(Pocket-lint) - Tom Cruise is one of the world's most bankable stars, thanks in no small part to the continued, and at times renewed success of the Mission Impossible franchise.

He's been the face of these spy movies for a couple of decades now, and they just keep finding new ways to use his unearthly enthusiasm and dedication to good effect. That said, with a bunch of numbered entries and three movies without any numerals, you might be wondering what order you're actually supposed to watch the Mission Impossible movies in - check out the best order below. 

Mission Impossible chronological movie order

For those who don't want to know any more, here's the list order that you should watch the films in, to get the best sense of the series' recurring characters and overarching plotlines (of which there aren't too many). 

  • Mission Impossible
  • Mission Impossible II
  • Mission Impossible 3
  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
  • Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
  • Mission Impossible: Fallout

Mission Impossible

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Where it all started - Brian de Palma's superb thriller took Tom Cruise in his heyday and placed him at the centre of a twisty conspiracy full of double crosses and shady characters. As Ethan Hunt he has to work out who betrayed his team and track them down.

It's a real treat to watch again, with more action set-pieces than you might remember, and is also the introduction you need to the IMF, face-changing masks and, of course, that completely iconic main theme.

Mission Impossible II

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A stylistic change of pace, the second movie in the franchise was helmed by John Woo, so there are plenty of slow-motion moments of glory to go around, and a bit of a pivot toward more action.

Just like the first time around, you've got a bafflingly good cast to enjoy as they ham it up, and while the mystery at its heart is arguably the series' least compelling, there's still a lot of fun to be had here. 

Mission Impossible 3

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This time JJ Abrams is in the director's seat, and he takes things in a surprisingly dark direction, with Philip Seymour Hoffman as a positively horrible baddie harrassing Hunt and his pals. 

That said, there's action aplenty including a memorable and gritty showpiece abduction on a bridge, and everything is just as hi-tech and shiny as usual. Bringing the original trilogy to a close, it's a nice conclusion that ended up being far from final.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

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With Brad Bird drafted into the hot seat to direct, Ghost Protocol was meant to be the start of a new dawn for Mission Impossible, handing the lead actor baton over to Jeremy Renner.

Instead, its blend of action and twists hit true again, and made it obvious that Cruise still had miles more to run as Ethan Hunt. The sequence atop the Burj Khalifa in Dubai has lived long in the memory of any action movie fan, as has the sandstorm that follows it. 

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

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If Mission Impossible has really hit its groove at any point, it started with Rogue Nation - Christopher McQuarrie took over from Bird, and something about his style fits the franchise to a tee. 

In cooperation with Cruise, the stunts get crazier, they're filmed inventively, the cast is reliable as always (with Rebecca Ferguson coming in to offer a spiky alternative superspy to Hunt), and the plotting is intricate without feeling overdone. It's a great time, basically. 

Mission Impossible: Fallout

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Fallout is a marvel - the best Mission Impossible movie by far, in our opinion, and one of the best action movies released in years to boot. With Henry Cavill and Ferguson as Cruise's foils, it boasts scene after scene of unbelievable stunts, multiple twists that change things hugely, and a great sense of momentum.

It's wittily written, and directed impeccably - with McQuarrie becoming the first person to actually retain the director's job. It's so good that it immediately netted McQuarrie and Cruise contracts for a seventh and eighth movie, and we can't wait to see what madness they cook up. 

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills.

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