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Ranking Every Mission: Impossible Movie

Ranking all five of the Mission: Impossible films is a—wait for it …wait for it…WAIT FOR IT!—really difficult thing to do. But not impossible!

Each film in the Tom Cruise franchise has something great going for it (yes, even THAT one), and in most cases, a whole bunch of great somethings. Here they are, from least great (but still good!) to greatest, in honor of Rogue Nation dropping this week:

Mission: Impossible II

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Even the worst Ethan Hunt adventure is better than many other spy movies, but the John Woo entry in the Mission: Impossible series is the obvious outlier. Two thumbs up for the two guns and numerous doves, Ethan’s flowing hair, the sheer amount of fake mask fake-outs, a slick Anthony Hopkins stepping in as Ethan’s new IMF handler, and Dougray Scott opting to play a rogue IMF agent instead of taking on Wolverine in X-Men. Bad move for Scott, great move for Jackman and everyone else.

Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol

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It’s a game of inches from this point forward, but we begin here with Ghost Protocol. It introduces a lot of cool new elements to M:I, including a heightened role for Simon Pegg’s Benji Dunn, Paula Patton as vengeful Jane Carter, the insane Burj Khalifa stunt… but it lacks a memorable main villain, and a memorable main story. Solid overall, but a few steps below the next three.

(Full disclosure: As a seriously obnoxious Lost geek, I will always love the Josh Holloway intro, and will always hate that he died so fast. RIP, Secret Agent Sawyer.)

Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation

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The latest entry in the series is more than worthy of the Mission: Impossible name. It meets the heights of the Burj Khalifa stunt, and then some, with an opening airplane action scene that sets the stakes for the rest of the movie—and then it follows up with a smaller, tighter, tenser story than any we’ve seen since the first Mission: Impossible. From the incredible opera scene to the equally incredible Rebecca Ferguson, Rogue Nation works on every single level.

Mission: Impossible III

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An episode of Alias writ large, sans pink hair. The first Ethan Hunt tale in six years, J.J. Abrams picked up the torch dropped by Mission: Impossible II, and carried it forward with an energetic new tone that redefined the franchise moving forward. Add in a haunting performance from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, an enigmatic central plot involving the ambiguous Rabbit’s Foot, the short but sweet turn from Keri Russell, and the closest look at Ethan’s personal life yet. It’s a fantastic movie, and second only to one in the series…

Mission: Impossible

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Respect the original. All others are toast. Toast. TOAST. No, the rest are great, but the Brian De Palma film that started it all remains the best, what with its brutal betrayal of the initial IMF team, Ethan’s ragtag squad infiltrating CIA headquarters in Langley, the vomiting Langley agent, the relentlessly douchey Kittridge, the helicopter/train chase at the end of the movie, the revelation that Jon Voight’s Jim Phelps was actually the villain the whole time (sacrilegious to some die-hard Mission: Impossible fans, admittedly, but iconic nonetheless)…everything, really. Almost 20 years later, it still kicks ass to the Max. (No Vanessa Redgraves were harmed in the writing of that sentence.)

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