Ranking the X-Men Movies From Worst to Best
There have been ten X-Men movies already, so which one comes out on top? Well, everyone knows which movie is the WORST.
With the release of Logan, 20th Century Fox now has a total of ten X-Men movies under their belt holding varying degrees of success. Although I re-watch each of these a good bit, I realize not everyone wants to, and it has been seventeen years since the release of the first entry. So now seems like as good a time as any to look back at each chapter of this mutant saga and explain why the film should be avoided or is worth another view, as well as giving my personal rankings.
10. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
I don’t think many will be surprised to see this at the bottom, as even those that tell me they like the film cite it as a guilty pleasure or having just a few visually appealing scenes. It isn’t a good movie though. The plot is messy, pacing is bad, and no one can justify the treatment of fan favorite character Deadpool. This was an origin story that came after the first three X-Men films had built him just fine and it did more to hurt the character than enhance Logan in a solo starring role. Not even the Patrick Stewart cameo could help this one.
There was some okay action in a couple of scenes, some decent side characters that were underused, but the only real reason to watch this is the quality acting between Jackman and Liev Schreiber’s Sabretooth. Instead of watching the movie, try playing the game that was based off of this one.
9. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
A film that most people consider to have been too rushed and misguided after issues with directors and the screenplay relied heavily on its extensive budget, visuals, and bringing the classic Dark Phoenix story to life for the big screen. It’s a shame that there were so many good ideas that became mangled into a mess of a story with an overdone third act some cringe worthy over dramatic moments. The Last Stand was going to be darker and even tried to edge a bit closer to the source material, but in the end there was so little focus with good scenes that felt like they were in the wrong sequence. As excellent as Famke Janssen is, it is much of her plot that brings the movie down, and as the new X-Men film looks to do the Phoenix Saga again, I hope they remember the mistakes made here.
The best takeaway from this third installment are a few key scenes that were executed with expertise in visual filmmaking. Angel’s opening scene, cutting his wings off in the bathroom, is haunting, even if you can forget about the character immediately afterwards, then there is our first real look at a sentinel, and Magneto rolling up the bridge is ripped straight from the pages and looks fantastic, but mostly watch it for Vinnie Jones portrayal of The Juggernaut.
8. The Wolverine (2013)
When it was first announced that this film would be directed by Darren Aronofsky I got so excited and should have realized it was too good to be true. Switch one director, completely rewrite one script, and suddenly the prospects of this movie have completely changed, but thankfully the last film had set the bar quite low. This was supposed to be something different, and it does start out that way, with a solid first act and an acceptable middle that showed the progression of a defeated man, but it is the last section of the film that becomes completely trite and loses most of the audience.
It is bad when the scene used to setup the next movie is better than half the one that just showed. We received a few hints at what would come later from this same director—not to mention some foreshadowing—but there is little else that is worth remembering. It isn’t offensively bad though, as it feels like the film tried to respect the character, and it is probably the last movie entry in this franchise listing I would say everyone can just simply skip. Leave this one for the hardcore fans or the bored.
7. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
A younger team of X-Men finally meet one of their greatest foes from the comics with the world facing annihilation at the hands of a mad god. It is the weakest of the recent trilogy for this team, but introduces younger versions of classic characters that are portrayed well, though I know a few people still find Jean Gray annoying. Oscar Isaac was fun as Apocalypse, only slightly outshining the other actors in a screenplay that set a shaky but large stage. Too large perhaps, as one of the things that kept this installment from feeling great was an attempt to expand on the previous, but sacrificing story.
Thinking about the plot too long will make it seem redundant, with many parts that could have been trimmed out or shortened, and the big battle for the climax almost has too much going on without enough exposition, making it feel like X-Men: Apocalypse is just going through the motions to conclude. Visually it can be fascinating at points, too much perhaps in the fights, blinding with various energy blast colors, but it is easy to sit in awe with classic characters coming to life so artistically. Had Apocalypse not had to be compared to its predecessor, the film may be more fondly remembered, but is certainly an engaging movie for people who like the genre.
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Time travel plots are tricky to do well, but they are in the DNA of these characters, so it was no surprise that audiences would see a film loosely based off a landmark comic arc of the same name. The story is well-paced and feels just convoluted enough to fit the source material, working on different levels, like some thought was put into the project and character growth was actually considered. Even if some fans are confused, they won’t be bored. The acting is superb from two different generations of characters, it uses the time period excellently, and I think everyone loves the Quicksilver scene.
The only issues seem to be that some thought the villains —not just Magneto— needed more attention and some of the set pieces were bland. It did spectacularly at the box office and at the time was the only X-Men film to be nominated for an Oscar. After seeing how bleak the future could be, there is that wonderful wrap-up scene at the end, once time has been fixed, that shows the audience Jean Gray and Cyclops return, which felt so rewarding after suffering through the third movie. I do recommend getting The Rogue Cut for that extra seventeen minutes of movie goodness.
5. X-Men (2000)
It’s hard to beat the original, as they say, and this film had a long and hard road to come into existence. After years of work and numerous changes on every possible front that made it look like the project would never be made, the X-Men were finally where they belonged, and it left a lasting impression. Not only was it the first time seeing favored characters on the screen, but it also managed to stay close to the comic without having the blue and yellow spandex suits.
The story was easy to follow, even for new fans, and managed to have enough surface entertainment with some interesting characters and concepts as it blended in super-powered action. There are some missed opportunities here, trying to keep the film open enough for viewers who may not have been followers of the source material, and the story is too centered on Wolverine, leaving several other characters out in the cold. Some may call this one a bit dated, but for the time the effects were astonishing and left several lasting images burned into my memory. Not only does it hold up, but stands as one of the movies that helped vitalize the superhero genre.
4. X-Men: First Class (2011)
After the horrible showing of the third movie and Origins, even I had considered giving up on this franchise, but with such a wealth of material and potential from the pages, I knew that there would be plenty of opportunity to produce another great one. With Bryan Singer back as a producer and a much cleaner slate to work with by setting it in the past, the first class of X-Men surprised a lot of fans.
From the ashes of the failed Magneto movie came a prequel that opted not to cling to the comics, but focused on giving background to the movie universe and a solid story. Good writing, directing, action, and sensational acting gave this fresh take the boost it needed to spawn another trilogy. A lot of work was put into making this entry feel different from the other films and they took advantage of the freedom and style the time period gave them. Watching this also made me remember how amazing Kevin Bacon was and the Hellfire Club could be when done right. My only issue is how it handles some of the side characters, possibly the predictability of its ending, and use of montages. This one just barely edges out over the original, but it certainly ears that place.
3. Deadpool (2016)
After that horrible early interpretation of the character in Origins, the Merc with a Mouth needed another chance to redeem himself, and the fans wanted it. So thanks to some slick efforts from the cast and crew, along with Fox not caring enough to interfere much, Wade Wilson was able to take one more swipe at greatness in film — and it worked. Sure, the non-linear plot seems a bit formulaic, but what’s not to like? Deadpool is a revenge film with a love story wrapped in a lot of blood and bad words!
Ryan Reynolds did a great job in the titular role, like he was meant for it, and the side characters worked incredibly, with the only exception possibly being the main villain. This movie embraced the attitude though, took to its R rating fully, and that paid off big. What possibly works best though is the humor, which depending on the writer, can make or break Deadpool in the comics. Here though, everything from the excellent soundtrack and sly references to the after-credits scene feel like they fit in perfectly. Fans are already foaming at the mouth for a sequel, but even if that one sucks, the first true outing for Deadpool will be remembered as an unexpected breath of fresh air for the franchise.
2. Logan (2017)
From the moment I saw the trailer I knew this film would be different, nothing like the previous two solo movies for the character, which now feel like they aren’t even in the same universe as this masterpiece. Set in the near future, Logan shows a past-his-prime Wolverine trying to survive in any way possible, now more responsible for the protection of others than ever. Jackman’s final role as the signature mutant gives the character some of the greatest depth it has ever had and a proper ending to a legacy seventeen years in the making.
This is a dark epic tale, a savage Western, and the last ride for an icon all wrapped into a story that understands its scope and plays close to the chest, knowing its characters and how to use violence to help push a solid plot. There are so few issues I have with the film, especially past the selection of secondary villains, but it’s one I highly recommend and see myself viewing over and over again. Logan does nothing truly innovative, but comes close to perfecting everything it wanted to do. Many say this may not be just one of the best comic book movies, but a great film in general, finding a balance between a gritty world, its brutality, and a small glimmer of hope.
1. X2: X-Men United (2003)
The second installment of the franchise barely edges out over the rest, but here it sits as what I believe to be the best X-Men movie done to date. The hit sequel set out to craft a good story for the superhero team in darker times with more emphasis on character, as the series’ version of Empire Strikes Back.
It is loosely based off of the comic arc God Loves, Man Kills, and is possibly one of the greatest encapsulations of the hero team’s adventures. It was an ambitious movie for the time that worked the script around its budget and found a way to balance the vigorous action and storytelling while giving audiences a little bit of everything they wanted. The original cut of the film was rated R before a few scenes were removed, so for all of those who wanted more blood in the mansion raid scene, they tried. The acting was superior all around, but I especially love Brian Cox here as the villainous William Stryker, though each of the returning actors seemed to nail their characters this time.
This is a truly entertaining experience that starts off slow and builds to believable stakes in that world, a sequel better than the original, and one that gives that beautiful tease to the coming issues with the Phoenix Force. For some though this was more than just entertainment, a deeper and serious plot that helped express themes and ideas that the characters of the comic counterparts value. Though not everyone will feel the same about it, X2 performs well and has the most potential in the franchise to mean something and leave a lasting impression.