This weekend, the X-Men franchise will say goodbye to its most iconic character, or at least to the actor that plays him. Logan, the third Wolverine solo movie, stars Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. In honour of this beloved character, we’ve rewatched all the X-Men and Wolverine movies.
There are so far eight movies in the saga: the original X-Men trilogy, the rebooted First Class trilogy, and the two Wolverine solo films. Below is how we rank them from worst to best.
NOTE: Deadpool is not included on this list because it is a standalone film that is different from the X-Men and Wolverine films both in tone and in the way it builds its world through fourth wall breaking. Even though it may take place in the same universe, and makes references to X-Men, it is not an X-Men film.
8. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
What was supposed to be the first in a series of origin stories based on various X-Men characters, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is less a movie and more a series of random scenes filled with confusing narrative choices and butchered comic book mythology. Not only is there no sense of continuity or logic to the plot, but the effects are horrendous. This entire movie looks and feels artificial; a desperate attempt to cram as many mutants into the same scene without establishing any of them as real or likable characters. It feels like a film made during a writer’s strike where there was no finished script, which according to Ryan Reynolds in a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly, is exactly what happened.
7. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
The Last Stand collapses under the weight of too many underwritten mutants, many of which have some of the lamest super powers (a fat mutant that can become skinny?) ever put on screen. Brett Ratner, Hollywood’s go-to director for hire, was brought in at the last minute and it shows. This film is in such a hurry to go from one dumb action sequence to another, it forgets to bring all of its tangeants and subplots to a close. Instead, we’re left with a film riddled with continuity errors and underused characters (including Magneto and Professor X). There are a few good moments in the film, like the scene between Rogue and Logan where she explains to him why she wants the mutant cure, but there aren’t enough of them to salvage this big, loud, and forgettable installment that caps off the original trilogy on an extremely disappointing and unsatisfying note.
6. X-Men (2000)
The first X-Men film looks rather dated by 2017 standards. Its fight sequences are lame, and Magneto’s plan to conquer the world is ridiculous. Yet none of these negatives really overshadow what is a strong, well told story about prejudice, fear, and forced oppression. While Blade proved to Marvel that comic book movies can be hugely profitable ventures, X-Men proved that these types of films can be dealt with in a serious and intelligent manner. Much of this should be accredited to director Bryan Singer. who did a pretty good job in overcoming the many obstacles 20th Century Fox placed in front of him in order to get this movie made.
5. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
It’s rather unfortunate that Days of Future Past went through all the trouble of resetting the X-Men timeline, giving its sequel a clean slate to work with, only to have Apocalypse repeat the same mistakes as The Last Stand. Fortunately, for everything there is hate about X-Men: Apocalypse, there is just as much to love. The film has trouble juggling its cast of way too many characters, but at least most of them have sufficient narrative arcs. Magneto’s story alone will give you genuine feels. Storm, Jean Grey, and Cyclops are portrayed so much better in this film than in the original. The final battle is too CGI heavy, and aside from Oscar Isaac’s amazing performance, Apocalypse is nowhere near as interesting a villain as he could have been. But I give X-Men: Apocalypse a lot of praise for succeeding in the many ambitious risks it takes with its storytelling, even if it stumbles just as much.
4. The Wolverine (2013)
This one gets better and better with each viewing. James Mangold’s first directorial outing on a Wolverine solo movie is an excellent character study that explores Logan’s desire for mortality. Set in Japan and adapting the popular Silver Samurai comic story, this one is certainly of the stronger X-Men films we’ve had so far. Even if the final act betrays much of the grounded, dark tone of the first two thirds, The Wolverine actually delivers on everything we would want a Wolverine movie to be despite many critics and fans, including myself, not realizing it at the time. If possible, seek out the Unrated Unleashed Edition since it is the definitive version of the film. The Wolverine was clearly shot with an R-rating in mind, and while the narrative beats remain the same in the PG-13 theatrical release, the action is way better in the extended version. Ninjas are decapitated, limbs and tendons are hacked off by Logan’s claws, and a last minute bulldozer saves the day with some particularly gory results.
3. X2: X-Men United (2003)
The first X-Men sequel improves upon the original in every way. Upping the stakes, elaborating on many of the unresolved issues brought up from the first film, and showcasing a lot more mutant superpowers in visually spectacular ways, X2 is still loved by many fans today and for good reason. By making things bigger, Bryan Singer did in fact make a better film with a better villain (Brian Cox as Col. Stryker is right up there with his performance as Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter), thereby allowing the the conflicts between humans and mutants to play out in truly thought provoking fashion. For quite a while, X2 set the bar pretty high for comic book sequels to live up to. Even today, it still holds up.
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Days of Future Past had the very difficult task of having to course correct both the original trilogy’s timeline and the rebooted First Class‘ timeline on top of telling a good story. The result was a triumphant return for Bryan Singer to the director’s chair, a welcome finale for the original trilogy, a perfect sequel to First Class, and an all around great film. Despite all the time travel, the big Sentinel army, the huge cast of characters, Wolverine as the main protagonist, Days of Future Past feels like the smallest X-Men movie. This is because the story is centred on a very key theme: hope. And through every character’s struggle – from Professor X to Mystique to Magneto – this theme is shown with so much complexity and emotional depth that Days of Future Past is a perfect example of a big budget effects laden blockbuster never sacrificing its story for spectacle.
1. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Matthew Vaughn is one of the most diverse and most talented directors working today. The vision he brought to First Class makes it the definitive X-Men film we’ve had to date. Setting the film in 1962 during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War, First Class holds up a mirror to the paranoia of the time and the rising awareness of mutants. This creates a politically charged and socially engaging contextualization of the X-Men story that makes it feel all the more real. Kevin Bacon turns Alexander Shaw into the best and most menacing X-Men villain we’ve had to date. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence bring their own sensibilities to familiar characters, allowing us to see them separate from the original trilogy. The action is incredible. The effects are amazing. This film is truly one of the best comic book movies of all time.
What is your favourite X-Men film? Let us know in the Comments!