In 1996, 30 years after the Mission: Impossible TV series first aired on CBS, Paramount Pictures recruited Tom Cruise to bring the franchise to the big screen. In the 17 years since, Cruise has led the franchise through six spy films and a $3.5 billion USD box-office haul to rest comfortably among the best action franchises of all time.
With the series’ seventh and eighth movies — Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One and Part Two — on the horizon, we’ve compiled a spoiler-free* list of every Mission Impossible movie ordered by narrative chronology and release date, from oldest to newest, so you can watch or re-watch the movies in their proper order.
How Many Mission Impossible Movies Are There?
There have been six Mission: Impossible movies released since the series’ inception in 1996. A seventh film will be released this year, followed by an eighth in 2024.
Mission Impossible Movies in Chronological Order
Following the Mission Impossible chronology is as easy as watching the movies in the order they were released: the narrative chronology follows the release order from 1996’s Mission Impossible to 2018’s Fallout.
The list below outlines the definitive order in which to watch the Mission Impossible movies. We’ve added broad plot overviews and information on each movie’s critical and commercial reception.
*The blurbs below contain character/actor names and broad plot overviews.
1. Mission: Impossible (1996)
1996’s Mission: Impossible introduced us to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, a highly capable agent within the elite Impossible Mission Force (IMF) espionage agency. Hunt, believed to be a mole within the IMF, flees and sets out to discover the traitor’s true identity.
Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, and Henry Czerny star alongside Cruise, as does the series’ most recurring support actor, Ving Rhames (Luther). It’s the only film in the franchise directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface).
2. Mission: Impossible II (2000)
Ethan Hunt returned four years later for Mission: Impossible 2, a sequel that tasks the agent with recovering a dangerous bioweapon and its cure from the hands of a nefarious pharmaceutical company and its lackeys.
The sequel weaves another spy-thriller plot through explosive stuntwork, chase scenes, and the drama of blackmail and stolen identity. It’s the only movie in the series directed by action-film legend John Woo.
3. Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Mission: Impossible 3 introduces a love interest for Ethan in Michelle Monaghan’s Julia Meade. The plot sees Julia unwittingly mixed up in Ethan’s espionage work, which once again focuses on the recovery of a bioweapon.
Ving Rhames again reprises his role as Ethan’s trusted colleague Luther. Other cast members include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Keri Russell, Simon Pegg, and Laurence Fishburne.
Mission: Impossible III was J.J. Abrams’s feature-film directorial debut. It’s the only movie in the franchise he directed.
4. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
The first of the more-modern Mission Impossible movies, Ghost Protocol was a big success for Paramount, grossing nearly $700 million USD worldwide and earning 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Another tale of deception with potentially earth-shattering consequences, Ghost Protocol tasks Ethan and co. with tracking down Russia’s stolen nuclear codes. The movie ends by setting up The Syndicate terrorist network as the next film’s big bad.
Ghost Protocol was directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles). Cruise and Pegg returned from M:I 3 and were joined by newcomers Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton.
5. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Christopher McQuarrie took over the franchise’s directorial duties with Rogue Nation and has held onto them since. A frequent collaborator of Tom Cruise’s, McQuarrie has made the two most critically acclaimed M:I movies and two of the three highest-grossing.
Rogue Nation is another globe-trotting spectacle filled with stuntwork and sabotage. This time around, Ethan Hunt faces off against The Syndicate, a shadowy terrorist organization set up at the end of Ghost Protocol.
Joining Cruise, Pegg, Renner, and Rhames in Rogue Nation are Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Simon McBurney, and Alec Baldwin.
6. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
The most recent Mission Impossible is the franchise’s most critically and commercially successful film. Fallout features healthy servings of M:I’s staple ingredients — government conspiracies, double-crosses, bombastic set-pieces — but as stated in IGN’s review, the main draw is watching “Tom Cruise do his death-defying thing.”
The Syndicate, rebuilt as The Apostles, returns as the antagonist organization in Fallout. Ethan Hunt, accompanied by Henry Cavill’s August Walker, is tasked with recovering three plutonium cores to prevent the detonation of three nuclear bombs.
Cruise, Pegg, Rhames, Monaghan, Ferguson, Baldwin, and Harris all return from the series’ past, while Cavill leads a group of newcomers that includes Angela Bassett, Wes Bentley, and Vanessa Kirby.
Upcoming Mission Impossible Movies
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)
The first of a two-part blockbuster, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One will be released in theaters on July 12, 2023. It’s a sequel to Mission: Impossible – Fallout, maintaining the synchronicity between the series’ narrative and release chronologies. Here’s the official synopsis from Paramount:
In Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Ethan Hunt and his IMF team embark on their most dangerous mission yet: To track down a terrifying new weapon that threatens all of humanity before it falls into the wrong hands. With control of the future and the fate of the world at stake, and dark forces from Ethan’s past closing in, a deadly race around the globe begins. Confronted by a mysterious, all-powerful enemy, Ethan is forced to consider that nothing can matter more than his mission – not even the lives of those he cares about most.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two (2024)
Dead Reckoning Part Two will be a direct sequel to Dead Reckoning Part One. It’s scheduled to be released just shy of a year later on June 28, 2024.
How to Watch the Mission Impossible Movies By Release Date
- Mission: Impossible (1996)
- Mission: Impossible II (2000)
- Mission: Impossible III (2006)
- Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
- Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
- Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)*
- Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two (2024)*
*Not yet released
Jordan covers games, shows, and movies as a freelance writer for IGN.