The X-Men movie franchise is about to get yet another reboot, courtesy of Marvel Studios, since the company reacquired the rights to its iconic mutants in the Disney/Fox merger. Fox’s X-Men movies had their fair share of villains. Due to the endless slog of poor entries in the franchise’s recent years, it can be easy to forget that the first couple of X-Men movies are among the greatest comic book movies ever made. Some of the Fox series’ villains were great. And some, obviously, were not so groundbreaking. So, here are The 5 Best (And 5 Worst) On-Screen Portrayals Of X-Men Villains.
10 Best: Rebecca Romijn as Mystique
Rebecca Romijn played Mystique brilliantly as a femme fatale who used her abilities as a shapeshifter to trick men. Jennifer Lawrence initially played a great version of Mystique, but by the time she was a big enough star to object to hours in the makeup chair, it became obvious that she was sick of the character and didn’t really want to play her anymore. Romijn’s version was pretty much depicted as a straightforward minion of Magneto, rather than the complicated sometime ally of the X-Men that Lawrence’s version was, but that was part of the fun of her character – she reveled in doing the wrong thing.
9 Worst: Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse
X-Men fans who were excited to see the mutants’ most powerful foe on the big screen were quickly let down by the fact that in X-Men: Apocalypse, the titular villain does very little with his virtually limitless powers. Apocalypse can grow and shrink at will, he can shapeshift, he can teleport, he can fly, he can read minds, he can move things with his mind, he can transport through alternate astral dimensions – he can pretty much do anything. And yet, the movie settles for mundane abilities like killing people with sand and learning information from the news. Plus, Oscar Isaac is too effortlessly likable to effectively play an ominous villain.
8 Best: Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask
Peter Dinklage is pretty much amazing as any character he ever plays (he was even good in Pixels), so it was no surprise when he did a stellar job of bringing Bolivar Trask – the inventor of the Sentinels – to the big screen. As an on-screen adaptation of an X-Men villain, the Sentinels fall under the threat of Trask, since he’s the one who created them, and in Days of Future Past, the Sentinels are actually scary. They can adapt to any mutant’s abilities, so the X-Men are powerless against them, and they’ve dominated a terrifying future timeline where all mutants are locked in prison camps.
7 Worst: Jessica Chastain as Vuk
Vuk wasn’t even adapted from her comic book counterpart. She seems to have been crammed into Dark Phoenix in a shallow attempt to differentiate this from the previous film adaptation of “The Dark Phoenix Saga” that Fox screwed up. Jessica Chastain is a terrific actor, but she only shines when she’s given material to match her talents, like Zero Dark Thirty and The Martian, not like Dark Phoenix. Vuk’s characterization is as clunky as her name, with no clear motivation or anything for the audience to empathize with. She’s instantly forgettable.
6 Best: Brian Cox as William Stryker
The X-Men franchise has gotten a ton of mileage out of William Stryker, casting a total of five actors to play him across four different timelines. But it’s Brian Cox’s incarnation of the character from X2 that really left an impression on fans. Cox came off as genuinely creepy in the superhero sequel that set the template for superhero sequels.
He wasn’t a physical match for Wolverine, but he did feel like a psychological threat to him, which significantly raised the stakes of X2, because it meant that Logan had to face his past, and he’d found a foe that he couldn’t just slash his way through.
5 Worst: Ed Skrein as Ajax
As shown by his attempt to replace Jason Statham in the Transporter franchise, Ed Skrein doesn’t have much natural charm, which is something a villain to match Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool needs. The funniest thing about Ajax was that his name was Francis, and the movie beat that gag to death. For all the subversions Deadpool brought to the genre, it maintained its villain problem. Ajax belonged in a mediocre superhero movie, not a Deadpool movie. If Deadpool had made some kind of meta commentary about how forgettable and generic Ajax was and the character became a self-aware take on indistinctive comic book movie villains, that would be one thing, but the movie takes the threat of Ajax seriously. Unfortunately, the audience does not.
4 Best: Hugh Jackman as X-24
Logan is absolutely deserving of all the praise it received. One of many areas it excelled in was giving the hero a villain that felt like a real threat. Digital de-aging made X-24 seem like the sharper, stronger, more virile version of Wolverine, while Hugh Jackman’s menacing portrayal of the character made him a literal dark mirror version of the hero. X-24 is what would’ve happened if the bad guys had succeeded in weaponizing Wolverine, and he hadn’t managed to break out of the Weapon X program. He forced Logan to confront his past, which made him the perfect villain for this movie.
3 Worst: Vinnie Jones as the Juggernaut
Aside from the fact that it spawned a thousand memes (“I’m the Juggernaut, b***h!”), Vinnie Jones’ portrayal of the Juggernaut in X-Men: The Last Stand woefully underserves the character. In the comics, the Juggernaut has a messed-up sibling rivalry with Professor X and he’s enjoyed a complicated journey from villain to antihero to bona fide hero. The Last Stand pretty much reduces him to a laughing stock (again, just remember that he said, “I’m the Juggernaut, b***h!”), with no nuances to his character beyond being a large man with a helmet. Still, he doesn’t feel out of place – The Last Stand as a whole is just as disloyal to the source material and generally dreadful.
2 Best: Ian McKellen as Magneto
When an actor is as simply astounding as Sir Ian McKellen, then he doesn’t need to be bending metal with his mind to keep your attention. The scene in which McKellen’s Magneto plays chess with Patrick Stewart’s Professor X is one of the most compelling in the whole franchise, and there isn’t a frame of action in sight.
McKellen brought a depth to the character that is usually only seen in the comics. He humanized Magneto as a mutant who wants the same thing as Professor X – freedom for all mutants – and is just going about it a more violent way.
1 Worst: Michael Fassbender as Magneto
Michael Fassbender was a brilliant casting choice to play Magneto, and under different circumstances, he would’ve given us an ideal on-screen portrayal of the character. But the writing never did Fassbender’s acting talents justice. He was needlessly given a disposable family in X-Men: Apocalypse who were killed off before we even had time to learn their names. The writers had Magneto kill literally millions of people, and then shrug it off with a playful barb at Charles Xavier when they were friends again at the end of the movie. Fassbender’s Magneto never felt like a threat, because he always turned his back on his alliances and his values to help the X-Men at the drop of a dime.