It has been 17 years since Hugh Jackman first brought Wolverine to life on the big screen in the original X-Men movie, but he might have saved his best work in the role for the latest installment in the franchise, Logan. Audiences and critics alike have been raving over the film, a serious and powerful drama that is unlike any other superhero movie ever made, and one that has already become a favorite among X-Men fans.
But is it the best X-Men movie ever? Over the years numerous films in different mediums have covered multiple timelines, different iterations of beloved characters, and iconic stories from the comic books, all while giving us huge action sequences full of incredible mutant fights, in an attempt to explore important and timeless themes about tolerance and empathy. So to find out where Logan stands among all of these films, including a few you might not remember, here is Every X-Men Movie Ranked From Worst to Best.
12. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
The first standalone Wolverine movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was a big flop with viewers, who found its story about how he came to have his adamantium claws, and his Swiss cheese memory, grasping for a purpose. The film feels like a series of vignettes instead of a coherent story, with special effects that stand out for all the wrong reasons.
Liev Shrieber made for a great Victor Creed, and he had lots of chemistry with Hugh Jackman, but not a lot to work with. The film’s underdeveloped characters and plot were only made worse by its uneven pacing.
But if its biggest mistake was obvious when it was first released, it’s only grown worse with time. It has Ryan Reynolds in the role of Wade Wilson, who is turned into Weapon XI, but with his mouth sewn shut so he can’t talk. There is incontrovertible evidence that casting Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson and letting him talk is a very, very good idea, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine is proof that doing the opposite is a very, very bad idea.
11. Generation X (Made-For-TV Movie, 1996)
Anyone that has actually seen Generation X obscure movie/pilot that Fox aired on February 20th, 1996, should get a special X-Men super fan card. The movie tells the story of Jubilee, who is rescued and brought to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters by Emma Frost and Banshee, where she then meets other young mutants who are also learning how to use their newfound powers.
Despite being warned about leaving the safety of the school and of the dangers of nearby “townies,” the group is forced to face the mad scientist Russell Tresh, who has been haunting Jubilee’s dreams, after he lures fellow student “Skin” Angelo Espinosa into his trap. Tresh believes that he’ll be able to gain psychic powers by accessing their mutant brains, but the mutant team is able to defeat him, along with a full series order from Fox.
10. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Following the resounding success of X2, expectations were high for the third film in the franchise, X-Men: The Last Stand, especially since it was going to delve into the iconic Phoenix story line. With a whopping budget of over 200 million and a litany of famous mutants, everything was lined up for this movie to be the best X-Men movie yet.
Instead it stands as one of its worse. Die-hard comic book lovers were turned off by the major changes to the Phoenix story, and while the giant actions sequences are exciting and still hold up, the movie’s exploration of the morality of using the mutant “cure” is superficial, robbing the movie of the emotional weight that made its predecessors more than just a bunch of superheroes using their powers.
9. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
The most recent movie about the younger Professor X and Magneto, X-Men Apocalypse, is considered the worst of the James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender led films. Even though it features one of the best, most infamous X-Men villains, Apocalypse, the film spends far too long building towards its big epic showdown with him. The first two hours of the movie are mainly exposition and the introduction of too many characters, making the film feel tedious instead of exciting, but worse is that the payoff is a battle sequence that isn’t as good as those from other X-Men movies.
It even manages to make Oscar Isaac, one of the best actors working today, seem boring, since his Apocalypse is hidden under a mountain of blue rubber and paint. He comes across as the worst type of villain– not frightening, without any depth, and cartoony and silly.
At the very least audiences still got a second great Quicksilver scene from the franchise, when he rescued nearly every student and teacher inside of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Any ranking of individual X-Men scenes would have it near the top of the list.
8. X-Men: Evolution Animated Series, Apocalypse Story Arc
While not technically a film, the episodes that make up the Apocalypse story line from the fourth and final season of the cartoon series X-Men: Evolution covers two and a half hours and a myriad of subplots, that when put together work like a standalone film.
Airing on Kids WB from 2000 to 2003, X-Men Evolution turned many of its mutants into teenagers instead of adults, but they were still able to go to war with Apocalypse to help stop him from turning most of the world’s inhabitants into mutants.
Watching these episodes like a single movie results in a fun but meandering film, full of many of the most famous characters from the comics, including some that viewers wish had received more screen time from Fox’s X-Men films. Considering they were written as individual episodes it’s not fair to hold them to the standards of a single, standalone movie, but even then it’s still a far more interesting film than the big screen take on Apocalypse.
7. The Wolverine (2013)
Before Logan there was The Wolverine, the second standalone film for Hugh Jackman, and the first X-Men movie to be smaller in scope, with a greater focus on the heavy emotional burden of its protagonist.
The Wolverine brings its hero to Japan to meet a dying man he once saved. While there Logan is offered the chance to be rid of his powers, which will allow him to finally be truly mortal and to spare him from a life spent watching those he loves die while he continues an existence defined by fighting and pain.
The movie is much more personal than its predecessors, exploring Wolverine with a depth that hadn’t been attempted prior. It doesn’t feel like a superhero movie like most X-Men films, until the end that is, when it becomes a typical entry in the genre, with a big samurai robot coming across like the final boss in a Wolverine video game. It might rank higher if it could have kept the tone and feel of the first two acts, but it was still a success with viewers and has only grown in esteem over the years.
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2011)
The biggest installment of the franchise in terms of cast and scope, X-Men: Days of Future Past spans generations, uniting both the older versions of the characters from the Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan led films, with their younger versions led by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender.
In the movie Wolverine’s consciousness is sent back in time so he can stop the infamous Sentinels of Bolivar Trask before they could be employed, in an attempt to avoid a dystopian future where mutants and humans alike are ruled by them. He has to reunite a depressed Charles Xavier and an isolated, angry Magneto, all while trying to prevent Mystique from killing Trask and setting the destructive timeline in motion.
Stellar acting, huge action sequences (featuring some of the best scenes of mutants getting to show off their powers and working together), and important themes like empathy and identity, audiences found the movie a worthy follow up to First Class, even though it starts to strain under the weight of its own premise in the second half.
5. X-Men (2000)
The very first mutant foray to the big screen, X-Men, didn’t just kick off 17 years and counting of movies for the franchise, it showed studios that comic book heroes besides Batman and Superman could be counted on to bring viewers to the theater. Without the success of this movie, the Marvel Cinematic Universe might never have happened, and we wouldn’t be about to get a bunch of Justice League films.
Beyond its historical significance, the movie itself won over audiences by bringing to life the comic book characters they knew and loved so well, even if the franchise never did give them the iconic costumes they longed for.
This is still the only movie that is purely a battle between the X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants, who have always found themselves working together one way or another since, even when they were still at odds like in The Last Stand but had a common enemy in the mutant “cure.”
The realization from Senator Kelly about how much pain his intolerance and hatred has brought to a vulnerable group of outsiders, right before his chilling watery death (one of the most powerful in all the X-Men films), established the franchise’s greatest theme and the core of its most enduring messages of inclusion, understanding, and self worth.
4. X-Men: First Class (2011)
After a number of disappointing entries in the franchise, X-Men: First Class went backwards to find success, to the origins of the X-Men itself. The film tells how a young Charles Xavier and Eric Erik Lensherr first became friends, and then how the two became the opposing forces known as Professor X and Magneto.
It was impossible at the time to imagine any two actors being as good in the roles as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, but it was immediately apparent that James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were up to the challenge, giving two of the best performances of the entire franchise.
First Class features lots of mutants and mutant battles, but never feels crowded, confusing, or incomplete. The story about a band of young mutants coming together to take on Sebastian Shaw moves briskly, making audiences laugh at times (that recruiting montage is one of the best in any X-Men movie), and tear up at others (like when Charles looks into Eric’s past memories, another candidate for best the X-Men scene ever).
3. X2 (2003)
Just two years ago this would have been number one on this list, but X2 still remains in the discussion both for the best pure superhero movie of all time and the best sequel ever. While the original X-Men movie understandably dedicated lots of time to establishing the universe and introducing many of its characters, its commitment to being a traditional origin movie resulted in a weirdly paced film, with the climax feeling rushed.
X2 however got to build off of that work and to focus on its story and its characters in a much more meaningful way. From start to finish its exciting, with big set pieces and superhero fights, both against each other and against (the brilliantly played by the great Bryan Cox) William Stryker. And it does all of that while crafting complex and interesting characters, as well as a compelling story, that we are emotionally invested in.
2. Deadpool (2016)
While true that Deadpool has never actually been a member of the X-Men, the Merc with the Mouth exists in the X-Men universe, both in the comics and now on the big screen. Even while rejecting attempts to recruit him into the X-Men, he calls on them to help him in this movie, getting aid from Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead in the biggest action sequence of the entire film. He even visits Professor X’s School for Gifted Children, which is like walking into an X-Men film.
At the very least this is X-Men adjacent, and one that inevitably gets mentioned when discussing the best X-Men movies, so it makes it on the list. And considering it’s ****ing awesome–incredibly funny, strangely touching, and wholly entertaining–all while being completely unique, it deserves to be this high. This is probably the single most re-watchable movie on this list, and if it was a pure X-Men movie it might be in the top spot.
1. Logan (2017)
The latest installment goes right to the top, and this isn’t recency bias. Logan isn’t just unlike every other X-Men movie, it stands apart from all other superhero movies because it’s a serious and emotional drama about superheroes, and not just a superhero movie with drama. Its deep exploration of the brutality of violence and the emotional and physical cost of being a hero are themes no other movie in the genre has ever tackled with this depth and care.
Wolverine is one of the most loved, most compelling comic book characters in history, and Hugh Jackman’s big screen portrayal of him is one of the genre’s best, with Logan being the ultimate and greatest performance from his seventeen years in the role. Throughout the movie he wears the weight of his past, the burden of his sins, and the toll of many lifetimes of regret on his face, literally and figuratively, all while conveying the strength and rage of Wolverine that makes him so formidable, while still imbuing him with the tenderness and vulnerability that makes the character special.
It’s rare for a movie with such high expectations to live up to the hype, but Logan actually exceeded them, and that’s why it earns the top spot here.