Since 1963, the X-Men have been in entertainment and media through comics, television, and movies. Their live-action counterparts started in 2000 and have spawned over ten X-Men films in total, that includes spin-offs (Dark Phoenix, Logan, New Mutants, Deadpool). This list examines the X-Men films and ranks them from best to worst. This will exclude spin-offs, so the merc with the mouth won’t be counted here. Let’s get started with the best X-Men film to date:
1. X-Men: Days Of Future Past
The rebooted X-Men trilogy was on a role as First Class was a strong entry into the X-Men canon and Days of Future Past managed to surpass the first film in every major way. Anchored by a returning Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, the original mutant goes back in time to gather his brothers and sisters together and help change a pivotal moment in history that will save their future. What’s great about Days of Future Past is that the film never feels overcrowded or confusing despite the premise and the film is an overall joy to watch thanks to the exciting story and strong performances. Plus, it’s pretty cool to see the original X-Men cast mix it up with the new breed. Dr. Bolivar Trask isn’t the most compelling villain in the world; however, the momentum never slows down when he’s on screen.
2. X2: X-Men United
Bigger and better than its processor, X2: X-Men United digs deeper into the past of Wolverine, who still trying to uncover the truth about his life. This brings out former Army commander Stryker, who pulls out an assault on Professor Xavier’s school for gifted children. To stop a potential call for a mutant registration act, Magnet, Wolverine, and Professor Xavier team up to take down this new threat before it destroys mutants everywhere. Arguably the most nuanced and thought-provoking entry in the franchise, X2: X-Men United crafts a thrilling plot that doesn’t rely on action sequences and explosions to tell a good story. While the core X-Men cast is mostly pushed aside in favor of Wolverine, the first introduction of Nightcrawler makes a lasting impression and the overall movie is arguably the best written in the X-men universe.
3. X-Men: First Class
After the popcorn blockbuster madness known as X-Men: The Last Stand, director Matthew Vaughn returns the story to a small scope with First Class; Reintroducing the world to mutants Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, exploring the relationship between the two former friends during the height of the Cold War. We get a deeper insight into both characters that the previous films haven’t explored all too much, making it a fresh and intriguing take on the X-Men saga. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are perfect as Charles Xavier and Eri Lehnsherr and the rise and fall of their friendship are simple but effective. Kevin Bacon‘s Sebastian Shaw is a solid foil for both men and the introduction of the new cast never feels overwhelming or crowded.
The beginning of the live-action X-Men films is a good introduction to the world of X-Men, namely the focus on Rogue and Wolverine. While Rogue doesn’t get much attention following the first film, the film does a good job establishing who she is; Granted, the writer’s could’ve explored the powerful mutant in more depth as Rogue has all the tools to make a great villain/hero; however, the narrative has a solid grasp of the character overall. Other than Wolverine, the core cast does a fine job with what they’re given. Of course, I wish that these rich characters had some more depth to them, but the writers were wise to narrow their focus to only the main characters.
5. X-Men: The Last Stand
X-Men: The Last Stand is the very definition of a popcorn movie. Never dull, though it does sacrifice the chance to tell a deeper story by focusing on too many plots at once. The narrative should’ve been about Jean Grey and The Phoenix story, the origins of Grey’s darker side, and the history behind Jean’s insane power overall. While the Phoenix story was teased at the end of X2, I wish this was given more thought and planning from the first movie, dropping subtle hints in the first two X-Men movies. Still, the story is fine for what it is. The introduction of Angel and Juggernaut is disappointing because they’re not given much time to develop in a film that has crammed so many mutants into one film. Despite the criticisms, X-Men: The Last Stand is good fun, even though the potential for a stronger story is wasted.
6. X-Men: Apocalypse
Like X-Men: The Last Stand, Apocalypse isn’t a bad film; however, the pedestrian and cliched story is what ultimately makes the last entry the worst film in the franchise. There’s a chance to explore deeper and interesting themes here; however, Apocalypse is another “villain wants to destroy the world” type character that doesn’t separate himself from the dozens of other bad guys with the same goal. Everyone plays their parts well, most notably the young actors who take over the original roles of Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Storm, though the new crew doesn’t particularly stand out a memorable way. A decent film, though a disappointing affair overall.