Here's our definitive ranking of every Fox Marvel movie, running from 2000's X-Men to 2018's Deadpool 2. Nowadays, moviegoers are used to the idea of Marvel being a big name. Back in the 1990s, though, they were simply a comic book publisher who'd been trying to get film adaptations of their characters made for decades. The bottom fell out of the comic book market in the mid-'90s, and Marvel was forced to sell off the film rights to a host of their most popular superheroes in order to avoid bankruptcy.
Fox purchased the film rights for a number of heroes, and in the year 2000 they released the first X-Men movie. It was an unexpected hit, grossing nearly $300 million worldwide against a budget of just $75 million. X-Men blazed the trail for a wave of Marvel (and even DC) superhero films through the 2000s, and within a few years Marvel was considering the possibility of producing their own films rather than continuing to sell off the movie rights. Without the success of X-Men, it's probably true to say Marvel Studios would never have gotten off the ground.
After all, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige got his start in the industry working under producer Lauren Shuler Donner on the original X-Men films. Of course, not all of Fox's Marvel movies have been particularly good. In fact, some of them have been pretty dire, with Fantastic Four director slating his own film on Twitter on the day of its release. So let's take a look at the highlights (and lowlights) of Fox's Marvel films.
16. Fantastic Four (2015)
Fantastic Four is a film with serious problems. Director Josh Trank wanted to produce a superhero body-horror movie, but Fox lost confidence in him after some of his original ideas leaked online. As a result, the final finished product is a strange, mismatched film that feels like it's suffering from an identity crisis. The body horror, oddly enough, is probably the most effective part of Fantastic Four; but that approach is so at odds with the overarching franchise that it just seems bizarre.
Fox had originally hoped that Fantastic Four would launch a new superhero franchise that they could tie into the X-Men films, allowing them to create their own shared cinematic universe. Suffice to say, with the release of Fantastic Four that plan was dead on arrival. The stars - Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell - have been keen to forget this film ever happened, with Bell "bitterly disappointed" and Jordan relieved he got to make a better impression on superhero fans in Black Panther.
15. Elektra (2005)
The Daredevil spinoff nobody really asked for, Rob Bowman's Elektra featured Jennifer Garner as the resurrected assassin. Garner did her best with what she was given, but her heart wasn't in it; as she openly admitted in TV interviews at the time, she was only on board because of contractual obligations she'd signed up to before Daredevil. Elektra was a critical and commercial failure, grossing $56.7 million worldwide. It was slated for a tone-deaf script, poor dialogue, and sloppy directing.
In the aftermath of Elektra, Fox gave up on the Daredevil film rights, allowing them to revert back to Marvel. Years later, Marvel's Ike Perlmutter would famously point to Elektra as evidence that female-led superhero films just don't work in the box office. The success of Wonder Woman and Marvel's own Captain Marvel has proved him wrong; it's more a case that bad superhero films are the ones that don't perform.
14. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
With the first Fantastic Four grossing more than $330 million worldwide, Fox greenlit a sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer. Inspired by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Galactus trilogy, it saw Ioan Grufford, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis reprise their roles as the Fantastic Four, cosmic-powered superheroes who are battling to save the world from cosmic threats. Fox originally planned this to be the second in a trilogy of films, even entertaining dreams of launching a Silver Surfer spinoff. All these hopes were dashed when Rise of the Silver Surfer performed poorly at the box office, and on this occasion comic book fans agreed with the critics in pouring scorn upon the film. It will forever be remembered for a surprisingly poor version of Galactus, which reimagined the Devourer of Worlds as a sort of cosmic cloud.
One of the highlights of Rise of the Silver Surfer is its Stan Lee cameo, in which the Fantastic Four's creator was turned away from the wedding of Reed and Sue. This is lifted straight from the comics, and the cameo alone means Rise of the Silver Surfer will always be remembered fondly by Marvel fans - even if they don't consider it a good adaptation.
13. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Back in 2009, the big screen story of the X-Men franchise appeared to have come to an end. But Fox wanted to keep the franchise going, not least in order to retain the X-Men film rights, and as a result they came up with the idea of doing origin movies for Marvel's merry mutants. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman as Logan, was intended to be the first of these spinoff origin stories. It was hardly a success, and the studio quickly ditched these plans.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is something of a mixed bag. The ideas are all there, but nothing quite comes together cohesively. Action sequences are well-directed, but undermined by sloppy CGI that really hasn't aged well. Unfortunately, director Gavin Hood even went for CGI claws rather than prosthetics, fatally undermining his film. The movie's worst sin is undeniably its waste of Ryan Reynolds, who was cast as Deadpool - a character whose mouth was stitched up for the third act.
12. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Directed by Brett Ratner, X-Men: The Last Stand brought an unsatisfactory close to the first X-Men trilogy. In theory the film was inspired by Chris Claremont's classic "Dark Phoenix Saga" from the comics, with Famke Janssen resurrected as an out-of-control Jean Grey. Unfortunately, James Marsden's Cyclops was killed off in short order, with the focus going on the strange, obsessive pseudo-relationship between Jean and Wolverine.
Matters were made worse by a B-plot involving a mutant cure, that at times seemed more like the A-plot than the story of Jean Grey. Too many ideas and characters are tossed in for little apparent reason, and action sequences are effective but lack any real sense of soul. X-Men: The Last Stand came close to killing off the entire X-Men franchise. Most of the characters were left dead or depowered, and for a while it looked as though Fox's X-Men films had come to an end.
11. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Directed by Bryan Singer, X-Men: Apocalypse kicks off when the powerful, ageless mutant Apocalypse is unlocked from his ancient slumber. He resolves to burn the world with nuclear fire, and it doesn't take long for him to cross paths with the X-Men. Apocalypse is most notable for introducing a new generation of X-Men; Tye Sheridan's Cyclops, Sophie Turner's Jean Grey, and Kodi Smit-McPhee's Nightcrawler. However, the script really doesn't give them much of a chance to shine, instead focusing on the star power of James McAvoy's Xavier, Michael Fassbender's Magneto, and Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique. The second act is really a side-story that's an excuse for an extended - and frankly pointless - Wolverine cameo.
X-Men: Apocalypse is most notable for a smart bit of worldplay. In popular culture, an "apocalypse" is a disastrous, world-threatening event. But, in ancient times, an apocalypse is actually an unveiling, a revelation of something that was previously hidden. In functional terms, X-Men: Apocalypse is the unveiling of Jean Grey's true power, as she reveals just what she's capable of when she takes down Apocalypse. It clearly signposted the future direction of the franchise.
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- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020