I did reviews for all the X-Men movies last year, leading up to the release of X-Men: Apocalypse. So, with the recent release of Logan, I’ve decided to go back one last time and relive this series. From every last continuity issue to every last vein popping out of Hugh Jackman’s forehead, we’re gonna see which films in the series stack up to the best. It also felt appropriate to not wait until this series was technically finished. After all, Logan does mark Hugh Jackman’s final appearance as Wolverine. So, in a way, it technically is the end of an era, at least to many fans.
Just to clarify, I will also be including Deadpool on this list. It takes place in the same universe and has some of the same characters in it. Therefore, I consider it part of the franchise like everyone else. Also, keep in mind that I won’t be going off on long tangents like I did when I ranked the Resident Evil films. I’d love to as I am very passionate about this series. But the fact remains that I’ve already reviewed every film in this franchise individually. So If you want to know more about my feelings toward each film, feel free to stick around TheNerdStash.com and seek those reviews out. Lastly, this is all strictly opinion. I can’t stress that enough. So don’t badmouth me if you don’t like what I have to say… even if you are completely wrong.
So swing out those Adamantium claws and get ready to rage berserker style as we rank the X-Men films.
#10: X-Men: The Last Stand
I can understand why X-Men Origins: Wolverine would be worse for some, but not for me. X-Men: The Last Stand was an absolute train-wreck from start to finish. Coming off the heels of two well-made films before it, it left what was, in my opinion, the darkest stain on this franchise to date. It introduces new characters like Angel and Juggernaut and barely does anything with them. The storytelling is beyond lazy, the effects aren’t anything impressive (especially when compared to the last two) and Jean Grey is reduced to being a psycho with a split personality, which completely missed the point of her character and her story. On top of that, things that set up in the previous film were all but abandoned.
Rogue, one of the main characters of the previous two films, had maybe ten minutes of screen-time and did nothing. The rivalry between Pyro and Iceman was almost entirely glossed over. Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men, is killed off-screen. Magneto is more of a mutant Hitler than the hero of his own story. There’s even a little love triangle thrown in between Iceman, Rogue and Kitty Pryde that goes nowhere (at least until Days Of Future Past). Brett Ratner took over the reigns from Bryan Singerand the change definitely shows on screen. Whereas Bryan Singer directs action like an art form, Brett Ratner directs it like a five-year-old who just found his daddy’s camera. The only redeeming quality of this film was Kelsey Grammar as Beast. That was it. The rest of the movie is absolute trash and not even entertaining trash.
#9: X-Men: Apocalypse
When I reviewed X-Men: Apocalypse, I was on the cusp of failing it. It’s one of those movies that gets increasingly worse the more I think about it. However, I have to admit that, while not very good, the film does have its strong points. The acting is very good for the most part, the cinematography is nice, Quicksilver is a ton of fun, The Phoenix Force makes an appearance (and I don’t mean a dumb split personality either) and it is shot well. Aside from that, this movie is pretty stupid. For one, It has the worst villain of the franchise, by far. Apocalypse is an ancient mutant that can cut heads off with grains of sand and yet, never uses these powers on the X-Men. He’s as powerful as a god and outside of a couple seems, never feels that way.
Apocalypse has four mutant followers (The Four Horsemen) and they barely do anything for the entire film. They are there to fight the X-Men at the very end and lose horribly. I think Psylocke and Angel got about three lines a piece. Quicksilver is cool, as I’ve said, but amounts to little more than a huge plot convenience. Magneto goes through a tragic event in the film so that the film could have an excuse for him to come back and be mad at humans again. The scene in question is acted and shot incredibly well but that doesn’t make it any less emotionally manipulative. Jennifer Lawrence isn’t even trying anymore. Nightcrawler and Jubilee are both wasted. Overall, Apocalypse isn’t “Terrible” I guess. It has some moments of merit to it, just not enough to get it higher on this list.
Also, just on a side note, it’s hard to believe that this takes place in the 80’s when the characters don’t seem to have aged a day, despite 20 years apparently passing by. Just puttin’ that out there.
#8: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Let me just say that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not a very good film. It has poor CGI in many areas, shoehorns in characters it doesn’t need, the adamantium bullet was stupid and what the film did to Deadpool was unforgivable. However, I would argue that it does have entertaining qualities. I loved Liev Shreiber’s portrayal of Sabretooth and his chemistry with Jackman was spot on. Portraying Wolverine’s whole life as one big tragedy after another was a nice touch. I loved Gambit for the short time he was in the film. Yeah, Gambit and several other mutants were shoe-horned in but they were more entertaining than the shoe-horned characters in The Last Stand. At least this one made Cyclops somewhat useful and I’ll take this shoe-horned Emma Frost over the boring one in First Class any day.
The action scenes, while pretty standard, reminded me of old school 80’s action films I watched and loved as a kid. It had a cheesy, fun vibe that made it somewhat entertaining. Also, I have to give this credit over The Last Stand that it, at the very least, did feature more elements from the comics. Wolverine’s bone claws, him fighting in several wars, his rivalry with Sabretooth, he and Silverfox living in the cabin in Canada together, him thinking she was dead when she was really alive… the list goes on. That isn’t to say everything is portrayed well. Some things were portrayed rather badly. However, when all is said and done, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a dumb, fun action film for me. Whereas X-Men: The Last Stand was boring and heavy-handed, Origins just wanted to be fun and that was okay. Not very good, but not god awful.
#7: X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class is understandably a fan-favorite for some and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see why. It’s technically impressive, features powerhouse acting from Michael Fassbender and Kevin Bacon is set during The Cuban Missile Crisis and is pretty well directed throughout. Not to mention, the relationship portrayed between the young Professor X and the young Magneto is interesting and, in many respects, rather heartbreaking. I’ll admit, it’s a pretty good movie when it wants to be. However, would you kill me if I said it’s just a tad overrated? Not bad, just overrated. I’m sorry, there’s just so much about this movie that didn’t work for me.
First and foremost, say what you will about Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine; January Jones as Emma Frost was worse. What they did to that character in this film is unforgivable and as a longtime fan of the character, it was deeply offensive. I actually contemplated putting First Class before Origins on the list because of that. It was that bad. Jennifer Lawrence and Nicolas Hoult do fine as Mystique and Beast and have good chemistry. However, their characters are far too whiny and often annoying. That’s not on the actors, that’s the writing. The score for the film was lackluster at best and forgettable at worst. The fight scenes are cool but many of them lack substance.
Ironically though, the worst thing about X-Men: First Class is the actual First Class. These new mutants like Banshee, Darwin, Havoc and Angel Salvador are just so superfluous and uninteresting. You could have replaced them with any characters from the comics and you would have had the same movie. However, I will say, that while many of these things don’t work, X-Men: First Class had enough new things, good acting and fine direction to keep it afloat. It wasn’t perfect by any means and, in my opinion, contains some things that are truly awful. Sorry, I’m not letting the Emma Frost thing go. But for what it is, it was fine and better than the series’ previous two installments as a whole.
#6: X2: X-Men United
This is yet another one that remains a fan-favorite and, like First Class, it’s easy to understand. As a film, it’s very engaging, action packed and loaded with social commentary, not unlike the comics. This particular film was based on the popular X-Men graphic novel, “God Loves, Man Kills,” and managed to follow it relatively well from an adaptation standpoint. However, I feel the fan population has overblown this film a bit as I’ve personally always found it to be overrated. Not bad, mind you, just overrated. Nightcrawler was by far the best new addition in the movie. It’s a pity we wouldn’t see this character back until X-Men: Apocalypse reared its ugly head. The villain was cool, the ideas were cool and it was a relatively entertaining sequel overall.
So why do I find this one so overrated? The set-up for The Phoenix Saga is a nice touch but it’s an element that is almost entirely glanced over. X2‘s version of Lady Deathstrike is one of the most pathetic adaptations of any X-Men character (2nd ONLY to Emma Frost in First Class). Rogue and Iceman’s romance evolves further but they don’t really do much to the story. Pyro ultimately does more than them and, to the film’s credit, his father/son relationship with Magneto is handled very well. Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men, got shafted… again! Jesus, what does Bryan Singer have against Cyclops? He’s an awesome character! Use him once in a while, why don’t ya?
But probably my biggest problem with X2 was the way William Stryker was handled. You see, instead of making him a televangelist, viewing mutants as abominations of God, this film made him every single army general you’ve seen in every movie ever. The only thing that really distinguishes the character is Brian Cox’s amazing performance. I have no problem with Brian Cox in the role. He was perfect. My issue was just how the character was ultimately written. And making him a televangelist, like the comic book, would have given him a nice parallel with Nightcrawler, a character who is deeply religious and maintains his faith even in the darkest of times. Unfortunately, the film, like most X-Men films, had to focus on Wolverine. So scrap X-Men and make room for Wolverine and his Amazing Friends.
#5: The Wolverine
Whereas X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a bit of a mess, The Wolverine took the character a bit more seriously… at least until the third act, but we’ll get to that in a minute. This film adapted the famous Japan arc for Wolverine, where he traveled to Japan and was confronted by The Silver Samurai (One of his most formidable foes in the comics). Though many artistic liberties are taken with this adaptation, The Wolverine manages to be a thrilling, well made, beautifully acted and gorgeously directed film regardless. This would probably be my favorite film in the franchise if it weren’t for one slight detail… The last 15 minutes of this film damn near kills it. The Wolverine was doing so well up until its climax and it’s a real shame.
Yukio, while different from her comics counterpart, is not only a great character in her own right but also manages to be a good sidekick of sorts for Wolverine. Mariko is a well-adapted character and I even like they put in her relationship with Wolverine. God knows she could of have the way of Lady Deathstrike in X2 so I’m grateful she was adapted properly. The action was more brutal than ever before, the flashbacks of Jean Grey were chilling and Viper was a fun villain. It’s actually when we get to The Silver Samurai that the film goes completely downhill. Not that the action isn’t cool, it is but the reveal of The Silver Samurai is beyond stupid and really makes no sense when you stop to think about it. Not a bad movie but rather a great movie with a really dumb ending.
What can I really say about this one? It’s Deadpool! This was the film the fans were begging for and Fox finally delivered him in full force with Ryan Reynolds in the role once again. Needless to say, fans were pretty pissed about the treatment of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. His 3-minute scene in the beginning wasn’t an issue but sowing his mouth shut and giving him katanas in his arms was. It was just insulting and no one felt more insulted than Reynolds who claimed he was pretty much “blackmailed” into participating in that disastrous representation of the character. For years, he tried to get this film off the ground and when “leaked” footage of Reynolds in the role yielded positive results, it finally got the green-light and Reynolds got to shine.
The film gave us everything we could of asked for in a Deadpool movie. Deadpool is overly violent, curses frequently, references character and actors from the X-Men series and constantly breaks the fourth wall. Wow, it’s almost like doing a comic book character justice is a good thing. Weird, right? Now, to be fair, the main storyline isn’t anything special. It’s just your basic comic book film story but, for Deadpool‘s first outing, this was fine. It seems to embrace having a simplistic story, while simultaneously doing things with a comic book film we had yet to see. Ryan Reynolds is wonderful in the title role. Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Collosus are both amazing side characters and Morena Baccarin is always a welcome addition to any cast.
The action is great, the acting is great, the humor is outstanding and I am dying for a sequel. Just ditch Josh Brolin and bring on Stephen Lang for Cable and we’re good.
#3: X-Men (2000)
People may disagree with this movie being so high on the list but the first X-Men film from 2000 remains one of my favorite comic book films. I will never forget sitting in the theater watching some of my favorite heroes on the big screen for the first time. For the year 2000, X-Men is not only a great comic book movie, it’s a smart comic book movie. It understood what the fans wanted but also understood what it needed to update for modern audiences. It contained the themes, setup and characters of the classic comic books but managed to tell it’s own story around them. Bryan Singer, unlike many other directors who approached comic book films at the time (or even now), treated his adaptation of X-Men like a movie, not a toy commercial.
Singer and writer, David Hayter (Watchmen) understood that the drama of X-Men didn’t just lie with the characters. It also lied with the complex themes of prejudice, racism and the fear of the unknown that writers like Stan Lee and Chris Claremont were trying to get across. The father/daughter esque relationship between Rogue and Wolverine is still one of my favorite things in the series. Singer put two characters together who feel alienated from the world. One because he can’t remember who he was and only knows what he is now and the other unable to touch others due to her mutation. The feelings of loneliness and isolation felt between both characters is made all the more meaningful when they find a bond with each other and, with the X-Men, find a family as well.
The script also greatly plays up the comparisons between Professor Xavier and Magneto. For those who are not aware, these two characters were based almost entirely on Martin Luther King Jr. & Malcolm X. One is hopeful that humans and mutants can live in peace, while the other believes mutants are the superior race and that the downfall of homo sapiens is inevitable. But through it all, both have respect for one another. They want peace for their kind but through different means. But putting aside the themes of the comics that the film brilliantly portrays, the film is just all-around awesome. The actors were wonderful, The action was great, the story was great, the characters were well portrayed for the most part. This X-Men movie just rocks!
Oh god, did this one come close to taking the top spot. I’ll be honest, if it wasn’t for that X-24 thing… yeah, it probably would have. However, for what it’s worth, Logan remains the best acted and the best directed X-Men film to date. Continuity, like in most X-Men films, takes it over the head with a shovel but as long as the movie is good, bad continuity is easy to overlook. After having seen it four times I can say that Logan is not only good, it’s an absolute masterpiece. If I had waited to do my review of this film, it would have gotten five stars instead of just four. But hey, what can ya do? And really, that’s a testament to how how wonderful this film truly is; That it only gets better with each passing viewing.
James Mangold (The Wolverine) returned to direct this R-Rated take on our favorite Canadian mutant, delivering on the excessive gore, swearing and harsh realities of Wolverine we loved in the comics. Mangold brought a grittiness that we’d never seen in the franchise before, taking inspirations from many old westerns. An excerpt from the movie Shane even plays during the movie, with Daphne Keen reciting a line from it towards the end. Mangold also managed to bring out a more human side to Wolverine with the introduction of X-23 (Daphne Keen). Hugh Jackman showed us again why no one will ever top him as Wolverine. Then again, who would even try?
However, while Jackman is once again wonderful, it is Daphne Keen and Patrick Stewart who ultimately steal the show. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again that Jackman, Keen and Stewart all give performances worthy of oscar consideration. I made a comment in my review for Logan about my doubts for it receiving a best picture nomination. However, after more viewings, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. Yeah, the villains are nothing to really write home about but everything else is. The cinematography is gorgeous, the story is meaningful and heartbreaking, the supporting players are deep and memorable and Wolverine has never been more of an interesting character. Logan is without a doubt the best film I’ve seen thus far in 2017. It is glorious.
#1: X-Men: Days Of Future Past
I have loved X-Men since I was a kid, reading comic books and watching the animated series on Fox Kids. While Logan may be the favorite for many, no X-Men movie makes me feel as good as Days Of Future Past. Logan showed us a bleak future, where everything had been lost for our main characters. X-Men: Days Of Future Past showed us a future where things were dark and dreadful, but where there was still a glimmer of hope to make it all right. Days Of Future Past sees Kitty Pryde sending Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to prevent mutant extinction. While Wolverine tries to guide a young Charles Xavier to be the man he was born to be, the X-Men in the future fight to stay alive against an army of mutant hunting robots called Sentinels.
This was the X-Men film that gave me everything I wanted out of an X-Men film and not a thing disappointed me. If I have any complaints, maybe it could have used more Peter Dinklage but that’s a nitpick. Days Of Future Past is X-Men meets Terminator and it is an absolute marvel. James McAvoy gives arguably the best performance of his career. In addition, his chemistry with both Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique is pitch perfect. It was a nice contrast seeing Wolverine guide Xavier, just like Xavier guided Wolverine in the first film. In The Rogue Cut, Rogue has to assume Kitty Pryde’s powers in order to keep Wolverine in the past. Just as Wolverine guided Rogue in the original film, she is now the one guiding him.
The parallels that Bryan Singer created with the other films were extraordinary. Days Of Future Past isn’t just a great science fiction film in its own right, it’s a celebration of the X-Men franchise in general. I won’t spoil the ending but if you’re at all like me and hated the events portrayed in X-Men: The Last Stand, this ending offered a satisfying apology for that. Quicksilver stole the movie in one scene and Mystique was finally portrayed as the badass assassin from the comics. Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask might not be the best villain in the franchise. However, he’s still a memorable villain and Peter Dinklage always has a great on-screen presence about him. His motives are also interesting. The thing is, Trask doesn’t hate mutants; He admires them. He only takes action against them out of fear.
Overall, I am hard-pressed to think of things I didn’t like in this movie. Honestly, X-Men: Days Of Future Past is a masterpiece, both as comic book film and a science fiction film. In addition, The Rogue Cut of this film is by far my favorite adaptation of any Marvel Comics property. It’s beautiful to look at, a wonder to experience and one of the most well-acted movies of the last decade. The characters are memorable, the story is brilliant, the stakes are always high and the action is thrilling. If you’re a fan of this series, I can’t think of one reason you wouldn’t love it too.
A graduate of Full Sail University with a Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing, Adam is a Writer and Film Critic, looking to make his mark on the world. When he isn’t at the movies, writing for The Nerd Stash, playing Duck Hunt (respect the classics) or delivering pizzas to his neighbors, he is back at school earning his Masters Degree in Film Production.