Mention the "Mission: Impossible" franchise to just about anyone, and you’re certain to be greeted with the following response: “Hey, uh, did you know Tom Cruise does all his own stunts?”
Heck yeah, he does. Tom Cruise is, hands down, responsible for conjuring up and performing some of the greatest stunts in theatrical history.
Over the course of the past 20 years, since first bringing the "Mission: Impossible" television series to the big screen as producer and leading man Ethan Hunt, Cruise has defied gravity, death and — many would argue — common sense to bring us the most captivating and realistic stunts ever caught on camera.
Every four years or so, Cruise raises the bar for what was thought possible in not only theatrical, but also in the stunt realm. We have compiled a list of the top five most iconic "Mission: Impossible" stunts that have not just defined the action/spy genre, but also cemented Cruise as a cinematic legend.
1. 'Mission: Impossible'
Langley wire suspension
The stunt that started it all. This stunt is arguably one of the most recognizable scenes of the past two decades ? if not ever. In a harness and lowered by Spectra Rope some 30 feet into the room, the physical strength, composure, balance and patience required by Cruise to maintain the position and operate a computer is considered by experts to be nearly impossible.
2. 'Mission: Impossible 2'
The sequel was four years in the making, which meant Cruise not only had to remind moviegoers of the epic action sequences that set "Mission: Impossible" apart, but also raise the bar for anyone looking to steal the stunt king crown. Cruise stared death in the face and decided to dangle himself from a cliff face known as Dead Horse Point in Utah, in the film’s opening sequence. It took months of climbing training and five days to complete the shoot hanging from that rock some 2,000 feet above ground.
3. 'Mission: Impossible III'
Jumping off the Shanghai skyscraper
Talk about daring. If you thought looking down from a third-floor balcony was intimidating, imagine throwing yourself 40 feet over the side of a skyscraper ? a matter of eight times or so, no less. They say making the leap is the toughest part but spare a thought for Cruise’s body upon landing. If we didn’t know any better, we’d suggest he was auditioning for a spot on the Red Bull Air Force team.
4. 'Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol'
Climbing the Dubai Burj Khalifa
At 2,722 feet, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world ? and Cruise climbed it. He combined all three of the previous stunts ? the Spectra Rope, the rock climbing and the giant skyscraper jump. He threw himself at 2,000 feet to scale the outside of the building by hand.
5. 'Mission: Impossible'
Shark tank escape
The first four were obvious choices, but it was tough to round out the list. Cruise performed in numerous motorbike, train and helicopter scenes ? not to mention his barefoot free running in "Ghost Protocol." We decided to go back to where it all started with this restaurant aquarium scene and his daring escape, courtesy of exploding gum and his getaway sticks. No snorkel required.
© Paramount Pictures
Bonus: 'Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation' trailer
What led Cruise to decide to latch himself onto the wing of an Airbus A400M for eight consecutive takes? The above five stunts ? that is what. He’s literally set the bar so high for himself that he needed a plane to take it to a new level all over again.