With Tom Cruise set to return for the seventh time as action hero Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One, it sheds light on the highly successful genre of action films in Hollywood. The Mission Impossible franchise is renowned for some of the most memorable fights, chases, and explosions, but Hunt isn’t the sole action hero to grace the screen.
Ahead of Dead Reckoning Part One, we’re measuring up Tom Cruise’s iconic hero against some of the best action characters in film history.
Ethan Hunt - Mission Impossible
With six action-packed films to date in his franchise, you’d be remiss not to include Hunt among the great action heroes to grace the screen. The franchise has had no lack of compelling villains. While Hunt always manages to rise to the occasion, no film is left without some combination of phenomenal and dangerous stunts like skydiving, climbing on a moving plane, or propelling down treacherous heights, all performed by famed action star Tom Cruise himself.
James Bond - 007
From Goldfinger to Skyfall, the James Bond franchise ranks among the most iconic action sagas ever made, with a handful of renowned actors such as Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig portraying Agent 007. While Bond is no stranger to memorable action scenes, his work in the field tends to lean more heavily toward infiltration and espionage, while Hunt is no stranger to finding himself in non-stop fist-to-fist action.
Much like Cruise’s work with Mission Impossible, Matt Damon insisted on doing most of his stunts when portraying the action character of Jason Bourne on screen. He had never played such a physically demanding role before being cast in the franchise’s inaugural film in 2002. The franchise has earned praise for using real stunt work in its action scenes. Still, for audiences who crave another layer to an action film’s storytelling, the fact that Bourne struggles to regain his memory and discover who he truly is may give him an edge versus Hunt in some people’s minds.
John McClane - Die Hard
Bruce Willis brings to life the tale of John McClane, a New York City police officer who attempts to save his estranged wife and others who a group of terrorists takes hostage in 1988’s Die Hard. By no means does Willis’ character of McClane match the volume of physical stunts performed by Cruise’s Hunt, but McClane still packs plenty of action with a touch of humor on screen. Plus, you know the performance is top-notch when audiences debate whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie to this day.
John Rambo - First Blood
The first chapter of the Rambo franchise starring Sylvester Stallone as the titular character released in 1982, centering around a veteran who flees into the mountains and engages in a one-man war against his pursuers. Rambo gives audiences his fair share of iconic action scenes, some arguably a bit more gruesome than what is on screen in the Mission Impossible films, and the fact that he lives with post-traumatic stress disorder adds an extra layer to his character. Truth be told, some consider Rambo to be more of an antihero than your stereotypical action hero.