Which Fox X-Men movie is the best of all? The X-Men franchise launched in 2000 and helped kick off the current golden age of superhero movies. All in all, there have been 12 X-Men movies and spinoffs over the last 19 years, with Dark Phoenix expected to be the final film of the Fox era (although the long-delayed New Mutants is scheduled to be released in 2020). Now that Disney has purchased Fox, fans look forward to the X-Men eventually joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The X-Men movies are all over the map in terms of quality, although the best X-Men films also rank high among the greatest superhero movies ever. Even within the genre they helped redefine, the X-Men films stand apart. The original X-Men film introduced an ensemble cast led by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen and a fully-formed superhero team before Wolverine received his first spinoff in 2009; this is the opposite of the MCU's method of solo superhero films building up to The Avengers. In addition, the X-Men's aesthetic was grounded in a version of the real world, which made the existence of mutants possessing superpowers all the more urgent and frightening. This was opposed to other superhero movies, which were usually set in a stylized comic book universe.
Fox's X-Men movies lack the disciplined shared universe structure of the MCU and after X-Men: First Class soft rebooted the franchise in 2011, each succeeding mainline X-Men movie is set 10 years after the previous. This unusual plan allowed the sequels to take bold risks and experiment with different genres, but it also made the ages of the X-Men characters absurd since the actors' appearances didn't reflect the decades the characters aged. Still, with the rise of the family-friendly MCU and the DCEU, the X-Men franchise's R-rated spinoffs were met with critical and box office acclaim. Looking back on the past 19 years of X-Men movies, here is our ranking, from worst to best.
12. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was the first stand-alone spinoff, which was intended to be followed by X-Men Origins: Magneto. Directed by Gavin Hood, X-Men Origins: Wolverine adapted Marvel Comics' Origin miniseries, which revealed Wolverine's real name - James Howlett - and his tragic past. Hugh Jackman became a producer and trained hard to sculpt Wolverine's muscular physique while Liev Schreiber was cast as Sabretooth, Logan's half-brother and arch enemy. The film rewrites history so that Wolverine and Sabretooth fought in the Civil War, both World Wars, and in Vietnam, and depicts how Logan entered the Weapon X program to have adamantium grafted to his bones.
The script by Game of Thrones' David Benioff and Skip Woods is convoluted and crammed with mutants, with Taylor Kitsch miscast as Gambit, while Hood's shaky direction results in a bewildering (Logan has CGI claws) and simply bad film. One of X-Men Origins: Wolverine's greatest sins the portrayal of Deadpool, which left Ryan Reynolds so dissatisfied, he successfully campaigned to make a proper Deadpool movie. Meanwhile, the bad taste in fans' mouths left by the one-two punch of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine forced the entire franchise to reboot with X-Men: First Class in 2011.
11. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
X-Men: The Last Stand was directed by Brett Ratner, who replaced Bryan Singer when he left the franchise to make Superman Returns for Warner Bros. Written by Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn, X-Men: The Last Stand follows up Jean Grey's death in X2: X-Men United by cramming together two different comics stories: Joss Whedon's Gifted, about a mutant cure, and The Dark Phoenix Saga, which was relegated to the B-plot and stripped of most of its resonance. The Last Stand also infamously features the murder of Professor X by Jean Grey and the death of Cyclops, who died offscreen.
In fairness, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, and Famke Janssen try to inject as much humanity as they can to the material but Ratner's cookie-cutter direction and frantic pacing zips through the pivotal story beats, robbing nearly everything of its impact. X-Men: The Last Stand introduced Ben Foster as Angel and Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde but gave them little to do, and the film drew groans for dialogue like Vinnie Jones' terrible quip, "I'm the Juggernaut, b*tch!" In spite of a few bright spots, X-Men: The Last Stand earns its infamy as the worst of the mainline X-Men movies.
10. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
The final X-Men movie directed by Bryan Singer, X-Men: Apocalypse attempted to replicate X-Men: The Animated Series on the big screen. Oscar Isaac portrays En Sabah Nur, the 5,000-year-old all-powerful mutant called Apocalypse, who awakens in 1983 and tries to destroy the world. It was never really clear what Apocalypse's plan actually was as he assembles his Four Horsemen - Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) - but X-Men: Apocalypse goes for broke with large-scale cartoony action as the X-Men combine their powers to fight Apocalypse while nuclear missiles threaten to wipe out the planet.
Singer hired young actors to portray the core X-Men as teenagers, including Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler. The film teases Jean's eventual corruption by the Phoenix Force within her, which sets up Dark Phoenix, while Jennifer Lawrence spends as little time as possible in Mystique's blue makeup. Hugh Jackman also cameos as Wolverine as he violently escapes from the Weapon X facility. After the success of a similar sequence in X-Men: Days of Future Past, Apocalypse repeats a superspeed rescue by Quicksilver (Evan Peters) as the X-Mansion is destroyed. Ironically, a meta-joke that "the third film is always the worst" ended up applying to the overlong and bombastic X-Men: Apocalypse.
9. The Wolverine (2013)
The Wolverine is the second standalone spinoff about Logan directed by James Mangold from a screenplay by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank. It adapts the 1982 Marvel Comics miniseries Wolverine, but it's also a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand where Logan still mourns Jean Grey's death as he's called to Japan by his old World War II friend, Ichiro Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), who runs a corporation threatened by the Yakuza. The Wolverine strips Logan of his mutant healing factor for most of the film, leaving him more vulnerable than ever, and he also meets one of his major comic book love interests, Mariko (Tao Okamoto). However, Wolverine has more on-screen chemistry with his sidekick Yukio (Rila Fukushima).
Despite the intriguing Japan setting and Mangold's attempts to make a grittier movie, The Wolverine devolves into cartoony schlock by the end when Logan faces the Silver Samurai, a giant robot. In a post-credits scene set "two years later", Logan runs into Magneto and an inexplicably alive Professor X, setting up X-Men: Days of Future Past. The Wolverine was a big improvement over X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the potential for Mangold's future glory to come - Logan - was evident.
8. Dark Phoenix (2019)
Warning: SPOILERS for Dark Phoenix:
Dark Phoenix is the second attempt at adapting The Dark Phoenix Saga comic story, but this time, Jean Grey's corruption by the Phoenix Force is the A-story that tragically fractures the X-Men. Writer Simon Kinberg steps into the director's chair for what turned out to be the final Fox X-Men film after it was purchased by Disney. In Dark Phoenix, which is set in 1992, the X-Men go into space for a rescue mission when Jean Grey is imbued with the otherworldly Phoenix Force. Jean's leveling up in power shatters the psychic barriers that Professor X placed in her mind when she was a girl, which causes Jean to rampage and forces the X-Men to try to stop her, resulting in a tragic death. Dark Phoenix also introduces Genosha, which is Magneto's island refuge for mutants, and Jessica Chastain plays a mysterious alien who tries to manipulate Jean and the power of the Phoenix.
Dark Phoenix had highly-publicized reshoots resulting in its release date delayed twice and it now has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score of any X-Men movie, but it's also not the disaster many claim it to be. Sophie Turner explores the darkest corners of Jean's mind as she transforms into the powerful Dark Phoenix, which culminates in a different and surprising outcome from X-Men: The Last Stand's. The film also asks intriguing questions about the cost of Professor X's dream of humans no longer hating mutants and whether he was right to manipulate young Jean's mind to shield her from childhood trauma. Ultimately, Dark Phoenix serves as a somber finale for the overall X-Men saga, despite its interesting ideas and strong performances from the cast.
7. X-Men (2000)
X-Men, directed by Bryan Singer and written by David Hayter, kicked off the modern comic book movie boom period in 2000. While it's a modestly-scaled superhero adventure, especially by today's standards, X-Men introduced the iconic frenemies Professor X and Magneto played respectively by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, the concept of superpowered mutants hated and feared by humanity, and it marked the debut one of the greatest superhero castings ever: a then-unknown Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. X-Men also cast James Marsden as Cyclops, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, Halle Berry as Storm, and Oscar-winner Anna Paquin as Rogue, while Ray Park played Toad, Tyler Mane played Sabretooth, and Rebecca Romijn was unforgettable as Mystique.
The plot involved Magneto's attempt to kidnap Rogue and create a machine that would turn the world's leaders into mutants, but X-Men's true superpower was how it focused on the characters, using Wolverine and Rogue as the audience's POV into the dangerous world of mutants. X-Men is often derisively remembered for Storm's quip (scripted by Joss Whedon) about what happens when a toad is struck by lightning. However, X-Men's emphasis on depicting the mutants as flawed and conflicted proved the Marvel Comics formula worked on the big screen.
6. Deadpool 2 (2018)
Directed by David Leitch, Deadpool 2 doesn't match the shock value of the original film but it's even more ambitious. Deadpool 2 not only brings in Cable (Josh Brolin) and X-Force but also the concept of time travel, which Wade Wilson indulges in during the film's end-credits scene. Deadpool 2 controversially kills off Morena Baccarin's Vanessa as Cable arrives from the future to kill Wade's young friend Russell Collins (Julian Dennison), who will one day grow up to become Firefist and kill Cable's family.
Deadpool assembling X-Force, consisting of Bedlam (Terry Crews), Domino (Zazie Beetz), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Peter (Rob Delaney), and The Vanisher (Brad Pitt), and how most of them are instantly killed off is one of the film's inspired highlights - as is Wade using a time machine to kill the version of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and prevent Ryan Reynolds from starring in Green Lantern. Colossus Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Briana Hildebrand) return from the first film and Deadpool 2 also includes a comics-accurate version of the Juggernaut. A PG-13 cut titled Once Upon A Deadpool was released in Christmas 2018.
5. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Directed by Matthew Vaughn, 2011's X-Men: First Class is a soft reboot of the mainline X-Men films and depicts not only the first gathering of X-Men but the origin of the lifelong friendship and animosity between Charles Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique (incorporating elements from the canceled X-Men Origins: Magneto). Set primarily during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, X-Men: First Class also introduced the Hellfire Club, led by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), and their designs on world domination. Vaughn's film broke from the standard superhero genre and embraced the period's Cold War setting to create an engaging superhero spy film about the X-Men, with an impeccable cameo by Hugh Jackman's Wolverine.
Despite the daunting task of recasting the iconic mutant lead roles, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender successfully embodied the rowdier younger versions of Professor X and Magneto. Meanwhile, the X-Men franchise scored Jennifer Lawrence to play Mystique right before she became a superstar thanks to The Hunger Games films. Vaughn's snappy direction mixed superhero action with a classic James Bond sensibility that reinvigorated the X-Men franchise for the next decade where X-Men would now have to compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe.
4. Deadpool (2016)
An R-rated, raunchy superhero comedy, director Tim Miller's Deadpool was an unexpected breath of fresh air for the X-Men franchise. Produced by and starring Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, the titular Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool was actually in development even before Reynolds portrayed an inferior version of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. After years of campaigning to properly bring Deadpool to the big screen, Reynolds was thankfully proven right when Deadpool and Deadpool 2 became the highest-grossing X-Men films worldwide.
In Deadpool, the red-clad mercenary breaks the fourth wall as he narrates his own origin and misadventures. Instead of using top-name X-Men in the film, Deadpool scores by including a comic book-accurate version of Colossus. Meanwhile, the sullen Negasonic Teenage Warhead steals scenes and instantly became a fan favorite mutant. Despite the violence and debauchery, Wade's romance with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) feels genuine, and Reynolds gleefully makes Hugh Jackman's Wolverine the butt of several clever jokes.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
X-Men: Days of Future Past is arguably the most ambitious X-Men movie, and that boldness paid off. Adapting the classic Marvel Comics story, director Bryan Singer used Wolverine to bridge the original X-Men cast with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class. Beginning in a post-apocalyptic, Terminator-like future where mutants are hunted to extinction by Sentinels, Logan time travels to 1973 to find the young Professor X and Magneto so they can stop Mystique from inadvertently causing the mutant race's future destruction. Along the way, they meet Evan Peters' Quicksilver, who is featured in an eye-popping superspeed sequence.
Somehow, X-Men: Days of Future Past's genre-bending risks worked splendidly. With Hugh Jackman's Logan anchoring both timelines, the 1973 segments of the film proved James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were worthy to successors to the roles pioneered by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, while the future war with the Sentinels saw the X-Men fight and perish in a grand, operatic fashion. Days of Future Past also concludes with the timeline being altered, wiping the mistakes of X-Men: The Last Stand from continuity, as well as a post-credits tease for X-Men: Apocalypse. An X-Men: Days of Future Past Rogue Cut was later released on Blu-ray with extra footage reincorporating Anna Paquin's Rogue into the film.
2. X2: X-Men United (2003)
Released in 2003, X2: X-Men United still ranks among the best superhero movies ever made. Bryan Singer's sequel continued and expanded the scope of the X-Men universe, introducing William Stryker (Brian Cox), the government agent who created Wolverine. When the Xavier School is attacked and the X-Men are divided, Logan takes charge of the young students as Magneto and Mystique briefly join forces with the heroes to save Professor X from Stryker. X2 also memorably introduced Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler and Kelly Hu as Deathstrike, one of Wolverine's arch foes.
X2 was a thrilling escalation of the X-Men movies, including Wolverine going into berzerker rage to fight off a military raid on the X-Mansion. But the film remained focused on character development as Logan learned secrets about his past, Iceman revealed to his parents that he's a mutant, and Magneto seduced another student, Pyro, into his Brotherhood. It all culminated with a major cliffhanger as Jean Grey sacrifices her life to save her friends, which inspired years of fan speculation that the third film would depict The Dark Phoenix Saga. X2: X-Men United set the high standard that every X-Men movie that followed would be judged against.
1. Logan (2017)
James Mangold's violent, uncompromising Logan is the best X-Men film of all. Hugh Jackman's final appearance as the Wolverine after 17 years is set in an alternate future where the X-Men are dead and the titular mutant is a battered shell of his former self who is looking after an elderly and gravely ill Charles Xavier. The arrival of Laura (Dafne Keen), an 11-year-old clone with identical mutant powers and claws, upends Logan's life as he agrees to deliver her to a so-called mutant haven. During their fateful road trip, Logan, Laura, and Xavier are hunted by the Reavers, cyborg mercenaries working for the Transigen corporation, as well as X-24, an even more dangerous clone of the Wolverine.
Logan earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and Mangold was inspired by classic Westerns like Shane, which is cited in the film. A black and white cut called Logan Noir received a limited theatrical release before its inclusion in the digital and Blu-ray editions. Logan's R-rating for its mature themes and extreme violence was well-deserved; the film pushed the boundaries of the superhero movie genre to give Patrick Stewart's Professor X and Hugh Jackman's Wolverine one final grace note and a heart-wrenching conclusion.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020