First Appears: “Mission: Impossible”
From the moment Luther Stickle (Ving Rhames) arrives on the scene, dressed in a white suit and wearing sunglasses, he immediately establishes himself as the coolest person in the room (no small feat considering his company includes mid-1990s Tom Cruise and Jean Reno).
As the movie, and later, the franchise progresses, Stickle becomes something more important: Hunt’s closest friend and a moral compass he can rely on. In the first film, it’s Stickle who Hunt trusts to keep the NOC list from getting out in the open, having (wisely, it turns out) decided Krieger and Claire Phelps cannot be trusted. It’s Stickle who counsels Ethan in the third film against marrying Julia when she’s unaware of her husband’s espionage work. “A normal relationship is not viable for people like us,” he says (Gormley agrees, but only after Stickle says it first). And it’s Stickle, in the fourth film, who can call out Hunt for being “corny” for saying “Mission accomplished!” when he averts a nuclear holocaust with only seconds remaining.
Hunt’s romantic relationships with Nordoff-Hall, Meade-Hunt (Michelle Monaghan), and Faust are important, but it is notably Stickle’s life he’s unwilling to sacrifice in “Fallout” to prevent a terrorist group from attaining dangerous plutonium, despite Stickle’s pleas, “Don’t you do it, Ethan! Not for me!”
After nearly 30 years it seems the “Mission: Impossible” series will continue forever. If so, let’s hope Stickle survives through all of it.