The franchise that arguably opened the doors on the superhero movie genre, the X-Men franchise has been through many highs and lows. With the release of X-Men: Dark Phoenix around the corner, now is the time to look back at the X-Men films and rank them from worst to best.
1. Logan (2017)
My personal favourite is still Logan. With the Wolverine being closer to what both director/writer James Mangold and actor Hugh Jackman had wanted for the character they decided to double down and go even further; creating a daring, violent, adult, introspective, Western character drama with little to do with the conventions of the superhero genre. We see a broken down, dying Wolverine that has lost all hope, has had very little human contact and is caring for a mentally-impaired Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart). It’s not long until he’s faced with the prospect of fatherhood as he’s tasked with caring for a young female clone that represents his continuing legacy, so he reluctantly takes her to a safe haven that might not even exist. As well as emphasising heavily on character, this is also the most emotional film in the entire franchise. The emotions presented here are portrayed with such raw conviction and believability. Jackman gives his best performance to date, as well as Stewart. Dafne Keen as Laura proves to be a true rising star in the making. This may not be an easy film to watch multiple times but this is a flawless character study that wisely gets rid of all the problems that had plagued the franchise and goes for something that is bold, risk-taking and challenging in every way. Not only is this the best film in the entire X-Men franchise, it’s also one of the best films in the comic book/superhero movie genre.
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
With Matthew Vaughn fixing the franchise, it made sense for original director Bryan Singer to try and somehow tie it all together, and what we got is quite possibly the ultimate X-Men movie. Combining the old cast with the new this film does a great job at balancing the post-apocalyptic setup of the future with the main central crux of the story set in the 1970’s, and each aspect delivers something new and bold for the franchise. The futuristic scenes showcases the mutants’ powers and abilities in many creative ways, but the 70’s narrative was brilliantly well-handled thanks to the returning X-Men: First Class cast ensemble with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine perfectly suited in his role as the bridge between the old and the new. Quicksilver (played by Evan Peters) possibly gets the standout sequence in the whole film. Even though the film can’t quite decide who its central villain should be towards the end, this is a thoroughly impressive film that stands as one of the greatest comic book movies ever made. The Rogue Cut of the film is highly recommended as it proves to be slightly superior to the theatrical version.
3. X-Men: First Class (2011)
The X-Men franchise was in a state of limbo following the awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it was time for a shakeup. Coming off the heels of Kick-Ass, director & co-writer Matthew Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman came in and together they crafted a highly entertaining, 1960’s inflected romp with powerful and genuine emotion resulting in the first legitimately great X-Men movie. It may not have some of our favourite X-Men in there but that is compensated greatly by a compelling story that perfectly captures the central dynamic of Xavier and Magneto, showing how two good friends became enemies with different ideological viewpoints, while using the Cuban Missile Crisis as the perfect backdrop. The casting helps bolster the story. Both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender do a tremendous job in giving the film its emotional anchor. Operatic, grand and fun to watch throughout, this proved to be the start of an upward trajectory for the franchise.
4. Deadpool (2016)
After the disaster of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds was determined to make Deadpool cool again, and after a long battle of trying to get a faithful film off the ground, he finally succeeded. Reynolds was practically born to play this character and the film perfectly captures the insanity of Deadpool’s world, being an absolute blast from start to finish. The romance between him and Vanessa (played by Morena Baccarin) provided the film its heart and emotion while also delivering a good moral by the end: It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it’s what’s inside that matters. The other supporting characters in both Cable and Megasonic Teenage Warhead were great. Ultimately this film proved that sometimes being off-kilter and risk-taking can result in something amazing. Despite Fox executives being very skeptical of going anywhere near the character, the two Deadpool films proved to be the highest grossing films in the entire X-Men franchise.
5. Deadpool 2 (2018)
A solid sequel to Deadpool, Deadpool 2 certainly ups the ante by adding in more popular characters in Cable and Domino, as well as cranking up the action sequences with both the prison breakout and the highway chase in particular being some of the very best action sequences in the X-Men franchise. Ryan Reynolds still inhabits the Merc with the Mouth perfectly, while both Zazie Beetz and Josh Brolin provide great new additions to the ensemble cast. This film has some of the funniest moments out of both Deadpool films including: the X-Men‘s sneaky cameo, the X-Force’s sudden dispatching, and the mid-credits sequence. Despite this it does feel like some of the simple emotion of the first film is lacking here with the emotional beats coming off as a bit more contrived, and Vanessa’s “fridging” certainly didn’t help matters. Nevertheless, this is still an absolute delight to watch, though not quite as refined as the first outing.
6. The Wolverine (2013) – The second Wolverine film has been somewhat forgotten about as time went on, but there’s so much about this film that deserves more praise than it got. The entire film focuses in on the existential crisis and emotional depth of Wolverine, making this film much more of a character study than before while also adding in more shades and layers, which only makes this film more fascinating to watch. As well as taking advantage of Wolverine’s character, director James Mangold also takes advantage of the Japanese surroundings, making Wolverine feel much more like a stranger in an unfamiliar environment, plus the fight scenes earlier on are exciting to watch. It’s true that the film’s third act drags this film down as we get full-on superhero antics on display with a giant Silver Samurai robot and a cosplay-looking Viper, but the rest of it is so well-handled and proves to be the perfect predecessor to Logan.
7. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Yes, I did just type that. Have I gone mad? Have I completely lost all coolness points for putting this film above the first two? Possibly. Honestly, this film is just more fun to watch and feels more closer to the spirit of the X-Men than the first two were, which felt too bland and safe in comparison. True, this film doesn’t truly work by having a weak plot, some poorly served characters like Rogue, some terrible and pointless new additions like Angel & Juggernaut, and an ending that goes absolutely nowhere with little-to-no payoff. What helps make this film more enjoyable is its creative action sequences, great visuals with improved colours and CGI. Beast and Kitty Pryde were great new characters and there were some wonderful character moments. There were some fascinating ideas/debates being raised. It’s frankly admirable and surprising that X-Men: The Last Stand came through considering the rushed, problematic production behind the scenes.
8. X-Men 2 (2003)
Again, this is heresy but for this writer, this is something of an overrated film. Many others say this is not only the best X-Men film, but also one of the greatest comic book movies ever made, which is a bit of a stretch considering that it’s just as passable as the first film. On the plus side, Brian Cox is simply brilliant as the villainous William Stryker, Nightcrawler is a fun addition, there is more energy in its action sequences and there’s a nice character moment here and there. In spite of that it feels just as slow and ponderous as the first film only with more plot contrivances, not enough character development, and moments that seem fairly pointless in the grand scheme of things. It’s not an awful film in anyway and it’s very understandable why someone might enjoy this film, but for me, it’s not special enough to make an impact.
9. X-Men (2000)
Yes: it may be heresy to put this film low on the list, especially considering that it was this film that helped open the doors on modern superhero movies, as well as wiping away the stain that bad comic book films of the 90’s left behind. As an adaptation of the bombastic X-Men that everyone knows from the comics, this kind of missed the mark. When compared to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films of the same time X-Men lacks the colour, energy, imagination and the intriguing depth that made these characters iconic to begin with. Sure, there are some cool action scenes. The powerhouse trio of Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan do help make the film more fun to watch but the film is just okay at best with bland production design and far too many plot contrivances. It may have been an important film for the genre, but it didn’t leave that much of a mark.
10. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
After the massive success of X-Men: Days of Future Past, it seemed like director Bryan Singer finally regained his mojo only for that to completely vanish when X-Men: Apocalypse arrived. Instead of delivering a bold, fresh and exciting X-Men film this was nothing more than an aggressively bland, mediocre blockbuster that suffered from the all the usual generic problems: a boring villain, an over-reliance on big, CGI-laden set-pieces, a bloated runtime, a convoluted narrative, too many characters, and more. There are even scenes – Magneto’s torment and a Quicksilver sequence to name two examples – and ideas that feel like poor imitations of better scenes in other installments so there’s nothing about this that feels new or exciting in any way shape or form. This film will make you no longer give a damn about X-Men movies, and despite the film teasing us about the next generation X-Men with new iterations of characters like Jean Grey or Cyclops, nobody cares.
11. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Honestly, is anyone surprised to see this garbage pile at the bottom? This was supposed to be a launching point for a series of X-Men Origins spin off films, only that didn’t pan out because this film destroyed any hope of that happening, and it was only the first attempt! The seeds were there for a great Wolverine origin story about betrayal and revenge featuring classic characters like Sabretooth, Gambit, Blob and even Deadpool but instead what we got was a convoluted mess with laughable effects, poorly choreographed fight scenes, and a messy plot that doesn’t even match with the continuity of the original trilogy. It’s almost as if the filmmakers involved was deliberately trying to annoy the fanbase going as far as to ruin every character. This was particularly true for Deadpool, which only made star Ryan Reynolds that more determined to save and redeem the Merc with the Mouth in future films.