5. X-Men (2000)
This was the film that started it all. Directed by Bryan Singer, X-Men was Fox's first big screen Marvel adaptation. Amusingly enough, one of the associate producers was Kevin Feige, who would go on to become the visionary of the MCU; in fact, he had a cameo as a Weapon X technician, but the cameo didn't make it past the editing room floor.
X-Men featured a tremendous cast, including the likes of Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, and Hugh Jackman. This was back before anybody believed comic book adaptations could work on the big screen, and as a result Singer adopted a much darker, grittier tone. That approach is much criticized now, but in truth back in 2000 it was easy to understand; traditional comic book adaptations were thought to have been killed off by Batman & Robin, and everybody thought Fox was wise to take a different approach. The plot honored the comics, and there was a better balance of characters than in some of the sequels. Stewart and McKellen absolutely shone, while Jackman became an instant fan-favorite.
4. Deadpool 2 (2018)
Last year's Deadpool 2 expanded the Merc With A Mouth's world, introducing Josh Brolin as Cable, Julian Dennison as Firefist, Zazie Beetz as Domino, and Shioli Kutsuna as a new version of Yukio. This time around the plot was a fun time travel adventure, with Cable traveling back in time to kill the young Firefist in order to rewrite history. It's a pretty traditional time travel trope, but Deadpool 2 played it out well. The surprise appearance of the Juggernaut - voiced by Reynolds himself so Fox didn't need to hire another actor and the secret didn't break online - delighted fans.
Deadpool 2 matched the first film, grossing $785 million in the global box office and securing the future of the franchise even after the Disney/Fox acquisition. One major subplot laid the foundations for X-Force, but it's unknown whether or not Marvel will continue with those plans. Only time will tell whether or not this becomes another of the X-Men franchise's loose ends.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Bryan Singer's Days of Future Past is one of the strongest of all the X-Men movies. It's a smart time travel film that unites both the original X-Men cast and the First Class stars, with Wolverine attempting to rewrite history in order to prevent a dystopian future. It was also an attempt to "fix" the franchise, with Wolverine creating a whole new timeline, meaning the original trilogy - and X-Men Origins: Wolverine - were mostly written out of continuity. Days of Future Past is a lavish production, with a number of standout scenes in which past and future versions of characters interacted. A particular highlight was a Quicksilver scene in which Evan Peters' super-speedster saves the day during a prison break.
Of course, Days of Future Past isn't a perfect film. The focus on Lawrence's Mystique doesn't quite work, instead signposting the sense of discontinuity between the First Class and the original trilogy - even before history's rewritten. Ellen Page's Rogue featured heavily in promotional material, but her character was cut, with those scenes only released on DVD and Blu-Ray in a money-making "Rogue Cut" edition. But it's still one of Fox's best productions.
2. Logan (2017)
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart's swan song for the X-Men franchise, James Mangold's Logan is a stunning character piece. It's more of a Western than your traditional superhero flick, advertised with a haunting rendition of Johnny Cash's "Hurt," and ending with a deeply symbolic confrontation in which Logan dies stopping a monster created from his own DNA. The film unleashed Dafne Keen as X-23, a young female clone of Wolverine; she absolutely reveled in the role, projecting sheer animalistic fury and clearly having a blast. Audiences responded positively to Logan, caught up in the sheer emotion of Wolverine's death, and it rightly earned Jackman, Stewart and Keen a string of accolades. This was one film that really did need an R-rating, with Mangold's directing truly showing the savagery of Wolverine and X-23.
Logan isn't just one of the best Fox Marvel movies; it's one of the best superhero films ever made, the perfect ending to Jackman's 17-year-long tenure as Wolverine. Plus, it was the first superhero movie to be nominated in one of the big Oscar categories - this one being for Best Adapted Screenplay. This film is a reminder that, while Fox's run has included films like 2015's Fantastic Four, it's also included some unforgettable blockbuster hits.
1. X2 (2003)
But the top slot can only go to Bryan Singer's X2: X-Men United, easily the strongest movie of the entire X-Men franchise. Inspired by Chris Claremont's God Loves, Man Kills graphic novel, X2 kicks off with an excellent sequence in which Alan Cumming's Nightcrawler attacks the White House. The action builds from there, with Brian Cox's Colonel Stryker launching an attack on the X-Mansion and leaving the X-Men on their defensive. Their greatest weapon is turned against them, when Stryker attempts to use Xavier's telepathy to kill every mutant on the planet. In the face of this terrible threat, the X-Men are forced to ally themselves with their sworn enemies.
The arc forces old foes to work together, allowing the opportunity to explore the character dynamic between Jackman's Wolverine and Rebecca Romjin's Mystique. Another entertaining subplot explores the tentative romance between Anna Paquin's Rogue and Shawn Ashmore's Iceman, and there's one key scene in which the battle for mutant rights is subtly paralleled with the quest for homosexual rights in the real world. The film isn't without some problems; the script notably doesn't really give much time to James Marsden's Cyclops, a character who's chronically underserved in the first three X-Men movies. But it's another classic of the superhero genre nonetheless.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020