In the first Mission: Impossible movie, towards the end, Jim Phelps kills his wife, Claire. Up until then, we know that they were working together on framing Ethan. So why does he go ahead and kill her instead of shooting Ethan and getting away?


3 Answers 3


Well, I'd dare to say their relationship was never that strong and it certainly didn't get better from her engagement with Ethan, may that have been staged at the beginning. When she approaches Jim (or rather Ethan in the Jim costume, with the real Jim eavesdropping from behind) at the start of that scene, she pleads for him to leave Ethan alive, although that certainly was not the plan:

Claire: Ethan's right behind me. Listen Jim, is it such a good idea to kill him? Kittridge is here. We'll take the money, Ethan takes the blame. No one else has seen you alive, no one will believe him.

While she gives some pragmatic excuses to leave him alive, the deeper reason, and one that Jim might also have read between the lines, seems to be that she developed feelings for Ethan during their time on the run and does not want him killed.

It is also seen that Jim concentrates on the aspect of her seduction skills with Ethan specifically in his dialogue thereafter, which shows that he's quite a bit jealous, and also that his personal opinion of his wife might not be the best anymore, if it ever was so high:

Jim: Why the masquerade, why take the risk? Well Claire, you've asked the question and you are the answer... But he didn't know about you. In all fairness Ethan, Claire was never convinced her charms would work on you. But I was supremely confident, having tasted her goods. Thou shall not covet thy neighbors wife, Ethan.

While his jealousy primarily concentrates on Ethan, he does project that on his wife, too, even if it was actually planned that way. When she then pleads for him not to shoot Ethan, he sees that she has feelings for him, too. His existing jealousy just gets too much and he gets mad on her. Now it certainly would have been the strategically better move to shoot Ethan first, but well, the anger of a jealous husband.

Claire: Don't, don't Jim!
Jim: Don't Jim?

And it actually still stays debatable if he ever intended to take his wife with him in the first place at all, seeing what kind of character Jim Phelps is.


Also, remember that when Jim is talking to Ethan in London about Kittridge he’s talking about himself and talks about a marriage in trouble.

In the prologue, Claire is "dead" after having seduced the mark. This had to have put more stress post-marriage.

The feelings for Ethan at the end were the final straw. He was cutting all loyalties.


You will get the answer if you go through the final shooting script. Maybe they shot and edited it out or did not shoot the words. Phelps doubts that Claire developed feelings for Ethan. and before her death claire also says the same


PHELPS: Two minutes til Krieger shows. This'll have to be quicker than I'd like. Certainly quicker than you'd like.

CLAIRE: Ethan, if you knew about Jim?..Why..

PHELPS: Why the masquerade? Why take the risk? Well, Claire, you've asked the question and you are the answer.

ETHAN: I knew about Jim.

PHELPS: But, he didn't know about you. In all fairness, Ethan, Claire was never convinced her charms would work with you. But I was supremely confident - having tastes the goods. "Thou shall not covet thy Neighbour's wife", Ethan. Oh, Ethan is in love with you, Claire, make no mistake about it. And like all the world's lovers, he's tortured by the same, one pathetic question - "does she feel the same way I do?"

JIM turns to CLAIRE.

PHELPS: Well Claire do you? Have you been exploiting his feelings or returning them?

CLAIRE: Jim - lets just get the money and get out of here.


CLAIRE (CONT'D): The money Ethan.

ETHAN hands her the money.

ETHAN: You've earned it.

CLAIRE goes to Jim with the money.

PHELPS: Count it.

CLAIRE starts to count.

ETHAN: Tell me something Claire, that night in Prague, was it you or Jim that blew up the car and scattered Hannah all over town?

PHELPS: Keep counting Claire.

CLAIRE: It was me. I did it.

CLAIRE hands PHELPS the money.

PHELPS: Satisfied?

CLAIRE: All ten million.

PHELPS: Fold it. Fold it tight.

ETHAN: Aren't you going to thank me Jim Ten million is better than six.

PHELPS: Don't flatter yourself - six was for Eastern Europe. You made a lousy deal - ten for the world? What is that? But I needed you for the transfer with Max. I got a little extra change; and you got a little extra too.

PHELP'S watch alarm goes off.

PHELPS: Ethan - I've always taught you, nothing can be more dangerous than the truth. It can kill you.

PHELPS shoots CLAIRE. Struggle between PHELPS and ETHAN. The gun is lost. PHELPS beats ETHAN to the ground. His watch alarm beeps rapidly. He turns, goes up the stairs and...


ETHAN: Claire...Hey...

CLAIRE: This stuff is so sticky.

ETHAN: Claire.

CLAIRE: It's all right, Ethan..you'll bring me back...won't you...

ETHAN: I always have, Claire..

CLAIRE dies. ETHAN looks to ladder hatch and climbs ladder.

  • 1
    That seems to just list the entire script of the scene together with descriptions of what happens. Can you summarize a bit more poignantly what the actual answer is that we're supposed to garner from this?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Apr 26 at 17:01
  • I have just posted the script because the reader can make his conclusions. In any case, I have edited the answer now, written my intro, and removed the irrelevant parts.
    – Jammy
    Commented Apr 28 at 1:29
  • what I do not understand or like is the fact Ethan seems to express feelings for claire even after learning the fact that Claire was behind the death of Hannah and in fact she knows everyone is going to die beforehand. And One more thing I do not understand is what Jim Phelps want to accomplish by using Claire as a charm against Ethan. why he says, "In all fairness Ethan, Claire was never convinced her charms would work on you. But I was supremely confident, having tasted her goods." What he had to achieve in exchange of Claire?
    – Jammy
    Commented Apr 28 at 1:46

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