Say what you will about his couch-jumping personal life, but it’s undeniable that Tom Cruise commits to a role as much or more than anyone else in the business. The man does as many stunts as he possibly can, and there’s no better showcase for that than the Mission: Impossible franchise. Cruise has been playing IMF agent Ethan Hunt for nearly 20 years, and, after five films (the latest, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, comes out Friday), he shows no signs of slowing down.
The series has had its ups and downs, it has proven itself to be one of the best and most reliable franchises going. If you like death-defying stunts, Ving Rhames, and weird masks, these are definitely the movies for you. While the upcoming stunt centerpiece in Rogue Nation involves Cruise hanging off the side of an actual airplane, it’s just the latest in a long history of excellent action sequences. With every movie, they up the ante. They’ll probably make Cruise jump into an active volcano in the next film just to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Anyway, before you head to the theaters to see Rogue Nation this weekend, check out these awesome action sequences from the rest of the series.
The Brian De Palma classic is one of the best spy films ever made, and the practical effects, compelling story, and strong performances really helped it stand the test of time. While it feels almost charmingly low-stakes compared to where the franchise ended up, it’s still a taut, enjoyable espionage film.
Breaking Into Langley
This scene is what really started it all. The tech is now very outdated, but the tension remains. Hunt and his team are on the run, while they look for a list of agents and their covers so they don’t fall into the wrong hands. In a different film, something bigger than a rat probably would have been used to create tension, but this low-key approach to high stakes is part of what makes this movie still as enjoyable as the day it was released.
This sequence really shows how far visual effects have come in 20 years, but it’s still a perfectly thrilling scene. While the scene was filmed against a green screen, Cruise had the idea to use a wind simulator used to train skydivers. It produced winds up to 140 miles an hour to distort his face in the right way, and to provide the right amount of resistance to realistically appear to be clinging to the top of a high-speed train.
John Woo’s stylized film is a bit of a blemish on Mission: Impossible‘s reputation. It’s a ridiculous movie, but there are still some cool sequences. I mean, can you go wrong with excessive fire and doves? OK, yeah, you can.
Extreme Rock Climbing
This scene is an excellent opener and reintroduction to Ethan Hunt, and we can thank Cruise for its inclusion in the film. He pushed hard against the studio for it, and even filmed it with only a harness and without a safety net for authenticity. He tore his shoulder during the cliff jump, but those are the sacrifices Cruise is willing to make to nail the scene.
I don’t really know what’s happening here. I mean, when you finally get the chance to face your nemesis, you’re obviously going to leap off your motorcycles in midair to attack each other. Still, everyone loves a chase scene, even if it’s a little over-the-top.
Mission: Impossible III was J.J. Abrams’ first feature film, and there was a lot of pressure on him to reinvigorate the franchise. Luckily, he was up to the task and directed an explosive and cinematic entry, bringing Mission: Impossible back into the cultural zeitgeist.
No Tom Cruise action movie is complete without a Tom Cruise running scene. I’m pretty sure that’s in his contract. This is a classic villain escape scene, and that really is Cruise running from the explosion. He cracked a couple of ribs on set, and an extra actually suffered fairly severe burns after this scene.
This scene was filmed against a green screen, because they weren’t about to get a usable camera angle at the top of the actual building in Shanghai, but Cruise still performed all of his stunts in the studio, and the cityscape was digitally rendered later.
Ghost Protocol was Brad Bird’s first live-action film, and he took his deft direction that brought the world some great animated films and made a truly enjoyable blockbuster. Sure, the Kremlin gets blown up, but it’s easily the funniest entry in the series, thanks to the great addition of Simon Pegg to the IMF team.
There are bigger set pieces from this film, but this scene is so expertly choreographed that it would be a crime to not include it. Between Cruise’s confident physicality, the clicking together of each different piece of the escape plan, and the soundtrack of “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” by Dean Martin, this scene is exciting and funny, and set the tone for the rest of the film.
Climbing The Burj Khalifa
This scene is the crowning achievement of the Mission: Impossible franchise, and the truly mind-blowing thing is the fact that Cruise really hung off the side of the Burj Khalifa, with multiple cables keeping him secured to the building at all times. Even with that safety net, it’s truly one of the most magnificent stunt sequences of all-time. We’ll see if the airplane scene in Rogue Nation can top it.