be released out of all of them, with six years in between 2000’s Mission: Impossible 2 and 2006’s Mission: Impossible III. The third outing for IMF agent Hunt introduces two more key characters to the story — Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s fiancée, Julia Meade, and Simon Pegg’s Benji Dunn, an IMF technician and trusted teammate of Hunt’s. In Mission: Impossible III, Hunt attempts to retire from fieldwork and settle down with Julia, but the organization can’t seem to let him go. He is called in to rescue a kidnapped agent and stop an arms dealer named Owen Davian (Seymour Hoffman) from receiving a dangerous MacGuffin called the “Rabbit’s Foot.” All the while, Hunt tries to keep the secret of his real job from Julie, but despite his efforts, she gets dragged into danger anyway. Directed by J.J. Abrams, the third Mission: Impossible film also features many other fantastic actors, including Laurence Fishburne, Keri Russell, and Billy Crudup.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
In the new decade, this is where the action franchise really hits its stride. The first Mission: Impossible film to have a subtitle, 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol does not disappoint. After a mission goes terribly wrong, ending with the Kremlin blowing up, the U.S. government disavows IMF in what is known as the “Ghost Protocol,” leaving Hunt and his team alone and without backup. Along with Cruise, Rhames, Pegg, and Monaghan, the fourth Mission: Impossible film also stars Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, and Léa Seydoux. While Hunt’s previous missions have involved traitor agents and virus weapons, this particular adventure features Hunt working to prevent a nuclear war. The stakes are higher than ever, and Hunt must overcome both physical and emotional hardships in order to do his job and save the world. The Iron Giant and Incredibles director Brad Bird made his live-action debut with Ghost Protocol, and the film is a major step up from the previous three, escalating the action set-pieces (most notably, Cruise’s instantly iconic climb up the Burj Khalifa) and introducing a more ensemble-driven approach the franchise is still embracing today.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Enter Rebecca Ferguson. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the fifth film in the Mission: Impossible series that never seems to stop. Alongside Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, and Tom Hollander, this movie marks the first appearance of Ferguson’s Isla Faust, an MI6 agent who encounters Hunt while undercover in the Syndicate crime organization; an international group of spies who went rogue. Ferguson’s character is definitely one of the most complicated of the series so far, and she adds new life and intrigue to the franchise. After Hunt is captured by the Syndicate, led by Harris’s character Solomon Lane, he is tortured for information and later escapes with Faust’s help. The Syndicate’s main goal is to reconstruct the world order through a series of violent terrorist attacks, and of course, Hunt gets blamed for the crimes, leaving him constantly on the run. It’s the age-old story. Hunt gets involved with a huge conspiracy then gets framed and must go on the run, relying on his amazing skills as an agent to take the Syndicate down before they can complete their plan. Considering that this formula has gotten the franchise this far, there’s really no reason to change it up, but director Christopher McQuarrie makes it feel fresh and new with extraordinary stunts and a deeper interest in Hunt as a character. It’s no wonder that he’s the only filmmaker to date to stick with the franchise for multiple sequels.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
As the franchise’s biggest adventure yet, Mission: Impossible – Fallout follows Hunt, Faust, and the rest of Hunt’s now-familiar team as they work to stop what’s left of the Syndicate. The organization has reformed as the Apostles, led by an unknown figure known as John Lark. After a mission to secure stolen plutonium cores doesn’t go well, Bassett, finally joining the franchise as CIA Director Erika Sloane, assigns Henry Cavill’s August Walker to oversee Hunt’s future missions. Meanwhile, an arms dealer named Alanna Mitsopolis, or the White Widow (a new character played by Vanessa Kirby) causes trouble for Hunt and the IMF by stealing the plutonium to make a deal. According to Mitsopolis’s offer, Hunt must secure Lane (the villain from the previous movie) and deliver him to MI6, and she will give him the plutonium cores for the CIA and IMF. Of course, very little goes according to plan, as Hunt discovers that the person known as Lark is closer than he thought. Set two years after Rogue Nation, the two films’ plots are heavily intertwined, so it’s best to watch them together if you can.
With every new installment, the Mission: Impossible franchise gets better and better. But knowing how good 2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout was, how much better can it get? Well, fans won’t have to wait too long to find out, as both Mission: Impossible 7 and Mission: Impossible 8 have already been announced, along with new cast members and release dates.
The seventh film is currently in production and expected to be released on May 27, 2022, while the eighth film will arrive on July 7, 2023. As for who will be joining the cast? The names announced so far include Hayley Atwell, Pom Klementieff, Shea Whigham, and Esai Morales, among others. McQuarrie wrote and is directing both sequels.
Plus, why he loved Jenna Fischer’s answer about the note Jim gave Pam on ‘The Office’ Season 2.
About The Author