Whether you love them or not, you have to admit that Tom Cruise really earns his paycheck for every Mission: Impossible movie. Whenever he's hanging from the tallest building on Earth, drowning himself or doing a wheelie on a motorcycle at top speed—Cruise always insists that it's really him in the scene, and not a stunt man. He's been through hell in these movies—and even broke his leg in the latest film. He's terrified his directors, and impressed the hell out of stunt coordinators making some of the most impressive action films of all time. These are Tom Cruise's greatest stunts from the Mission: Impossible series.
10| Sexy Free Climbing (Mission: Impossible 2)
John Woo's Mission: Impossible 2 is commonly seen as the worst of the entire franchise. The film opens with this now-infamous bouldering sequence in Utah. Though completely irrelevant to the plot, it’s memorable for being one of Tom Cruise's most insane stunts. Thankfully, Cruise was connected to a thin safety cable, but he refused to do the climb on a fake small scale cliff or with a safety net. "I was really mad that he wanted to do it, but I tried to stop him and I couldn’t,” Woo said. ”I was so scared I was sweating. I couldn’t even watch the monitor when we shot it.”
9| Underwater Vault Heist (Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation)
In the fifth film, Ethan Hunt is forced to break into a submerged security vault. According to Business Insider, after jumping off a 120-foot ledge, Cruise held his breath underwater for over 6 minutes. "On two or three occasions I brought him up because I felt he was down for too long," said the stunt coordinator on the movie. "He was like, 'What are you doing? I was right in the moment. I'm acting.' And I was like, 'I know, it was just too real for me and I wasn't comfortable.'"
8| Motorcycle / Helicopter Chase (Mission: Impossible 2)
The critics might not have liked the movie, but Woo can film a hell of a chase scene. Mission: Impossible II is best known for this explosive bike chase, during which Cruise does the insane wheelie jump fight.
7| Exploding Aquarium Escape in Prague (Mission: Impossible)
Brian De Palma’s beloved first entry to the franchise is home to several legendary stunts. The exploding restaurant aquarium scene was created almost completely without digital effects. That's actually Tom Cruise running from 16 tons of water. Early in this film, director Brian De Palma established what they were going to do with this series.
6| Biker Chase in Morocco (Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation)
At this point in the franchise, the stunt crew is more than comfortable putting Cruise in control of the vehicles. After nearly drowning, Hunt chases down a gang of bikers in the streets of Morocco.
5| Missiles on the Bridge (Mission: Impossible III)
Directed by JJ Abrams, Mission: Impossible III gave the series the modern update it needed. Though the missile was CGI, Cruise actually ran full speed and got slammed into that car. And he did it multiple times to ensure perfection.
4| Hanging from the Ceiling (Mission: Impossible)
Perhaps the most iconic sequence in the entire series, most of this stunt was actually performed practically. According to a behind-the-scenes featurette, Cruise was really balancing himself above that floor.
3| Halo Jump (Mission: Impossible — Fallout)
For the sixth film, Cruise became the first actor to ever perform a halo jump, or a high altitude sky dive. What's bonkers is this high risk military maneuver requires an oxygen mask, and since they didn't want to cover up Cruise's face during the stunt, they actually invented a prop that kept him alive and showed his face. Cruise had to keep acting during his fall from 25,000 feet in the air until he opened his parachute only 2,000 feet above the ground.
2| Catching a Real Plane (Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation)
Rogue Nation’s biggest stunt features Cruise hanging from a real plane as it takes off. Cruise, always committees to authenticity, is said in a featurette to have done the stunt eight times.
1| Climbing the Tallest Building on Earth (Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol)
In the fourth film, directed by Brad Bird, Ethan Hunt is forced to climb the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on Earth. Of course, since this is Mission: Impossible, they actually filmed Cruise hanging 2,722 feet above the ground. As Cruise later recalled: "Some of the crew couldn’t even go on the floor [of a room where the window had been taken out] just because of the height issue, it was too much for them. When I’m swinging from the building, I have crosswinds, and, when you see the shot, you’ll see that I’m actually flying. I had to figure out how to do that, I’m on a single rope at that point and when I leave the building and catch that wind, I am actually flying and trying to figure out how to move my feet like a rudder to move across the whole arc of the building."
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.