With Logan marking the final appearance of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, a role he has embodied since 2000, there are a lot of theories swirling around about what Jackman’s final scene will be — and if the character who has healed from so much will finally reach the end of his lifelong battle. Logan’s age, diminished healing factor, and the knowledge that Jackman won’t be coming back to the role certainly imply that the cinematic Wolverine is going to die. If he does, it’s sure to be the most emotional death scene in any X-Men movie to date.
But the comics are also full of tearjerkers. Fighting for mutant rights is a risky business, and many X-Men have been lost along the way. Until the day that humans and mutants can peacefully coexist, there will be many victims claimed in the ongoing struggle. And let’s not forget the villains, either, who have faced deaths both grisly and tragic. From noble heroes like Nightcrawler to horrible villains like Apocalypse, X-Men comics have often shown some of the most memorable, epic, and heartbreaking death scenes in comic history.
Here are the 15 Most Memorable X-Men Deaths Of All Time.
We’ll start with the same guy who everybody’s worried about. Now, to be honest, Wolverine has technically died a lot of times, sometimes getting incinerated in a Sentinel blast, and other times being decapitated or blown up. However, in more recent comics, it seems that Logan may have actually died for good, now that X-23 has assumed the mantle of Wolverine. Luckily, his death scene is one for the books.
Wolverine’s final tale begins when a virus causes him to lose his healing factor, and Logan chooses to accept his new state instead of scrambling for a cure. Finding out that a bounty has been placed on his head, Logan tracks it down to the source. Like so many great stories, Wolverine’s final hunt brings him back to the beginning, where so many of his horrors began: the Weapon X Project. He finds himself face-to-face with Dr. Abraham Cornelius, the scientist responsible for his brainwashing, his lost memory, his adamantium skeleton, and so much of the misery in his life.
Logan finds that Cornelius is preparing more test subjects, just like him; others who are about to be subjected to the same horrific adamantium-bonding process. To stop Cornelius from continuing his horrific experiments, Logan slashes open all of the containers of liquid adamantium, coating his entire body in liquid metal. As the adamantium rapidly cools, Logan successfully kills Cornelius. Then, before he dies inside the solid casing of adamantium, he manages to step out into the sunset one final time, knowing that despite the long, painful life he has endured, his actions have saved others.
Pyro, the flame-manipulating mascot of the Brotherhood of Mutants, is most well known for being a villain — but he dies as a hero. Pyro’s tale is a tragic one. He is an early victim of the Legacy Virus, an airborne plague that for many years served as a mutant allegory for the AIDS epidemic.
In its early forms, the Legacy Virus only affects mutants, not regular humans, but it runs in two strains: Legacy-1, a fast-acting bug that kills its victims quickly, and Legacy-2, a slower virus that over time causes lesions, fever symptoms, and the loss of mutant powers. Pyro is unfortunate enough to be infected with Legacy-2, causing his powers to grow increasingly out of control. Pyro spends years desperate to find a cure, but none exists, and his body continues to succumb to the virus.
In the end, Pyro risks his life to save Senator Robert Kelly, the same anti-mutant politician who championed the dangerous and prejudiced Mutant Control Act. Shortly after saving Kelly, Pyro begins breaking down from the end stages of Legacy-2, but in his final moments, he pleads for Senator Kelly to make peace between mutants and humans, to end the fighting. As it turns out, Pyro’s actions to save Kelly do make a difference, and are one of the major reasons that Kelly ends up changing his stance on mutants (more on that in a bit).
Sean Cassidy has had a lot of ups and downs in his life. Between his childhood in Ireland, his legacy as one of the original “All-New, All-Different” X-Men, a violent lifelong feud with his evil cousin, and an alcoholic downslide, Banshee has certainly faced a lot of battles. His final one, however, was unexpected.
Banshee’s death occurs during a time when he is away from the X-Men and back home in Ireland. After discovering important data about the recent disappearance of Charles Xavier, Sean doesn’t trust the internet to send his information confidentially, so he instead hitches a commercial airplane back to the United States. Unfortunately, this occurs just as the new X-Men villain Vulcan has taken over the X-Men’s famous jet, the Blackbird, and Vulcan purposely aims the jet right at Sean’s plane. Instead of flying away, Sean tries to save his fellow passengers from the crash, but his sonic voice — which, at this time, isn’t what it used to be — isn’t strong enough to halt the Blackbird, and he ends up getting crushed between both colliding planes at once.
12. Magneto, and the Entire Island of Genosha
Magneto may be the X-Men’s most infamous archenemy, but he’s also one of the most morally complex characters in comics, and there’s always been the lingering question of whether he’s truly a villain or not. Whatever one’s opinion on Magneto’s heroic or villainous aspects, there’s no question that he has performed actions both great and terrible, and often some combination of the two. This gets especially complicated when he takes over the island of Genosha — at the time embroiled in a civil war between humans and mutants — and turns it into a mutant state.
Magneto rules over Genosha for some years, but that all comes toppling down with the arrival of Cassandra Nova, Charles Xavier’s sinister twin sister/psionic-virus-made-flesh. Cassandra Nova’s first major action is to send a legion of Sentinels right to Genosha’s shore. This unexpected Sentinel attack crushes Genosha’s cities, destroys its culture, and kills 16 million people — including Magneto himself, who in his final moments reveals to Polaris that he’s her father.
Well, sort of. Magneto’s too great a character to keep down for long, and a few years later, it is revealed that he’d spent the time of his apparent demise living alone among the ruins of Genosha. He and Xavier then work together to rebuild the island. Still, while Magneto didn’t really die from this Sentinel attack, there have been very few times that he’s ever been hit harder.
Remember Mariko, the woman that Logan fought so hard to protect in The Wolverine? Well, in the comics, while Mariko never joined the X-Men, she and Logan did go on to have a deep, passionate romance. Really, it ends up being probably one of Logan’s most stable relationships to date. They even get engaged.
But after the wedding date is set and ready, Mariko is poisoned by her enemy Matsu’o Tsurayaba. The poison works its way through her system, and Mariko faces a death that’s not only unavoidable, but also long and terribly painful. Wanting to avoid further suffering, Mariko asks Wolverine to end her life before the pain worsens. Logan does as his fiancée asks him to do, and Mariko dies in his arms, him losing yet another one of the people who was the closest to him.
However, Mariko’s poisoner Matsu’o doesn’t get off easy; pissing off the Wolverine is rarely a wise choice. Logan tracks Matsu’o down, and swears to avenge Mariko’s death by coming back once a year, every year, and cutting off one more piece of his body until nothing is left.
Cyclops hasn’t always been the most likable X-Men. But there’s no question that Scott Summers is one of the most iconic, and one of the most interesting. Since the team has existed, Cyclops has been one of their greatest leaders — and in recent times, one of their most complicated villains/anti-heroes, possessing a hard-line, “ends justify the means” ideology that is far more in line with Magneto than the peaceful philosophies of Charles Xavier. But now, like Logan, Scott Summers has become one with the ashes.
Scott’s death seemingly occurs when he and Emma Frost go to war against the Inhumans. This battle is set off when the Inhuman’s Terrigen Mists filter down into the Earth, spawning new Inhuman abilities in regular humans, but infecting the mutant population with a terrifying “M-Pox.” In a powerful climactic battle, Cyclops confronts Black Bolt, the leader of the Inhumans, who possesses a sonic voice so loud that it can topple cities if he lets out so much as a whisper. With Cyclops charging his optic blast at Black Bolt and his wife Medusa, the Inhuman King releases his voice, tearing Scott’s body apart.
Except… this isn’t what actually happened. In actuality, as Emma reveals to Scott’s brother later on, Cyclops actually died far earlier on. His noble “hero’s death” was a psychic projection created by Emma herself, so that he could become a martyr for mutant rights. In reality, Scott was one of the first victims of the M-Pox. He died sick, diseased, and defeated — but, cradled in the arms of the woman he loved.
9. Senator Kelly
It’s been such a long time since the first X-Men movie came out, all the way back in 2000, that it’s easy to forget what an important role Senator Robert Kelly played in the film. Back at the beginning, when Bryan Singer had to encapsulate the movie’s anti-prejudice metaphor, Senator Kelly represented the politicization of government-authorized racism/xenophobia/etc., with his hard agenda of forcing every mutant in the United States to register with the feds and be monitored, locked up, and so on.
Though the motivations of the movie version of Senator Kelly are very true to the source material, the comics version doesn’t suffer the same watery, blubbery fate as his movie counterpart.
As mentioned earlier, Kelly actually has a change of heart when Pyro saves his life. Seeing the mutant’s humanity firsthand, Kelly recognizes the error of his ways, and he actually becomes an active proponent of better human/mutant relations. Unfortunately, the senator’s new goals don’t align with the mutant-hating masses that had been so devoted to him before. During a speech at a university, Kelly is assassinated by one of his former voters. Thus, the man who once worked so hard to take away the rights of mutants ends up finishing his life as a martyr for mutant rights.
Wolverine has made plenty of enemies in his 100+ years on Earth, but no villain has ever gotten under his skin to the same extent as Victor Creed, better known as Sabretooth. Creed has hounded Logan for decades, murdering his loved ones, beating him on his birthdays, and generally trying to make his life a living hell. But finally, the time comes when Logan is ready to put his sociopathic arch-foe down for good. Thanks to the discovery of the Muramasa blade, a mystical sword capable of nullifying healing factors, Wolverine has the tool he needs to end Sabretooth’s reign of terror, and so he gets to work.
Wolverine tricks Sabretooth into meeting him up north in the Canadian wilderness, and when the villain pounces on him, Logan slashes his arm off with the Muramasa. Sabretooth tries to reattach the arm, as he always has in the past, only for Logan to explain the properties of the Muramasa blade. Finally, Wolverine cuts Sabretooth’s head off, leaving his body in the snow, and leaving behind the twisted legacy that he shared with his most personal enemy.
7. Apocalypse, in Age of Apocalypse
Not every death is tragic. Really, it’s hard to get too broken up about the defeat of an ancient Egyptian overlord named Apocalypse, who believes in wiping out all of the “weak” so that the strong can dominate under his rule.
The classic X-Men saga Age of Apocalypse is set in an alternate universe wherein Legion goes back in time and accidentally kills Charles Xavier, disrupting the timeline in spectacular fashion. Without Xavier around, Apocalypse wins, crushing all human society, governments, art, and culture beneath his massive heel. In this new post-apocalyptic timeline, Magneto ends up forming the X-Men, and they are the only force opposing the big blue dictator.
The grand finale takes place in Apocalypse’s base in New York City, where Magneto and his X-Men take on En Sabah Nur in a final showdown. At the end, Magneto uses his magnetic powers to literally tear the all-powerful supervillain’s body in half. As Apocalypse lays dying, Magneto tells him “For twenty years you’ve gone on and on about how only the strong survive. Tell me again, Apocalypse… just how strong you are.” Then, the master of magnetism walks away, leaving the writhing remains of the first mutant behind him.
6. Moira MacTaggert
Perhaps the most important non-mutant character in the X-Men mythos, Moira MacTaggert has been one of the X-Men’s greatest allies throughout the years. When the Legacy Virus begins cutting its bloody swath through the mutant population, Moira dedicates herself to the task of finding a cure. However, years and years of exposure eventually seep in, and Moira discovers that she is the first regular human being to contract the mutant plague.
Despite her terminal diagnosis, Moira continues desperately researching for a cure, even going so far as to quarantine herself so that she won’t infect any of her mutant friends. After years of this, she finally succeeds in figuring out how to develop one — but she is then brutally injured by Mystique and Sabretooth. This is a catastrophic situation, as the details of a potential Legacy Virus cure are in her mind, locked away. Luckily, she’s able to have her former love Charles Xavier psychically read the information from her mind, an act which would later allow Beast to develop a cure from her research. Moira then dies in Xavier’s arms, knowing that, thanks to her work, the mutant population may be saved from the epidemic.
5. Charles Xavier
Probably no X-Men character has had as many heartbreaking death scenes as Charles Xavier, the founder of the X-Men, and in many ways its central figure. Almost every adaptation of the X-Men to date has played with the notion of what the team does if Xavier dies, resulting in many unforgettable moments. The fan-favorite ’90s cartoon, X-Men: The Animated Series, had Xavier’s “death” as the core premise of its final episode, ending the series with a scene where Xavier lies in bed, telling each one of his X-Men why they mean so much to him. The movies also ended Xavier’s life in an epic fashion in X-Men: The Last Stand, when Charles tries to turn Phoenix away from her demons, and is de-atomized for his efforts. Though we all know Charles came back in Days of Future Past, it’s still a compelling scene.
The comics, of course, have also had Xavier die a few times. One of the most memorable X-Men scenes of the last decade occurs during the series Avengers Vs. X-Men, when Cyclops comes in possession of the all-powerful Phoenix force. Xavier confronts him, and Scott responds by murdering the man who was the closest he ever had to a father. Cyclops’s killing of Xavier is one of the key arcs that reshaped Scott Summers’s character, and set a clear tone about what kind of man he had become.
Before the Legacy Virus stole the lives of Pyro, Moira, and so many others, it began its toxic spread by killing a little girl named Illyana Rasputin. Though Illyana, codenamed Magik, is a lesser-known X-Men character, she’s the little sister of a much bigger one: Piotr Rasputin, AKA Colossus, the X-Men’s warmhearted man of metal, who unexpectedly ended up being one of the best-received characters in last year’s Deadpool.
Colossus has always been deeply protective of his baby sister, all the way back to their childhood in a Siberian farm collective. When Illyana also develops mutant abilities, she follows her brother to Xavier’s school, joining the New Mutants. Unfortunately, Illyana becomes one of the first mutants to contract the Legacy Virus. Despite the desperate efforts of Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert, Illyana dies from the disease.
This tragic loss set the stage for the Legacy Virus that devastated the mutant population, which grew to become one of the worst enemies the team has ever faced. Luckily, as we mentioned earlier, Moira was finally successful in finding a cure, but not without losing her life to the cause. At this point, Beast was able to use her research to finalize the cure that the mutant population needed so desperately. But in order for the cure to work, it needed to claim one last life…
Colossus is the heart of the X-Men. Strong, noble, and sensitive, there are few X-Men as beloved as Piotr Rasputin. Needless to say, the death of his dear sister hits Piotr extremely hard, causing him years of guilt over being unable to save her.
The Legacy Virus cure that Beast finally creates is a success, but it has a catch: it’s an airborne cure, but can only be released into the atmosphere by being injected into someone. This means that in order for the infected mutant population to be cured, one more mutant must die from the virus. Not wanting to take someone’s life, Beast naturally wants to wait until a safer version can be developed.
But for Piotr, waiting is not the answer. He cannot stand by and wait, not while more people suffer and die like his sister did. So Colossus injects himself, sacrificing his life so that the airborne cure may spread. This heroic action ends the Legacy Virus, but his loss is deeply mourned by his teammates. After he is cremated, his former lover Kitty Pryde scatters his ashes back home in Russia.
As if losing Colossus wasn’t enough of a gut punch, this one might be even worse. Yes, sorry to say, we’ve also lost Nightcrawler.
Nightcrawler sacrifices himself protecting Hope Summers, the so-called “mutant messiah,” a little girl who is the first mutant born after the decimation — long story, that one — an event that wiped out the vast majority of the mutant population. Hope, as her name might imply, is the best chance for mutantkind’s future survival, so she becomes the target of many different groups hoping to exploit her, kill her, or what have you.
While he is protecting Hope, Nightcrawler finds himself pulled into a battle with the villain known as Bastion, who is hunting the girl down. During the fight, Bastion is able to anticipate Nightcrawler’s next teleportation, and puts his arm right in the spot where Kurt materializes — resulting in both bodies fusing together, deeply wounding Nightcrawler. As he dies, Kurt prays to God to give him the power to make one final teleportation, in order to get Hope to safety — and his prayers are answered. Nightcrawler and Hope make it to the X-Men base, and Kurt dies surrounded by his friends. Though all of the X-Men are hurt by Kurt’s death, perhaps no one is more devastated than Wolverine, who considered the Catholic blue adventurer one of his closest friends.
1. Jean Grey
Let’s face it, no matter how many unforgettable death scenes may have appeared in X-Men comics, or how many may appear in the future, nothing will ever live up to the most epic one of them all. The Phoenix Saga is the seminal X-Men story of all time, with its classic tale of a heroic woman gaining ultimate power, and then being corrupted into one of the most dangerous beings in the galaxy, resulting in a finale wherein the only way she can redeem herself is by committing suicide.
Really, it’s one of the defining stories in comic book history, and it cemented Jean Grey’s place as one of the all-time most important X-Men characters.
It’s no wonder that the movies adapted the Phoenix saga in X-Men: The Last Stand, or that the Phoenix came back out to play in Apocalypse, or that we could be seeing an all-new adaptation of the story in the upcoming X-Men: Supernova. While fans may debate what the best X-Men story is, nobody argues on how important the Phoenix Saga was.
What other X-Men deaths caused you to shed a tear? Any great ones we missed? Let us know in the comments!