The X-Men franchise is one of the most important franchises in comic book movie history. They are responsible for so much of the genre and where it is now. Because of the X-Men, superhero movies became a part of pop culture and opened the door for things like the MCU. These movies are not without their flaws and feel there are a few things you should keep in mind when watching these films As the great John Campea says; written in the halls of Fox (RIP) are the words, “Continuity, Shmontinuity.” When it comes to the X-Men franchise, it’s best not to think about these movies as one flowing story, rather as individual movies that like to cherry pick their favourite parts of previous movies. If you think of them as one continuous story, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
With the release of Dark Phoenix and the end of an era in comic book movies with Fox now being absorbed by Disney, the X-Men will soon be rebooted into the MCU closing off this chapter in superhero movies. This has been one of my favourite franchises as far back as I can remember. So right now, I’ve ranked all 12 Fox X-Men movies including both Wolverine and Deadpool spin-off movies. Here is my list.
12. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine. There are not many movies that I loathe, but this one, this is one of my least favourite movies of all time. There are only 2 things that I will say are decent about this movie. 1. The opening montage of Wolverine and Sabertooth fighting in all the different wars throughout the years I thought was a cool concept. 2. Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber do their absolute best with the garbage material they were given… That’s it, everything else is complete crap. This is some of the worst CGI in any high budget film ever, they completely butcher Deadpool and would’ve ruined the character forever if it wasn’t for Ryan Reynolds, and they gave us answers to Wolverine’s origin that we never asked to be answered. I don’t need to know where he gets his leather jacket from or the stupid story of how he got the name Wolverine. This is just an all-around mess of a movie with some of the stupidest storytelling in comic book movie history. This is easily one of the top 3 worst comic book movies ever made.
11. X-Men: The Last Stand
The Last Stand is not a horrible movie as it is often perceived as. However, it’s not all that good either. What The Last Stand gets right it usually does a good job of. I like a lot of the little character interactions between characters, it’s a really subtle way to do some excellent world building. A lot of what works in this movie are just moments. I like the scene in which Logan kills Jean Grey, or when Iceman finally stands up against Pyro. Those moments are great, and The Last Stand has a lot of those moments sprinkled throughout the movie. Also, with those moments, the returning cast is excellent, and the new members are great additions. Kelsey Grammer as Beast, is a perfect casting choice. The story of The Last Stand and the betrayal of some characters is what holds this movie back. I don’t really care for “the cure” plotline and found it kind of boring, and the dark phoenix storyline wasn’t executed to its fullest potential and was pretty much sided lined when it should’ve been the main story. The movie is also way too quick to kill off fan favourite characters in unsatisfying ways. Whether it be Cyclops being killed off screen or the quick death of Professor X. Magneto gets some excellent moments to shine at the beginning of the movie, but by the end, he kind of just turns into a pun machine. During the last battle, he just spits out dumb line after dumb line. Unfortunately for X-Men: The Last Stand, the things that don’t work in this movie far outweigh the few things that I think actually work really well.
10. Dark Phoenix
This is now the second attempt (and another failed one at that) to adapt the Dark Phoenix Saga into a movie. Dark Phoenix is an odd movie with great performance and a story that doesn’t really go anywhere and have anything of interest to offer. The whole cast in this movie is fantastic, they all do their best in this movie. They are not the problem. It’s the story and structure of Dark Phoenix that is so bad. The villain of this movie makes no sense at all. Like actually no sense. I couldn’t even try to explain to you what she is or what she wants. Her character feels like an afterthought stuffed into this movie because the filmmakers realize they didn’t have a villain. The structure of Dark Phoenix is sloppy at best, this is very clearly a first time director behind the camera. Simon Kinberg, who has done really great work on most all the X-Men movies on this list, struggles to create a coherent film. The movie has no style of its own. There is no levity to it either, the whole film feels drab and depressing. As for the good things about this movie; well I had mentioned the cast continues to put in great performances. The third act and the battle on the train is the best part. It’s one of the best action scenes in all the X-Men movies. Each character gets a great moment to shine in it. That’s about it… Dark Phoenix is dull and an unfortunate end to this franchise.
9. X-Men: Apocalypse
This movie gets way too much hate then it deserves. Michael Fassbender gets an incredible moment to shine in the Auschwitz scene. He continues to prove just how incredible of an actor he is and how well he has embodied Magneto. Apocalypse is wasted potential, unfortunately. There’s not much he does that’s of interest. He’s just a kind of bland villain. Jennifer Lawrence is the worst part of this movie. It’s so clear that she doesn’t want to be here and is just phoning in her performance. It’s a shame she didn’t care enough to add any life to her character, because there would’ve been so much to work with. It’s a serviceable movie, nothing offensive in my opinion about it, but also nothing memorable either. Some fun action scenes and another awesome Quicksilver scene. This is a middle of the ground X-Men movie.
8. The Wolverine
Out of all the X-Men movies, I’m the least familiar with this movie. I rewatched it before I made this list (which I did for all of them), but this movie I really had a hard time remembering it. I love the first act of this movie. Hugh Jackman (and you’ll hear this more throughout the list) is remarkable in this movie. He completely embodies this character. The opening scene in Japan during WWII is so well shot. James Mangold uses a lot of suspense to build the intensity of the moment before Wolverine saves the guy. Mangold and Jackman show glimpse throughout this movie of the introspective dramatic heights of this character that would later be explored in full in Logan. The Wolverine‘s first act is intriguing and hooks you right from the start. For me, right after the train sequence, the movie slows down significantly. It loses that intrigue that the first act setup so beautifully. After that point in the movie, everything about the movie is fine. Nothing about it is awful, but it’s nowhere near as gripping as that first 30 minutes. The only scene I feel is able to reach the level that the first act hits are the scene when Wolverine performs his own heart surgery and then fights the samurai. I don’t care too much for any of the side characters or the story of Wolverine protect the granddaughter. This movie is as good as it is when the story is on Wolverine. Hugh Jackman and James Mangold make this movie.
Back in the year 2000, comic book movies were not in a good place. Between Batman and Robin and Spawn, comic book movies were not the big tentpole films that they are now. Because of the 90’s and the terrible comic book movies, X-Men was like a breath of fresh air. X-Men is commonly known as the movie to kick off the golden age of comic book movies (which is now). People are amazed how well the MCU has been able to balance so many characters in one movie like The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy, but X-Men was able to do that back in 2000. Interweaving social issues like race and segregation into the central theme of the movie keeps very much in tune with the comic book roots of a lot of these characters. The world and the state that it is in is setup so well in this film and lays the groundwork for all future installments to this franchise. Mutants are feared by the people, and the government is trying to register mutants as a way to control them. It’s a fascinating topic for any movie, let alone a comic book movie. X-Men can boost the most pitch perfect cast assembled for a comic book adaptation. Can you really imagine anyone else playing Wolverine as good as Hugh Jackman did? Who cares if he’s tall, the guy completely embodies this role. Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellan are perfect, like honestly perfect for these characters. The X-Men’s first outing does date itself a little bit. X-Men is a little slower than your average comic book movie nowadays. There’s not a whole lot of action in the movie, and when there is, some of it is not all that good. And this one line I’ve always hated, “Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else.” Other than those few issues with the movie, X-Men is a foundational comic book movie. The comic book genre has a lot to owe to this movie and the legacy it has created.
6. Deadpool 2
In a world with crappy sequels, Ryan Reynolds, director David Leitch, and the whole crew have made a worthy second outing for Deadpool. David Leitch brings a fun, new sense of action to this movie; however, I found the story to be messier than the original. There’s just a lot that happens in this movie. While each of the storylines are not particularly bad, it feels like the writers wanted to cram as much as they could into this movie. We have time travel and Cable being introduced, along with X-Force, Juggernaut, a story about Deadpool losing the girl, and the story of Deadpool saving the kid who will one day turn evil. There’s just a lot of story in this movie that it feels overly crowded. Josh Brolin (Cable) is an excellent contrast to Deadpool’s outrageous jokes and antics. Domino’s powers are so entertaining to watch on screen, almost like a reverse Final Destination. Who would’ve thought that Celine Dion would perform a song for a Deadpool movie? The setup and anticipation for X-Force done by the marketing team and in the movie made for a hilarious payoff. Deadpool 1 had a tight and focused narrative, whereas this one juggle’s a lot more story. Deadpool 2 is a worthy sequel that packs some great laughs and entertaining action even if the story is not all up to par with the first.
From this point on, I had a tough time ranking these movies. At any given day, one of these movies could be my favourite and moved to the top of this list (more like second favourite, I’m pretty sure my number 1 pick is secured at the top). For right now, this is how I have them.
What a risk this movie was for Fox. Deadpool is a loud, raunchy film, with a franchise first of an R rating, starring Ryan Reynolds who was not really any kind of box office gold at the time, and was about a character that was last seen in X-Men Origins and was completely butchered in that movie. Turns out Deadpool is one of the franchises highest grossing films. I remember the hype for this film, I was 16 when this movie came out, and I was kicked out of the theatre twice before I was able to sneak and see this movie. This may be one of the best marketing campaigns of all time. Deadpool is a surprisingly great romantic film. Yes, of course it’s immature, crude, and vulgar, but the story at Deadpool‘s core is fantastic. The romance is genuine and is probably the best romance in any comic book film. The chemistry between Reynolds and co-star, Morena Baccarin, feels real and believable. This movie would’ve not worked if this aspect didn’t succeed. However, the reason everyone sees this movie is for the laugh out loud, clever, and immature humor, and it did not disappoint. Deadpool is hilarious, taking full advantage of its R-rating, and holding back no punches. This movie makes fun of so many things, from the superhero genre to Reynolds personal career, even to the people who created this movie, no one is safe. There are only a handful of actors who I think have perfectly embodied comic book characters, Christopher Reeve as Superman, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, RDJ as Tony Stark, and Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. Honestly, he is perfect in this role. Deadpool is a refreshing comic book movie that provides something different that we have never seen before in this genre.
4. X-Men: First Class
The X-Men were not in a good position at this point in time. After two critically panned movies, the X-Men needed a win. In comes Matthew Vaughn. First Class is the origin story of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr’s friendship. We see these men no longer in their 60’s but as young men in their prime. I loved watching their friendship develop in such an organic way. It adds so much history to their characters and enriches the conflict that starts to grow between them. First Class is one of the best prequels ever made. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are perfect as the older versions of these characters, but honestly, I think even better are James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in these roles. Micheal Fassbender just might be my favourite actor in a role in this franchise (aside from Wolverine). He brings a whole new level of depth to Magneto. My favourite scene in all the X-Men movies is the scene in which Charles teaches Erik how to truly use his powers to the fullest and move the satellite. What a powerful and emotional scene that perfectly captures their friendship and bond together. First Class has one of the best villains in the franchise with Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw. He also is given a great story that ties in with the origin of Magneto that adds even another layer to that character. Matthew Vaughn has so much fun with this movie. Pulling in film techniques and editing style akin to 60’s spy movies and other action movies of that decade. First Class is a masterclass in how to tell an origin story right. It nails everything that it reaches for.
3. X2: X-Men United
When people say that the sequel is never as good as the original, I point them towards Terminator 2 and X2. X2 takes everything we love about the first movie, great characters and a fascinating world of Mutants, and gives us more of it. The moment I knew this was going to be a great movie was when we get just the slightest hit towards the rage of Wolverine in the attack on the X Mansion. Hugh Jackman continues to prove everyone wrong that thought a 6’2″ Wolverine was a bad idea. The movie also introduces a new set of characters, Nightcrawler, who has one of the best opening scenes I think ever, Lady Deathstrike, and one of my favourite comic book movie villains, William Striker. X2 is filled with great scenes and moments of social commentary, like the scene when Bobby tells his parents he’s a mutant, or how aggressively the police treat the group of mutants at Bobby’s house. X2 is gritty, brilliant, and balances so many different characters all in one movie with ease.
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past
This movie is no longer talked about as much as it should be, and that’s a shame. Days of Future Past takes everything we love about the original trilogy of X-Men films and pairs them perfectly with everything we love about the new cast in First Class. Anytime a movie deals with time travel, the story gets messy. Days of Future Past I think handles this story well and makes sense for the most part. Wolverine needs to change the past to fix the future. One of my favourite parts of this movie is seeing where these characters were at in the ’70s. Magneto is locked up in the Pentagon for the assination of JFK, Charles is an alcoholic, a drug addict and closed off from his powers. Fascinating places I never would’ve thought to have seen these characters in. Days of Future Past is a well told and interesting story. I’ve seen this movie quite a few times, and when rewatching this movie for this list, I found myself heavily invested in the story. Why I think it works so well is the way the filmmakers set up the personal stakes at hand. All of these actors are fantastic, there is not a single weak link. Quicksilver steals every moment of screen time he has. Who didn’t love that fantastic kitchen scene with him? Days of Future Past just hits me on a different level then most superhero movies are able to do.
What do you get when you take a character played by a beloved actor for over 15 years, a story about getting old, mortality and losing yourself, and an R rating. You get a masterpiece. Logan is next level. Logan is not only the best X-Men movie, but it’s also one of the best superhero films of all and was my favourite movie of 2017. Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman give the best performances in maybe comic book movie history. Logan doesn’t concern itself with trying to build a franchise, but it focuses on making the best movie it can be. James Mangold transcends the comic book movie genre, Logan is not really a superhero movie, it’s more of a dramatic western with themes being pulled from classic westerns like Shane and The Searchers. All parts violent and yet, very introspective. Logan is filled with raw and emotional performances that drive the narrative to new heights that the X-Men and comic book movie genre have never seen before. Seeing Wolverine use his mutant abilities in all it’s R rated glory was something we have all been waiting to see ever since X2, and it did not disappoint. We finally get to see how much damage a man with razor-sharp knives that come out of his hands can do. Logan excels at everything it attempts to achieve and then some. Logan is one of the finest films ever made.