The Best There Is At What They Do1 of 14
It’s been nearly a year since Dark Phoenix closed the book on 20th Century Studios (then 20th Century Fox)’s core X-Men movie franchise.
With New Mutants now postponed indefinitely thanks to coronavirus shutting down movie theaters – and many folks looking for entertainment while stuck at home for the same reason – we’re ranking the X-Men movies from best to worst, no punches pulled.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine2 of 14
No surprises here – Hugh Jackman’s first solo outing as Wolverine is widely reviled, with fans calling out its confusing, hole-riddled plot and character portrayals that were completely divested from their comic book origins.
It’s hard to find much positive to say about the film, however it did cement Jackman as a leading man, with enough presence and charisma to carry even a mostly irredeemable movie on his broad shoulders.
And given Deadpool 2's stinger scene, it's safe to say most of the continuity issues this movie made on the franchise has been cleaned up.
Dark Phoenix3 of 14
It's rare a filmmaker gets a second shot to tell a story, but for X-Men: The Last Stand co-writer Simon Kinberg, his directorial debut Dark Phoenix represented a chance for Kinberg to do the titular story justice.
Unfortunately, Kinberg and Fox's second at bat bringing the X-Men's most iconic tale to the screen also struck out, whiffing both at the box office and with critics - Kinberg even took the blame for the film's bomb.
Mean-spirited, dark, disjointed, and lacking in both story logic and character development, Dark Phoenix feels like fan-service for those who enjoy the worst parts of the X-Men movies.
X-Men: The Last Stand4 of 14
X-Men: The Last Stand is widely regarded as a sub-par movie (58% on the Tomatometer, for instance) sub-par movie made worse by being the follow-up to one of the most loved films in the X-Men franchise. Director Brett Ratner took over for Bryan Singer in the director’s chair for the film, and though it picked up threads from X2, Ratner’s vision didn’t mesh well with the previous direction of the franchise.
X3 may be the pinnacle of the film franchise’s notorious story inconsistency, with threads pulled, dropped, and abandoned time and time again throughout the film. Coupled with hacky bits more concerned with visual flair and instantly dated gags than character growth, X3 nearly put a nail in the X-Men’s coffin.
X-Men: Apocalypse5 of 14
X-Men: Apocalypse has a lot going for it, despite being a bit of a dud overall. The younger, recast core X-Men team shared winning chemistry, and the script channeled the X-Men’s mid-90s golden years (for better and worse), delivering a film that was far more recognizable to longtime X-Men fans than many previous entries in the series.
However, the story dragged in many places, and leapt too far in others. And a long interlude featuring Wolverine – which admittedly delivered the character’s berserker intensity fans have longed to see onscreen – took too much away from the newer cast and the overall plot. Apocalypse also further muddied certain aspects of the movie timeline and continuity – but that’s a typical ailment of many X-Men films.
The Wolverine6 of 14
Even though it fell part by the movie’s end, The Wolverine was a big step in the right direction for Hugh Jackman’s solo career as the Canadian mutant. Drawing heavily on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s 1980s Wolverine series, The Wolverine brought Logan to Japan and pitted him against enemies like Viper and the Silver Samurai – so, you know, classic Wolverine stuff.
The Wolverine also contained the best Wolverine action choreography in the X-Men films yet, with Logan tearing his way through gangsters, ninjas, and even giant robots. Had it gone just a bit farther with its set-pieces, or had a climax that fared a little better, The Wolverine could have easily made it higher on this list.
X-Men7 of 14
X-Men can be considered the starting point of the current superhero movie boom. After Blade proved that comic book franchises could still break new ground and reach a mass audience, X-Men proved that superhero movies didn’t have to be bound to the campy elements that dominated the genre in the years leading up to the film.
Though it strayed from its comic book roots, and parts of it feel dated now, X-Men remains one of the standards of superhero films. From its spot-on casting and winning script to its sleek visuals, X-Men set the stage for the films that came after.
Deadpool 28 of 14
A sequel to a hit film has a lot to live up to; a sequel to a surprise, genre-redefining hit film has even more to measure up to. So what did a film like Deadpool 2 do? Do what worked before, and just do more of it.
Deadpool 2 didn't have as many surprises as the original, but it did keep bringing what greenlit it for a sequel originally: more tongue-in-cheek humor, some biting deep cuts at comics continuity, and Ryan Reynolds as star/co-writer/producer chewing into everything around him acting and re-acting to the film as it goes over.
X-Men: First Class9 of 14
X-Men: First Class is an odd entry in the main X-Men canon. Though it wasn’t quite a reboot, it did aim to refocus a franchise that had become unmoored thanks to a sequel and spin-off that underperformed back-to-back. With director Matthew Vaughan’s stylish eye, and the unassailable chemistry of stars Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, First Class seemed like a new beginning for the franchise, until director Bryan Singer returned for X-Men: Days of Future Past and brought the franchise back in line with his own vision.
Still, without First Class, some of the best parts of the more recent X-Men films would not have been possible, including the star-studded cast and story elements more closely influenced by comic books. Despite feeling a bit out of place in the overall X-Men movie canon, it remains a fan favorite.
Logan10 of 14
After two admittedly improving but lackluster solo efforts, the X-Men franchise's top dog Wolverine finally got his due with Logan - one of Fox's best X-Men films and actor Hugh Jackman's swansong in the role.
Eschewing most of its traditional superhero elements, the R-rated Logan instead offered up a kind of dystopian western in which Logan goes up against mutant hunters to save the life of X-23 - his own genetic duplicate.
Gritty and gut-wrenching but also heartfelt and sincere, Logan turns the X-Men's greatest hero into one of the franchise's greatest triumphs.
X211 of 14
For many fans, X2 is still a high point of the franchise. After the first X-Men established the premise of the team’s film world, X2 went deeper into the X-Men mythos and truly capitalized not just on director Bryan Singer’s developing understanding of mutant-driven action, but on the soap opera elements that have been a hallmark of the X-Men’s long history.
Not only that, X2 dug deep into X-Men comic book lore, adapting elements of the stories “God Loves, Man Kills” and “The Dark Phoenix Saga” for a film that left many viewers hungry for X2’s ill-fated follow-up.
Deadpool12 of 14
Despite having arguably the loosest ties to the larger X-Men film franchise, Deadpool is one of the most successful and beloved entries in the series. A true labor of love for star Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool took nearly a decade to make it to the screen, but when it finally did, it paid dividends.
With a story just deep enough to allow Reynolds’ Wade Wilson to chew through bullets, bad guys, and scenery alike, tightly focused action, and a wicked sense of humor, Deadpool had everything fans of the character and of the franchise could want.
X-Men: Days of Future Past13 of 14
Despite batting clean-up on some of the franchise's continuity boondoggles, Days of Future Past delivered not just some of the best action of the series, but arguably the most intense character moments.
Bridging the gap between the soft-reboot of X-Men: First Class and director Bryan Singer’s previous X-Men films, Days of Future Past struck a perfect balance between the team’s film continuity and the comic books they originated from. Led by powerhouse performances from Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Patrick Stewart, Days of Future Past set up a promising future for the core X-Men films that Fox is still capitalizing on.
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