The 20th Century Fox and Marvel X-Men cinematic universe has spanned over 15 years, with 7 movies from 5 different directors. In many respects, the franchise spawned the age of the superhero movie, where developing CGI was becoming a greater factor in the action movie business than ever before. It signaled a shift from one-offs and franchises to so-called “universes” filled with many different parts that could be auctioned off across platforms and into instantly distinguishable merchandise. This series of movies was perhaps the most important change in the “action” genre this century – along with Spiderman – and is beloved by many as a socially conscious set of texts that tackle more adult themes than the majority of its counterparts. The X-Men universe has also given birth to some of the most beloved and charismatic film characters of all time, with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine being the centerpiece to many of the movies, but Magneto and Xavier being equally beloved and important to the universe as a whole. In this edition of “ranked”, I aim to rank each and every X-Men movie and spin-off from worst to best. This list is bound to be as controversial as my previous lists – Rocky Films; Star Wars Films– so be sure to leave a comment or tweet our official twitter your feedback.
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Gavin Hood’s 2009 contribution to the X-Men franchise may have done a much better job of presenting Sabretooth as a viable threat than the original movies did – which was cool – but the manner in which the film put across legendary Marvel/X-Men characters Gambit and Deadpool left a lot to be desired and a whole heap of people pissed off. Perhaps the biggest slip-up this movie made was centering the main emotional story arc of Logan (Wolverine to most of us) around the mythology of that of Wolves – entirely different creatures from Wolverines (which are more like small bears than super aggressive angry Dogs). It’s not that this movie didn’t have its moments, but it felt so much like a child’s claymation project – that being a piece of art that took so many forms in the course of its development – that the mish-mash quality of the final product just wasn’t up to scratch.
6. X-Men: The Last Stand
Where do we start with this one? Some say it’s the worst superhero film (other than Spider-Man 3… Obviously) to ever be released and some say that it’s Brett Ratner’s perfect masterpiece of stupidity that’s very existence should be stricken from the records. Basically, people hate it. For a start, all of the good guys die, and who wants to go and see the final piece of a franchise when all of the heroes you’ve invested so much time in just die at the end? Furthermore, the plot is obvious and the decisions the characters are written to make just don’t make sense in the grand scheme of things. Though there are some fairly cool moments involving Ben Foster’s Angel and Magneto of course, this one just didn’t sit well with loyal audiences and wasn’t nearly fun enough for the casual audience either. Only just one space above Origins is The Last Stand in number 6.
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Because Brett Ratner had done such a terrible job of finishing his original trilogy with X-Men: The Last Stand, Bryan Singer made the Days of Future’s Past movie as an apology to the loyal fans who’d been let down when he abandoned the franchise for failed DC movie venture Superman Returns after X2 in the early 2000’s. The problem here was that the apology angle all seemed like PR spin for what was essentially a large reset switch for the X-Men universe, and felt less sincere and heartfelt than a dodged glance with an ex partner. Sure, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine going back in time to help out the younger and more fresh cast of the prequels was pretty cool, but it took barely any convincing for him to gain the trust of the mind-bendingly-intelligent Charles Xavier regarding his time travel being true, and everything else in the movie felt so forced and far-fetched that even Jennifer Lawrence’s badassery as Mystique couldn’t put this beyond the number 5 position in this list. It was fun, sure, but nothing more.
4. The Wolverine
The second in the Origins series of X-Men films and the prequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine (2013), felt like a new and fresh take on the much beloved Wolverine character. James Mangold’s telling of the story that took place largely in Japan wasn’t without its detractors who felt like the film became more formulaic as the picture went on – something I agree with – but the ways in which Wolverine was challenged felt like they were more worth the investment, and some of the visuals were stunning. Problems in development, such as a change of director (from Darren Aronofsky who was originally signed to the project), inevitably led to issues in the picture, making it far from perfect. This made The Wolverine largely forgettable and unassuming but still levels above the previous entries to this countdown.
Here’s where things start to get really interesting. X-Men (2000) was, without a doubt, the catalyst for what we now know as the superhero century that is the 21st century of cinema. The massive success of Bryan Singer’s movie was largely down to the dark and more adult themes of the picture, something that lent itself to mass culture rather than the specific “kids culture” that so many had assumed of comic-book related products previously. With an ensemble of well respected character actors that it would help to transform into stars, X-Men was a hit on all levels not least its fantastic visuals. For all that it meant to the large budget Hollywood film industry and how much of a good example of how to make a superhero movie work it is, X-Men is number 3 on this list.
2. X-Men: First Class
When Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn signed on to make the first in a prequel franchise of the X-Men universe, fans were delighted. The director had proven himself a worthwhile and different kind of comic book movie film-maker whose handling of dark themes within a largely fun movie was the perfect groundwork for a much larger and more popular franchise like X-Men. He undeniably succeeded, creating route stories for Xavier and Magneto that didn’t detract from the original trilogy nor paid too much of a tribute to them to neglect the new cast portraying the iconic characters. Thrilling, beautiful, funny, and even moving, X-Men: First Class was a great comic book movie and the second best X-Men movie ever made.
Just as The Empire Strikes Back outdid the original Star Wars movie A New Hope, X2 outdid X-Men. Director Bryan Singer made no secrets of the fact that he’d used the second Star Wars movie as inspiration, and with such a huge focus on the so-called antagonists of the piece – not least Magneto – it’s easy to see how important of a role Irvin Kirshner’s movie played. In this picture, the narrative aligned us with Magneto to bring sympathy to the mutants as a whole and not just Xavier’s X-Men; suddenly we were anti-humanity for the apparent lack of humanity that it showed towards our beloved heroes. X2 was, simply, one of the best action/sci-fi/fantasy sequels of any trilogy… Ever. It’s also a great standalone movie. Bryan Singer’s second installment truly is the Empire Strikes Back of the X-Men franchise and is deservedly the number one movie in this list.