The release of Logan (see our review) and Hugh Jackman’s retirement from the role marks the closing of a chapter. But it certainly won’t be the last time we see mutants on the big screen. Production of a seventh X-Men movie and a New Mutants movie will start soon, while Deadpool 2 is due to start shooting in May.
At this point, it’s worth looking back at the 10 X-Men movies to see what worked and what didn’t. Here’s our ranking of all the X-Men movies from worst to best.
Warning: Spoilers abound for all the X-Men movies up to and including Logan.
11X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Do I really need to tell you why the first Wolverine movie was shit? Origin stories are normally really fun to play around with, but director Gavin Hood may have had too much fun taking liberties with the source material. As a result the movie ended up getting panned as one of the worst comic book movies of all time.
The only two good things that came out of it were the admittedly cool opening sequence that saw Wolverine and Sabertooth fighting their way through a century’s worth of wars, and the casting of Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, where he got to do this:
10X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Director Brett Ratner was initially supposed to direct Superman Returns (2006), but a studio dispute saw Bryan Singer sign up for that movie instead. Which is how Ratner ended up directing the worst X-Men movie ever.
Simply put, X3 tried to cram in too many storylines at once. It was meant to be the Dark Phoenix movie, but then the writers decided to include the mutant cure storyline as well, culminating in Magneto wreaking mindless destruction on the Golden Gate Bridge. And yes, the CGI fight sequences might’ve looked pretty nifty, but there wasn’t much else that worked.
Too little time was given to the characterisation, which meant that we lost a lot of the emotional resonance that was present in the first two X-Men movies. Also, whoever was responsible for this travesty of dialogue needs to be shot.
9X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Apocalypse (see our review) had so much riding on it after the massive success of Days of Future Past, but sadly, Bryan Singer slipped up with the finale of the First Class trilogy. The plot made no sense, the fight sequences were over the top, and the new mutants introduced (*cough Psylocke*) were just big disappointments. There was a sense that everyone involved in the story was just phoning it in, which made for a very tedious watching experience.
Additionally, Apocalypse might forever be known as the movie that covered up Poe Dameron’s gorgeous face, turning Oscar Isaac into an Ivan Ooze-lookalike that inspired more laughter than fear. The only things that made this better than X3 were the performances of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, which anchored the movie even as it threatened to derail and undo all of the good that Days of Future Past did.
8The Wolverine (2013)
The Wolverine (see our review) took Logan to Japan, finally fulfilling the wishes of fans. Unfortunately, it was also saddled with the task of taking away the bitter aftertaste of Origins.
Fortunately, with director James Mangold on board and a decent script, The Wolverine got a lot closer to the heart of Logan as a character. And – shock horror! – it didn’t really rely on Asian stereotypes too much. Okay, maybe it was a little guilty of that when it came to all those yakuza and ninjas, but it was still refreshing to see two Asian female characters (Yukio and Mariko) have some sort of agency in the movie.
One thing that the X-Men movieverse really pulls off is having a historical setting, and the premise of Logan saving Yashida from the Nagasaki bomb worked really well. However, that still doesn’t make up for the usual Lousy Villain Syndrome, with Viper reduced to a caricature and the whole Silver Samurai business all coming together for a messy final act. But this was still miles better than Origins.
Before Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, Singer introduced the world to the X-Men. And while there’s plenty to love about the movie, I can’t say that it’s aged well. 17 years on, the CGI looks amateurish, the pacing is a little uneven, and I still haven’t forgiven Halle Berry for the stupidest line ever spoken in the X-Men movieverse.
Still, X-Men was the first modern superhero movie, paving the way for Iron Man and The Avengers. It also proved that it was possible for comic books to translate properly onto the big screen and satisfy both new fans and old. Fans were delighted when acting veterans Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were cast as Professor X and Magneto, a sign that Fox was taking the movie seriously.
This also marked Hugh Jackman’s motion picture debut, and despite being a foot taller than our favourite Canucklehead in the comics, it soon became clear that they’d hit the jackpot with Jackman.
If not for the timely leak of test footage and the doggedness of fans and Ryan Reynolds alike, it’s unlikely that Deadpool (see our review) would’ve gotten made. But that’s exactly what happened, and Fox’s first R-rated foray into the X-Men universe has paid off in spades.
And thank goodness this movie got made, because fans were still baying for blood after the ridiculousness of Weapon XI in Origins. Reynolds was clearly born to play the Merc with a Mouth, and despite the somewhat formulaic plot, Deadpool was chock full of wisecracks and employed a nudge-nudge wink-wink approach to superhero tropes. The result? Cha-ching!
If there’s an X-Men fan in your life, chances are that X2 will be mentioned whenever people ask them about the best movies in the franchise. Singer struck gold again with a story that tackled heavy social themes like prejudice, xenophobia and acceptance, allowing the cast to turn in some wonderfully nuanced performances.
This is still the best movie in the main original trilogy and has remained a firm fan favourite after almost 15 years. It also finally found a real villain in the form of William Stryker (Brian Cox), with a link to the Weapon X programme that helped to give Wolverine a depth of character that he was unable to explore in the franchise’s first outing.
4X-Men: First Class (2011)
First Class wasn’t so much a reboot as it was a prequel, and fans’ fears were allayed when James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender proved to be worthy successors to Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Don’t believe me? Just watch the famous rage and serenity scene again and try not to be moved. I dare you.
First Class is a fantastic origin story, but it also focuses on the deep friendship between Charles and Erik that forms the core of the X-Men movieverse, and how that ruptured after things went awry. Director Matthew Vaughn ultimately reinvigorated the franchise and gave it a bright new future. And as he proved here and in Kingsman: The Secret Service (see our review) later on, the man knows how to craft a helluva training montage.
3X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Days of Future Past (see our review) was the best of both worlds. We had the cast from the original trilogy reprising their roles, as well as the cast of First Class continuing to prove that they were worthy torchbearers. This was by far the most epic X-Men movie ever made, with an ambitious time travelling plot that saw Wolverine trying to prevent a dystopic future from happening.
The events of DOFP wiped the slate clean after the mess of The Last Stand while paving the way for more stories to be told. It was a celebration of the legacy of the franchise and its characters, but it also managed to be a really, really good movie. Add on some fantastic action sequences, more new mutants, and that unforgettable Quicksilver scene, and you’ve got a modern classic superhero movie.
Logan manages to be that very rare creature: a superhero movie with no apocalyptic event that our hero has to save the world from. It’s an intimate, introspective portrait of one of the most beloved comic book characters, and a perfect send off for Jackman as he makes his ninth and last appearance playing a haggard Wolverine.
Loner that he is, Logan basically spends the entire movie protecting Laura, a girl who was genetically modified using his DNA, and Xavier, the only father figure who ever gave him a chance. It’s an elegiac look at what loyalty, honour and family really mean to Logan in his last days, and if we had to send off these particular incarnations of Logan and Xavier, I’m glad that James Mangold did the characters justice.
What eventually kills him is X-24, a Wolverine clone with all of his berserker rage and none of the gentleness that Logan can be capable of. Beyond the hackneyed cliche of how Logan’s worst enemy was really himself, I thought the decision to include X-24 was a fitting metaphor for the franchise. For so long the X-Men movies seemed to fall victim to their own successes as some of the more mediocre installments failed to live up to expectations.
But if X-24 is an extended metaphor for the past, then surely X-23 is the way forward. Dafne Keen is astonishing as young Laura, and it’s not too much of a leap to hope that Fox will pass on the mantle of Wolverine to her in the near future.
Which was your favourite of the X-Men movies, geeks? Tell us!