[[quoteright:262:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Mission_Impossible_Season_2t_4881.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:262:The classic IMF cast, starting in season 2[[note]]\\
Clockwise from lower left: Jim Phelps (Creator/PeterGraves), Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus), Rollin Hand (Martin Landau), Barney Collier (Greg Morris), Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain)[[/note]]]]

[[OnceAnEpisode Good morning, Mr. or Ms. Troper.]]

The show you're looking at is ''Mission: Impossible'', a unique SpyDrama based around a semi-ad hoc covert operations team employed by the US Government for dicey missions needing [[PlausibleDeniability maximum deniability]]. The television series lasted from September, 1966 to March, 1973; a total of 171 episodes were filmed over the seven season run. It was the longest-surviving of the "spy-fi" genre of US and UK-made TV series of the 1960s (''Series/TheAvengers'' aired over a 9-year period but fewer seasons and episodes were produced), and held the record for longest running spy series by episode count ''ever'' until the eighth season of ''Series/TwentyFour'' came out in 2010.

For the first few years, every episode followed the same outline: First, a prerecorded briefing informs the team leader, Jim Phelps, of the target, what needs to be done to him, and why. Second, Jim assembles his team and the viewer gets to see a selected but [[UnspokenPlanGuarantee mostly uninformative subset of their planning and briefing]]. Thirdly, the mission -- usually a [[TheCaper caper]] or [[TheCon con]] -- is executed, sometimes with real or bogus crises along the way. Finally, the team reassembles in a convenient vehicle and escapes as the target confesses, turns state's evidence, or slowly cools in a spreading pool of blood after [[DoWithHimAsYouWill his own men kill him]]. Later seasons did away with some of the traditions, much to viewer chagrin.

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: The original cast: ]]

* Steven Hill as Dan Briggs, a cold, cerebral strategist who would be given the mission, formulate a plan, select a team of agents (not always the same ones in early episodes), and put everything in motion.
* Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter, a glamorous FemmeFatale who could wrap men around her finger with a single raised eyebrow.
* Greg Morris as Barney Collier, a mechanical and electronic genius and reverse AirVentPassageway escape artist -- the casting of a black actor as this highly accomplished character in 1966 was revolutionary, although the producers insisted race had nothing to do with their decision. [[AbsenteeActor While no one appears in each episode, he appears more often than anyone else.]]
* Former bodybuilder Peter Lupus as Willy Armitage, essentially a GentleGiant. Despite being the muscle of the team, Willy displayed surprising bursts of speed on occasion, in addition to being a gifted actor and improviser, and skilled enough at handyman work to help Barney set up his equipment.

Martin Landau played Rollin Hand, a MasterOfDisguise, sleight-of-hand, card sharping and many other skills, as a guest star in the pilot, but was so popular with audiences that he became the EnsembleDarkHorse and was called back for virtually every subsequent episode, always billed as a "[[AndStarring special appearance]]." He was made a series regular in season two.

When Hill became increasingly difficult to work with (as one of the few Orthodox Jewish actors in Hollywood, Hill was unwilling to abide by the show's production schedule, as it stipulated that he work on the Sabbath and after sundown of Friday when he was committed to being in prayer. See ''The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier'' by Patrick White), he was gradually written out of the series; when he was replaced by Creator/PeterGraves as stern-faced Jim Phelps in season two, the classic cast was set. Other cast changes followed; with Landau and Bain leaving at the end of season three, Landau was replaced by Creator/LeonardNimoy, fresh from the recently cancelled ''[[Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries Star Trek]]'' (which Landau turned down to do MI instead), playing master of disguise The Great Paris, and Bain by an assortment of leading ladies, culminating in Lesley Warren as the waif-like Dana. There was an ill-advised attempt made at writing out Peter Lupus in favor of a medical doctor team member played by a pre-cowboy-stardom Sam Elliott, until the producers realized how popular Willy was. An attempt was eventually made to invigorate the leading lady role by casting Lynda Day George as Casey, who was both the leading lady and the MasterOfDisguise, but by then the series was on its last legs. One final cast tweak in the final season saw George temporarily replaced by ''Series/{{Ironside}}'' veteran Barbara Anderson as ex-convict Mimi while George was on maternity leave.

''Series/MissionImpossible'' was a thinking man's espionage program. Gunplay was kept to a minimum (with a few notable [[EarlyInstallmentWeirdness early-series exceptions]] when the series was still finding its rhythm), and the focus was always on outwitting and outmaneuvering the foe, who usually didn't know he was being targeted at all. The IMF were never dispatched for ''ordinary'' tasks that a simple Film/JamesBond type could handle with a couple of explosions and a chase scene - they were called upon to accomplish their goals by outplanning and outthinking their opposition, often by playing mind games with them on such a scale that more than one may have been driven into madness. After the first season IMF operatives rarely killed anybody directly, but their targets didn't always survive as a favored outcome was usually the target being killed by his own organization; one episode established that IMF did not go in for assassinations, however there was nothing saying they couldn't arrange assassination by proxy.

All but invented LatexPerfection and the MasterOfDisguise, and originated many of its own unique tropes, not the least of which is its most famous and most parodied elements, "[[ThisPageWillSelfDestruct this tape will self-destruct in five seconds]]" and "if you or any member of your IM force are caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions." Interestingly, early seasons only used the self-destructing tape on occasion, with other methods such as melting vinyl records and hidden recordings being used more frequently. A growing number of episodes as the series went on omitted the tape scenes altogether, sometimes featuring missions joined in progress, or "[[AVerySpecialEpisode personal missions]]" where an IMF member goes off-book.

The show won ten Emmys (Two Outstanding Drama awards, one Outstanding Writing in a Drama award, ''three'' Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Drama awards for Barbara Bain, one Outstanding in Art Direction and Scenic Design award, one Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing award, one Outstanding Achievement in Makeup award, and one Individual Achievement in Film and Sound Editing award, plus ''thirty-eight'' other nominations in various categories), three Golden Globes (One Best Drama, and one Best Actor each for Peter Graves and Martin Landau) and one Edgar (One Best Episode).

The show's distinctive use of what creator Bruce Geller called "a team of specialists" to carry out a complex plan inspired numerous imitators, most notably ''Series/TheATeam'', but also shows such as ''Series/CharliesAngels'' and ''Series/{{Leverage}}'' (and even a cartoon in the form of Creator/DePatieFrelengEnterprises' ''WesternAnimation/TheHoundcats'').

There was a two-season Next Generation-style continuation of the original series filmed in Australia in the [[TheEighties 1980s]]; Peter Graves returned as Jim Phelps, mentoring an all-new team (including Barney Collier's son, Grant); originally conceived as a straight-out remake in order to fill a hole in ABC's schedule created by a Hollywood writer's strike, the series ended up being a continuation of the original (though the strike still forced them to remake a couple of original series episodes), while Greg Morris and Lynda Day George made guest appearances as their original characters. An NES game was also developed.

A successful revival occurred with a ''Film/MissionImpossible'' film series starring Creator/TomCruise. The film series differed from its original counterpart with a YoungerAndHipper vibe, a far-smaller IMF team (reflecting the AllStarCast of one that is, apparently, just Tom Cruise), and most especially with a ''big'' boost in action at the expense of strategy (at least after the first film).

A TV series based on the movies is possibly being developed.

----
!!Your mission, Troper, should you choose to accept it, is to describe the tropes found in the series:

* ActionGirl: Inverted usually as the female IMF agents generally use their brains more than their brawn during missions.
** Indeed, in the 1980s version, one of the few occasions in which a female IMF agent is shown in "Action Girl" mode results [[spoiler: in her being killed and disavowed]].
* AirVentPassageway: Used so often in the series it almost qualifies as a cliche. They did try to justify it once by hiring a {{contortionist}} to do it.
* AgonyBeam: Barney is subjected to one that plays on the pain centres of his brain in "The Golden Serpent (Part 1)".
* AlanSmithee: Used in both the original series and the revival - due to Meyer Dolinsky's script for the original's "Live Bait" being changed drastically en route to the screen, one "Michael Adams" receives co-teleplay and story credit; the revival's remake of "The Condemned" credits "John Truman" with the story because Laurence Heath, author of the original, took his name off the remake (as did William Read Woodfield with the remake of "The Legacy").
* AllPartOfTheShow: The bad guys do this in "Gunslinger" (even uttering the exact phrase) as they hustle a spy outside to kill him; making it look like part of the Wild West show at the resort.
* AmnesiacLiar: At least once added to...
* AmnesiaDanger:
** Jim in "Trapped."
** Shannon in "Church Bells in Bogota".
* AndTheRest: The Hartford Repertory Players, a troupe of actors Phelps recruits when he needs [[LivingProp background people]] for a con. (See also: the Globe Repertory Company.)
* AppeaseTheVolcanoGod: In "Cargo Cult", a white man is [[GodGuise posing as the son of the volcano god]] in order to use a native tribe as a slave labour force to work a gold man. After capturing several members of the IMF, he orders his followers to sacrifice Nicholas and Max to the volcano.
* AppliedPhlebotinum
* ArgentinaIsNaziland: In "The Legend", Briggs and Cinammon impersonate a former Nazi and his daughter who are invited to attend a reunion of aged Nazi leaders at the South American home of Nazi fugitive Martin Bormann, who is planning the creation of the Fourth Reich.
* AristocratsAreEvil: In "The Devils", the IMF stop a British lord who involves foreign and domestic officials in Satanic rituals and human sacrifice for blackmail purposes.
* ArmsDealer: In "The Cattle King", the IMF has to shut down an arms dealer who is supplying weapons to terrorists.
* ArtisticLicenseCars: Frequently, [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Checker_Marathon Checker A12 Marathons]] were used in place of Soviet cars, most likely meant to represent [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaika_(car)#Specifications_and_history GAZ M-13 Chaikas]] and [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GAZ-21 M-23 Volgas]] (M-21 with the M-13's V8 and transmission), which were only available to Soviet and KGB officials and not the common people, and definitely not Hollywood producers. The three cars look nothing alike.
* ArtisticLicenseGeography: In "Lover's Knot," the BigBad lives outside UsefulNotes/{{London}}. Fair enough, except that there are [[TheMountainsOfIllinois mountains in the background]] - so either he lives ''way'' outside London (like, UsefulNotes/{{Wales}} or Yorkshire outside) or...
* AsLongAsItSoundsForeign: Or looks like it on a sign. Since the IMF was frequently hacking into electric, gas, telephone, and other infrastructure, the {{Ruritania}} settings always featured appropriate signage. One of the few humorous RunningGags on the show involved the writers coming up with increasingly ridiculous Ruritanian gibberish to put on the signs -- like "machinawerke" for ''machine shop'' or "zona restrik" for ''restricted area''.
** In some European countries [[RealityIsUnrealistic there really are]] utility covers that say "Gaz", a frequent example of "Gellerese".
* AvengersAssemble: The apartment scene.
* BadGuysPlayPool: "Break!" is all about this as Jim poses as a pool shark in order to locate microfilm in a dead agent's wristwatch.
* BananaRepublic: When it isn't {{Ruritania}}.
* BatmanGambit: The plans invariably depended on near-perfect predictions of how the victims would respond.
* BedlamHouse: In "Committed", Casey gets herself committed to a prison-like mental hospital in order to save the only witness in a murder trial against a Syndicate boss from being driven insane by the corrupt staff.
* BewareTheNiceOnes
** Barney is quiet, careful, competent, but attack his family or his friends, and you'll discover just how dangerous a GadgeteerGenius can be. (See "Cat's Paw," in which his brother is murdered.)
** Grant, his son, is the same way.
** This also applies to Rollin, who loses it when Dan is shot in "The Legacy" and almost strangles the main villain with his bare hands. [[spoiler: And when the BigBad guns down Nicole (from the episode of the same name) in front of Jim, who's fallen in love with her, Rollin actually ''kills'' the villain on the spot. While the IMF basically arranges for the demise of many, many people at the hands of their fellow baddies throughout the series, this is one of the ''very'' few times that an IMF member does the job personally]].
** Even Jim, in "The Fortune," shows a moment of being ready to strike the DragonLady BigBad of the episode [[spoiler: when she is shown with the proof she killed Casey Randall]] while Grant and Max aren't that far off.
* {{Bifauxnen}}: One episode of the 80's revival had the protagonists attempting to hunt down a female assassin in a ballroom, using a detector that identified her by scent. Only problem was, they were identifying only the women in the crowd, and the assassin was going undercover as a man.
* BigStore
* BloodlessCarnage
** Though less so in the 1980s version, which became more violent and bloody in the second season.
* TheBoxingEpisode: "The Contender" is a set of two episodes where the plot revolves around eliminating a mobster who was making his money by rigging matches, and Barney takes the role of a another boxer, having been revealed to have been a successful one before.
* BulletSparks: Copious bullet sparks are kicked during the RailingKill in "The Pawn".
* BullyingTheDragon: On more than one occasion, a member of the team would fall afoul of a government totally by accident, bringing the entire IMF down on their heads.
* CableCarActionSequence: In "The Tram" the IMF must infiltrate a Syndicate financial meeting - held at a mountain resort only accessible by aerial tramway - to discover the group's Swiss bank account number. Naturaly the eponymous tram features heavily in the action.
* CaliforniaDoubling: And, in the case of the 80s revival, [[CaliforniaDoubling Australia Doubling]].
** Although the latter averted it in three episodes ("The Cattle King" and the two-parter "The Golden Serpent"), which were set wholly or partly in Australia.
** The episode "Action!" centers on an Eastern European film studio, which is actually Creator/DesiluStudios, where ''Mission: Impossible'' itself was filmed.
** In one season one episode it was literal - the team was trying to trick a Russian spy into believing that the compound they were holding him in outside Los Angeles was actually a KGB facility near Moscow.
* CameraSpoofing
* TheCaper
* CaperCrew: one in every installment.
* TheCaptain: Dan Briggs, initially, and Jim Phelps thereafter.
* CastAsAMask: When Nicholas, Paris or Rollin needed to totally disguise themselves to impersonate someone else, that person's actor was used to play them for that sequence.
** "Reprisal" had Peter Graves play an impostor who was killing former IMF agents and framing Jim for the crimes. He's replaced with someone else when the "mask" the imposter was using is peeled off by Lisa.
** Most notably, in "Shock" (made when Steven Hill's days on the show were numbered), Dan is disguised as guest star James Daly (already playing [[ActingForTwo two roles]] [[invoked]] before the plan goes into action) for most of the episode.
* CastingGag: The 80's sequel series starred Greg Morris's son (Phil Morris, perhaps best known as [[{{Seinfeld}} Jackie Chiles]]) as Barney Collier's son.
* TheCastShowoff:
** Shannon went undercover in several roles that required her to sing, which allowed Jane Badler to showcase her talent as a singer.
** In "Gunslinger", Jim Phelps remarks that he used to be pretty good with a sixshooter and does a few GunTwirling tricks to the admiration of his teammates. The filming makes it obvious that actor Peter Graves (who cut his acting teeth in westerns in the 1950s) is doing his own twirling.
* CatchPhrase: Pretty much all the "boilerplate" language in the tape scenes, though some of the iconic phrases took some time to finalize. "Your mission, should you choose to accept it" was first used in the seventeenth episode, and was never the standard phrase in the original series (It was usually "Your mission, should you decide to accept it").
* CatFight: Cinnamon and Crystal stage a prolonged cat fight as a distraction in "Old Man Out".
** Shannon and a female assassin character credited only as "Big Blonde" do a catfight ''in a pool of water'' in the revival episode "The Golden Serpent".
* ChainedHeat: "The Confession", "Nerves".
* ChekhovsGun: Generally, a number of these were introduced in each briefing scene, more often than not consisting of odd gadgetry that Barney had bodged together for the other team members. One of the ways the show maintained suspense was by holding back, for as long as possible, TheReveal as to how exactly each piece of equipment figured in the plan.
* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome: Throughout the series, when cast members departed, their characters' departures were never explained. Averted, however, by the revival series with regards to the character of Casey Randall who [[spoiler: becomes the only regular IMF agent to be "disavowed"]].
* ClassyCatBurglar: The episode "The Seal" has a ''real'' cat burglar - Rusty the cat. And the titular character of "Chico" was a dog burglar. The final episode of the original series centered around a more normal cat burglar, who the team had to trick into handing over the goods she had stolen during the opening (The crown jewels of a foreign power that the US was having diplomatic tensions with).
* {{Claustrophobia}}: Cinnamon suffered a severe attack during "The Exchange"
* ColorMeBlack: "Kitara".
* ComicBookAdaptation: Dell Comics published a half-dozen issues of a Mission: Impossible-based comic book in the late 1960s and very early 1970s. It was one of the only series of its type not to be adapted by Gold Key Comics.
* CommercialBreakCliffhanger: Just about every commercial break....something unexpected would happen or a BigBad will say "You there! What are you doing here?" the MI Force member will look worried or go for the OhCrap moment--commercial--Everything's better, the mission goes on.
* CommieLand
* CompilationMovie: Although the series had several two-part stories (plus one ''three''-parter, season four's "The Falcon"), there was only one such movie - ''Mission Impossible Versus The Mob'' (from "The Council").
* TheCon
* ConMan
* ConspicuouslyPublicAssassination: In "Reprisal", a rogue IMF agent is attempting to frame Jim Phelps for murder. He disguises himself as Jim and garottes a woman in a crowded hotel lobby. He slips away from the shocked crowd long enough to strip off the LatexPerfection mask and, when Jim arrives at the hotel to try to stop him, he is immediately pursued by the police.
* CouchGag: Bruce Geller originally wanted each mission to be given to Briggs and Phelps in a different manner every episode (via nickelodeon, phonograph record, a card handed to him from another agent, a {{Drive-In Theater}} speaker, etc.). One of these early methods was a self-destructing reel-to-reel tape. The varying methods were continued until the third season when the tape became the standard and a ''Mission'' trademark, though the fifth season attempted to do away with the sequence until popular demand reinstated it. In the 1988 version, the spool tape is replaced with a self-destructing mini-CD player (the CD actually works like a DVD, playing audio and video, even though [=DVDs=] hadn't been introduced in real life yet).
** Early seasons also featured a ritual in which Briggs or Phelps were shown selecting the personnel for the mission. With the fifth season this was declared redundant (as he invariably chose the same people, some earlier season episodes also skipped that scene when Jim/Dan didn't need to pick anyone outside of the main cast)[[note]]Although it's been suggested by fans that it is possible that Briggs/Phelps DO use other people on missions that don't require our team's skills; we just don't see those adventures.[[/note]]and this sequence was dropped. It made a one-time return in the first episode of the 1988 revival (as a newly-returned Phelps was choosing who his new team would be).
** The "couch gag" elements were averted, however, on occasion in the early seasons when an occasional mission was given without the tape scene as it involved Phelps and his team working "off-book" in order to deal with a personal issue.
** Nearly averted permanently in Season 5 when the production team decided to begin joining missions in progress, eliminating both the tape scene and the apartment briefing sequences. By the middle of Season 5, however, viewer demand led to these being restored. The team-choosing ritual was never reinstated, however.
** The opening credits of each episode feature random snippets of that episode.
* CouldntFindAPen: In "Command Performance", a thief dying in a church writes "1769" on the floor in his own blood as a clue to the location of his stolen loot.
* CounterfeitCash: "The Money Machine", "Fool's Gold."
* CovertGroup: The Impossible Mission Force routinely takes on covert operations while shielding Washington from culpability. "Should you or any of your I.M. Force be captured or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions."
* CowboyEpisode: In "Gunslinger", the IMF go undercover go undercover in an old west tourist attraction run by a villain with a cowboy fixation. Includes a gunfight between Jim Phelps and both the BigBad and TheDragon.
* CrashCourseLanding: In "Target Earth", Shannon has to be talked through landing a space shuttle.
* CrazyPrepared: The IMF team had a plan, a backup plan, a backup plan for the backup plan, and sometimes one more backup plan for good measure. Even when a mission went wrong, it went right.
* ADayInTheLimelight: Occasionally an episode will focus on one particular team member, such as Paris in "My Friend, My Enemy" and (most notably) Willy in "Double Dead."
* DeadGuyOnDisplay: "The Catafalque"
* DeadPersonImpersonation: Leona in the episode of the same name.
** One episode featured a man who pretended to be the MouthOfSauron for Nazi leader Martin Bormann through use of a dummy he took care to not allow anyone else to get too close to and pre-recorded speeches. The team took him down by having Rollin impersonate a Bormann who had recovered enough from his injuries to leave his quarters and mingle with his officers for the evening and started undermining his lieutenant's authority, who couldn't prove that Rollin wasn't the real Bormann without admitting that he knew this because there was no real Bormann.
* DirtyBusiness: The team explicitly has permission to do absolutely ''anything'' they see necessary to complete their mission, so long as they don't get caught. Though they do try to ensure that if the plan involves doing bad things to good people, they will help said people get back out of trouble before they leave.
* DoNotAdjustYourSet: In "Target Earth", the terrorists who have stolen the space shuttle hijack a communications satellite to broadcast their demands to earth.
* DriveInTheater: Where Briggs receives his assignment at the beginning of "The Psychic".
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness: The first season contains several oddities that did not appear in later seasons, including missions that focused on a single agent, and one episode ("Zubrovnik's Ghost") that featured [[HowUnscientific genuine supernatural activity]].
* EmpathyDollShot: In "The Wall", a family attempting to escape East Berlin in caught in no mans land. The little girl drops her rag doll. The East German officer casually steps on it and grinds it into the mud.
* EmptyQuiver: In "Countdown", the IMF has to locate a nuclear warhead stolen from a French test site and smuggled into the centre of a major city by religious fanatics.
* EndangeredSouffle: In one episode, Barney (in his cover as the villain's cook) used this as an excuse to explain why the guards could not search the kitchen at this time (thus granting him, Willy and Cinnamon time to hide their equipment before the search).
* EngineeredPublicConfession
* EnhanceButton: Done '''without''' a computer, amazingly enough. In "The Bank", Barney is playing back a video recording of a bank vault on a black-and-white cathode ray screen. With the tape paused at a critical juncture, Jim Phelps uses a ''pocket telescope'' to zoom in on the CRT(!) and read the number of a safe-deposit box.
** The 1988 update introduced an IMF device that could recover erased images from a VCR tape, which is a bit more realistic.
* EvenEvilHasStandards: Usually averted to underscore how nasty the IMF's opponents are, but "The Train" has Pavel, the deputy who'll take over command of his country when the leader succumbs to heart disease, regret the necessity to execute jailed enemies and wish there was some other way. Significantly, Pavel is one of the few villains who doesn't set out to kill anyone to get his way.
* EverybodyLaughsEnding: "The Princess" has the men of the IMF team in Shannon's hospital room, and she's surrounded by "get well flowers."
--> Shannon: Did you guys buy me all these?
--> (The guys go "um" "er" and "well" as she shakes her head in a bemused way)
--> Jim: Well, now, just how many boyfriends do you need?
--> Shannon: (humming as she thinks) Well, I suppose four are enough. (She smiles as the others laugh. This was one time they don't all leave the scene.)
* EverybodyLives: Happens surprisingly often.
* EvilCripple: Jake Morgan in "Bayou". He is a FatSweatySouthernerInAWhiteSuit who runs a white slavery ring and has a wooden leg because a gator bit his leg off.
* ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin: With only a very few exceptions the episode titles are only one (ex. "Execution", "Kidnap", "Break!") or two words long (ex. "The Code", "The Legacy", "Time Bomb") describing the plan of attack or object of interest.
** Arguably What It Doesn't Say On The Tin, since episode titles weren't shown on screen. While not unheard of for a 1960s-70s-era series, it was somewhat unusual for a program of this nature not to display episode titles on screen.
* FailsafeFailure: The season two finale involved the retrieval of a defective failsafe device that didn't self-destruct when it was supposed to. They needed to secure it intact so that the builders could take it apart to figure out why it didn't work and ensure that the rest of their production run didn't suffer a similar defect.
* FakeCharity: In "Charity", the IMF have to shut down a pair of charity scammers and recover the millions they have ripped off from donors.
* FakeDefector
* FakeGuestStar: It wasn't until the second season to that Martin Landau name appeared in the show's titles. This was Landau's choice. He was impressed with Geller's pilot script, but wanted to make sure the series would be of the same high quality before committing himself to a multi-year contract. Even at that he insisted on only one-year contracts instead of the customary five-year ones.
* FakedRipVanWinkle: Frequently used in later seasons, sometimes combined with FauxtasticVoyage as one of the excuses given to a mark was that the mark was involved in an accident and was unconscious for a long time. An example of an ''Faked Rip Van Winkle - Fauxtastic Voyage'' combination is the episode "The Train" in which the mark was told that he had been unconscious for several weeks after a train crash during a simulated train journey.
* FakeoutEscape: "The Crane"
* {{Fanservice}}: Usually averted, but in "Illusion" such a thing is part of Cinnamon's act as a nightclub singer. Dana also supplies several examples in season five (sometimes as an unintentional side effect of Lesley (Ann) Warren not wanting to wear a bra, much to the disgust of the producers - they compromised that she could go braless when it suited the mission).
* [[AFatherToHisMen A Father To His Team:]] Jim to the 80's IMF team (though more "uncle" to Grant as Barney Collier was still alive). [[spoiler: When Casey died, he said right out, "She was like a daughter to me."]]
* FatSweatySouthernerInAWhiteSuit: Jake Morgan, the villain in "Bayou", is a fat, sweaty southern in a white suit who runs a white slavery ring.
* FauxtasticVoyage: "The Train", "Submarine"... practically an M.I. staple.
** A frequent variation was to fake a disaster of some sort. "The Photographer" features a staged nuclear war, and "The Survivors" has a faux earthquake.
* FiveManBand
* FrameUp: Many episodes had the team frame the villain of the week of some misdeed, causing him or her to be dealt with by his 'betrayed' colleagues. On one episode, Briggs framed ''himself'', while Rollin framed the villain for framing him.
** FramingTheGuiltyParty: There are also cases where they forge evidence of a villain's guilt, and then arrange for the police to find it in such a way that the villain can't dispute its provenance.
* FreezeFrameBonus: If you freeze the "Pilot" at the point when guest star Wally Cox yells in pain as the door slams on his hands (in universe, breaking them), you can see the actor is holding a fake pair of hands.
* FrightDeathtrap: In "The Killer" - the first episode of the 80s revival - Drake does this to Tom Copperfield; shooting him with a hallucinogenic drug that causes him to think that he is on fire. In panic, he throws himself off the balcony of the penthouse.
* GadgeteerGenius: Barney is building weapons and technology sometimes vastly ahead of the time.
** The 80's revival would have Grant do the same and twice both Collier men would work together for a mission.
* {{Gaslighting}}: A frequent tactic of the IMF is to convince the mark that he is going insane. Often involving visions of someone the mark knows to be dead.
* TheGeneralissimo: The IMF would occassionally be tasked with dealing with these (or just to undertake a mission in a country ruled by one). In the pilot episode, the team has to retrieve nuclear warheads being held in the hotel the Generalissimo uses as his party headquarters.
* GeniusDitz: King Nicolae in "The Falcon". He was an expert on clocks -- history, building and repairing them -- and focused on this work to the extent that he could be manipulated to pay attention to matters of state (i.e. sign things without reading them) by withholding vital tools and parts.
* GentlemanThief: In "For Art's Sake", the IMF have to shut down a murderous gentleman thief and recover his store of stolen art.
* GetIntoJailFree: "Old Man Out"
* GhostStory: An occasional theme in their {{Gaslighting}} attempts. Played straight (!) in an early episode.
* GodGuise: In "Cargo Cult", a white man poses as a native god in order to use the native tribe as a slave labour force to work a gold mine.
* GogglesDoSomethingUnusual
* GoodForBad: Done regularly, starting with Jim Phelps' first appearance (Where he switched millions of dollars of heroin with an equivalent volume in powdered milk). The series finale had a double case, where the team tricked a ClassyCatBurglar into thinking that the jewels she stole earlier in the episode were fakes and that the batch of jewels that Barney stole later on were the real ones. She had an assistant switch jewel cases while she distracted Barney, thinking that she was invoking this trope for herself, claiming the real jewels and leaving him with high-quality fakes. In truth, she was invoking it ''against'' herself, giving away the real jewels and stealing a batch of ''low'' quality fakes.
* GunTwirling: Done by both TheDragon and Jim Phelps in "Gunslinger".
* HandyRemoteControl: Not only one-function remotes, but at least one episode per season depended on Barney remote-controlling a car; remote controlled elevators were also common.
* HardWorkMontage: Complete with a signature tune called "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8lmSxTH3NA The Plot]]".
* HeroicBSOD: Occurs in the 1988 revival episode "The Fortune" to several IMF members [[spoiler: when they learn of the death of their colleague, Casey Randall]], with one agent, Max, even questioning his ability to continue with the mission.
** Also happens to Grant Collier in the 1988 two-parter "The Golden Serpent" when he thinks [[spoiler: his father has been killed]].
* HeyWait
* HollywoodEncryption: The season four premiere involved a real (If executed in an improbably short period of time) cryptanalysis method. Tasked with intercepting and decrypting a coded transmission containing the battle plans for a major offensive, the team first tricked the people who were expecting that transmission to send a message of their own devising using the same encryption method, giving the team a clue on how the encryption worked. This is referred to as a 'known cleartext' attack.
* HollywoodSatanism: In "The Devils", the team investigates a member of the English gentry who involves foreign and domestic officials in Satanic rituals and human sacrifice for blackmail purposes.
* HollywoodVoodoo: The IMF indulge in some HollywoodVoodoo as part of their plan to cause a falling out among the bad guys in "Bayou". Their voodoo is meant to be fake, of course, but their ritual does convince someone who is supposed to be a genuine believer.
* {{Hologram}}: The IMF has had hologram projectors since the 60s ("Phantoms", "A Ghost Story"). The 80s revival even had a episode named after the trope ("Holograms") and improved the tech to the point where it works underwater ("The Golden Serpent, Part 2", which also featured a HolographicTerminal).
* HoneyTrap: Max is a male one in "The Fortune." [[spoiler: Though with Casey's death, he doesn't know if he can go through with it, knowing she died at the hands of Amelia, the woman he's to seduce. Until Grant points out Max is the best one they have to get the taped proof that Casey died at Amelia's hand (as he'll be the only one free enough to move around the place to where it would most likely be).]]
* HotGypsyWoman: The IMF employed hot gypsy acrobat Crystal Walker in the two-parter "Old Man Out".
* HowUnscientific: In an instance of EarlyInstallmentWeirdness, "Zubrovnik's Ghost" featured genuine supernatural activity and a woman with real PsychicPowers.
* HumanSacrifice: In "The Devils", the IMF stop a British lord who involves foreign and domestic officials in Satanic rituals and human sacrifice for blackmail purposes.
* IAmNotLeftHanded: In one episode Willy plays a Judo expert, but since he hadn't actually studied Judo before the start of the mission, it's all he can do to keep from losing against his host's champion until the rest of the team finishes what they needed to do while the household was watching the match. Later on he gets into another fight with his opponent, and since it's not a formal match, Willy sees no reason to restrict himself to unfamiliar Judo techniques. He quickly defeats the man using Jujitsu.
* IHaveYourDaughter: In "The Wall", the villain kidnaps the daughter of a key negotiator in order to sabotage a set of diplomatic talks. Appears in many other episodes as well.
* IKnowYouKnowIKnow: Often occurs when the IMF goes up against an enemy intelligence agency. It usually goes something like this:
-->'''Enemy Spymaster:''' I know that is really an American agent, so I will disregard the data he gave me and any duplicate versions provided by my own agents as fakes that the Americans want me to believe is true.
-->'''Phelps:''' I know that they know that I'm really an American agent, so I gave them the real data. Now they'll never believe it.
* ImpersonatingAnOfficer: IMF members frequently impersonate police officers, as well as soldiers, security personnel and other officials.
* ImpossibleMission: trope-namer.
* ImprovisedMicrogravityManeuvering" In "Target Earth", Shannon is set adrift in space. Shes uses the purge valve on her spacesuit to bleed air out of her air tanks to propel her back to the shuttle.
* InducedHypochondria: In "The Counterfeiter", the team gives a manufacturer of counterfeit pharmaceuticals the symptoms of a disease that is treated by the drugs he is forging, in order to set up an EngineeredPublicConfession regarding the quality of his medicine.
* IndyPloy: When Bruce Geller first came up with the show's concept, he imagined ''every'' IMF plan to go wrong at some point, forcing the team to improvise from that point on. Luckily in practice this was not established as it most likely would A) get repetitive, and B) make Briggs/Phelps look like he doesn't know what he's doing. Indy ploys did appear occasionally, usually in the [[ItsPersonal 'personal']] episodes.
* TheInfiltration: A regular staple of the series, usually by the team's MasterOfDisguise.
* InsaneAdmiral: In "Submarine" (from the revival series, [[SimilarlyNamedWorks not the episode of the same name from the original]]) the IMF have to stop a U.S. Navy admiral who sank one of his own subs as a demonstration of a weapons system he was planning to sell on the black market. He did this because he felt betrayed by the government conducting weapon limitation talks with the Russians, which stopped his computer virus attack system ever going into production.
* InsertCameo
* InstantSedation: After a while, instead of doing poorly choreographed TapOnTheHead techniques to knock people out, the team switched to grabbing people while palming a tack that was apparently coated with some unspecified knockout drug.
* INeverSaidItWasPoison: "Elena".
* ItsPersonal: A handful of episodes have Briggs or Phelps plotting a plan to right a wrong affecting someone close to them instead of a mission given to them by the Secretary. In one episode Phelps is kidnapped and the team members are blackmailed into helping his kidnapper commit a crime. Arguably the most "personal" of these comes in the '80s version, when [[spoiler: Casey, the new version's initial FemmeFatale, becomes the ''only'' regular in either version to be killed off. Note: not to be confused with Lynda Day George's Casey character from the original series.]] The "it's personal" aspect of the storylines is usually emphasized by there being no tape scene shown.
** The '80s revival series notably ''opened'' with a personal mission - Jim is forced out of retirement when [[RememberTheNewGuy his protegé]] is murdered, but getting to the killer, his boss and his boss's employee is still an official IMF mission... at least as official as those missions got. The disc's voice in a variant of it's usual opening, said sympathetically, "Welcome Back Jim, though I wish it weren't under these circumstances."
** "The Condemned" is also personal in this run as Barney's falsely imprisoned in Istanbul and the team must not only free Barney, but find out why he was set up.
** "The Fortune" is also ''very personal'' for the team. [[spoiler: Casey Randall gets murdered by the BigBad, Amelia, and the team, now with Shannon Reed taking Casey's spot, is intent on make sure Amelia doesn't get away with Casey's death. When they find out Casey's dead, Jim himself said "She was like a daughter to me." As well as returning the fortune Amelia, an Expy of the late Imelda Marcos, stole from her people. It's also the only time in the ''whole series'' we see an agent get "Disavowed" by the Secretary (the team pictures are). The TearJerker closing has a picture of Casey, Max, Grant and Nicholas with Jim as a slow, somber reprise of the opening theme plays]]
** "Reprisal" is also the '''most personal''' for Jim in the '80s revival: Jim himself is framed for the murder of several former IMF agents. It also has the disc's voice go in a second rare variant of its usual opening to Jim: "Your mission, which I feel you ''must'' accept, will be to find the person who is framing you, and stop him." The recording is also so upsetting to Jim that he actually rewinds it halfway through just to make sure he heard everything clearly.
** "The Princess" also applies [[spoiler: as to save Jim, Shannon pushes him aside and ends up TakingTheBullet for Jim. She says "Camion"--and it shows she knew there was someone there due to "Camion" being French Perfume, and the assassin is really a woman]].
* JailbirdOfPanama: Strange variation - both the jailbird and the rescuing team were in the IMF.
* JanitorImpersonationInfiltration: A standard tactic. Often, one of the IMF members would get into the target's location, then fake some sort of utility outage. Other members of the team would then pose as repairmen or technicians arriving to fix the problem.
* JokerJury: A fake one in "The Flight".
* JusticeByOtherLegalMeans: At the end of "The Counterfeiter", the titular villain claims that even with a recording of his EngineeredPublicConfession, the IMF still can't do anything more than slap him with a fine. Then Phelps points out that he didn't just confess to his criminal operations, he also confessed the scope of said operations, which is large enough to sick the [[IntimidatingRevenueService IRS]] on him for tax evasion.
* KangarooCourt: Multiple episodes.
* KansasCityShuffle
* KarmicDeath: The villains in "The Bank" and "The Bride" get caught in their own favoured death traps in the climax, which both involve a DisneyVillainDeath.
* LatexPerfection
* LawEnforcementInc: Series creator Bruce Geller originally intended that the IMF would be a private group that the good guys would turn to when they couldn't handle a particular bad guy (Virtually every anti-Syndicate episode in the last two seasons included the phrase 'conventional law enforcement agencies have been unable to...' in the briefing tape, reinforcing this interpretation). The movies changed the IMF to an official (though secret) branch of the CentralIntelligenceAgency.
* LeaveBehindAPistol: Used by leaders of the PeoplesRepublicOfTyranny to eliminate people who have failed while avoiding the publicity of a KangarooCourt.
* LicensedGame: One for the NES. Notable because it apparently used a modified version of the NES ''VideoGame/MetalGear'' engine. And had little or nothing to do with the series' type of story. There was also a "text adventure" game called Mission Impossible developed for the Commodore 64 and similar computers; its licensing status is unknown.
* LiteralCliffhanger: The end of ''The Falcon, Part 1''
* LivingProp: An in-universe example - when Phelps needed to introduce the mark to a phony place of business or hospital, he would often recruit the Hartford Repretory Players to serve as background workers or doctors.
* LodgedBladeRecycling: In "The Golden Serpent (Part 1)", Max gets hit in the leg by a shuriken while fighting atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Later he is dangling off the side of the bridge with TheDragon about to stomp on his hands. He pulls the shuriken out of his leg and throws it into TheDragon's chest, killing him.
* Magazine/{{MAD}}: ''Mission: Ridiculous''
* TheMafia: Later seasons tended to use "the Syndicate" as the primary antagonist, after relations with the USSR began to thaw and domestic social issues captured the nation's attention.
* MagicPlasticSurgery: Played straight in several episodes, but amusingly subverted in one: Phelps is used to stand in for a playboy millionaire he looks nothing like, because the man in question was in a serious accident. The mark swallows that explanation without question.
* ManchurianAgent: "Mindbend"
* TheMark
* MasterOfDisguise: Rollin Hand, Paris, Casey and Nicholas Black, though with the assistance of one of these four, any IMF member qualifies. Casey was unusual for this trope in that she usually just made disguises for the rest of the team rather than for herself. In the season seven episodes where she didn't appear due to her actresses' pregnancy, Casey still managed to make and ship masks to the team offscreen.
** Inverted by Phelps, Willy, Barney, etc. Barney in particular - ''The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier'' notes that Barney's apparent ability to blend in, even in countries where a black man would stand out, was occasionally criticized.
*** The series took that criticism seriously: later seasons feature Barney mostly out of view or in situations where he'd blend in. (Although in the episode "Hunted," set in Africa, Barney is disguised as a white man, as the nation he was in practiced strict apartheid and he needed to enter a whites-only area.)
** The 80s revival had cases where Max might be already having been seen as he usually is as well, having had to stall for time or play up close to the mark. If still another person was needed, Grant filled that role. Sometimes, though, situations would force the other IMF members to "play themselves" as there was no time to do a mask, at best do the voice of those they needed to impersonate (as Nicholas and Casey had to do in "The Killer").
* TheMerch: Record albums of the series[[note]]although ''actual music'' from the show, as opposed to re-recorded versions, would not be released until 1992[[/note]], as well as a few 'Young Reader' type books. Published by Whitman, ''The Money Explosion'' was particularly good. Near the end of the run, Creator/{{Paramount}} was considering the idea of ''MI'' branded tape recorders, but nothing came of the idea. There was a game for the NES released in time for the revival.
** Also published was a series of original novels, and a ComicBookAdaptation by Dell Comics.
* MindControl: "My Friend, My Enemy."
* MissionImpossibleCableDrop: The TropeNamer. Specifically, In "The Lions", Grant gets lowered into the temple and is suspended above the altar so he can tamper with the eponymous lions. In the original series, Barney did something similar to steal the plutonium from a nuclear warhead that was surrounded by photoelectric sensors and so could only be approached from above.
* MistakenForAnImposter: One episode had the team break out a resistance leader from a maximum security prison by convincing the guards that he had already escaped and had been replaced with a double. Then Cinnamon, in her persona as a security officer, offered to take the 'imposter' back to headquarters for interrogation.
* MolotovTruck: "Nitro."
* MrExposition
* MrFixit: Barney, but often also Willy. Grant would also be this to his team.
* NaziGold: "The Legacy" (in both the original series and the revival) involves the IMF trying to locate a cache of Nazi gold before the descendants (sons in the original, grandsons in the remake) of senior Nazi officers do so.
* NitroExpress: "Nitro."
* NoCelebritiesWereHarmed: In his premier episode, Paris gains access to a BananaRepublic's presidential palace by posing as a revolutionary leader who is totally not UsefulNotes/FidelCastro named "[[ElNinoIsSpanishForTheNino El Leader]]".
* NoNameGiven: the man whose voice is heard giving Briggs and Phelps (and on one occasion Cinnamon) their taped instructions.
* NotMyDriver: In "The Killer", IMF agents drive the first two cabs in the rank so they can guarantee the mark will get into one of them.
* NotQuiteDead: [[spoiler: Justin Bainbridge in "A Ghost Story." He's been contaminated by his own chemical weapon and his neo-fascist father's seemingly killed him in a fight and buried him. It turned out Justin wasn't buried deep enough, but he's still living on borrowed time thanks to the nerve gas; Jim suggests that an antidote may be able to be derived from the gas's formula.]]
* ObfuscatingDisability: Regularly done as part of a mission. In "A Game of Chess", Rollin pretends to be a deaf chessmaster, so he can receive moves from a chess computer offstage. He soon gets discovered by the mark, but that's part of the plan.
* ObstacleExposition
* OhCrap: [[TheMark The Mark's]] standard expression when they realize they have been ''had'' and the plan is shot/there's a visit to the clink in the offing/they're meeting TheGrimReaper.
** Would also be used in almost every episode by our heroes before a CommercialBreakCliffhanger when something seemingly goes wrong or it looks like someone has discovered them. After we'd come back from the commercial we'd find it was a just part of the plan and the fake 'Oh Crap' just acting to fool the bad guys, or a deus-ex machina comes in to distract the mark. At worst we see the heroes quickly resolve it through XanatosSpeedChess.
** One example is in “The Crane”. Junta leader General Yuri Kozani agrees to execute his second in command, Colonel Alex Strabo. He is then deceived into further explaining Strabo’s treachery and unreliable character traits to a disguised Strabo (Strabo is wearing the mask of the rebel leader). Strabo removes his mask and Kozani is barely able to speak before Strabo kills him. This is also an example of HoistByHisOwnPetard since Strabo quotes Kozani’s earlier words on the need to execute enemies of the state. [[http://www.youtube.com/user/MIuploader]]
* OfficeGolf: In "The Killer", Drake (the eponymous killer) does this while waiting to find out who his target is. It is later shown that his golf balls are actually disguised plastic explosive.
* OminousLatinChanting: Done by the evil Satanic cult in "The Devils".
* OnceAnEpisode: "This tape will self-destruct in five seconds." (At least, that is the stereotype. In fact there are many episodes in which this is not actually heard, especially in early seasons when another method of messaging is used, or in episodes in which Briggs or Phelps are instructed to destroy the tape themselves.) The 80's revival would have "This disc will self-destruct in five seconds."
** Also seen above, when the mark appears to be close to discovering TheMasquerade or something appears to have went wrong, right before a major commercial break.
* OneNameOnly: Paris and Casey in the original series; however, due to the presence (and [[spoiler: recent death]]) of another character named Casey in the revival series, when Lynda Day George guest starred as Casey, her character was belatedly given a first name, Lisa.
* OohMeAccentsSlipping: The Irish accent Casey adopts as, and in, "The Bride" wavers but at least it's supposed to come and go as per the script. The episode's BigBad Joe Corvin has no such excuse...
* PassedOverPromotion: In one episode Cinnamon, in her persona as an enemy official, told the lieutenant of the VillainOfTheWeek that he hadn't been recommended for promotion to said villain's job when he got promoted to the capital. This caused the lieutenant to betray his superior.
* PeoplesRepublicOfTyranny: All the time. Pick any episode at random and there's about a one in three chance that at least one of the villains will be an official of a {{Ruritania}}n government with the word "People's" in its name.
* PersonaNonGrata: Invoked in a strange way in "The Amateur". In order to get out of a East Bloc country with a disassembled secret weapon, the team disguises themselves as representatives of a group that had been PNG'ed trying to get ''in'' to the country. They promptly get caught, and are told to reboard their airplane and leave the country - and since the guards believed that they were trying to get in rather than out, they didn't bother searching their luggage.
* PlotTailoredToTheParty: Justified. Briggs and Phelps choose their teams to match the things that need to be done to accomplish the mission, though in some cases one member is just an extra pair of hands to help with the tasks that another member needs to perform. This often happens with Willy, as his official skill is his strength, and they don't usually need to move something heavy.
* PhonyPsychic: Cinnamon poses as a psychic to convince a tycoon that his life is in danger, leading to a high-stakes poker game against Rollin in "The Psychic".
* PrettyInMink: Casey wears a mink coat while vamping the evil regent in "The Lions".
* PseudoCrisis
* PursuedProtagonist: Casey at the start of "The Fortune". Leads to her [[spoiler:being killed]].
* {{Qurac}}: Several times, such as Elkabar from "The Slave" two-parter.
* QuietCryForHelp: One episode has Jim secretly held prisoner by a group of townsfolk who are actually all hostile foreign agents. When the other members of the IMF come to visit him in hospital, Phelps has been given a neuro-suppressant that keeps him from moving or speaking. Nonetheless, he telegraphs his plight to his teammates by blinking in Morse code.
* RailingKill:
** Happens in TheTeaser to "The Pawn". A dissident is shot by the authorities and pitches forward over a fire escape railing.
** Happens again in TheTeaser to "The Golden Serpent (Part 1)". The leader of another IMF is hit in the back by a shuriken. He someone manages to twist in such a way that he falls over the railing and plunges into the river below.
* RealLifeWritesThePlot: Barbara Bain shared Cinnamon's one weakness: Claustrophobia.
* RecycledSoundtrack: Particularly in the final season, where very few episodes had original scores.
* RedScare: Many episodes pitted the team against agents of Russia or some Eastern Bloc expy. But the team was never called to escalate the Cold War, only prevent the other side from gaining an advantage or escalating the war on their end. On at least one mission they had to stop an ''American'' attempt to heat up the Cold War.
* RewardedAsATraitorDeserves:
** In "Reprisal", an orderly has been helping the villain escape the maximum security mental hospital to commit murders. When the orderly gets cold feet and demands more money, the villain promises him "a big payout" when he makes his final escape. The "payout" is being murdered.
** In "The Princess", a traitor provides details of the princess' security procedures to a terrorist group. The terrorist leader provides him with a briefcase fill of cash which he handcuffs to his wrist. However, the case also contains a bomb.
* RoyalBrat: One episode centered around an attempt to assassinate one ([[HeyItsThatGuy Greg]] [[TheBradyBunch Brady]], no less!) that Phelps & Co. must thwart.
* RuleOfThree: The 'Tape Scene/Dossier Scene/Meeting Scene' format. Averted permanently as of Season 5 when the dossier scene is retired.
** The 80s revival had 'Codephrase Conversation Scene/Disc Scene/Meeting Scene' as it's format, though "The Killer" added 'Team Choosing Scene' in between the first two.
* RunForTheBorder: Inverted in one season one episode: A drug dealer had already made it to a country with no extradition treaty with the US, so the team had to trick him into crossing the border into one that did.
* {{Ruritania}}: When it isn't a BananaRepublic.
* SadisticChoice: "The Ransom".
* {{Safecracking}}: Done regularly. The amount of difficulty the team has depends on whether emptying (Or sometimes filling) the safe is the point of the mission or just another part of the plan.
* ScarecrowSolution: Used occasionally by the IMF. "Banshee" features perhaps the fullest embodiment of the trope as the plan hinges entirely on convincing the villain that he is being stalked by the souls of those he has killed.
* SecondFaceSmoke: While posing as a soldier-of-fortune in "Spy", Max does this in order to pick a fight with a mercenary in a bar.
* SequelSeries: The 1988 {{revival}}.
* SharedUniverse: With ''Series/DiagnosisMurder'', of all shows (thanks to Cinnamon Carter appearing on said series' "Discards"). Then again, Peter Graves made a cameo appearance on another episode and "Discards" has the revival's Phil Morris. [[spoiler: Not as Grant Collier, but as the murderer.]]
* ShoePhone
* ShootTheBuilder: In "The Legacy", when the IMF discover the underground chamber containing Hitler's gold, they also find the bodies of the workmen who dug the chamber; killed so they could not tell anyone its location.
* ShoutOut: The rejected IM Force photos were often cast and crew of the show, as well as one of show creator Bruce Geller (wearing SinisterShades) that is frequently seen in the early episodes.
** In "Live Bait," a building called Hagmann Haus (after that episode's director Stuart Hagmann) is seen.
** "TOD-5" is set in a town called Woodfield, a belated tribute to one of the show's primary writers William Read Woodfield (he and his partner Allan Balter worked on the series until season three).
* ShowdownAtHighNoon: "Gunslinger" ends with Jim Phelps holding showdowns with TheDragon and then the BigBad. Jim's gun was loaded with tranquillizer bullets.
* ShowgirlSkirt: Casey wears one while posing a magician's assistant in "The Pawn".
* ShownTheirWork: When the US cable channel F/X aired ''Mission'' in the mid-90s, hosts would provide episode specific trivia at commercial breaks, all of which were gleaned from the book ''The Complete Mission Impossible Dossier'', sometimes read directly from the book.
* ShowyInvincibleHero: An entire team of them.
* SigilSpam: In "The Golden Serpent", the eponymous organisation (which - it should be pointed out - is a drug syndicate) for some reason feels the need to decorate its hidden drug processing lab and the uniforms of its armed mooks with golden serpent symbol.
* SplittingTheArrow: In "The Golden Serpent (Part 1)", the [[BodyguardBabes Bodyguard Babe]] of one of the villains is shown doing this while practicing with her pistol crossbow; to show how deadly she is.
* SpottingTheThread: Since many of the team's plans involved some form of elaborate deception, this was a problem that sometimes came up. For instance, one episode centered around tricking a Russian spy that he was in Moscow being tried for treason, but during the trial a chair is knocked over, revealing a manufacturer's label from a Los Angeles furniture company. Of course, in many of the episodes, the team deliberately left loose threads to be spotted as a way of [[KansasCityShuffle tricking their target into thinking that they know what's going on]].
* SpyDrama
* SpySpeak: At the start of many episodes, Dan Briggs and later Jim Phelps would hold a seemingly innocuous conversation that provided the signs/countersigns to be given the mission briefing.
* StagedShooting
* StrappedToAnOperatingTable: Happens to Barney when he is tortured in "The Golden Serpent (Part 1)".
* SuddenlyAlwaysKnewThat: The team are often revealed to be skilled in something in an episode where they need that skill, after which said skill is never used or brought up again. Examples include Barney being revealed to have boxed in college when they need to take down a crooked boxing promoter, Willy knowing martial arts when they are up against a man who sponsors martial arts tournaments (Where he still has problems because he's trained in Jujitsu and he has to compete in a Judo match) and Jim being an expert pool player in an episode where they go up against a Syndicate boss who owns a pool parlor. The episode where it makes the most sense is halfway through season six when Willy plays a crooked card dealer in a casino owned by their target - by that point Willy had spent five years working alongside former entertainers Rollin and Paris, and could have easily learned sleight of hand tricks from them.
* SuspiciouslySimilarSubstitute: There were changes to the team almost every season (Along with Willy being repeated switched off with Sam Elliot's character in Season 5), with the exception of between Seasons 2 and 3 where stability was maintained.
* SwissBankAccount: In "The Council," the mobsters are using a Swiss bank account.
* TakeThat: When Briggs pulls into the {{Drive-In Theater}} in the first season episode "The Psychic", the marquee reads, "Geller and Solow in ''Spend the Money''". This was an in-joke reference to the producers' tendency to go over-budget as seen by Desilu/Paramount.
* TapOnTheHead: This is done to guards and the like regularly. Unfortunately, the typical implementation of this trope makes it look like the team can knock people out by slapping them between the shoulder blades.
* ATasteOfTheLash: In "Bayou", white slaver Jake Morgan whips any girl who attempts to escape.
* {{Technobabble}}: In addition to some of the gadgets used on the show, team members would sometimes use technobabble in universe as part of their plan. (Usually as a distraction or way to fool the target into going along with a plan.)
* TemporaryBlindness: Barney in "The Falcon", Cinnamon in "The Heir Apparent" and Jim in, appropriately enough, "Blind." In the latter two episodes, the person in question deliberately arranged to be temporarily blinded so that he/she could impersonate someone who was blind (Barney's run-in with blindness was the result of a head injury).
* ThemeTune: arguably one of the most recognizable TV spy themes ever.
* TheyHaveTheScent: "Bayou" opens with a girl who has escaped from a white slavery ring being chased through a swamp by a hunters with a pair of dogs.
* ThrowingTheFight: "The Contender" had the team take down a crooked promoter by having Barney impersonate an up and coming boxer whose career had been put on hold by a tour of duty in Vietnam. The person Barney impersonated (Who had ruined his hands during an act of heroism in the war and could never box again) only gave the team permission to impersonate him if they promised that they wouldn't stain his professional reputation by having Barney cheat in an official match.
* ThisPageWillSelfDestruct: Most probably the TropeMaker, though in some episodes the briefing tape had to be destroyed manually.
** The villain of "Reprisal," a rogue IMF agent, chortles at Phelps over a recording that "This ''room'' will self-destruct in five seconds." OhCrap indeed.
* ThoseWackyNazis: The team thwarted numerous plans to establish a Fourth Reich. Examples include "The Legacy", "Echo of Yesterday", and "The Legend" in the original version and "The Fuehrer's Children" and a remake of "The Legacy" in the 80's update. Rollin impersonates UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler in "Echo of Yesterday" and Martin Bormann in "The Legend".
* ThouShaltNotKill: In theory, from about Season 2 onwards. In Season 1 the IMF were occasionally seen using direct deadly force. "In theory" because while the IMF rarely kills anyone directly, their actions often result in the BigBad being killed by a third party. One episode from the early seasons unambiguously states that the team is undertaking a form of assassination.
** The revival series tended to follow this "in theory" pattern too, though the season 2 two-parter "The Golden Serpent" averts the trope by having an IMF member kill a thug, and the fact the team orchestrates the assassination of a villain is made non-ambiguous; lastly, the team actually [[spoiler: consciously leaves the BigBad to die rather than attempt to rescue him from an exploding cave]].
* TimeMarchesOn: Amounts of money that were undoubtedly quite substantial when the episodes were originally aired often seem quite paltry from the perspective of a watcher in the 2010s, thanks to fifty years of inflation.
* TownWithADarkSecret: Woodfield, CA in "The Town".
* TreasureIsBiggerInFiction: Done semi-reasonably in "The Diamond" where the team is sent to steal the world's largest diamond from a dictator. The diamond weighs about eight pounds uncut and is about the size of a shoe. Large, but not ridiculously so, and the stone is explicitly stated to be one of a kind.
* {{Tricksters}}
* TrojanHorse: A common way of sneaking people in or out of a secure area.
* TrojanPrisoner
* TroubleMagnetGambit: A mob boss uses a variant of this in "Hit" to get revenge on his girlfriend for turning him in: he cuts her brake line, lets all the fluid drain out, and sends her to "pick up five grand".
* UsefulNotes/TheTroubles: In "Banshee", the IMF has to shut down an ArmsDealer who is deliberately inflaming the Troubles in order to sell weapons to both sides.
* TrueCompanions: Whenever anyone on the team needed help, everyone else would immediately come to provide it the moment they're told. The most telling example is in "The Exchange", when Cinnamon made a simple mistake and got captured on a mission. Knowing that the standard IMF procedure would be to disavow her and leave her in prison unless there was an explicit need to retrieve her (Which there wasn't as Jim and Rollin got away with the intel she had been sent to get), the team came up with a plan to break an enemy spy out of prison and exchange him for Cinnamon, something that would have gotten them in a ''lot'' of trouble if they hadn't also gotten said spy to spill the beans on the entire network he'd set up, making said spy and his network worthless to the enemy. In fact, despite the whole 'anyone who gets caught will be disavowed' policy the IMF had, the team would routinely go back to rescue any member of the team who got captured.
* TwangHello: In "The Cattle King", Jim Phelps goes to meet a native tribe. He knows he's arrived when a spear embeds itself in a tree next to his head.
* UncommonTime: The memorable theme music, written in 5/4 time.
* UndersideRide: In "War Games", Max clings to the underside of the military truck accompanying Shannon to her execution.
* UnspokenPlanGuarantee: The team never explicitly states what the plan is, only making references to things they'll need in order to pull it off before they're used. Half the fun in watching is trying to figure out the plan from those references and the list of selected agents.
* VehicleVanish: Deliberately invoked in "Leona" to convince a mobster he is going crazy.
* VehicularSabotage: In the episode "The Missile", a psychotic mechanic tampers with the brakes in Dana's car.
* VillainousBreakdown
* VillainousCrossdresser: The assassin is "The Princess" is [[spoiler:a woman]], thanks to Shannon recognizing "Camion" which is a [[spoiler:French perfume said assassin wore]]. However, in the climactic sequence, [[spoiler:she poses as a man with short slicked-back hair and a tux.]]
* VoiceWithAnInternetConnection: Regularly, particularly in cons that need to take place at the mark's residence. The crew will plant hidden surveillance cameras all over the mark's residence and/or wear a camera brooch and two way radio, and a one of the members (usually Barney in the original or Grant in the revival) will monitor the cameras and conversations the other members have with the marks, and provide assistance remotely through two-way radio.
* TheVoice: Two, in fact. Any disembodied voice you hear that isn't telling Mr. Phelps about the mission is probably professional announcer Vic Perrin.
* WeDoTheImpossible: Rather appropriately.
* WhereTheHellIsSpringfield: in the series the team was often sent to the vaguely named PeoplesRepublicOfTyranny. Other locations included the nation of "San X" in South America or the Caribbean Sea. Whenever the mission was in the UnitedStates, the city or state was rarely named beyond "Western" or "Central". Any named nation, used for a mission in Africa, was never a real nation. Finally, Western Europe was referred to as a friendly or neutral nation.
** Averted several times in the revival when Australia unambiguously appears as Australia.
* WhyDontYouJustShootHim: How the team survives being captured. On several occasions the plan ''depended'' on [[BatmanGambit the villain disposing of a captured team member in a specific way]].
** Subverted in one episode of the 1988 remake when one of the regular agents IS killed to help allow a casting change.
* WorthyOpponent: In "The Mind of Stefan Miklos", Miklos remarks that he views his unknown opponent (Jim Phelps) to be this. Tellingly, he says it when he thinks Jim's plan has failed to fool him, when it's actually succeeded in tricking him completely.
* WrittenInAbsence: When Lynda Day George had to miss several episodes in the final season due to her being pregnant, Casey was said to be on assignment in Europe. The schedule issues which resulted in Dan Briggs not being in many season one episodes after the team briefing scene occasionally had him justify his absence by claiming that the mission would involve investigating someone who knew him personally, and thus would realize that there was an op going on if he was with the team.
** Averted, however in one episode in which Cinnamon receives the recorded message, and meets with the others minus Briggs. In that case no mention is made of why Briggs isn't there.
* XanatosSpeedChess: One of the ways used by the writers to resolve a CommercialBreakCliffhanger.
** The episode "The Killer" (which was made by both the original series and the revival) entirely revolved around this, because the mark was an assassin (played by Robert Conrad in the original and Creator/JohnDeLancie in the remake) who had completely random patterns. He'd choose a cab at random from the airport (IMF had multiple cab drivers set up) to a hotel selected randomly (IMF took the name he chose and very quickly applied the label to a blank hotel they controlled), with a room selected randomly (they had to renumber the doors quickly to ensure he got the room they'd put a surveillance camera in) had random contact arrangements (which they intercepted) from a random phone (they had to use a directional microphone because he chose one they hadn't bugged) and random assassination methods chosen at the last second (fortunately, they escaped the bomb he created out of C4 disguised as golf balls). The assassin was never directly aware he was being manipulated, but his habit of pulling a swerve on IMF at every turn made it a subconscious battle of wills between him and the team that usually needed to carefully plan out everything.
* YouLookFamiliar: Guest stars and actors were [[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060009/fullcredits#cast recycled constantly]].
** Sid Haig, for example, was in the show no fewer than nine times, ranging from "Driver #1" to TheDragon to the BigBad.
** Lee Meriwether guest starred as a kidnap victim in a Season 3 episode, then was one of the ''femme fatale'' team members in Season 4.
** Since ''M:I'' shared the Desilu/Creator/{{Paramount}} soundstages and some production personel with ''[[Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries Star Trek]]'', it should come as no surprise that Creator/WilliamShatner guest starred twice as a BigBad ("Encore" and "Cocaine" - sadly for ''Franchise/StarTrek'' fans, both came after Creator/LeonardNimoy's tenure as an IMF agent... although the latter episode did reunite him with Barbara Anderson, alias Lenore Karidian from "The Conscience Of The King") and Creator/GeorgeTakei as an IMF member ("The Carriers"). Creator/LeonardNimoy became an SuspiciouslySimilarSubstitute of Martin Landau's character -- four years after Landau had turned down the role of Mr Spock for ''[[Series/{{Star Trek|The Original Series}} Star Trek]]'''s first pilot "The Cage" in 1965. Herb Solow was production manager for both shows. Ricardo Montalban (Khan Noonien Singh) played a season one BigBad, who was one of the only villains to be directly killed by the IMF team.
*** Going in the other direction, Robert Johnson, the mysterious voice on the MI tapes, provided uncredited voice work on at least two ''Star Trek'' episodes -the unaired pilot "The Cage" and the episode "The Gamesters of Triskelion". On the latter episode he provided the voice of "Provider #3", a disembodied brain in a container which engaged in an often quoted/parodied discussion about betting on the survival of Kirk & Company at hand to hand combat ("I'll bet 2,000 quatloos on the newcomers!") Johnson also voiced a few aliens on ''Series/TheOuterLimits1963''.
*** In at least one case, some alien artwork featured in an episode of ''[[Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries Star Trek]]'' was actually the discarded protective styrofoam piece that housed an ''M:I'' prop tape recorder spraypainted orange and green.
*** One of ''Star Trek's'' infamous gag reels makes use of the ''Mission: Impossible'' theme music.
** In Universe Example: Rollin Hand shows up in in a few photos with different names.
** Barbara Luna is one of the few people to appear in the original (twice, as the title character in "Elena" and as an IMF agent in "Time Bomb") ''and'' the revival ("The Fortune," as a dictator's evil wife [[spoiler: and killer of Casey Randall]]).
* {{Zeerust}}: The ersatz future in "The Freeze"; also, the slide rule in Barney's publicity photo from "Collier Electronics".
** {{Lampshaded}} in the pilot of the remake. Phelps takes a moment to marvel at the mini optical disc player that replaced the trademark tape recorder of the original series, remarking to himself "Time does march on". A few moments later he is similarly impressed when he uses a computer instead of the traditional printed dossier to choose his agents.
** Both Main Logo [[UsefulNotes/{{Fonts}} typefaces]].... A typewriter style font for the 60s series, and a blocky computer style font for the 80s.
** One first season episode, "A Spool There Was", featured a recording method that was pretty much already on the way of becoming zeerust even at the first broadcast.

->[[OnceAnEpisode As always]], should you or any of your IM Force be caught or killed, The Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions.

->ThisPageWillSelfDestruct in 5 seconds.

->[[TheStinger Good luck, Troper. *fizzle*]]
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