Legion, the FX Network’s new series telling the adventures of mental sorta-hero David Haller, just wrapped up its first season. And despite the fact that Haller is, canonically, the son of X-Men founder Professor Charles Xavier, the more famous mutant was almost nowhere to be found in the first eight episodes. We got some mentions, a chalkboard rendition, and even saw his iconic wheelchair for about a second, but that, sadly, was it.
Still, we’re holding out hope for an appearance from Professor X next season, and in the meantime, we have no shortage of adaptations to hold us over. We’ve reached back through movie and TV history to pull up 15 different (sometimes shockingly so) versions of Xavier from the past 50 years of film, TV, and video games. And, because this is the internet, we ranked them worst to best to inspire
arguments and name-calling discussion.
Here are 15 adaptations of Charles Xavier, ranked worst to best. Be sure to let us know which ones are your favorites in the comments.
15. Tracy Morgan — Superhero Movie
Back in the ‘00s, we had to develop a rule: never watch a comedy with a title ending in “Movie.” We have writing/directing team Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer to thank for that, because their offerings, which include Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Disaster Movie, are tedious, unfunny failures packed with pop culture-driven jokes so meme-ish that they were dated as soon as the films hit theaters.
Somehow, they were not responsible for the 2008 spoof Superhero Movie, which comes courtesy of producer David Zucker (writer and director of Airplane!) but is still not funny at all. It’s about a kid who gets superpowers from a radioactive dragonfly and then … it actually doesn’t matter.
The important part is that Dragonfly ends up at a hero school and meets Xavier, the bald headmaster who is confined to a wheelchair when he isn’t riding a bike, a Segue, or a toilet. And then a lot of bad jokes happen, and nobody laughs. Tracy Morgan plays Xavier mostly straight, believe it or not, and he’s the least annoying part of the scene. But that isn’t saying anything.
14. Xavier Navarro — “I’m the Juggernaut”
Are we grasping here? Probably, but “I’m the Juggernaut” is just a few guys dubbing themselves (poorly) over an episode of the X-Men animated series from the ’90s, and it’s still way funnier than Superhero Movie.
The meme-spawning video comes courtesy of My Way Entertainment, who recorded it in 2005. Xavier Nazario provides what few lines his name-twin has in the parody, which are basically feeble trash-talking and odd, mumbled, magic talk. The Professor doesn’t have a whole lot to do in this scene, even in the original version, but it’s not about him. Juggernaut is the indisputable star of this picture.
Marvel apparently didn’t mind the parody, despite them ostensibly being the reason YouTube pulled the original clip. They apparently liked it so much that they worked a reference into X-Men: The Last Stand, when Juggernaut says his catchphrase after Shadowcat phases him into a floor. It didn’t make that character any more likable, unfortunately.
13. John Stephenson — Pryde of the X-Men
Before the X-Men got their proper animated series in 1992, Marvel produced a pilot episode for a show that never ended up happening. You can still see the premiere for Pryde of the X-Men bouncing around online, and it’s worth tracking down if only to be glad that the mutant-centric cartoon we ended up with had much better theme music. Also, Wolverine is either Scottish or Australian in this version, for some reason. It changes from scene to scene.
John Stephenson plays the Professor in Pryde, and we meet him when he sends a projected, mental image of himself to meet the Xavier School’s latest student in the most alarming way possible. We get that when you’re the most powerful psychic in the world, you don’t have to do “face time,” but he had to have known that would be super weird for someone he’s about to ask to move into his house.
12. Cam Clarke — Marvel Anime: X-Men
In 2010, Marvel teamed up with Japanese animation studio Madhouse to create Marvel Anime, Eastern-styled versions of some of the comic publisher’s biggest properties. This partnership produced anime versions of Iron Man, a solo Wolverine series, Blade, and, yes, the X-Men.
Marvel Anime: X-Men follows the team in the aftermath of Jean Grey’s death. Most comics and movies build to that critical event, but this show gets it out up front so that the mutants can have even crazier adventures in Japan.
Prolific voice actor Cam Clarke plays Professor Xavier, and while the character is as good and decent as ever, we can’t help but notice the similarities between this performance and his turn as Liquid Snake, the villain in the landmark action game Metal Gear Solid. We like being on Professor X’s side, but it was kind of hard this time, since we just couldn’t stop thinking about the shirt-impaired maniac who wants to rule the world from a secret military compound in Alaska.
11. Ron Halder — Iron Man: Armored Adventures
Iron Man: Armored Adventures is an animated series that follows a high school-age Tony Stark who becomes a superhero considerably earlier in life than he does in the comics. It resets the continuity, Smallville-style, so that young Iron Man can fight all the same villains that the older version does, but with way more teen angst involved. That is, as opposed to grown-up Tony’s adult angst, which is also considerable.
“The X-Factor” has Iron Man learning of the existence of mutants the hard way when he runs afoul of Magneto (who is still old), who’s not a guy you want to fight in a metal suit. He also befriends a young Jean Grey, who uses her mental powers to subdue the villain after Rhodey yoinks his psychic-blocking helmet off. Professor X appears at the end to invite Jean to his school, and actor Ron Halder — who also voices Magneto to reflect that the two characters are philosophically opposite sides of the same coin…or maybe the producers just didn’t want to hire another actor for the cameo — manages to play him even more English than Patrick Stewart did.
The really weird part about Iron Man: Armored Adventures is that villain Obadiah Stane already looks exactly like Professor X, which is probably why they never actually show Xavier’s face in this episode. That might have been confusing.
10. Tom Kane — Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
Despite the fact that dungeon crawler, role-playing game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance features an amazing team-up of just about every superhero in the comics universe as they try to stop Doctor Doom from gaining cosmos-destroying power, you do not get to control Professor Xavier. He is in there, however, in a supporting role. When the X-Men’s teleporter, Nightcrawler, goes missing, Xavier uses Cerebro to track him to Mephisto’s layer (essentially a fiery hell full of demons). He offers some advice, and that’s about it.
Unfortunately, the Professor is doomed — possibly literally — no matter what you do. In one case, you see him lying, defeated, on the ground with the rest of the X-Men after they fail to stop the King of Latveria. And that’s if you choose to save Nightcrawler. If you don’t, Mystique (his mother) avenges him by sneaking into the Xavier Mansion and beating its owner into a coma from which he never recovers. It’s a downer, either way.
9. Jim Ward — Wolverine and the X-Men
Wolverine and the X-Men was the fourth animated series based on the mutant team. It features the world’s least destructible Canadian re-forming the fractured squad after Professor Xavier and Jean Grey go missing. The Phoenix Force is involved because that’s apparently all anyone knows what to do with Jean.
Jim Ward plays the Professor, who eventually rejoins the team, and he also goes super-English. We don’t like blaming Patrick Stewart for things because he’s one of the most delightful humans we have, but in the comics, Xavier was born in New York. Just saying.
Wolverine’s version of the team founder is considerably more active than most other incarnations. He’s still leading the team in the inevitable, dystopian-future episodes — complete with cyberlegs that let him run from all the murderbots that have taken over — and he uses a psychic connection to present-day Logan to take on the time-traveling role that Kitty Pryde plays in the comics and Wolverine takes on in Days of Future Past. Eventually, the two eras of X-Men manage to avert the Sentinel-ridden future … only to replace it with one in which Apocalypse has taken over.
8. Chris Wiggins — The Marvel Super Heroes
Xavier made his first non-comic appearance in the episode “Doctor Doom’s Day” on the 1966 animated series The Marvel Super Heroes. This was in the section featuring Namor, the Sub-Mariner; the rest of the series showcased Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor. And if you assume that a Canadian-American cartoon that produced 65 episodes that aired across the course of four months in 1966 probably looked pretty ragged, you’re right.
His team isn’t even called “X-Men” on this show; they’re called “Allies for Peace.” Doctor Doom uses a weird emotion machine to induce a bunch of villains to attack them. And then he sends the “peace building” they’re dedicating flying into space along with most of the Avengers, who get to keep their name on this show.
Because the animation is quick and cheap, Xavier has three modes: uncomfortably straight-on, leaning forward weirdly in his chair (above), and looking weird on a monitor. And he says things like, “Be on guard, friends; my mutant brain senses danger!” It’s actually pretty great, now that we think about it.
7. David Kaye — X-Men: Evolution
Because the creators of superhero TV series never met a property they didn’t want to set in high school, X-Men: Evolution makes the bulk of the team a bunch of teenagers. Professor Xavier is still a grown-up, of course, because someone has to give these kids advice.
Interestingly, the finale has Apocalypse making Xavier one of his Four Horsemen, joining Magneto, Storm, and Mystique. Coincidentally, those are the only adults in the show, so remember, boys and girls: don’t trust anyone over 40. His new powers grant him the ability to see the future, which gives viewers glimpses of amazing possibilities that never, ever play out because the show is over.
This version of Xavier is a little different from the ones in other X-Men cartoons because he doesn’t get a floating wheelchair and is a bit less serious than other adaptations. We get that, because you can’t really have a super-stern guy sending an elite squad of kids to their possible deaths. It worked in Starship Troopers, sure, but that wasn’t a show for children.
6. Stan Jones — Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
Usually, we’re happy enough to just have the friendly neighborhood web-slinger on his own because he can be kind of a lot. But Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, an animated series that ran for three seasons starting in 1981, teamed Peter Parker up with Iceman and Firestar, a flame-based superheroine who originated on this show before Marvel added her to its comics roster. She was like a prototype for DC’s Harley Quinn, but not nearly as popular.
Firestar becomes pals with the X-Men after she thwarts the school bullies who framed her for the theft of a football trophy. It was apparently way easier to get the X-Men’s attention in 1981. She and her teammates are hanging out at the Xavier Mansion when Juggernaut shows up and starts wrecking the place, as is his wont.
Professor X directs the team via telepathic orders, and even though everyone can probably hear him perfectly well in their minds, he still yells all of his lines because that’s how people communicated in ‘80s cartoons. He directs Spider-Man to “use his skill” to get Juggernaut’s helmet off so he can stop him (with his mind), and it turns out that the “skill” in question is just pulling on the headpiece really hard.
5. Seth Green — Robot Chicken
The “Sausage Fest” episode of action figure-animated series Robot Chicken includes a segment in which a Sentinel destroys the X-Men, leaving Professor X to find a new team to fight (and die) for the mutant cause. He settles on — or for, perhaps — the cast of the Police Academy series, because both creating and watching Robot Chicken only makes sense if you’re high.
Seth Green voices the Professor in this episode, and he’s there to play the straight man while most of the recruits die during training. Soft-spoken Hooks, who already has a decent X-Men name, gets sliced in half during a session in the Danger Room. Gun-loving Tackleberry shoots himself in the head after he misunderstands that their bulletproof uniforms only protect the parts they cover. And Xavier telepathically scrambles Jones’ brain when he thinks the latter has been making him think that the Professor’s wheelchair was squeaking.
Eventually, the remains of the team face the same Sentinel, who punts them over the horizon, leaving Charles to recruit another bunch of heroes likely based on whichever movie the show producers hit with the darts they throw at their DVD collections during writing sessions.
4. James Arnold Taylor — Lego Marvel Super Heroes
People have played Professor Xavier all kinds of ways, but James Arnold Taylor’s version in Lego Marvel Super Heroes has a special place in our hearts for two reasons: he sounds a lot like Liam Neeson if the Irish actor was also hosting a game show, and he speaks almost entirely in puns built around the letter X. We also appreciate that he uses his amazing psychic abilities and floating chair to just bust everything apart to get to the sweet, sweet Lego studs they contain.
Sure, maybe that first bit feels a little more like telekinesis than his usual telepathic powers, but we’ll accept it because we don’t know how one would build a game about building and breaking things without fudging it a little. We suppose he could have just reached into that hot dog cart’s mind and convinced it to fall apart, but we can only suspend our disbelief so much.
3. Cedric Smith — X-Men (1992)
For those of us who grew up in the ‘90s, the X-Men animated series was the definitive (moving) version of the characters until director Bryan Singer’s first movie came along. It had everything: a suitably gruff — and Canadian — Wolverine; a sleazy, wisecracking Gambit; a largely useless Cyclops; and one of the best adaptations of Professor Xavier ever. The actor, Cedric Smith, provided the voice that played in our heads whenever we picked up an X-Men book until Patrick Stewart supplanted him forever. But he had a good run while it lasted.
This Xavier doesn’t participate much; he’s more of a mutant advocate in public and typically just tells the rest of the X-Men where to go. And that’s probably for the best, because he is no good in a fight. Usually, he ends up under psychic attack, and then he yells and falls down.
It happens every couple episodes or so, including the series finale, in which anti-mutant crusader Henry Peter Gyritch incapacitates him with a device that makes a really loud noise. And then Xavier dies, kind of. His space-bird girlfriend takes him to the cosmos to cure him, and he can’t come back ever for some reason, so it’s basically like dying.
2. Patrick Stewart — X-Men (2000)
You knew as soon as you saw the headline what our top two choices would be, but the order might surprise you. It’s really tough to choose between the two most recent incarnations of Professor X even though they are, ostensibly, the same person, but for us, it had to go this way.
It isn’t a matter of the performance; along with Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, Patrick Stewart playing Charles Xavier is one of the best bits of casting in all of superhero movies. He’s bald, he’s dignified, and he looks good in a suit that’s just one shade too blue for us less classy types to ever think about trying to wear.
What brings this version down, however, is that Professor Xavier doesn’t really do much in his movies because he’s so powerful that he could just immediately solve everything without saying a word (out loud, anyway). So in his five featured appearances throughout the series, the script always has to find a way to remove him halfway through. He always ends up kidnapped and brainwashed, or put into a coma (he, too, yells and falls down), or he just straight-up dies. We love what Stewart does with the character, but Xavier is a real liability if you’re making a movie that has to run longer than 45 minutes.
1. James McAvoy — X-Men: First Class
Every other time we’d seen the character before 2011, he was an old, bald man in a wheelchair who was super serious all the time because he’d taken on the responsibility for the welfare and prosperity of the entire mutant race. He was also already running the Xavier School for the Gifted, which gave him a sage-like, Kenobi-esque quality that was tough to crack.
But in X-Men: First Class, we get a fresh new take on Xavier: a brash, energetic, walking Masters graduate with a glorious head of hair. McAvoy plays him in such a way that we can see the future leader inside, but he’s making that old guy wait because he’s having too much fun. And he makes it through that entire movie before he gets incapacitated, so he gets points for that, too.
That film, Days of Future Past, and Apocalypse also present a satisfying arc for Xavier that we’d never seen before. We see his thoughts and philosophies about mutant-human relations develop, watch him give in to doubt, and then finally take on the role that it’s all been building to. We just hadn’t seen that in movies or on TV before, so as much as it pains our Picard-loving hearts, McAvoy’s version is our pick for the best Professor X yet.
What did we get wrong? Did we forget one of your favorite (or most hated) versions of Professor X? Be sure to let us know in the comments.
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