In Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Tom Cruise returns as secret agent Ethan Hunt and once more, the star/producer of the venerable franchise performs his own insane stunts. At 56 years old with an acting career spanning nearly four decades, Cruise remains one of the world’s most recognizable and bankable movie stars. But Cruise is also unique among his Hollywood peers because of his willingness to perform his own stunts and his unstoppable desire to top himself in each Mission: Impossible.
Cruise and his production company chose to accept the Mission: Impossible franchise in the mid-1990s. As the films continued, the superstar has been an integral force guiding the progress of the saga. Each Mission‘s action sequences are determined based on Cruise’s ideas and what he feels would be the most thrilling stunts for audiences to watch. Each of the directors Cruise hired has certainly watched with pins and needles as the star and producer risks his safety for the sake of the film and entertaining the fans (alternately, being hired as Tom Cruise’s stunt double must be one of the cushiest jobs in Hollywood). Nor will the injury Cruise suffered shooting Mission: Impossible – Fallout stop him from continuing as his own stuntman in the future.
With Mission: Impossible – Fallout presenting the newest world-saving adventure of Ethan Hunt and the Impossible Mission Force – and projected to have the biggest opening of the franchise – we rank the most extreme stunts personally performed by Tom Cruise in all six films.
10. Rappelling Into The CIA White Room
Directed by Brian DePalma, 1996’s Mission: Impossible was a big-budget adaptation of the original television series. Though M:I was a labyrinthine tale about spycraft and betrayal, as the producer, Cruise wove in a few spectacular action set pieces for himself to perform. The centerpiece stunt of the film was Ethan rappelling into an “impenetrable” white room in the middle of CIA headquarters in Langley, VA to download the NOC list from the central computer. Cruise performed the challenging sequence himself where Ethan dangled from the ceiling and any sound higher than a few decibels or even a bead of sweat touching the pressurized floor would trigger the alarm system. This unforgettable stunt is still the benchmark of the Mission: Impossible franchise and has been referenced a few times in the sequels as well.
9. Chase On Top Of The TGV Bullet Train
The climactic action sequence of the first Mission: Impossible was Ethan chasing the evil head of the IMF, Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), who was trying to make an escape via helicopter. Filmed both on location in Europe and on a soundstage, Tom Cruise performed the stunt where the helicopter explodes and blows him backwards into the windshield of the moving train. Cruise also employed powerful wind turbines because it was important to him that audiences see his face is distorted by the sheer wind velocity of the train.
8. The Knife That Nearly Stabs Tom Cruise’s Eye
Four years later, Hong Kong action director John Woo took over the reigns for Mission: Impossible 2 and pumped up the operatic action while largely eschewing the team-based spycraft of the previous film. Ethan Hunt transformed into a pure action hero as he fought rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) over the Bellerophon, a cure to a deadly virus called the Chimera. Their climactic fight scene on a beach in Sydney, Australia was brutal, but the moment that drew gasps was Ambrose nearly plunging his knife into Ethan’s eye, stopping just centimeters of blinding the agent (and the actor) permanently.
7. Chesapeake Bay Bridge Helicopter Attack
For the 10th anniversary of the Mission film franchise in 2006, Tom Cruise handpicked J.J. Abrams to make his feature film directorial debut on Mission: Impossible III. M:I-III re-established the team-based aspect of Ethan’s adventures and largely eschewed over-the-top action in favor of detailed character work, exploring Ethan’s emotional vulnerability, and his relationship with his new wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan). However, there was certainly the expected violence and explosions, the most spectacular of which was a helicopter ambush on the IMF at the Chesapeake Bay Bride. Cruise performed the eye-popping stunt where a car explosion blows Ethan backward into another car.
6. Mountain Climbing In Moab, Utah
In Mission: Impossible 2, Ambrose’s assessment of Ethan cemented that the hero is prone to acts of “aerobatic insanity”, and that was reflected in the craziest stunt of the film: Ethan Hunt mountain climbing in Moab, Utah, which opens the movie. Cruise actually climbed the mountain himself and performed the stunt where Ethan leaps from one rockface onto another and dangles by one arm without a safety net (though the star did wear a harness that was digitally erased). The result was a breathtaking sequence that sold Ethan Hunt (and Tom Cruise) as a true daredevil.
Page 2 of 2: Tom Cruise’s 5 Craziest Mission: Impossible Stunts
5. Mission: Impossible – Fallout Helicopter Chase
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Mission: Impossible – Fallout climaxes with a breakneck helicopter chase where Cruise climbs onto a flying helicopter, takes control, and chases after another bird. Cruise spent 2,000 hours training and then performed the incredibly dangerous sequence as the helicopter’s pilot himself, including a corkscrew dive in the Airbus H125 helicopter with mountains on all sides – all while acting in the scene and also serving as camera operator thanks to the camera rigged to his chopper.
4. Holding His Breath For Three Minutes Underwater
Christopher McQuarrie also directed 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which pit the disavowed Ethan Hunt and the IMF against an evil version of the spy network called the Syndicate. In order to obtain a “red box” file containing incriminating financial data on the Syndicate, Ethan had to dive into a secure underwater facility to extract the file. This riveting sequence required Tom Cruise to hold his breath for three minutes for a single, unbroken take shot underwater (stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood claims that Cruise actually held his breath for just over six minutes, however.)
3. Hanging Onto A Plane As It Takes Off
In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, once more, the craziest stunt opens a Mission film. In Minsk, Belarus, the IMF attempts to intercept a plane full of nerve gas. Ethan boards an Atlas C-1 plane, with Cruise actually hanging onto the exterior while it takes off – before Ethan is suddenly blown through an open hatch and nearly out of the ajar cargo hold! With only 48 hours to get the shot, the plane took off and landed eight times, with Cruise suspended on the aircraft over 5,000 feet in the air without a stunt double.
2. Climbing The Burj Khalifa
2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol saw Brad Bird take over the director’s chair. Ghost Protocol’s nail-biting centerpiece sequence in Dubai required Ethan Hunt to scale the exterior of the Burj Khalifa over 119 floors. Tom Cruise actually climbed the outside of the Burj Khalifa without the use of a stunt double. Though the star was secured by multiple cables that were digitally erased, Cruise was still hundreds of meters in the air scaling the sheer face of the tallest building in the world, which Bird captured with IMAX cameras. Co-stars Paula Patton and Lea Seydoux were so inspired by Cruise, they also opted not to use stunt doubles and performed their fight scene against each other themselves.
1. HALO Jump Sequence
Despite beginning production without a finished screenplay and Cruise injuring his ankle, which halted production for eight weeks, Mission: Impossible – Fallout sets out to up the ante in every way, especially in the star’s extreme stunts. The HALO jump sequence over Paris may well be untoppable, however. Cruise underwent rigorous training to personally perform Ethan’s HALO (high altitude, low opening) jump from 25,000 feet, all while risking the bends or hypoxia and still acting in the scene and positioning himself for the camera in this insane skydiving stunt.