Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is hitting theaters, reminding audiences of just how long the franchise has been around – even before Tom Cruise took the helm. The franchise’s longevity has led to natural comparisons to the other long-running spy franchise: James Bond. Despite them both being in the spy genre, however, Mission: Impossible‘s Ethan Hunt and James Bond’s 007 could not be more different. Each secret agent brings his own set of particular skills to the table, most recently in the new Dead Reckoning Part One trailer.
While both franchises and both secret agents can be appreciated, we thought it would be fun to pit them against each other to see who comes out on top. Both on-screen franchises started in the 1960s (though Bond, of course, originally began with Ian Fleming’s novels in the ’50s), meaning we’ve been watching them on screen for well over half a century. Still, times change, and what an audience asks for from a secret agent today is very different than what it asked in the ’60s. Let Ethan Hunt and James Bond go head-to-head in the battle of super-spies.
Who Has The Better Team: Ethan Hunt Or James Bond
No spy, even the best, can do their job without some help. Both James Bond and Ethan Hunt have colleagues and sidekicks they rely on in a pinch. Bond has, of course, the tech wizard Q, his boss M, the aid of assistant Moneypenny, and his friend, Felix Leiter. On Ethan Hunt’s side, there’s technician-turned-field agent Benji, intelligence analyst and hacker Luther, and, more recently, former MI6 operative Ilsa Faust.
While both have teams that are incredibly skilled, the relationships each spy has with his allies could not be more different. Bond’s helpers are rarely out in the field with him, and one gets the sense that they’re professional colleagues who get along. However, they know virtually nothing about each other’s lives. Ethan Hunt’s allies, however, are true ride-or-die friends, a loyal and close-knit circle ready and willing to put their lives on the line for their leader and friend.
Winner: Ethan Hunt
Who Has The Better Gadgets: Ethan Hunt Or James Bond
It’s impossible to be a true movie spy without some nifty gadgets, and James Bond and Ethan Hunt have no shortage of tools crafted by the tech wizards at MI5 or IMF. Situations that would be impossible to escape for normal citizens are possible for the spies thanks to their arsenal of high-tech help. Thanks to them having gadgets that are practically magic, it also makes for excellent plot twists and surprises when one least expects them.
Over the years, James Bond’s gadgets have gotten a little more realistic and practical – well, mostly. Some of the tools utilized in the Daniel Craig era have included a number of microtransmitters and receivers, EMP devices, a magnetic bodysuit, and, of course, the obligatory small objects rigged to explode. As for Ethan Hunt, he also has the unassuming gum that’s secretly a plastic explosive, and both spies utilize eyeball recording devices of some sort. While Bond’s gadgets usually revolve around surveillance and scrambling, Hunt’s tools often help with camouflage and disguise, such as the voice-changing strips and the iconic Mission: Impossible masks. Considering both franchises have tools that are used in the real world by intelligence agencies, it’s hard to choose which one tops the other in this category.
Who Has The Better Vehicles: Ethan Hunt Or James Bond
Like their gadgets, Ethan Hunt and James Bond would be nothing without their vehicles. Planes, helicopters, trains, boats, motorcycles, cars, jetskis, snowmobiles, just about every type of manmade locomotion have been utilized across both franchises. If it has wheels or wings, the IMF and MI5 operatives have driven it – or blown it up.
But one spy has the clear edge here. Ethan Hunt has had some spectacular set pieces with various vehicles, but they’ve always been just that: vehicles to set him up for a huge stunt. They’ve always been secondary to the man himself. James Bond, on the other hand, is synonymous with his Aston Martin and his gorgeous, sleek cars. Any scene involving James Bond and a fancy car is designed to showcase the car itself as much as the spy; they become secondary characters in their own right. While Hunt uses vehicles as simply another kind of tool, Bond has made them part of his identity and that sets him apart.
Winner: James Bond
Who Has The Better Romantic Relationships: Ethan Hunt Or James Bond
The life of an intelligence operative isn’t exactly conducive to healthy relationships, but both Bond and Hunt have had romantic relationships throughout their individual franchises. Each has loved, lost, and loved again. James Bond hasn’t always had the best track record with women and romance; his earlier eras were rife with one-night stands and rampant misogyny. Daniel Craig’s era, thankfully, decisively did away with that. His James Bond fell in love not once, but twice, and even had a daughter. Both romances ended in tragedy, however, his romance with Vesper Lynd cut short by her death and his brief marriage with Madeleine Swann cut short by his own.
Ethan Hunt, on the other hand, was married for a time to a nurse named Julia. It was only when he realized that her proximity to him would put him in danger that he let her go, sacrificing his happiness for her safety. His earlier relationship with Julia revealed his deeply romantic streak, and, despite their marriage ending, they later reconciled and had healthy closure. In more recent installments, Hunt’s love interest has been Ilsa Faust, who, being an agent herself, is likely a better match for him. While relationships in his line of business are complicated, Ethan has worked to make sure his romantic relationships have been healthy and as stable as possible – something that Bond has rarely been able to say.
Winner: Ethan Hunt
Looking at the above categories, Ethan Hunt edges James Bond out as the better spy for our modern era. However, it’s remarkable that both franchises have managed to last as long as they have while still maintaining their own unique identities. Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference and which spy resonates most with you. Some are drawn to the sleek style and debonair polish of the British agent, while others prefer the high-risk, high-reward stuntwork and grounded team-up of the American operative. Whether Mission: Impossible or James Bond, it’s impossible to go wrong with either.