With release of Logan a mere hours away, I thought it appropriate to sit down and rank the X-Men movies that have come before it. While all of the other comic book franchises that have come and gone, the X-Men films are the longest running without scrapping everything and starting over. Logan will be the 10th film, and 4th spinoff of the main series in the universes 17 year history. Many credit the X-Men with jump starting the superhero genre on film, a fair assessment given the sad state of affairs comic book movies were in the late 90s, and the multitude of films that have come since. While the films have had varying degrees of commercial and critical success, one of the most convoluted continuities, including a reboot that was quickly retconned in, there is no denying that the franchise has lasted much longer than most though it, and includes some iconic films, based on beloved characters. So here is the official Matinee Monday countdown of the X-men film franchise.
Honorable Mention: Hulk Vs. Wolverine – 2009
While not a part of the actual X-Men movie universe, the feature-length animated film is part 2 of the direct to DVD Hulk VS. The plot follows Logan as he is sent by the Canadian government to take on the Hulk, who is tearing through the Canadian wilderness. The film features some pretty cool fight sequences between the Hulk and Wolverine, and is a little more violent than most of the movies on the list. The film also feature the other members of the Weapon X program, and was the only good depiction of Deadpool until last year. While not official a part of the X-Men film franchise, it is totally worth checking out.
#9: X-Men Origins: Wolverine – 2009
I had high hopes for X-Men Origins: Wolverine prior to it’s release, it was the first spinoff, and they chose to focus on the most logical character, as Wolverine was the standout from the preceding trilogy. This coupled with the fact that I really like the Wolverine Origins comic, should have meant that this would have been a great movie, boy was I wrong. While there are some elements of this film to enjoy, like the montage of Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting through various wars, there is so much wrong that it borders on unwatchable, including some laughably bad CGI.
The supporting X-Men characters, with the exception of Sabretooth, were all new additions to the additions, but were all dramatic departures for their comic book counterparts. The film also has a disastrous third act, culminating in the final battle that saw the Merc with the Mouth mutilated in something that has no resemblance to the iconic character. The film also made headlines when the whole film, with incomplete CGI, leaked online for all to see. I watched both the leak, and the theatrical release, hoping the latter would end up better, but sadly it didn’t. This film really was the low point for the franchise, and the fact that they made any Wolverine sequels is a surprise.
#8: X-men: The Last Stand – 2006
Though The Last Stand ranks higher than Origins, it really isn’t any better. The first in the franchise to feature a new director, the movie really wasn’t any good. The movie takes the cool stuff from X2, and gets rid of nearly all of it. The film kills off most of the main characters, sidelines the Phoenix force subplot that was teased in the previous film, and make several other questionable plot decisions. One of my favorite X-Men characters, Nightcrawler, did not return for the third installment, though the film does introduce Angel, as well as The Juggernaut, whose origin and character a pretty different from what most were used to. The biggest bright spot was the casting of Kelsey Grammer as beast, because of course Frasier was perfect for Dr. Hank McCoy. The Last Stand almost spelled the end for the franchise, as the film was critically panned, and did not sit any better with fans of the characters, or the films.
#7: X-Men: Apocalypse – 2016
The most recent film in the franchise proves that third time is certainly not the charm for the X-Men films, as the third part in the new trilogy was real mess, that came nowhere close to the potential of the source material. The film continued the theme of decade hopping that First Class started, but didn’t take advantage of the 80s setting, the way the previous two had. The introduction of recast versions of Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler were all pretty good, but the group wasn’t given nearly enough screen time. The coolest elements of movie revolve around Magneto, as Michael Fassbender continued to shine in the role, and the way he takes out a whole group of enemies in the woods towards the beginning was pretty cool. The titular character was a real let down however, as the casting of Oscar Isaacs should have meant that the villain would have been much more menacing than he turned out to be. The internet lost its mind when the first image had the normally blue skinned bad guy looking awfully purple, and while many tried to say it wouldn’t be that bad, the final product didn’t dispel those early concerns.
#6: The Wolverine – 2013
This is the part of the list where things start looking up for everyone’s favorite mutants, as the unlikely sequel to X-Men Origins took Wolverine to his favorite place on the planet, Japan. The film certainly has its flaws, especially the look and story behind the great Wolverine villain, Silver Samurai, but overall it was a really fun movie. Wolverine facing down ninjas made for some pretty cool fight sequences, and being paired with Yukio was a good choice. The Wolverine Blu-Ray release also gave us the first R-Rated X-men film, though it didn’t add much, it was still a step in the right direction for the character.
#5: X-Men – 2000
The movie that started it all, and while it isn’t the best in the franchise, it can’t be undersold the impact that it had on the hollywood landscape. Brian Singer and company crafted a pretty good X-Men story, that hit on most essential themes. The idea to have the X-Men square off against government, and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was the best way to go plot wise, and the casting and characterization the heroes and villains was fairly comic book accurate. The long debated use of all black leather costumes still haunts this franchise, but for the time the film was created, I still understand why they went with it. Patrick Stewart was and still is the perfect choice to play Professor X, and while Hugh Jackman wasn’t most people’s first choice, there isn’t anybody else I can see playing that instead. The first X-Men isn’t perfect, but it set up so many great things to create this universe.
#4: X-Men: First Class – 2011
Where the first X-Men set up the universe, First Class was able to take the franchise when it was on life support, and revive it. The film served at the time as reboot, recasting Magneto, Professor X, and Mystique, and took them back to the 60s. Setting the film against that backdrop of the cuban missile crisis was a really fun idea, and the thought of having mutants as integral parts of historical events was a cool concept. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy were excellent choices to fill the roles vacated by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. The shift to Mystique as more of a main character was a weird one, but Jennifer Lawrence did such a good job that it didn’t matter all that much. Kevin Bacon was also great as the villain Sebastian Shaw, and his scene with a young magneto was particularly great. While the actual X-Men they chose are not even close to the comics first class, they at least picked new mutants that hadn’t been featured before, so it was cool to see some other powers at play.
#3: Deadpool – 2016
The first true R-Rated X-Men films comes in high on my list, maybe because it is so recent that it is easier to remember, but also because I do think it was really good. I have never been a fan of the Deadpool character, as there are a lot of things that just do not work me, especially in solo outings. I have always found him tolerable, and occasionally funny in team based books, but anything where he is the lead never clicked with me. Despite all that, I still thought the portrayal of the character in X-Men origins was a travesty, especially since I know what a huge fan of the source material Ryan Reynolds is. When the script from the Zombieland writers first kicked around all those years ago, I was excited for the idea of a Deadpool solo movie, simply because I really enjoyed the Wade Wilson scenes in Origins, and though Reynolds really was the only person who could bring the character to justice on the big screen.
Once the initial test footage hit the web I was on board the hype train, I maintained some skepticism, but thought that if the tone could match the footage, and keep it through a feature-length runtime, then something pretty cool would come from it. The end result was an extremely funny, and extremely violent film, that I really enjoyed. Reynolds truly is the perfect Deadpool, and this passion project turned out better than most were expecting. I also was a big fan of the inclusion of Colossus, who is another of my favorite X-Men characters, so to see him again, all metal the whole time, and taller than everyone, playing the straight man to Wade’s jokester, was a perfect pairing for me. It was kind of a let down that some of the best jokes had been featured in the trailers, as I assumed that Reynolds would have ad libbed so much that there would have been an endless string of jokes that could have been used interchangeably. I am really excited for the next outing in this newest spinoff franchise, because if it can capture the same spirit as the first, while introducing new and fun characters, I am totally up for it.
#2: X-Men: Days of Future Past – 2014
I love the days of future past story, the Chris Claremont arc of Uncanny X-Men takes the plot of terminator(before terminator even came out,) and gives it a mutant twist. It is one of my favorite X-Men storylines, and one I had thought would have made the perfect X-Men 4, since it could undo everything that Last Stand did wrong. Thankfully, when it was brought to the big screen, it was done justice by making the First Class characters the elements of the past, and the original trilogy X-Men characters, the elements of the dystopian future. The combination of the two sets of movie characters was the perfect way to tell this story.
While elements from the books changed, such as Wolverine being the one sent back in time, instead of Kitty Pryde, who somehow now mysteriously has the power to send people’s consciousness back in time, the story made sense from the film universe perspective. The scenes in the future were super fun, and watching the new future team fight the super adaptoid like sentinels were great to see, especially Iceman all iced up sliding around. Just getting sentinels in general were a cool addition, after only being teased in The Last Stand, since they are such a huge part of the X-Men mythos. Days of Future Past was the best movie of the three in the new trilogy, and it’s because of the mix of the new, and the old, while telling a worthwhile story.
#1: X2: X-Men United – 2003
Than leaves only one film in the list, and that is X-Men United, the second film in the franchise still holds up to me as the best, even 15 years later. I still remember sitting in the theater watching it, loving every minute of it, as it incorporated so many great things that I love about X-Men. I always really like the inclusion of the Weapon X facility, and incorporating Wolverine’s backstory was a smart decision, given how much him trying to remember his past was of the first film. They introduce a host of new characters, such as my previously mentioned favorites Nightcrawler and Colossus, I love Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, and can still remember geeking out when Colossus went metal for the first time to deflect machine gun fire in the mansion raid.
Brian Cox also made for a great villain, and I loved Kelly Hu as Lady Deathstrike, though I wish she wasn’t killed off, because she could have made an excellent addition to The Wolverine. The action scenes aren’t the best in terms of visual style or CGI, but they all told a compelling story within the context of the film. While the payoff wasn’t what anybody wanted, see thoughts on Last Stand, the tease at the end of the Phoenix awakening in Jean Grey was a really cool moment for comic fans, indicative of the care that the filmmakers put into this installment, because it truly stands out as the best of the bunch.
So there you have it, the definitive ranking of the X-Men films for Matinee Monday. Where will Logan fall in this list, I am not sure, but as I have seen everyone so far, I am excited to check it out. In the meantime, let me know what you thought of the list, and if you think anyone of the films should be higher or lower on the list.