We’re only a few weeks away from the release of Logan, which hits theaters on March 3. The film is particularly noteworthy for being hyped as Hugh Jackman’s final performance as the most well-known X-Men of all, Wolverine. Jackman’s had an incredible run with his take on Marvel’s iconic surly mutant, bringing the character to life on the big screen in incredible ways over the course of 8 different films and nearly two decades.
That’s an unprecedented time span for one actor to inhabit a role, and it speaks volumes about how well-received his interpretation of the character has been. He is a fan favorite and primary ticket-selling catalyst for the mutant movie franchise. And the advance word on Logan (directed by The Wolverine filmmaker James Mangold) shows that he’s going out with a bang, maybe even a death as unforgettable as his comic book version(s).
Now that Jackman is ready to bare his adamantium claws and his berserker rage for one last hurrah, let’s look at the 15 Best Wolverine Movie Moments that Jackson brought to the X-Men film series.
15. Cage Match – X-Men
First impressions are everything, and director Bryan Singer staged the perfect scene to introduce audiences to Wolverine in his 2000 film X-Men — a cage match in a grungy Canadian saloon. A poor yokel steps in thinking he’s in for some quick cash, but Logan’s quick dispatching of his challenger (with bone crunching efficiency) along with his sullen expression and patented neck cracking gave audiences a taste of the sort of antihero they were in for. It foreshadowed a legacy of pain and betrayal, with an aimlessness brought on by a fractured identity.
The follow-up scene further establishes Logan’s talents when he bares his claws for the first time, after his beaten competitor and a bartender discover that he’s no mere mortal. It’s also important to note that not only was this mass audiences’ first encounter with a live-action Wolverine, but also their introduction to Jackman, who had only appeared in small films and local theater productions prior to his breakout turn in this blockbuster. It was a star-making role for the Australian actor, launching him into the mainstream.
14. Surviving The Nagasaki Atom Bomb – The Wolverine
The opening of 2013’s The Wolverine, Jackman’s second solo X-entry, featured one of the most ambitious sequences of the X-Men franchise to date. Logan has the misfortune of being held in a Japanese POW camp during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. He rescues Ichirō Yashida, a military officer, and shields him from the explosion in his submerged holding cell.
The devastation is immense, as is the severity of the injuries suffered by Logan, who’s been charred to a crisp from the atomic blast. But this being Wolverine, the burns are but a brief (albeit insanely painful) inconvenience, as his regenerative abilities repair his form and reject any contaminating agents.
It’s just another example of Wolverine using his gifts to save humans who fear him, or, in the case of Yashida, wish to harness his powers of immortality. Logan’s selfless deed eventually comes back to haunt him after Yashida tracks him down to drain him of his powers by becoming The Silver Samurai. He should have known better of course. “Sayonara, bub.”
13. Bone Claws – X-Men: Days of Future Past
While Hugh Jackman had top-billing in Bryan Singer’s 2014 film X-Men Days of Future Past, he’s actually more of a supporting character in a film that bridges the casts of X-Men First Class and the original X-Men trilogy. Used as a catalyst to go back in time to prevent the future extinction of mutants (oddly enough, Logan seems to predict another mutant apocalypse scenario), he takes a back seat to the new generation versions of Professor X (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).
As a result, Wolverine doesn’t have any major onscreen moments (it would have been nice to see him face off with Magneto sans metal skeleton), save for his consternation when he discovers his claws have yet to be laced with adamantium. His reaction of slight revulsion to his bony extremities is one of Jackman’s most comedic moments, later amplified when he reveals his gifts to Quicksilver (Evan Peterson), who replies “It’s cool. But disgusting.” While it’s not the first film appearance of bone claws (that would be 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, before Logan’s memory loss), Jackman’s reaction is priceless.
12. Opening Credits Montage – X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not a great movie. In fact, it’s probably tied for the worst X-film with 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand (we’ll get to that one in a bit). However, despite its ridiculous plot-holes, lackluster special effects and maddening misuse of Deadpool, it wasn’t a total loss. The problem is that it peaks early. Like way early. It’s all downhill after the title sequence.
The film opens with a young Logan and half-brother Victor (Sabertooth) fleeing after Logan accidentally murders their father. From there, we see the duo in a tightly constructed montage, where they put their violent, predatory powers to use in a succession of historic wars: the American Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam.
The sequence also showcases where Logan and Victor (Liev Schreiber) begin to part ways: while Logan has a moral compass that keeps his attention on fighting the good fight, he watches his sibling killing for the sheer enjoyment of it. This conflict sets up the plot of the film. Too bad it completely fizzled out after that.
11. Wolverine vs. Shingen Yashida – The Wolverine
The Wolverine presented Logan with a novel limitation: thanks to a parasitic robot from Viper, his healing factor is drastically diminished. This leads to several scenes of our hero at his most vulnerable. While he initially is unaware of the cause of his healing limitations, eventually, he happens upon Ichirō Yashida’s X-ray machine, and he and his cohort Yukio (Rila Fukushima) discover the mini-bot has attached itself to his heart.
In a squirm-inducing sequence, Logan operates on himself using his claws, finally freeing himself from the device. His healing factor returns just in time, as Yashida’s son Shingen attacks him and Yukio with a samurai sword.
What follows is an expertly choreographed duel between Logan’s claws and Shingen’s sword, but with Wolverine’s healing factors back to 100%, Shingen’s expert swordsmanship has little effect. Logan attempts to spare his life, telling his foe that the fact that he has to live the rest of his life knowing he’d tried to murder his own daughter, Mariko, is punishment enough. Foolishly, Shingen attempts to stab Logan in the back. It doesn’t end well — except for the audience, of course. “What kind of monster are you?!” asks Shingen. Logan retorts appropriately, “The Wolverine!,” before finishing the job
10. Killing Jean Grey – X-Men: The Last Stand
X-Men: The Last Stand. Whoo boy. This film had a lot of weight on its shoulders. When director and franchise launcher Bryan Singer bowed out to do Superman Returns, fans got nervous. When workmanlike director Brett Ratner signed on, they got more nervous. And let’s face it: their concerns were largely warranted.
That being said, the film — one of the most expensive ever made — isn’t completely beyond redemption. For one thing, it gives moviegoers a (very loose) interpretation of Marvel Comics’ famed Dark Phoenix storyline. Jean Grey, presumed dead after X-2, returns in an altered and highly dangerous form, a dark persona capable of lethal telekinetic powers. This results in the murder of her lover Scott Summers (Cyclops) and mentor Professor X (Patrick Stewart).
Realizing she has the potential to wipe out humankind goaded on by Grey pleading him to stop her, Wolverine puts her out of her misery. The anguish on Jackman’s face when he kills the woman he loves is a defining moment for the character, and a notable example of his multi-layered portrayal.
9. If We Die, You Die! – X-2: X-Men United
X-2 helped establish the events that brought Logan into Weapon X and led him to become Wolverine by centering on his relationship with Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox). It was Stryker that seized on Logan’s healing abilities to use for his own evil ends, and it’s the guilt from his son’s mutation that makes him see mutants as a menace to society.
Logan is tormented by his encounter with Stryker, seeking answers from his memory lapses, seeing him in an almost paternal light. This all changes, however, when Stryker nearly wipes out the X-Men at his Alkali Lake compound by using his son’s dangerous mental powers to destroy all mutant-kind.
In Stryker’s final comeuppance, Wolverine chains him to a helicopter, saying in a vengeful tone, “If we die, you die!” While the X-Men (sans Jean Grey, whose sacrifice saves their lives) make it out unscathed, Stryker gets obliterated by a huge rush of water after a dam collapses. The scene shows that, unlike so many superheroes, his quest for vengeance leaves him without the compulsion to spare the lives of his enemies.
8. Ninja Fight – The Wolverine
The Wolverine borrows much of its plot from the 1982 Wolverine miniseries from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. The primary element used from that storyline was Logan’s nemesis Silver Samurai. Unfortunately, in many ways, it was a botched translation of that villainous character to the silver screen.
One influence from the iconic Reagan-era Wolverine tale fared better however, and that was the Mountain Town Battle showdown between Wolverine and an army of Harada’s ninja assassins (based off of The Hand, who would also prove an influence on the second season storyline of Netflix’s Daredevil).
It’s a beautifully shot sequence, set at night during snowfall. Unfortunately, the theatrical cut gives only a truncated version. Luckily, the R-rated Blu-ray cut shows the Wolverine/Ninja encounter in all its grim and gory glory, ending with Logan passing out after being impaled with multiple arrowheads, one of which bears Viper’s toxin, knocking him out in preparation for the somewhat underwhelming showdown with a mech-suited Silver Samurai.
7. Fastball Special – X-Men: The Last Stand
X-Men: The Last Stand finally gave audiences a look at the Danger Room, the combat training facility inside Xavier Mansion where mutants take part in simulated battle scenarios. Director Brett Ratner films it as a cheat, giving audiences the notion that the group are about to take on the gigantic mutant-hunting robots the Sentinels for real. (They had yet to appear up to that point, and folks were getting antsy.)
The scene is Ratner’s biggest bit of fan service gift to hardcore X-Men nerds, especially when Wolverine has Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) fling him at one of the Sentinels head on. This maneuver between the duo has a name of course: the “fastball special,” which was has been employed many times in the comics over the years.
One wishes Colossus and Wolverine shared more screen time together (the former was one of the most underutilized mutants in the film series), but at least seeing Wolverine take out a sentinel hologram kinda makes up for not seeing him singlehandedly destroying a real one in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
6. Cameo – X-Men: First Class
Despite the critical drubbings of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 20th Century Fox wasn’t ready to put their cash cow franchise out to pasture just yet. This resulted in 2011’s X-Men: First Class, which acted as a prequel to the original film series, showing a young Professor X, Beast, Magneto, and Mystique forming the basis for the X-Men before dire circumstances and differing views of the world drove them apart.
The studio was slightly nervous for an X-Men film without its primary draw at the forefront of it all, and understandably so. Wolverine was the series’ breakout character, and the absence of his name on the marquee was certainly a factor in the film being only the seventh highest grossing film in the franchise.
But fans who gave the prequel/soft reboot a shot caught a brief but memorable glimpse of Hugh Jackman when Magneto and Professor X approach him in a bar to ask him to join their team of mutants. His response was an instant classic: “Go f*** yourself,” one we won’t soon forget. We can’t say the same for Charles Xavier, however.
5. When They Come Out, Does It Hurt? – X-Men
After Rogue witnesses Wolverine’s claw-bearing abilities at a Canadian tavern, the duo meet up again when he catches her sneaking a ride in his trailer to escape the winter cold. The interplay between Jackman and Anna Paquin is wonderful, showing Rogue’s innocent vulnerability and Logan’s gruff exterior, balanced by a slightly fatherly demeanor.
After she inquires about his Wolverine dog tags, there’s a moment of tension: “I’m not gonna hurt you kid,” Logan informs Rogue when she jerks back from his touch. She replies “It’s nothing personal. It’s just that, when people touch my skin, something happens.” This leads into a brief bonding over their mutant abilities, where Rogue asks a question that perhaps had never occurred to comic book fans before: “When they come out, does it hurt?”
Logan’s appropriately stoic “every time” response is a note-perfect, succinct observation of the character. Physically and emotionally, he’s a character that’s defined by pain, despite his ability to heal from any injury — which comes in handy when Sabertooth wrecks their truck just a few seconds later.
4. Bullet Train Fight – The Wolverine
One of the most thrilling moments in The Wolverine occurs when Logan engages in a fight on top of a Tokyo, Japan bullet train. He’s facing off with members of the Yakuza out to kill Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who he tries to protect after the death of her grandfather, the aforementioned Ichirō Yashida. The intense fight sequence has added stakes, as Wolverine’s healing factor has been weakened, making him more vulnerable to a nasty transportation mishap.
Using his claws for leverage and his enhanced predatory instincts, he’s able to knock out each mob member one by one in an expertly staged action sequence. We’ll admit it requires a healthy suspension of disbelief (bullet trains cruise at a mind-boggling 300 miles per hour), but its such a visceral blast to watch, how can you complain?
Given the sequence was directed by James Mangold, who’s also helming Logan, we’re expecting even more intense moments of adamantium-fueled action in Jackman’s final outing.
3. Weapon X Escapes – X-Men: Apocalypse
2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse was a letdown for many fans, with an undercooked baddie (Oscar Isaacs in a rare onscreen misfire as the title villain) and a plot and tone that felt uneven and overstuffed. Despite this, the film did have its moments, with the best of the bunch occurring after Beast, Mystique, Quicksilver, and Moira MacTaggert are abducted by William Stryker and taken to a secret facility for questioning.
The action kicks in when Jean, Cyclops, Nightcrawler attempt a rescue mention, leading to Jackman’s extended cameo as Weapon-X. After being broken free from his confinements by Ms. Grey, his decades-younger future love interest (kinda creepy), our hero goes full berserker, flying into a bloody, murderous rage and seemingly taking out every armed guard in the facility. He’s even gifted back a memory or two thanks to Jean’s psionic abilities.
While Wolverine has had many murderous moments, this was one of the longest and bloodiest to date (although we’re positive the R-rated Logan will give us the definitive, bloody Wolverine butchering we’ve been clamoring for since the beginning).
2. Lady Deathstrike Fight – X-2: X-Men United
X-2: X-Men United is considered by many to be the best film in the franchise, and it’s not hard to see why. It showcases the most prominent mutants from the comics, introduces Nightcrawler in an amazing opening sequence, and most importantly, greatly expands upon Wolverine’s mysterious transformation from man to killing machine, filling in many of the blanks in his memory.
It also features one of the series’ best fight sequences, when Logan meets his match with Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu), a mutant that shares both Wolverine’s healing factor and adamantium appendages (in her case, crazy long fingernails).
The fight is full of wirework acrobatics and painful slashing and stabbing, and the awesomeness is capped off with Wolverine killing Deathstrike by filling her entire body with liquid adamantium, which promptly solidifies inside her and causes her to sink like a rock in a lab tank. The look of disturbance and anguish on his face shows a moment of empathy after having to murder someone sharing his same gifts/curse.
1. Raid On Xavier’s Mansion – X-2: X-Men United
While Jackman’s performance as Logan in 2000’s X-Men was well received by critics and audiences alike, hardcore fanboys (as they are wont to do) had some nitpicking about the on-screen Wolverine. The main complaint was that while he was assuredly a badass with a foul temper, Jackman didn’t tap into the comic version’s berserker rage, when he lashes out like a trapped animal, mercilessly slaying any enemy in his path.
2003’s X-2 helped to calm those complaints during the best sequence in the film: Stryker’s raid on Xavier’s Mansion. While Logan is having a terse conversation with Bobby/Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), he picks up on the intrusion, subduing one attacker after saying “you picked the wrong house, bub.” From then on, he slices and dices his way through Stryker’s special forces unit, culminating in a bravura leap from a staircase, impaling even more soldiers before escorting Pyro, Iceman, and Rogue to safety. His only moment of hesitation comes when Stryker hints at the bond they share, but other than that, this was pure, unadulterated badassness through and through.
So that’s our list of Hugh Jackman’s best Wolverine movie moments. Which scenes would you add to the list? How much longer will our updated list have to be after the Logan premiere? Tell us in the comments.
Logan will hit theaters on March 3, 2017.