Mission: Impossible first came to the big screen in 1996, and fans are still just as captivated by the story all these years later. But why? Well, a lot of it has to do with star Tom Cruise, whose career took a major turn with the theatrical debut of the Mission: Impossible franchise.

Before Mission: Impossible, Cruise starred in movies like Risky Business and Top Gun, which were definite crowd-pleasers but didn’t quite solidify Cruise as a serious actor. Mission: Impossible showed everyone that Cruise could not only take on more serious action roles, but that he could also produce great content.

Not only that, the first movie in the now six-part franchise stands out for bringing an art-house vision to a major motion picture. Unlike other spy movies at the time, Mission: Impossible uses creative filmmaking aspects to shock its audience, rather than relying on over-the-top fight sequences or special effects. In fact, the original Mission: Impossible is the most understated and subtle of the franchise, action wise, with only five gunshots throughout the entire piece – none of which were shot by main character Ethan Hunt (Cruise).

Instead, director Brian de Palma furthers the story through his artistry. In place of distracting cuts and post-edits, de Palma focuses in on the unique framing of each scene. The aquarium scene is a great example of this. Throughout the scene, Hunt is engaged in an intense conversation with Agent Kittridge. As their exchange continues and Kittridge’s bad intentions come to light, the camera’s angle becomes increasingly skewed and the background music grows more and more intense, all leading up to the tank’s epic explosion.