Tom Cruise’s 10 best movie stunts: from six minutes underwater to scaling Burj Khalifa

Ahead of the release of Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning: Part One, we reveal the Hollywood star’s most impressive stunts

Tom Cruise is one of the few Hollywood actors who performs his own death-defying stunts.  Photos: AP
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It’s enough to give any movie insurer a heart attack to see their million-dollar leading man dangling off skyscrapers and hanging off the wings of planes.

But that’s exactly what Tom Cruise has spent his five decades-long career doing.

On Sunday, he shared a video promoting Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, parts one and two, which he is filming in South Africa, and to thank fans for watching Top Gun: Maverick in cinemas.

In the first part of the video, he sits on the side of an aircraft with director Christopher McQuarrie before jumping out of the plane solo and continuing to share his message:

“As always, thank you for allowing us to entertain you. It truly is the honour of a lifetime. I’m running out of altitude, so I’ve got to get back to work. We’ve got to get this shot. You have a very safe and happy holiday. We’ll see you at the movies."

Even at the age of 60, Cruise still does most of his own stunts.

“I feel that [when acting] you're bringing everything, you know, physically and emotionally, to a character in a story,” he told Graham Norton on his UK talk show. “I’ve trained for 30 years doing [stunts] and it allows us to put cameras where you are normally not able to.”

With Top Gun: Maverick one of the year’s biggest hits, and the seventh instalment in the Mission Impossible franchise out next year, we take a look back at 10 of Cruise’s most spectacular stunts …

10. Mission: Impossible — Fallout, 2018

Cruise trained for 16 hours a day to master not only flying a helicopter in the sixth instalment of the action franchise, but also to pull off a spinning dive in it.

In the scene Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt goes into a 360° corkscrew dive in a H125 helicopter, a move which trained pilots spend months learning about in the classroom before moving to a simulator and then the real thing.

“Cruise put in about three months of solid days in the classroom and in the air to gain the skills that he needed,” said Wired.

9. Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, 2015

To retrieve a computer chip that will help him track down the baddy Soloman Lane (Sean Harris), Ethan Hunt has to dive into an underwater safe, while evading a fast-swinging crane circling around.

After jumping off a 36.6m ledge into a 6m-deep water tank, Cruise held his breath for six and a half minutes to pull off the stunt in one take.

8. Top Gun: Maverick, 2022

Cruise got back in the pilot seat to reprise his role as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in this year’s blockbuster.

And in true Cruise form, he did most of the aerial stunts himself, enduring eight g-force in the F/A-18 jets which the US Department of Defence lent to the movie for $11,000 per hour.

“Every time we went up there you have to mentally brace for a fight. You get on the ground and you’re exhausted,” Glenn Powell who played Lt. Jake “Hangman” Seresin told The Ringer. “That’s what’s impressive about Tom. He’s flying more than anyone in the movie — he would fly three times a day.”

7. Mission: Impossible — Fallout, 2018

Cruise’s stunt work in the most recent M:I instalment made headlines when it was revealed he had broken his ankle during a particularly daring stunt.

Pictures of the actor’s foot bent back the wrong way emerged after he hit a building leaping from one roof to another, causing production to be halted for six weeks.

“I knew instantly my ankle was broken and I really didn’t want to do it again so just got up and carried on with the take,” he told Norton. “I said, ‘It’s broken. That’s a wrap. Take me to hospital’ and then everyone got on the phone and made their vacation arrangements.”

6. Mission Impossible — Dead Reckoning: Part One, 2023

According to the Hollywood rumour mill, Cruise practised riding a bike off a Norwegian cliff a whopping 13,000 times to perfect the stunt that will appear in the upcoming movie.

He also tried the skydiving scene 500 times to nail the shot which appears at the end of the trailer.

5. The Mummy, 2017

“There was a lot of barfing,” said Alex Kurtzman, the film’s writer and director of the 64 takes Tom Cruise did to nail the cargo plane's crash scene in the movie. He said it was the crew — not Cruise — who suffered.

The actor did the stunt inside a Nasa plane which is used to train astronauts for zero gravity. The plane goes up for 25,000 feet before plummeting in free fall for 22 seconds.

Despite being offered the chance to create the scene on a studio soundstage the actor opted for the plane for more realism.

4. Mission: Impossible 2, 2000

As far as opening scenes go, the sight of Cruise free climbing up a 609.6m cliff in the second film in the franchise is pretty impressive.

It took seven takes to catch Cruise dangling off the cliff in Utah, and also performing a 4.6m jump from one cliff to another attached by one safety rope.

“I was really mad that he wanted to do it, but I tried to stop him and I couldn’t,” director John Woo told EW. “I was so scared I was sweating. I couldn’t even watch the monitor when we shot it.”

3. Mission: Impossible — Fallout, 2018

The scene in which Ethan Hunt and CIA operative August Walker (Henry Cavill) have to do a Halo (high-altitude, low open) jump involves waiting until the very last minute to open the parachute.

Cruise did 106 skydives with the broken ankle he sustained in a previous stunt to nail the free fall scene, jumping out of a C-17 plane alongside a stuntman standing in for Cavill.

2. Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, 2011

It’s one of the most famous images in moviemaking history, Tom Cruise sitting on top of Burj Khalifa after filming the fourth film in the series in Dubai.

Ethan Hunt uses a pair of special suction gloves to reach the 130th floor of the world’s tallest building, in scenes which saw a harness-wearing Cruise shooting 518m in the air.

1. Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, 2015

For one of cinema’s most impressive feats, Cruise held on to the side of an Airbus A400M as it took off and climbed to 1,000 feet.

Shot at RAF Wittering airbase in the UK, Cruise faced speeds of 1,000 knots and wore a special harness and contact lenses to protect his eyes.

“When he wants to do something, he’ll figure out a way to do it,” the film’s director of photography, Robert Elswit, told The Hollywood Reporter. “If it couldn’t actually be Tom on the plane, I think he wouldn’t want the sequence in the movie.”

Updated: December 19, 2022, 2:52 PM