“Tom Cruise runs a lot on screen” is such an old joke that he’s in on it, too. His Twitter bio says, “Running in movies since 1981.” It’s not just a clever bit. He really does, especially when he’s saving the world. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has tread a whole lot of ground on foot very quickly in his seven Mission: Impossible films. In fact, he does it so much that Paramount Pictures promoted Dead Reckoning with a montage of Ethan’s most famous runs. And yet, it’s woefully incomplete. The video clocks in at under ten minutes, but Cruise runs for roughly nine hours in the third installment alone. We know because we personally kept track of every single time he runs in every movie.
Necessary work, we know. You’re welcome. But even more important? Figuring out which of the many, many runs are the best of the best. From full on sprints to slow limps, to going down buildings and across major cities, these are the best, the most entertaining, most memorable, most exciting, most athletic, most iconic Ethan Hunt runs in the Mission: Impossible franchise.
Note: If you haven’t seen Dead Reckoning just yet don’t worry, you can still read this. This post only contains information about the film that has appeared in official trailers and promos.
14. Out of a Skyscraper (Mission: Impossible II)
Flowing hair, explosions, enemies all around him, and seemingly nowhere to go? No problem for Ethan. His short, slow-mo dash scored with dramatic music through a firefight in a skyscraper ends with him leaping out a window with a gun in each hand. It’s really good in a campy way, one of Part II‘s few genuinely entertaining scenes.
13. After Hendricks in Mumbai (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol)
I don’t know what kind of top speed Tom Cruise ever reached at his physical peak. All I know is that his furious chase after Kurt Hendricks through the busy streets of colorful Mumbai in Ghost Protocol makes him look like he’s going 80 miles-per-hour. He’s like Usain Bolt playing running back and the defense can’t touch him despite having 900 players on the field. The man barely slows down as he slides across the top of a car mid-run. There’s real athleticism on display during this entire Mission: Impossible sequence, which leads up into the parking garage where Ethan Hunt does what he does best, which is plenty more running.
12. Limping Escape From Solomon Lane (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation)
Sometimes less is more, like when Ethan limp-ran away from Solomon Lane at the end of Rogue Nation. This is arguably his most strategic run. Trying to get away while injured made him appear especially vulnerable, which helped lure Lane into Ethan’s trap. We also like when Ethan runs straight through a plate window and slides into the hole like he stole second base.
Sidenote: Ethan and Ilsa’s long run through London right before this is really good, too. So why isn’t it ranked? There are simply even better ones, which is why his little limp run at the park-lift in Ghost Protocol isn’t on here either.
11. Biocyte Double-Switch Escape (Mission: Impossible II)
The lackluster second installment in the series only has two notable runs but they’re both fantastic. (Maybe because they manage to use slow-motion effectively, which the rest of the film does not.) Ethan flees the underground Biocyte meeting where he used a mask double-switch to get Sean Ambrose to kill his own friend Hugh Stamp and steal the world-saving antidote. As Ethan and his flapping leather jacket run away he rips away his disguise, a perfect cap to the best use of masks in the franchise. And once he does his glorious hair adds to the dramatic effect.
10. Down the Burj Kalifa (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol)
From start to finish, the Burj Kalifa running scene is among the best in Mission: Impossible. It might also be Tom Cruise’s most amazing stunts, as one of the world’s most famous actors works outside one of the world’s tallest buildings. That includes a straight sprint down the side of the Burk Kalifa which then results in him running sideways to make himself a giant pendulum. This is one of the shortest runs on the list, but it’s easily one of the most famous for a reason.
9. The Helicopter Bridge Attack (Mission: Impossible III)
In terms of danger, total running, and Tom Cruise making intense Tom Cruise faces, it’s hard to match the bridge attack scene in Mission: Impossible III. It’s a fight to the death that also involves saving innocent lives and counterstrikes. That means Ethan does roughly 19 100-meter sprints in two minutes. This would actually rank higher if not for the fact the big running jump over the broken span of bridge wasn’t clunky.
8 The Kremlin (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol)
Mission: Impossible III (to its detriment) has the most running sequences, but Ghost Protocol has not only the second most, it also has the best. That includes Ethan’s scamper through the Kremlin has a Russian general, which then turns into a quick change walk as an American tourist. But when the Kremlin goes kablamo, Ethan takes off to try and avoid being killed in the ensuing blast. It’s an amazing sequence that looks amazing.
7. Onto a Plane Taking Off (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation)
Everyone remembers Tom Cruise hanging off the side of a flying airplane, but don’t overlook how he got there. In a desperate attempt to salvage the mission Ethan comes flying out of nowhere to chase down the aircraft before it can takeoff. He then runs across it while it’s speeding up. The chaotic energy of his run and how it’s filmed builds the tension necessary to making this sequence an all-timer. Ethan enters the movie like he’s shot out of a cannon.
6. From the Doge’s Palace (Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One)
In terms of beautiful locations, it’s hard to beat Venice as your backdrop. But toss in the Doge’s Palace and a beautiful runway of candles in the middle of an Ethan Hunt sprint and you get one of the most beautiful Mission: Impossible running scenes ever. It’s also among his most intense, as the real danger of Ethan’s situation comes across in the ferocity of his sprint. “ To me, this is cinema.“
5. The Dubai Airport (Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One)
Somehow a candlelit dash by the canals of Venice isn’t even Dead Reckoning‘s best Ethan run. That goes to his run through and on top of the Dubai airport. The sweeping shots of him on the roof are especially great, as once again director Christopher McQuarrie turns something as simple as running into an epic sequence. This really encapsulates the scope of these films, which uses famous locales across the world as its setting.
4. Across Shanghai (Mission: Impossible III)
One of the best filmed Ethan Hunt runs is also one of his longest and most impressive. He absolutely tears through Shanghai like a man possessed as he tries to save both his wife and the world. The streets aren’t empty, though. He must navigate roughly a million people across a long distance. It’s an especially difficult piece of filmmaking, like a well-choreographed dance sequence, because at one point we get a long, uninterrupted shot of Ethan running alongside a long canal. It pulls back to show us just how far he’s going and just how fast he’s going. Every time you see this run it gets more impressive.
3. Chasing August Walker Across London (Mission: Impossible – Fallout)
No single running scene in the Mission: Impossible franchise is as audacious, funny, and impressive as Ethan’s super lengthy chase through (and atop) London. He keeps going and going and going after August Walker who is walking calmly in comparison. It’s also hilarious because Benji’s navigation sends Ethan through a ridiculous path, like when he sends him through a literal office building where the workers watch Ethan in disbelief. Everything about this portion of the movie is incredible.
We’re not even giving it extra credit because Tom Cruise broke his ankle jumping onto a roof and then limp-ran away like a champ. That’s just an amazing bonus to one of Mission: Impossible‘s best sequences.
2. The Exploding Fish Tank (Mission: Impossible I)
If this isn’t Ethan Hunt’s shortest run it’s close. But it’s also arguably his most iconic. His legendary original scene with Eugene Kittridge is the one that really let us know just how formidable he truly is. Not only did he identify everyone there as an agent he spotted earlier, he used that explosive stick of gum to blow up the giant fish tank. While the mini flood washed everyone else away, Ethan managed to get away through the broken window, almost like he could run on water.
It was an amazing scene in 1996 and it’s still an amazing scene now, but it wouldn’t be without that short run.
1. The Sandstorm Outside the Burj Kalifa (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol)
A setting so good it not only produced two of Ethan Hunt’s best runs it gave us his greatest, most extravagant dash. His chase after Hendricks (disguised as Wistrum) took him from the Burj Kalifa into a massive sandstorm. The visuals from the start of this intense, fast-paced sequence are absolutely gorgeous. It then turns into total chaos as the blinding sand envelops everything and everyone. But what makes it even better are the little touches, like when Ethan and the super genius villain both grab scarves and wrap them around their faces mid-sprint.
For a scene that is so cinematic it also feels authentic. Both men act like real people in a situation that is otherworldly. It’s like seeing Ethan run on Mars. (That won’t actually happen until Mission: Impossible 14.) That’s why his sandstorm chase is worthy of being the best of all Mission: Impossible running scenes to exist thus far.