The Definitive Ranking of the X-Men Franchise
With the Disney/Fox merger concluded, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is set to be the finale of nearly two decades worth of Fox X-Men films. To mark the occasion, we here at Talk Film Society compiled a methodical, precise ranking of the mutant motion pictures, from worst to best. Take a look at our choices below:
11. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Of course this is the worst X-Men movie. Not only that, it’s easily one of the worst comic book movies ever made. In fact, until recently, this movie has been wiped from my memory much like the Adamantium bullet wiped out Wolverine's memory. Remember when that happened? Remember when Liev Schreiber was cast as Sabretooth only to utterly waste him? Remember when they sewed shut Ryan Reynolds’ mouth in his first turn playing Deadpool? Remember that terrible CGI? You know what, it’s better just to forget. We have plenty of better X-Men movies to talk about, and better Wolverine ones in particular. Let X-Men Origins: Wolverine be the terrible mistake everyone learned from.
- Marcelo Pico
10. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Taking the “bigger is better” approach of 90s Marvel comics, for better or worse, 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, is a flawed but fun ride. The closest the films have gotten to the aesthetic of The Animated Series, it's far less serious than it thinks it is, and that can be a very good thing. With lots of spectacle, too many characters, and a tone that's all over the place, Apocalypse is a convoluted mess that feels like a “classic” Marvel comics crossover event. Continuing the current run of X-Films’ mistake of focusing too much on Mystique, it can be a bit of a letdown, but if you're in the mood for some crazy mutant fights, it's just what the doctor ordered.
Sure, Oscar Isaac takes a little getting used to, but after a bit he's pretty great as Apocalypse, one of the major Big Bads from the comics. Admittedly, he's a character that should've had a few movies to build up, but what we got was still impressive. X-Men: Apocalypse might be the worst of the current run, but it's still an entertaining time.
- Matt Curione
9. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
When Bryan Singer decided to move on from the franchise to help Superman return, Joss Whedon turned down the opportunity to direct, but his influential comic run was retained as the core of the film. That storyline, involving a potential cure to mutations, is the key to why The Last Stand works so well. It allows an interesting philosophical and political debate to occur where the previous films had been cleanly good vs evil. Not only are the X-Men fighting against the Brotherhood but also amongst themselves as they decide whether to support this new technology.
The film also incorporates characters that X-fans had been waiting to see on screen, including Juggernaut, Kitty Pryde, and Multiple Man. The movie isn’t perfect: the decision to complicate the cure plot with a Dark Phoenix story is questionable, as is the idea to kill Cyclops and Professor X in the first hour of the film. But by the time Magneto picks up the Golden Gate Bridge and carries it and his brotherhood to Alcatraz, all is forgiven. It’s an all out Mutant v Mutant war in this film and that’s all I want out of this franchise.
- Mark Watlington
8. Deadpool (2016)
It was definitely his straight white male privilege that afforded Ryan Reynolds so many career opportunities amidst so many setbacks. Its a long career with a few peaks and more valleys, but he kept chugging along trying to get Deadpool made, and give the “Merc with the Mouth” a befitting movie after the unsuccessful first attempt. Reynolds is perfect in this; it’s really the role only he could play. I know the smug breaking of the fourth wall irks some people, and for sure, if you’re not on that wavelength, it can be really annoying. But it works for me, and the jokes fly fast enough that the clunkers don’t have much time to bring down the movie. The action is fun to behold, the supporting cast is especially fun (not TJ Miller, who can just disappear forever), and the movie overall has an appealingly loony vibe. Director Tim Miller keeps Deadpool feeling small, thankfully forgoing the numbing destruction that most superhero movies fall victim to. The movie has exciting action, but doesn’t get overwhelmed by it.
- Manish Mathur
7. Deadpool 2 (2018)
With the first Deadpool making so much money, a sequel was inevitable. If you liked that one, you’ll like the second part. The gags are funny, with some being uproarious, especially the assembling of the X-Force and how that plays out. Ryan Reynolds is putting on his A-game here, but the highlight of the movie is Zazie Beetz as the ever-cool Domino. She brings a unique energy, precise timing, and a tough physicality to the movie. Josh Brolin is pretty great too. The movie really moves at a zippy pace, thanks to the kinetic direction by David Leitch. His background as a stunt coordinator serves the film well. Even as it gets bigger than its predecessor, Leitch keeps the film grounded with focused set-pieces and comic momentum. What I really enjoy about this film is that, for such a darkly funny movie, it still has a sweet love story at its center.
- Manish Mathur
6. X-Men (2000)
Growing up with Marvel comics as part of my life, I was obsessed with two series in particular: Spider-Man and The X-Men. Sure there were Marvel movies before the 2000 blockbuster came to the screen, but none had the impact that the original X-Men did. My friends and I were hyped beyond belief and to say this was a bigger event for us than The Phantom Menace a year prior would be a massive understatement.
We poured over grainy RealPlayer trailers, trying to figure out minute details before its July premiere, curious as to how our favorite, misunderstood heroes would finally splash onto the big screen. We were lucky enough to get tickets on opening day and a little under two hours later our minds were blown. They had done it! Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Magento, all were perfectly cast and just what we'd imagined. A small scale picture compared to what would come later, X-Men was still packed with ambition and great ideas, holding up all these years later. Still one of my favorites in the series, with action set-pieces that continue to thrill, it kicked off what would turn out to be, almost 20 years later, a most entertaining and thought provoking series.
- Matt Curione
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Aside from my personal nostalgia for the original, Days of Future Past is my favorite of the mainline X-Men films. I can still remember getting the trade of this story from the library when I was a kid, having loved the two episode adaptation on the 90s animated series. With the X-Men movies in full swing since 2000, I'd always hoped the brass at Fox would adapt it into a live-action feature. Luckily in 2014, they did, and it turned out to be one of the best in the series, and one of the better comic book movies of the decade.
It's awesome seeing both eras of X-Men interacting and teaming up to save the world from a bleak future, and making Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine the glue that holds the two X-Men series together was a smart move. I've always joked that Wolverine's only real superpower is popularity, but it works here, as with a lesser character the story just wouldn't work. With great action, especially an insane final act including Magneto, a team of Sentinels, and a levitating stadium, Days of Future Past has the most ambition of the series, especially when it comes to displaying these mutants’ powers. A smart sequel that ties everything together, and with the help of time travel fixes some glaring problems with the timeline, it's as close to a masterpiece as this series is likely to have.
- Matt Curione
4. The Wolverine (2013)
After the baffling failure that was the previous Wolverine stand-alone film, somebody had to step in and set things right for everybody’s favorite adamantium-claw toting superhero. James Mangold did just that. Before he completely broke the mold with Logan, Mangold helmed The Wolverine, which offered a taste of Logan’s darker themes in a more conventional comic book fantasy plot. His healing abilities have seemingly disappeared, and the jaded Wolverine is forced to confront his own mortality in ways he hasn’t in decades, while also fighting off Yakuza in Japan. The film’s biggest set piece, a death-defying fight atop a speeding bullet train, is one of the best to be found in any comic book movie. And while it doesn’t last long, Logan’s relationship with Mariko (Tao Okamoto) is affecting. Although it might not be as vital to comic book film as a whole as Logan is, I’d argue that The Wolverine was essential in getting both the audience and the character ready to be taken to that film’s emotional heights.
- Marcus Irving
3. X2 (2003)
X2, as was the case for several comic book movie sequels in the 2000s, is a case of more of the original. There’s more action, more mutant drama, and higher stakes; the film begins in the White House with an attack on the President in an incredible sequence with Nightcrawler. The film’s climax takes a lot from the ending of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (seriously, it’s like beat-for-beat the same ending), which is why it’s just so impactful, but the pièce de résistance is the Wolverine-going-berserk action set piece. An anti-mutant SWAT team attacks Professor X’s school and of course they made a huge mistake because Wolverine slices and dices each one of them. It has some brutal moments and teases some of the action we’ll see pulled off more gruesomely in Logan. But as with several good X-Men movies, it sets up a potential film that will only eventually disappoint.
- Marcelo Pico
2. X-Men: First Class (2011)
After two major disappointments, fans were waiting for something, anything, to reignite their interest in the X-films. That spark came in the form of Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman who injected some much needed style and personality. First Class made some fantastic casting choices in James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and others for the younger versions of the mutant heroes and villains. Plus, setting the film in the 60s allowed Vaughn and company to bring in some color and a sense of weirdness that had been missing from the series thus far. It started out as a prequel but it was so well-received that it became essentially a soft reboot for the series with these actors taking the reins of the franchise. Effortlessly enjoyable and exciting, First Class is also the closest we’ve ever come to the tone and mood of the comics—and that alone makes it one of the best of the series.
- Sam Van Haren
1. Logan (2017)
Narrowly edging out X-Men: First Class as Talk Film Society’s favorite X-Men movie, Logan proves yet again that going beyond the initial ideas of the franchise, with a director not afraid to make something the least bit bold, you get the potential of making one of the best comic movies ever. Director James Mangold earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing the script, which deals with an aging Logan, who hopes to not only save himself, but Professor X, whose powers are growing more and more uncontrollable, and Laura, a young girl with the same powers as Logan. Mangold not only gives Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and the rest of the cast room to give tip-top performances, but he paints the future-set, near-dystopia film as a Western, with Logan being forced to take on the bad guys one last time against a desert backdrop. Logan puts on the mantle of Wolverine a final time because no one else is up to the task; he’s one of the last true heroes in a mutant-less world. We need heroes, on screen and off, so when we lose one of the best ever, by the film’s final frame, we feel it, and that’s Logan’s biggest accomplishment.