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|Mission: Impossible character|
Hunt, as portrayed by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 3
|First appearance||Mission: Impossible|
|Portrayed by||Tom Cruise|
|Spouse(s)||Julia "Jules" Meade Hunt|
|Relatives||Margaret Hunt (mother)
Donald Hunt (uncle)
In the first film, Hunt acts as the IMF point man for an experienced field team, led by veteran Jim Phelps, with whom he is closely bonded. While attempting to recover stolen files containing information on all IMF's field agents during a mission in Prague, the entire team, barring Hunt, is supposedly killed and the files are stolen, leaving Hunt the only suspect as he learns that the mission was a set-up to expose a mole who had been selling secrets to a Czech arms dealer. Hunt decides to steal the genuine list himself, demanding that the genuine mole be present at the exchange. He sets up a rogue team of other disavowed agents, including computer expert Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), pilot Franz Krieger (Jean Reno), and Claire Phelps (Emmanuelle Béart), Jim's wife and the only other apparent survivor of the mission. After recovering the list, Hunt is shocked to learn that the true traitor is actually Jim Phelps himself, who was completely unhinged and had become disillusioned with his career after feeling that he had become irrelevant. Phelps faked his own death in order to frame Hunt and was working with Krieger and Claire to eliminate the team's other members. Setting up a situation where Jim's continued survival and his criminal activity is exposed to the head of IMF, Hunt kills Jim and Krieger as they attempt to escape from the train where Hunt had arranged to make the exchange, with Claire being killed in the crossfire. At the conclusion of the film, Hunt meets briefly with Stickell and is taking over Jim's position.
Mission: Impossible II
The second film in the series was directed by action filmmaker John Woo in 2000. In the film, Hunt is tasked with retrieving a deadly genetically engineered virus, known as "Chimera", from a rogue IMF agent, Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), who intends to release the virus after acquiring a controlling influence on the company that created it so that he can profit from sales of the cure. Hunt attempts to infiltrate Ambrose's inner circle through Ambrose's former girlfriend, Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), an accomplished thief. During their mission, Hunt and Nordoff-Hall engage in an affair that complicates the mission. At the climax, Nordoff-Hall is forced to infect herself with the last virus in order to save Hunt; with Hunt having destroyed the only other traces of the virus, she was thus able to shield Hunt until he could escape. Subsequently racing against time—the virus is incurable twenty hours after infection—Hunt manages to acquire the cure and kill Ambrose in Melbourne.
Mission: Impossible III
In the third film, Hunt is now a semi-retired training officer for IMF and plans a quiet life with his wife Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), who doesn't know about the IMF. He is called back into service to rescue a former student captured during a mission in Germany, and recovers confidential information via stolen laptop. He is forced to once again go rogue in an attempt to track down the sadistic arms dealer, Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and secure a dangerous mystery item known as the 'Rabbit's Foot'. After an impromptu ceremony, Hunt and Julia are married, only for Owen, who has a double agent working within IMF, to kidnap Julia. With the help of his IMF team, (Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Maggie Q) Hunt finds the Rabbit's foot, saves his wife, and kills Owen Davian in Shanghai.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
In the fourth film, Hunt—having just escaped from a deep-cover mission in prison—and his IMF team are framed for an attack that destroys the Kremlin, resulting in the disavowal of the entire IMF. Despite lacking their usual resources, connections, technology, and backup, their mission is to find and stop Kurt Hendricks, a former Soviet nuclear strategist who is intent on starting a nuclear war to usher in the next era of human evolution. As they chase Hendricks to Dubai and on to India, they themselves are pursued by a team of Russian agents trying to apprehend them. The team becomes increasingly fractured as individual members fight their own demons while trying to trust the others. Hunt manages to pull the team together, stop a nuclear bomb and clear the IMF of any involvement in the Kremlin attack. It is also revealed that Hunt had Julia's death faked to protect her, something only he and the Secretary of IMF knew about, giving him the pretext to infiltrate the prison his team freed him from in the opening scenes.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
At the beginning of the fifth film, Hunt is assigned a mission that culminates in him hanging outside of an A400M millittary aircraft, 5,000 feet above the ground, to recover a package that contained the fictional VX nerve gas in Belarus. Although this mission succeeds, when he learns that the thieves responsible for stealing the gas lacked the connections to do so, Hunt begins to uncover evidence at the existence of the Syndicate, essentially an 'anti-IMF' with all of the organisation's training and skills but used for criminal purposes. After Hunt is forced to go off-the-grid when he is nearly killed by a Syndicate operative and the IMF is disbanded and absorbed into the CIA due to its controversial and destructive methods, he spends six months trying to track the Syndicate. Eventually, he and his former team learn that the Syndicate was actually originally a British project to perform missions without oversight, but British agent Solomon Lane took the plans and went rogue, now seeking to steal files that would grant him access to various established bank accounts to finance future Syndicate operations. Refusing to allow the Syndicate to continue, Hunt and his team are able to capture Lane, with CIA Director Alan Hunley subsequently forced to claim that the disbanding of IMF was a cover to allow them to track the Syndicate.
Aside from the Mission: Impossible films, Ethan Hunt has appeared in the 1998 video game based on the first film and the 2003 video game Mission: Impossible – Operation Surma, voiced by Steve Blum. He also appears as a playable character in the crossover game Lego Dimensions, with archive footage from the first film being used for his voice.