As a franchise that has made its name on twists, turns, extremely realistic face masks, making Tom Cruise run a lot, and some of the most ‘impossible’ stunts in cinema, the Mission: Impossible series has a number of contenders for which stunt is the ‘most’ Mission: Impossible (a surprising amount of which involve breaking into very elaborate computer systems).
The Satellite System Hack (Ghost Protocol):
The first on the list is the only stunt not to feature Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, and instead stars Jeremy Renner’s William Brandt. First appearing in the fourth movie, Ghost Protocol, Brandt is a former field agent turned analyst who shows up again in Rogue Nation, and was only absent from Fallout due to a scheduling conflict with Avengers: Infinity War.
One of the (numerous) stunts in Rogue Nation see’s Brandt don a chainmail looking suit underneath his regular suit, which allows him to float above a remote controlled platform (using some very powerful magnets). Although it doesn’t sounds to bad, Brandt has to dive head first into a giant computer cooling fan, and (with that fan then turned off) has to disable the computer system in what is essentially an oven.
Free Climbing the Cliff Face (M:I 2):
The second Mission: Impossible movie really started to set the bar for big, crazy, death defying stunts, and even has a relatively meta scene where the bad guy, Dougray Scott’s Sean Ambrose, points out that Ethan would prefer to risk his life with some overly elaborate acrobatic stunt than hurt innocent people.
The scene itself shows off Ethan scaling a cliff face, with no wires or anything to stop him falling at all. Cruise actually did the free climb in real life with no safety net, ended up tearing his shoulder, and (despite pressure from the studio) refused to drop the scene as he couldn’t think of a more ‘Ethan Hunt’ way to introduce the character the second movie.
Hacking the Under Water Computer Room (Rouge Nation):
After a number of very tense, elaborate and complex computer hacking sequences through the series the fifth movie, Rogue Nation, looked to show us something we really hadn’t seen before, and that meant making this hack under water, with no oxygen. After breaking into the facility, and jumping down into the computer’s water cooled security system, Ethan has to avoid a number of spinning robotic arms, whilst replacing a computer card so Simon Pegg’s Benji isn’t shot dead whilst physically breaking into the computer room above.
The real kicker for hunt comes with metal allowed in the coolant system, and thus no oxygen tank. So whilst performing his death defying stunts and swimming against a very powerful current, he has to hold his breath for minutes. In real life, stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood claimed that Cruise’s longest time was for holding his breath was a little over six minutes, and that he performed the whole three minute scene in one take multiple times.
Climbing the Burj Khalifa (Ghost Protocol):
Rogue Nation saw Cruise perform his most incredible stunt yet, by scaling the Burj Khalifa, the worlds tallest building. In the movie we see Ethan scale the building Spider-Man style with some special gloves, eventually one of them fails, and he barely makes it.
Immediately afterwards Ethan has to meet with a dangerous weapons dealer, and then chases the bad guy on foot through a Dubai sandstorm (as you’d expect form a Mission: Impossible movie) In the real world Cruise climbed the actual Burj Khalifa, with the help of a number of cables, but no stunt double.
The Helicopter Chase (Fallout):
Fallout is clearly the series’ best movie yet, and twenty two years in, is out to prove that this franchise really can keep getting bigger and better. The movies final scenes show an absolutely ridiculous chase scene in which Hunt chases down August Walker in a helicopter.
It starts off with Hunt barely jumping onto one helicopter, eventually climbing in, taking out the pilots, and pursuing Walker, only to end in a brutal hand to hand fight and even more terrifying cliff face free climbing. A scene in which Hunt very nearly crashes into an oncoming truck was shown in the trailer but omitted from the final film.
Skydiving into a Lightning Storm (Fallout):
The whole opening of Fallout is packed full of action and stunts, with the first major show piece being Ethan Hunt and August Walker HALO jumping into central Paris. But just before the two jump, they see a lightning storm above Paris.
Despite Ethan’s warnings that the lightning would mean they had to rethink their entry, the brash, over confident, disapproving of IMF, Walker makes the jump anyway and is almost immediately hit by a crack of lightning (indirectly). Ethan then has to save Walker, give him his oxygen, and ensure that they both land safely. In real life the jump meant that Cruise and the team had to train using a wind tunnel and eventually make over one hundred jumps from 25,000 feet for the three takes the movie needed.
Cashing Down a Plane (Rogue Nation):
Continuing the trend of introducing Ethan to each entry with crazier and crazier stunts, the fifth instalment see’s Hunt literally chase down a taking off plane (on foot), only to hind himself hanging on to the exterior while the pane takes off. Cruise (of course) did the stunt in real life, and over a number of takes was hanging onto the side of the plane (fully strapped in) up to five thousand feet in the air.
The Computer Room (Mission: Impossible):
Although definitely not the most dangerous, or even best, stunt we’ve seen Ethan Hunt pull off throughout the franchise, his breaking into CIA headquarters during the first movie, is definitely the most iconic.
After being falsely accused of being an IMF mole, Ethan decides to do exactly what he’s been accused of and steal a list from the CIA which contains all of their undercover operatives true identities. He recruits a new team of disavowed agents and breaks into the CIA, eventually having to drop down into a completely secure computer room, on wires and steal the list. He has to do so in complete silence and without raising the room’s temperature at all. And so, even though the stunts that followed have gotten bigger, better, and crazier, above all others Ethan’s dropping down into that bright white computer room, is by far the most ‘Mission: Impossible’ stunt in the franchise.