Following in the footsteps of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men movies have been expanding beyond the confines of their initial team. They started by doing a trilogy of separate movies about Wolverine and then they brought in a brand new character in the form of Deadpool, and now, we’ve got the X-Force cast jumping in and the horrifying New Mutants movie slated for release in the coming months. The X-Men franchise is going off the chain! For now, here are the existing movies in the franchise that have been produced and released so far – including the new Deadpool 2 – ranked from worst to best.
11. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Well, this was a no brainer. X-Men Origins: Wolverine sucked. Like seriously sucked. It sucked so bad that all the other X-Men Origins movies were cancelled, so we never got to see X-Men Origins: Magneto, which was pitched as “The Pianist meets X-Men.” The movie started off promising and exciting, because it’s always fun when they go back and show Wolverine kicking ass in a historical setting and this movie opens with an extended montage of Wolvie fighting in the American Civil War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Vietnam War – it’s like Forrest Gump if it was focused entirely on war and was much more violent. But after that, the movie goes very quickly downhill. The plot is undeveloped and the writing is lazy, and therefore the movie as a whole is unsatisfying. Obviously Hugh Jackman is great as always in the role that he was born to play and the action sequences are well staged, but scenes like the Teen Wolf homage only serve to make this a complete train wreck. The depiction of Deadpool in this movie was so painfully botched that the solo movies with Ryan Reynolds will never be able to escape its shadow and constantly joke about it to distance themselves from it.
10. X-Men: Apocalypse
The ‘80s-set follow-up to the incredible Days of Future Past should have been an awesome movie. It had all the parts. It had that great cast (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, newcomer Oscar Isaac etc.) and it was coming off the heels of one of the most epic and emotionally charged installments in the saga. But sadly, X-Men: Apocalypse was a huge disappointment. You’re sitting there, you’re watching it, all the special effects and CGI sequences are really impressive and loud, and then at some point, you realize you’ve seen this movie before – a bunch of times. Seriously, how many times are we going to be subjected to watching the X-Men fight off an evil mutant who’s bent on world domination? There are other stories to be told about these characters. They’re mutants! They have superpowers! Why does it have to be one single world-dominating force every single time? It’s getting old. X-Men: Apocalypse was the last straw. There’s been talk of “superhero fatigue” recently – that feeling is embodied by this movie. The saving grace of the whole thing is Evan Peters as Quicksilver, but frankly, even that was nothing we hadn’t seen before in the previous movie.
9. X-Men: The Last Stand
At the time of its release, X-Men: The Last Stand was the most expensive movie ever made with a budget of $210 million. But that was kind of a waste, because it’s a terrible movie. As always, the actors are great in their roles. And some of the new cast members, like Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde or Kelsey Grammer as Beast, make for great additions to the team. The third X-Men movie is full of superhero action, which is great, but there’s no substance. In the first two movies, there was a lot of action, but there was also a lot of emotion and drama and tension and atmosphere and mood and plot development. But in The Last Stand, that’s gone. It’s too shallow. But then, what more can you expect from a director like Brett Ratner? The #MeToo movement has meant that we can’t enjoy the films of a lot of actors and directors that we used to really admire anymore and we have to hate them. For some, like Kevin Spacey, that has been a difficult thing to reckon with. For Brett Ratner, it was pretty darn easy. Cutting out his stupid, mindless movies has probably enriched our lives. It means we never have to sit through Tower Heist or Hercules or, indeed, X-Men: The Last Stand ever again!
8. X-Men: First Class
Prequels to big movie franchises are never a good idea. They never work out. Just look at The Phantom Menace or The Hobbit trilogy. For whatever reason, prequels are always a let-down. Sure, X-Men: First Class is better than its predecessor The Last Stand, but that’s not saying much. Most movies are better than The Last Stand. The idea behind First Class was to replace the whole cast with younger actors and therefore get younger viewers into these movies. It didn’t actually pan out that way, since this was one of the least profitable of all the X-Men movies. The plot is a little mediocre and the setup is too formulaic to hook you. The movie does a good job of transplanting its mutant characters in historical settings, however. Seeing how the X-Men helped the Kennedy administration to avert the Cuban Missile Crisis is a lot of fun for history buffs. Plus, the opening scenes with young Magneto in Nazi Germany were developed from an early script for X-Men Origins: Magneto, which ultimately went unproduced after the critical failure of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and they give us a beautiful, tragic, heartbreaking glimpse into what could’ve been.
7. The Wolverine
To say that The Wolverine is better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the character’s previous solo outing, isn’t really saying much, because that movie sucked. But having James Mangold in the director’s chair was a wise decision. This is a guy who understands the Wolverine character and how to tell effective stories about him. Okay, in this one, he was marred by having to confine himself to a PG-13 rating and wouldn’t fully shine until he could make the R-rated Logan – but under these restrictions, he has still made a great movie here. By moving the character to Japan, we got a refreshing change of pace. We also had the chance for exciting new set pieces, like that sequence on the bullet train, and since the country itself is beautiful, so is the cinematography in this movie. The opening scene sets you up for a great movie, as we see Logan being held in a Japanese P.O.W. camp during World War II where he protects one of the officers keeping him there from the effects of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It’s these historical scenes that elevate some of the X-Men films from being formulaic superhero movies and ingrain this idea that mutants have been around in our culture forever.
Superhero movies are ten a penny these days, but studios weren’t always pumping one out every month or so. There was once a time when studio executives were worried that big budget film adaptations of geeky comic book material wouldn’t do very well at the box office. Superman and Batman could be depended on for big bucks, because they were established movie franchises, but what about the lesser known Marvel properties? Bryan Singer’s original X-Men movie was the one that started it all. It was this movie alone that kickstarted the trend of comic book and superhero movies that has continued to this day. This movie paved the way for Spider-Man and Hulk and Fantastic Four and, by extension, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie is quite surprisingly successful in that it brings in all of these disparate characters who have never been seen on the big screen before, introduces them to a huge audience of people who don’t know who they are, and somehow manages to retain a strong focus on narrative development throughout. That’s almost impossible to pull off. The Avengers needed five whole movies before they could do that. X-Men isn’t as great or as rewatchable as some of the sequels that would follow, but it was a phenomenal start.
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
The thing that let down X-Men: First Class was the fact that all the characters we had come to know and love were now played by completely different actors. Well, and mediocre storytelling. But the draw of the X-Men movies was never really the characters themselves – it was the actors playing them. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry and Ellen Page – they’re what made the previous movies (barring The Last Stand) so great. But the new cast was great, too. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence are all awesome in their roles. So, if we went back to the original cast, we’d miss them. It was quite the predicament. Luckily, there was a big time travel storyline in the comic books that the filmmakers could use to open up two separate timelines and tell the same story with the characters at different ages. So, all the great actors from the franchise got to be in the same movie. And okay, the timelines got a little confusing at a certain point, but on the whole, the plot is clever and taut and devilishly complex. With all of its stunning visuals and intense action sequences, Days of Future Past is one of the best X-Men movies ever.
The very fact that a Deadpool solo movie even exists is nothing short of a miracle. It’s a big budget superhero movie set in the X-Men universe with a dark sense of humor and excessive profanity and very graphic violence and a lead character who likes to talk to the camera. As soon as we’ve gotten through the self-aware opening credits and Deadpool has jumped into the bad guys’ car to mercilessly kill them all while still firing off quippy one liners, you know that this is a different kind of superhero movie. The origin story of how Wade Wilson got mutated and became the Merc with a Mouth sadly becomes a little formulaic as the film goes on, but the action sequences are big and brash and colorful and visceral. The jokes are hilarious, the soundtrack is awesome, and of course, Ryan Reynolds is always a joy to watch when he’s in his red spandex and breaking the fourth wall. This movie would be topped by its sequel two years later, which was even more insane and shocking and hysterical and fresh, but as far as superhero flicks go, the first one is still up there with the best.
3. X2: X-Men United
The second X-Men movie is consistently ranked among the best superhero movies of all time and the best sequels of all time – and there’s a good reason for that. The whole point of a sequel is to expand upon the characters and the story of the original, and that’s exactly what X2 does. It’s the definition of the phrase “bigger and better.” It’s bigger, because of a larger budget that is well utilized, and it’s better, because of a plot with higher stakes. The X-Mansion is raided and the mutants are on the run. Wolverine explores his past and how he ended up with an adamantium skeleton. The movie opens with a brainwashed Nightcrawler darting around the White House, taking out Secret Service agents, until he gets to the Oval Office and pins the President of the United States down on his desk. That’s an awesome way to open a movie, right? You’re immediately hooked. And the movie maintains that level of excitement throughout, whether it’s with a swarm of police officers shooting Wolverine in the head or with Professor X dipping into the Cerebro. The ending sets up a threequel perfectly by teasing the Phoenix storyline, so it’s a shame that The Last Stand didn’t take the bait and screwed the pooch instead.
2. Deadpool 2
There were a lot of doubts about Deadpool 2, that it would just be more of the same and wouldn’t feel as fresh as the original and maybe the joke was getting old already. But then the movie came out, and boy, were those critics wrong. Even if you studied the trailers, there’s no way you could’ve anticipated all the unexpected twists and turns in this movie. Josh Brolin’s Cable was a fantastic new character and proved the perfect foil for Deadpool’s character. Domino also proved to be an amazing character who we look forward to seeing more of in the future. By telling a more linear narrative than the original and not being lagged by an origin story, Deadpool 2 has more forward momentum and excitement than the first one. And the movie gets bonus points for its mid-credits sequence, in which Deadpool goes back in time with Cable’s time traveling device in order to save Peter and Vanessa, fix the Deadpool as portrayed in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and shoot Ryan Reynolds in the head before he signed on to star in Green Lantern, is one of the best of all time. It’s so meta, so funny, and oh so Deadpool.
Simply put, Logan is a masterpiece. To call it one of the greatest superhero movies ever made is kind of an insult, because it shouldn’t be pigeonholed like that. It’s an action movie, a thriller, and a heartfelt drama. It’s a beautiful movie that touches on some real human subjects. In some respects, it’s a drama about aging and losing the ability to do things that you used to do, but with superpowers. It’s like The Old Man and the Sea if the old man was a superhero instead of a fisherman. The movie is also a study in losing one’s mind. Logan spends the movie looking after his father figure Professor X as he succumbs to Alzheimer’s where the mind he’s losing in the greatest mind on Earth. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and tragic and so, so powerful. It’s also super violent, but that’s a good thing – that was a huge step in the right direction. The top brass at Fox finally let James Mangold make an R-rated Wolverine movie. If there was ever a character crying out to be adapted into an ultraviolent, hard R-rated bloodbath, it’s Wolverine. Well, and Deadpool. But Wolverine is also a character who needs to be taken seriously, and here, he is.