Top 10 Secrets About How Mission Impossible Stunts Were Filmed
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Top 10 Secrets About How Mission Impossible Stunts Were Filmed

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Andrew Tejada
How'd they do that? For this list, we're looking at the incredible true stories behind the franchise's best action scenes. Our countdown includes Mission: Impossible — Fallout”, “Mission: Impossible III”, “Mission: Impossible”, and more!

Top 10 Secrets About How Mission: Impossible Stunts Were Filmed

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 secrets about how “Mission: Impossible” stunts were filmed.

For this list, we’re looking at the incredible true stories behind the franchise’s best action scenes.

What’s your favorite stunt from the “Mission: Impossible” movies? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: The Roof Jump Was a Freak Accident

“Mission: Impossible — Fallout” (2018)
Sometimes a stunt becomes legendary when it goes wrong. Tom Cruise learned that the hard way while filming “Mission Impossible: Fallout.” During the film, Ethan Hunt leaps from one rooftop to another to try to catch up to John Lark. When Cruise shot the jump, he was attached to a harness. He was supposed to slam into the building, pull himself up, and keep sprinting. But when Cruise hit the building, he unexpectedly broke his ankle. Although the footage of this incident was widely shared, the moment he was injured doesn’t appear in the movie. The only evidence of Cruise’s broken ankle is a momentary limp. Fortunately, his injury didn’t stop him from doing more ambitious stunts down the line.

#9: They Built a Convincing Vatican Double

“Mission: Impossible III” (2006)
During “Mission Impossible III,” Ethan needs to infiltrate the Vatican. When no one is looking, he runs up one side of the wall before dropping in on the other side on a wire. Since the Pope didn't grant Cruise permission to film at the real Vatican, a model 40 foot wall was built to imitate the real thing. The actor ran up the mock wall himself while attached to a safety cable. Cruise’s drop into the “Vatican” was riskier. A dedicated crew held one side of the cable as the actor fell. If they didn't hold it correctly, Cruise could’ve hit the ground hard. Although he bounced against the ground in at least one take, the final result looks ridiculously cool.

#8: A Knife Came Close to Cruise’s Eye

“Mission: Impossible 2” (2000)
If you're squeamish, you might want to look away from this behind-the-scenes fact. In the climactic final fight of “Mission: Impossible 2,” Sean Ambrose attempts to stab Ethan. Audiences are then treated to an uncomfortable close-up shot of the pointy weapon nearly poking Ethan’s eye out. Although this scene could’ve been accomplished with CGI, Cruise insisted on doing it for real. The crew attached a knife to a steel safety cable so it would stop before hitting his eye. Cruise stared directly into the pointy end as a stuntman pretended to bring the weapon down. The realistic nature of this eyebrow-raising stunt made it the most memorable part of an exciting fight sequence.

#7: The Cable Drop Is Pretty Accurate

“Mission: Impossible” (1996)
The most iconic stunt in the franchise is the cable drop. When Ethan has to hack into a CIA computer without touching a pressure-sensitive floor, his teammate Krieger (KREE-gur) lowers him into the room on a cable. The scene’s tension lies in the fact that Franz could lose his grip at any moment. This difficult mission was hard to execute behind-the-scenes. When Cruise performed the stunt he was held up by two crew members, ropes, and his insane core strength. Everyone involved had to coordinate the stunt perfectly so Ethan was always at the right height. And Cruise had to avoid getting light-headed from hanging upside down for extended periods of time. Their hard work resulted in an iconic and often parodied scene.

#6: Cruise Wanted Real Rock Climbing

“Mission: Impossible 2” (2000)
“Mission Impossible: 2” opens up with an impressive rock-climbing sequence. Ethan Hunt confidently scales a tall cliff in Utah without rope or fear. John Woo initially wanted Tom Cruise to shoot the scene at a smaller location. When the actor inevitably refused, he started practicing for the real climb. Unlike Ethan, Cruise performed the stunt with safety equipment that was digitally removed in post-production. But that doesn't mean the scene was any less difficult to shoot. It took five days of climbing to get all the shots they needed. Cameramen in helicopters also had to fly extremely close to the actor to capture all of the action. Cruise’s dedication and passion for climbing definitely shine through this stunning sequence.

#5: Cruise Got Extremely Good at Holding His Breath

“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” (2015)
Most people can hold their breath underwater for at least 30 seconds. Tom Cruise blew that breath-holding average out of the water for “Mission Impossible Rogue Nation.” During the film, Ethan has to hold his breath for 3 minutes to alter an underwater security system. Cruise prepared for the stunt by training with a professional freediver. Although the actor blacked out occasionally during the training, he was eventually able to improve. By the time cameras started rolling on the scene, Cruise could hold his breath for over 6 minutes. That’s nearly twice as long as Ethan needed to hold his breath. If Cruise and Ethan ever had a freediving competition, we know who we would bet our money on.

#4: Cruise Did the Helicopter Stunts

“Mission: Impossible — Fallout” (2018)
Before “Mission Impossible: Fallout” ends, Ethan nearly falls out of the sky, performs crazy maneuvers in a helicopter, survives a crash, and fights Henry Cavill’s Jonathan Lark on top of a mountain. While the crash was done on a stage, nearly everything else was done on location. The actors filmed most of their fight on an actual cliff. Cruise also fell out of a helicopter backward with just a safety cord and no other protection. But the most mind-blowing part of the scene is that Cruise did all of the helicopter flying himself. He performs all the dizzying and nerve-wracking maneuvers you see onscreen. Cruise's incredible flying skills take this already amazing scene to a completely new level.

#3: Hanging Off an Airplane Isn’t Easy

“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” (2015)
Audiences didn't have time to settle into their seats for “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” before Cruise blew them away with another incredible stunt. Near the opening, Ethan gets stuck on a military aircraft’s wing as it’s taking off. All he can do is hold onto the door for dear life. Before Cruise attempted this crazy stunt, the crew sent up dummies and brave stunt people to make sure it was safe. The creative team also gave their star special contacts so he could keep his eyes open in the extremely fast winds. Once the prep work was done, the crew strapped Cruise into a special harness and took off. We wish every movie could open with a stunt as stunning as Ethan’s unexpected flight.

#2: Scaling the Burj Khalifa Was a Race Against Time

“Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” (2011)
Shooting the scene where Ethan Hunt climbs outside of the Burj Khalifa was far from easy. Since the windows of the world’s tallest building get pretty hot, Cruise prepared by climbing on a heated glass wall. After modifying the building to accommodate safety equipment, the crew discovered the harness that kept Cruise safe could cause his legs to go numb if they shot too long. On top of that, the helicopters could only record film for 30 minutes at a time. And if that wasn’t enough pressure, the IMAX footage they captured could only be checked a few days after shooting. Despite the sheer number of moving parts it took to make the Burj Khalifa sequence work, the final result looks absolutely seamless.

#1: The Record-Breaking Halo Jump Took Over 100 Takes

“Mission: Impossible — Fallout” (2018)
With Mission Impossible: Fallout,” Tom Cruise made Hollywood history by performing a HALO jump from 25,000 feet - HALO being military jargon for High Altitude, Low Opening. Before becoming the first actor to do this on camera, his production team built a huge custom wind tunnel for training. As they prepared for the stunt, the studio found a cameraman willing to jump out of the plane alongside Cruise to record the action. Since the team only had three minutes of good lighting to capture the scene each day, it took them around 106 attempts to get the perfect shot. And did we mention Cruise did all of this with a broken ankle? The only problem with this record-breaking jump is that we’re unsure how the franchise can top this stunt in the next film.