This franchise has had some massive heights and some embarrassing lows, effectively being at the top of the comic book movie genre one minute and then nearly killing the concept entirely the next, and while some of the films still hold up several years later, others just get worse as time goes on.
So where does the newest entry place in relation to its eight predecessors? Let's take a look!
9. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
This movie is one of the go-to examples of what not to do with the superhero genre. There are so many things wrong with it that are fairly unforgivable, and you have to question just how those decisions were made in the first place. What in God's name were they thinking when they took The Merc With the Mouth and sewed his mouth shut?!
For a more in-depth breakdown of the problems this movie has, check out the Fanboys Fix It article I wrote up a few months ago. To sum it all up: this film needed to make up for what went wrong with X-Men: The Last Stand, and instead it took things to an even shittier level, which made fans beg for the punishment to stop.
8. X-Men: The Last Stand
Speaking of garbage, few films are as disappointing as the third entry in the X-Men series. The first X-Men film did well, and it was followed up with an improvement in X2: X-Men United, so fans eagerly anticipated the next one with assumptions that it would be just as good, if not better. Boy, were they wrong.
I remember squirming in my seat while watching this, just utterly perplexed at how something with so much buzz and such a great framework to build from had turned into something so terrible. It unnerved me so much that I actually went to see it a second time just to try to convince myself it wasn't as bad as I had thought. It was and still is.
Disappointing is one thing, but with X-Men: Days of Future Past, the filmmakers literally undid everything in canon related to this movie as an apology. It's also referenced in X-Men: Apocalypse when Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, and Jubilee talk about how the third film in a trilogy is always the worst.
They kill off Cyclops and Professor Xavier (kind of) in this movie for no real reason or payoff. Jean Grey's storyline isn't handled properly, nor is the cure section of the film. Angel is an utterly pointless character. For all that this franchise has to do with tolerance of other people and accepting who you are, they fucking wrote Rogue's storyline to be that she changes her DNA just to be able to have sex with the boy she's crushing on, who of course is willing to cheat on her if she doesn't give it up! That's a terrible message to spread! The only thing positive about this movie is Kelsey Grammar as Beast, and I feel sorry for him for having gone through this experience.
7. The Wolverine
This film is hard to place, as there are some amazing elements, but the sum of its parts doesn't quite match up to others on this list. The villains are weak (particularly the main one) but not out of theory, just out of execution. For example, the storyline of a dying old man wanting to take Logan's healing ability for himself is interesting. However, Kenuichio Harada is just some assassin dude who looks like he has a stomachache the entire movie, and Viper…ugh…what a shit job on behalf of the writers for that character and the actress bringing it to life.
Some positives are the serious tone, bringing Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima into the public consciousness, and Logan's tortured soul. This is a movie that could have benefited from another 20 minutes of screen time and it might have placed a little higher, but it can also be argued that it's on par or slightly better than the next film, just in different ways.
Just as with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I've previously written up a Fanboys Fix It for this film, so head on over to that article to read more of my thoughts on any problems this movie has. What I will say when it comes to positives, though, is that after 16 years, rewatching this recently made me appreciate it more. This film is responsible for the initial boom of superhero films. If it hadn't have succeeded, we wouldn't have gotten Spider-Man and the rest that followed, which would eventually lead into Iron Man and the proper Marvel Cinematic Universe we have now. It was a gargantuan task to take such a colorful world like the one the mutants live in and to ground it enough in reality for mainstream audiences to accept, while also keeping enough of the comic book flair to not piss off the core fanbase.
Of course, there are issues with it that would ripple throughout all of the films, but in the grand scheme of things, this was a fun movie that knocked a herculean ball of cinematic potential out of the park and deserves to be pat on the back more so than it tends to be.
5. X-Men: Apocalypse
By the time I rewatch this, I might end up lowering it a bit, as there are pacing issues, the villain doesn't measure up to his potential, and some characters are superfluous or just disappointing in general, but I left this movie in much better spirits than I thought I would be, considering the reviews.
If you want to hear a breakdown of the hits and the misses, check out the Reviewpoint podcast we did recently on the film. To summarize, this was a movie that has structural problems as far as filmmaking goes, but if you're a fan of the source material, it hits your inner nerd in a way that makes it all worthwhile.
I'm sure many people are going to say that this should be higher up on the list, but while I thought this movie was entertaining as hell, I definitely can't classify it as the same animal as all the others. This is a completely different type of movie in general than the typical superhero flick, so it can't really be compared in the same conventional ways. First off, it has a singular protagonist, so it is more along the lines of the two Wolverine films than the ensemble cast of the X-Men group ones. Secondly, it's self-referential and can't be taken seriously, so any laughable parts can be written off as going with the gimmick and not just a legitimate flub on the filmmakers' parts.
That being said, this is still a great representation of the character and something that I enjoyed through and through. It is the true Deadpool film that we were all hoping to get, and it took years and tons of struggling to bring it to the screen. Even more satisfactory was how well the movie did, making it so the fighting was worth it. While producers wrote the idea off as something that could never work, it ended up being a massive hit—earning a worldwide total of over $763 million on a measly budget of $58 million, making it just $8 million shy of surpassing the record of highest grossing R-rated film of all time (second to The Passion of the Christ). That's amazing.
This movie goes to show you that if you do a popular character justice, you don't let studio executives meddle too much, and you have a kickass marketing campaign, you'll be critically and financially acclaimed.
3. X-Men: First Class
After the bombs of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine mentioned above, the series was in a period of much needed healing. A reboot of sorts was a necessity to help save it from fading away into obscurity, so Matthew Vaughn and company had to start fresh while also maintaining the audience that stuck around through the garbage. Prequels can often have a negative connotation after the Star Wars series mucked things up, so when First Class was announced, everyone was justifiably skeptical. After all, the track record was 2–2 and it was being marketed with a title that doesn't correlate with the original cast of characters from the "first class" run, so clearly these guys don't know what they're doing anymore, right?
Wrong. Somehow, for the second time, the casting of Professor X, Magneto and many others was just spot-on and we had a movie that breathed new life into the mutants. The 1960s setting was a fresh change of pace that felt almost like an otherwordly James Bond film with superpowers, yet it also didn't stray too much from coming off as an X-Men film.
Just as with any film, there are some issues—such as the Angel character (anyone named that character seems to be problematic in these films, oddly enough) and the questionable casting of January Jones as Emma Frost—and it certainly rests on the laurels of what the previous movies accomplished, with much of the heavy lifting having been done before its time, but there are some great gems that have kept the saga alive that spawned out of this. Who doesn't love Magneto's story, or how they suited up in yellow outfits for the first time? How awesome is it that the Cuban Missile Crisis was folded into the storyline and attributed to the mutant phenomenon?
2. X2: X-Men United
For many, this is the benchmark of what comic book films should be. By 2016, there are aspects of it that have become dated and far surpassed, as you can tell there was still some reservation in the movie industry to go full-on superhero, but holy shit, this movie has so much nerdiness to it that was shockingly awesome for an X-Men fan back in the day.
If you were a fan beforehand, you no doubt geeked out over the allusions to the upcoming Dark Phoenix story, Cerebro being put to good use, Pyro's transition to the Brotherhood of Mutants, Magneto working alongside the X-Men, and diving more into Wolverine's past with the Weapon X program. One of the highlights of the whole list of movies here is in this film when Bobby Drake (Iceman) "comes out" as a mutant to his parents and there are more than obvious parallels to how that process would be for a homosexual teenager to do the same. Then again, if you want something less heavy on the emotional spectrum and more action-packed, you've got to love the berserker Wolverine slashing up intruders in Xavier's mansion sequence or Nightcrawler's White House attack.
1. X-Men: Days of Future Past (Rogue Cut)
It takes a lot to beat out something as great as X2: X-Men United, but the Rogue Cut edition of X-Men: Days of Future Past takes the cake. This gives us the best of what First Class has to offer with that cast mixed in with the best of X2's crew, merging the tones as well to form one of the best time travel movies I've ever seen that feels very natural and not too full of itself. At the center of it all is the figurehead of the franchise, Wolverine, who was in rehab mode from Origins and was able to win back the audience while also saving two timelines. Nice work, bub.
For those who have only seen the theatrical version, I highly suggest setting the time aside to watch this extended edition, as it makes for an even more well-rounded experience. The use of Rogue in the story helps fix what went wrong with her character from The Last Stand as well as to up the stakes of the future scenes with the Sentinels hunting our heroes. Let's just say if you wanted this "last chance before we're all wiped out and eradicated from existence" movie to be even darker, you get it. Then, if you want to have some laughs to make up for it, make sure you hit the rewind button and listen to our FanTracks synced up with the film.
Just as with Deadpool, this is a movie that shows that you can take what works in the comics and manipulate facets of it, improve on it, and win universal acclaim from critics, the box office, and fans alike. All the trials and tribulations of what came beforehand with the bad films and the good ones duking it out felt as though they came to a logical conclusion that was worth it all, setting right what once went wrong. By the end of this movie, I was so content with what I had seen that I would have been okay if we never saw another film set in the X-Men universe ever again.
However, it seems as though the mutants aren't going anywhere, with more movies coming up over the next few years. Where are they going to rank in comparison to this list? It'll be interesting to find out. For now, where do you place these movies in relation to each other? Do you agree or disagree with this list? Leave a comment below with your list!