X-Men Movies Ranked and Reviewed

The X-Men movies have had an interesting path. Going all the way back to the year 2000 this series started the whole superhero craze. Sure, there were other superhero movies that came before it, but this was the first team-up movie, and also, this was the only consistent series that kept on going. Even Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe only lasted for three films. But Fox’s X-Men film series lasted nearly 20 years.

To kick-start this series, Bryan Singer made the first two movies, and they were pretty great. But then he dropped out of the third movie and was replaced by Matthew Vaughn, a wonderful choice. Vaughn is one of the most talented filmmakers around. From Layer Cake to Stardust to Kick Ass to The Kingsmen movies, he knows how to deliver an action movie. And it would have been amazing to see his take on X-Men III. But Vaughn dropped out, and as a last second replacement, Brett Ratner was brought in.

X-Men III had plenty of problems, including the reactions from both fans and critics. The movie featured some pretty lousy computer effects, and had too much going on in terms of story. After that film, the series needed to go in a new direction. It needed a new cast, a new story, and a whole new approach. That led Mathew Vaughn to come back into the fold. Rightfully pissed at what Ratner had done with his X-Men III story,  (Vaughn had done some extensive work on it, before dropping out,) he decided to relaunch the series as a prequel, setting his film in the sixties. The movie was X-Men First Class, and it showed us how Xavier’s school for mutants got its start. This included the formation of the original team, yellow spandex suits and all. It was fantastic.

Vaughn should have kept going. He certainly wanted to. This new take on the series was completely his vision, and he had a trilogy of films all mapped out. Vaughn wrote a treatment for the two other films that would follow First Class. The second one would be about a new Wolverine. And the third one would be X-Men Days of Future Past, combining the new, younger cast from the prequels with the older cast from the original trilogy.

When the studio read the treatment for X-Men Days of Future Past, they said, “this is amazing. We need to make this right now.” And so they bypassed a Wolverine-focused X-Men movie as the follow up to First Class and made Days of Future Past as the second film in their prequel series. That led to Vaughn dropping out, and Bryan Singer coming back to replace him. Talk about a game of musical chairs.


And that’s pretty much the story. Maybe the studio didn’t want to make Vaughn’s Wolverine movie because they were already making a Wolverine trilogy with director James Mangold (The Wolverine and Logan.) Maybe Vaughn’s Wolverine movie would have been more of an X-Men movie as seen through Wolverine’s eyes (kind of like the very first X-Men movie.) It would have had to be Hugh Jackman playing the part, since Jackman did a cameo in First Class, Vaughn’s movie that proceeds this one.

Either way, the studio chose to go the route of Days of Future Past and then Apocalypse with Bryan Singer, instead of a Wolverine X-Men film and then Days of Future Past with Vaughn. And most likely if they had kept Vaughn on board, the movies would have turned out a whole lot better. After all, Vaughn is a superbly and uniquely talented director who hasn’t really made a bad film yet.

And all this led to them making Dark Phoenix. Bryan Singer was out, (sexual misconduct accusations and allegations, not to mention irresponsible behavior as a director on the set of Bohemian Rhapsody,) and Simon Kinberg, the guy who had written most of these movies, but never directed one, was in. The cast was back in. But there was a problem. Disney and Marvel bought Fox Studios, and with Fox Studios came The X-Men. The reason why this was a problem was because Marvel clearly had their eyes set on making their own version of the X-Men. And when the ending to Dark Phoenix became too similar to the ending of Captain Marvel, Disney demanded that the ending of Dark Phoenix be changed and reshot. And, while the final product of the movie isn’t half bad, the thing that people seem to have the most problems with is this new, reshot ending.

Was this a case of Marvel sabotaging the X-Men property so that they could reboot it? Probably not. But it certainly came across that way. And so ends the Fox Studios X-Men movies. Dark Phoenix will most definitely be the last one. It’s been a fun ride, from the breakout of Hugh Jackman through the days of Jennifer Lawrence. And for the next incarnation, one can only guess what Marvel has in store for these characters. Something tells me it won’t be for a while. Marvel will want to put as much distance between themselves and the Fox movies as they can. So a new Fantastic Four movie will almost certainly be first. But when Marvel is good and ready, you can be sure that whatever they do with X-Men, it will be pretty exciting (after all, we’re talking about the studio that is the best in the business, and that can pretty much do no wrong.) Until that time, we’ve got plenty of movies (11 of them,) to look back on. So here it goes. Let’s do some looking back…


The X-Men Movies Ranked


1) X-2: X-Men United  ****


The definitive X-Men experience, this one leaves you wanting more in every way. More Wolverine in beserker mode, more Mystique kicking butt, more of the Jean Grey – Cyclops – Wolverine love triangle, more Lady Death Strike. Everything is done to perfection to the point where you want to see even more of it. The team up story, between the X-Men (good guys) and the Brotherhood (bad guys,) is fantastic. From the opening scene, (this movie begins with the best sequence in the entire X-Men series, as Night Crawler uses teleportation to attack the White House,) it’s no holds barred in terms of both storytelling and action. And it keeps going from there, featuring a very dark villain played by the great Brian Cox, as William Striker. Here’s a character who will appear again and again throughout the series, played by all different actors and incarnations, and Cox did it the best. He got the character started off just right with all the menace one could hope for. The action and look of this film are off the charts. The humor and storytelling are both there.  This one delivers on all fronts, including an ending with real consequences.


2) X-Men   ****


The movie that started it all. This is the movie that established the Professor X – Magneto relationship as a clever take on Martin Luther King – Malcolm X (something that came from the comics and translated nicely to the screen.) It’s also the movie that introduced us to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, one of the greatest casting decisions in superhero history, (the other one being Downey Jr as Iron Man.) The first X-Men movie had a lot to do, including establish the team, the school, and even the team of villains, (The Brotherhood.) It managed to pull all of these off, in large part because it gave us Wolverine’s point of view, following him on a fish out of water journey into the world of mutants. This one might get a little too ambitious towards the end, (did they really need to be fighting on top of the Statue of Liberty?) But for the most part, it’s pretty great.

3) X-Men First Class  ****


The best of the second series of X-Men movies, (the prequels,) this is the Matthew Vaughn movie that saved the series. After X Men III: The Last Stand went off the rails, Vaughn was hired to reign it back in. He certainly did what he was hired to do, breathing new life into this machine. Vaughn had a vision for this film, about setting it in the sixties among real life events (The Cuban Missile Crisis,) that  led to an entire retooling of the series, (it seemed like a reboot at the time, but turned out to be more of a prequel series.) Vaughn’s vision showed us how the entire team got started, as a CIA training mission. It all came together brilliantly. The scenes aren’t as memorable as the two X-Men movies ranked higher on this list, but boy are the ideas good.


4) X-Men Days of Future Past ***1/2


Continuing off of First Class, this movie took it’s characters into the seventies and set it amongst the backdrop of President Nixon, Watergate, and the Vietnam War. But those things were hardly what the movie was about. This one was about time travel with Wolverine in the future (with Patrick Stewart’s Professor X, Halle Berry’s Storm, and any of the original X-Men who made it out of The Last Stand.) Wolverine is sent back in time to the past to meet younger versions of those characters, played by James Macavoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fasbender, and the rest of the cast from First Class. The ideas are pretty good. The execution is just okay. There’s a little too much packed into this one movie, and not enough focus on the action. For example, whatever the climax is, it’s not very memorable (the White House lawn, maybe?) The effect, involving the moving of a stadium, is big and cool, but it’s all CGI and doesn’t quite count as  action or fighting. Plus, the amount that both Jackman and Lawrence are used in this one feels somewhat forced, whereas the other movies were much more ensemble pieces. Somehow, despite having a pretty obvious agenda, most of this ends up working. That’s because this is the film that merges the two X-Men film series’ together, meaning the fans get to see all their beloved characters (played by the original actors,) from the first series meet up with the new incarnations of these characters from the modern series. It definitely works.


5) Deadpool ***1/2



The funniest of the X Men movies..This one took a little seed that was planted in X-Men Origins Wolverine (the worst of the eleven films,) and ran with it in some totally outrageous directions. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool is another one of those great casting decisions. The story, involving how Deadpool became this way, and then his enacting vengeance on the guy who did it to him, is just okay. But the action is good and the humor is terrific. The first R rated movie in the X-Men Universe, this one works in large part because of its simple B movie caliber story. Deadpool’s not out to save the world (like in most superhero movies,) he’s just out to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend and kick some bad guy butt.


6) Logan ***1/2


The other R rated movie in the X-Men universe, Logan is considered to be the finest piece of filmmaking ever to come from this series. As directed by James Mangold, in a dusty future, this is more like an apocalyptic western than a superhero movie. It’s two leads are older men (this is based on a graphic novel called Old Man Logan.) But then there’s a kid they come across (Laura, aka X-23,) who gives them a new purpose and mission. There’s no question, this is a good movie, but the action feels pretty much limited to three major scenes (3 acts,) and the small amount of mutants, compared to what we are used to getting in these films, doesn’t help. The most beautiful and artistic film in the series (apparently there’s a black and white version out there, somewhere,) it just isn’t as action packed, exciting, or colorful as some of the others.


7) X-Men III: The Last Stand ***


Most people consider this to be the worst movie in the series. How else to explain a film that kills off major characters while they are off-screen? The explanation is in the director… Brett Ratner. This guy was never a good filmmaker, although he did get lucky a few times, (mainly with the first two Rush Hour movies.) Here, he’s working off the ideas of Matthew Vaughn, who wrote a lot of this before leaving the project. And some of those ideas, even in Ratner’s hands, actually work. The mutant cure in a weaponized dart is kind of cool. So is the scene of Magneto hijacking a convoy while it’s traveling on a highway. And the climax which first features the moving of the Golden Gate Bridge and later features a fight on Alcatraz Island is pretty cool, just for its locations alone. Not great, and definitely the B movie of the series, this one is still kind of fun.

8.) Dark Phoenix ***

Much better than Apocalypse, (the movie that preceded this one in the series,) there are plenty of cool ideas here, including a space shuttle mission where character use their powers in combination with each other to perform a daring rescue. This movie shows us the version of Magneto’s Brotherhood for the reboot series (finally,) and gives us more villainous mutants.  But the movie goes way too heavy on computer generated effects instead of action fights. Plus, the Jean Grey – Dark Phoenix storyline, (about her being so all powerful that she can’t control it and kills people,) isn’t all that interesting. For one thing, we already got it in X-Men III, and while that movie isn’t very highly regarded, it’s also not as terrible as everyone seems to think. There was no reason to do this story again when they could have easily picked another from the comics, and preferably one that we hadn’t seen before.

9) Deadpool 2 ***


Taking what Deadpool did and adding a whole lot more to it, is this sequel. The first one is the superior film because of its originality, how much it features the love interest (she is thrown to the side here,) and it’s villain. Here, the movie is intent on not following any rules. So we don’t necessarily have a villain, but instead a whole handful of characters who are maybe-villains or sometimes-villains. These include Cable, Juggernaut, and a sadistic headmaster. The humor is great, once again, but the story is a little too all-over-the-place. The best part of this movie is a sequence featuring the assembling and then destroying of a team, called the X Force. If only the team scenes weren’t so short-lived.


10) The Wolverine***


This is the movie that should have been one of the best. Wolverine goes to Japan and fights against Samurai. Only he doesn’t. He never fights them. The movie uses the Japan setting to get as many references in as it can find (the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Yakuza – Japanese gangsters,) but what we want to see is Wolvie fight the samurai or fight ninjas, and we don’t really get either of those things. This movie has an interesting story, about experimentation and the possibility of losing one’s powers. But the lack of mutant characters (a villain named Viper is forced in there just to have one,) and the lack of cool action, certainly don’t do it any favors.


11) X-Men Apocalypse **1/2


This one is a pretty bad movie. The first half is fine, but boy does it fall apart by the end. There are a small handful of positives. Seeing the young, new mutants is kind of fun (new versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm.) And seeing the characters who make up Appocalypse’s four horsemen is also kind of cool, (even if most of them are actually supposed to good guys…Storm, Psylocke, Arc Angel…only Magneto is an actual villain, of the whole bunch.)  But that’s about it. Days of Future Past, (the previous movie in the series,) combined the characters from First Class with the original versions and actors, of these characters from the first X-Men movie series. How do you top that? This movie tries to do it by combining the characters of First Class with new versions of the classic characters from the original films. Characters like Storm, Cyclops, Jen Grey, and even Night Crawler. Just giving us new versions of them, that’s all. It doesn’t work. Especially when the villain, (Apocalypse, played by Oscar Isaac,) is so awful. Apocalypse is supposed to be huge, not the size of a regular man. Maybe the movie could have started by at least getting that one right.


12) X-Men Origins Wolverine **


Boy did this movie go wrong. The mutant team of assassins at the beginning idea is cool, but after that its all downhill. You’ve got Wolverine on a mission to find a secret island while Sabertooth is out there hunting for mutants to murder or imprison. This is the movie that shows how Wolverine got made, but since he already had the claws and regenerating ability (since birth,) it really just means how he got a metal coating on them.  And watching him go from place to place looking for clues about the island (he goes to a boxing ring and fights, just to hear that there’s another guy to see in New Orleans who might know something,) feels like a waste of time. There’s one scene that I always go back to with this one… the moment after the Wolverine metal-process ends.  Wolvie is still underwater, most-likely unconscious. Striker says something bad about mutants. Wolverine jumps up, out of the water, lashing out. Striker assumes Wolverine heard him, and has his men start putting bullets into him. This is immediately after Striker just spent millions of dollars making him. How bout before you start shooting at him, make sure you’re right? Seems like Wolvie angrily popping out of the water, is the natural reaction to waking up from the experiment, and could easily have had nothing to do with Striker’s comment. And considering the whole movie hinges on this scene (it’s literally the moment where Wolverine and Striker go from being friends to enemies,) it’s kind of a big deal. That plus the fact that Wolvies claws represent the worst CGI imaginable, to the point where they look like a cartoon. Seeing that image on screen with live actors and real backgrounds is like something out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Only in that movie the contrast between cartoon and reality was intentional. In this one, it’s the X-Men series at its worst.