Review: Ranking the X-Men movies

Zack Goodrow, Editor-in-Chief

Over break, I decided to watch every X-Men film and rank them in an extremely subjective fashion. Throughout my binge, I enjoyed this Den of Geeks article by Kayti Burt explaining every confusing plot hole in the several timelines this franchise has created. It’s been extremely enjoyable reviewing and very confusing. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried and I’ve kissed several hours of my life goodbye.

13. “The New Mutants”

Courtesy of 20th Century Studio

The New Mutants” is one of the worst films I’ve ever watched. What makes it worse is the fact that this might be the last movie of a beloved franchise.

The latest addition to the franchise brings an interesting idea: creating a thriller/horror movie with young mutants trying to control their powers. Ideally, this movie should have been on the same level as “The Machinist” and “Fractured.” However, it failed on almost every aspect of storytelling, whether it be character development, script, cinematography and CGI. 

The way this movie was produced is laughable and the idea turned into a shit-storm. It rivals the idea of creating a romantic comedy starring Black Widow and the Hulk or a Tony Stark movie like the “Social Network.” Despite the effort put in by Anya Taylor-Joy, Maisie Williams and Charlie Heaton with an absolutely terrible script, this movie should have never been attempted. 

12. “Dark Phoenix”

Courtesy of IMDb

At this point in the prequel series, I couldn’t get over the fact that the films have spanned 50 years and every actor looks like they haven’t aged a day. Dark Phoenix follows a familiar storyline revolving around Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and her struggle to control her powers. But there’s a moronic and poorly thought-out twist: the presence of aliens. Yeah, it wasn’t good. 

This was done better in “X-Men: The Last Stand” with the original cast and it’s a waste of a film – and also extremely confusing for the timeline – to rehash this story again. Some originality would’ve been appreciated. 

It’s obvious that Bryan Singer–the director of several X-Men films – left during production due to sexual misconduct allegations. With Simon Kinberg at the helm, the movie fell apart. The writing was flawed, plotlines were confusing and added nothing to the movie and several actors like Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult appeared to be over this franchise. This series should have ended with “X-Men: Apocalypse.” 

11. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”

Courtesy of IMDb

I remember enjoying “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” when I was a kid. After watching the movie again, I’ve realized I was a dumb kid. 

Like usual, Hugh Jackman gives an amazing performance as our favorite metal-clawed hero Wolverine. The script and action-focused direction failed Jackman. What was to be the start of an “origins” series, Wolverine’s story was filled with explosions and one-liners. Exploring his past also didn’t add much to the character and officially ended the ambiguity of his character that was prominent in the original series. 

The plot follows a “Kill Bill” story as Logan hunts down his former army buddies and exacts his revenge for William Stryker putting adamantium in his body. Logan’s brother Sabertooth (Liev Schreiber) kills his wife and for some reason the audience is supposed to care about their relationship after three scenes of sappy dialogue and some dumb story about the moon. 

The real tragedy of this movie is what it does to other beloved comic book characters. Sabretooth was portrayed in the first X-Men film, but he’s now played by someone else and no one mentions anything in the 2000 movie about their relationship?  That was really the best they could do with Gambit? John Wraith is portrayed by 

And a new depiction of Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool was remedied seven years later. 

10. “X-Men: Apocalypse”

Courtesy of Marvel

Out of all the X-Men movies, “X-Men: Apocalypse” might be the blandest. It’s a decent film, but it doesn’t really touch on any new issues in the series or develop some of the older themes. 

As usual, the acting and script are all solid. It’s noticeable however that this was the point that the prequel franchise started relying more on CGI and action sequences rather than a compelling plot. 

The film introduces a new villain, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac). He tries to take over the world after being asleep in Egypt for over 5,000 years. En Sabah Nur is supposed to be the ultimate badass and is trying to conquer the planet. Stop me if you’ve heard this plot-line before. 

Overall, the movie is entertaining yet disappointing. Professor X and Magneto argue tirelessly about humans and mutants. Several new students like Jean Grey, Cyclops and Nightcrawler all hone in their powers after first being afraid and uncontrolled. Even a brief cameo by Hugh Jackman in his Weapon X form couldn’t save this movie from mediocrity. This film could have been much more than what it was and it was the beginning of the end for the franchise. 

9. “X-Men: The Last Stand”

Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

This was not the way a trilogy should end. Despite introducing some new themes, political commentary and ethical issues, the film tries to answer these questions with giant explosions, a lot of fighting and superpowers. 

Ironically–because of their storylines – this film was absent from Singer’s direction much like “Dark Phoenix.” Like the newer Star Wars movies, the fact that the final film didn’t have a consistent director made the movie suffer. The storyline in essence would have been great for the finale with Jean Grey becoming Dark Phoenix and not being able to control her powers. However, this film was too fast-paced and action-oriented to deliver. “X-Men: The Last Stand” at least conveyed this plotline much better than “Dark Phoenix.” 

The biggest issue with the third and final film in the original trilogy was the fact that it didn’t live up to its predecessors. The first two films were unlike other superhero movies with their character development and themes. Instead, “X-Men: The Last Stand” is like an Avenger movie with its action and failures.  

8. “The Wolverine”

Courtesy of Wikipedia

 Finally, we’ve reached the point in the franchise where I have little complaints about the films. 

“The Wolverine” sets Logan in Japan and portrays him being less than immortal. As usual, Jackman is brilliant, and this time the rest of the ensemble pulls their weight. Rila Fukushima as Yukio in particular gives an amazingly amusing and heart-warming performance. 

The film also brings a new idea by placing the cast in a new setting and set pieces to visually enjoy. Logan’s motivations are much clearer than in his first standalone film. We feel his pain as he struggles with his immorality, loss of friends like Jean and Charles Xavier, his aging body and new relationship with Mariko Yashida (Tao Okamoto). 

“The Wolverine” is everything that “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” wasn’t and proved that a Wolverine movie was possible to pull off with its acting, plot and more substantial action sequences. The film also paved the way for James Mangold’s next movie in the franchise, “Logan.” 

7. “X-Men: First Class”

Courtesy of IMDb

We all know prequel movies aren’t the best idea–just look at the Star Wars franchise. What makes “X-Men: First Class” work, however, is its cast and script. McAvoy is great as a young Professor X, Lawrence was surprisingly a great cast for Mystique and Fassbender was perfect as the younger version of our favorite metal wielding badass. 

As a prequel movie, “X-Men: First Class” also stands out due to the success of the originals. The first three X-Men movies did an excellent job setting up its characters, themes and philosophies. Rather than take a feature length film to eventually explain why characters feel the way they do, “X-Men: First Class” benefits from the fact that these characters are already so solidified that they can just focus on their interactions and why their original feelings have escalated. 

This is the reason why this movie is an excellent origin story. The pacing of the film is perfect as it follows the world becoming more aware of mutants, Charles starting his school and Charles’ and Eric’s relationship. It also sets up the rest of the series in a perfect way with the film’s ending – even though the later films didn’t deliver. 

6. “Deadpool 2”

Courtesy of IMDb

We all knew that there was going to be a second Deadpool movie after the tremendous success of its predecessor. “Deadpool 2” is a great film, but with the title character, it’s difficult to add more emotion or anything new to the series. 

What was added was a more in-depth plot with its action sequences and characters. Deadpool stays exactly the same: un-killable, comedic and just a badass. Reynolds stays great, but the additions to the cast is what really makes this movie standout. 

Josh Brolin as Cable and Zazie Beetz as Domino are brilliant. As usual, Brolin plays an excellent bad guy and even has some great comedic lines. Beetz is a great addition to the cast as a young woman whose power is being lucky. (Is that a power, though?) These two combined with Reynolds makes this film standout in a way that not many sequels do. 

I still think the original Deadpool movie is better. The ideas are largely the same and it’s extremely difficult for a sequel to be better than the original. While “Deadpool” may be higher on this list, “Deadpool 2” isn’t far behind it as it’s still one of the best movies in the X-Men franchise. 

5. “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Courtesy of IMDb

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” reminds me of “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” The idea for the second X-Men movie in the prequel series is unique: let’s take the prequel cast and combine them with the original crew. To do this the series relies on time-travel – not the most original idea, but it holds up, I suppose. 

The best part about the idea isn’t just the combination of the cast, but instead where it lies in the plot. Unlike the newest addition in the Spider-Man series, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” relies on the mutant and human issues to drive it’s story.

At this point in the franchise, Magneto’s and Charles’ arguing was getting stale. In this film however, things are heightened when characters realize what their actions will truly mean in the past while their future-selves fight for survival. 

This is evident in Charles’ and Eric’s relationship. In the past, their friendship is shown even as they continue to differ in their ideals and actions. In the future, it’s excellent to see these characters understand the roles they’ve played and how they’ve both not only failed each other, but that both of their ideologies were flawed. 

Like most of the X-Men films, there’s fantastic acting and action. Every actor from Fassbender to McKellen, from McAvoy to Stewart and from Jackman to Lawrence is fantastic. The intersections between these characters are also brilliant. As a standalone film, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is one of the most enjoyable. 

The only real issue I have with this entry is what it did for the entire franchise. This film opened the idea to add another timeline to the series – or is it three or four timelines, who knows? This was the point in the series when I stopped believing the later films were even connected to the original and just decided that each movie was just a product of its own and not added to the larger X-Men collective. 

4. “X-Men”

Courtesy of IMDb

The first X-Men movie is still a pleasure to watch today. Even though it’s over 20-years-old, the film is still entertaining and action sequences still stand for today’s standards. After watching it again, I can say it’s still an excellent movie and it’s a blueprint for superhero movies today. 

“X-Men” expertly sets this story from the pages in a comic book to the big screen. It also frames the trilogy perfectly with Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto’s (Ian McKellen) philosophical differences, Logan’s memory loss and struggle to find out who he is and the issues with humanity dealing with super-powered mutants. 

The cast is also superb with Jackman, Stewart, McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. With its acting, large yet realized plot and unique action scenes, “X-Men” paved the way for modern hero movies and started one of the top grossing franchises to date. 

3. “X2”

Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

“X2” is everything you want from a sequel. The scale was raised. The action was tighter and grittier. The stakes were higher. The team-ups and new characters were abundant. 

In “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” fashion, “X2” has a darker plot. Stryker (Brian Cox) is targeting Professor X’s school and eventually kidnaps the majority of his students. A group of teens escape with Logan and eventually the crew unites with Magneto and Mystique to get their students back and destroy Stryker’s military compound. 

The best feature of “X2” is what several sequels struggle with. “X2” thickens it’s themes and messages while also introducing new characters and ideas in an extremely tight script. The human and mutant war is obviously brewing and the tension between the mutant factions are evident. The mysteries surrounding Logan are touched on without giving up too much information. Even Jean’s and Logan’s relationship is expanded in a realistic way. 

“X2” pathed the way for sequels like “The Dark Knight” and the rest of the Avengers series. The second movie in the X-Men franchise delivered in almost every single way. 

2. “Deadpool”

Courtesy of IMDb

Deadpool fans finally got what they wanted in 2016. After the atrocity that “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” put on the big screen with its representation of our favorite merc with a mouth, Ryan Reynolds went back to the drawing board to deliver a fan-service feature length film. 

It’s surprising that Reynolds was able to play this role so perfectly – especially after his first attempt as Wade Wilson and of course his first foray into the hero industry in “Green Lantern.” In “Deadpool” however, Reynolds is perfect with his quick one-liners, fourth wall-breaks and swearing-tirades.

Much like “Logan,” “Deadpool” brings to the big screen what several fans wanted: an R-rated blood fest filled with gut-busting moments. For superhero movies as whole, “Deadpool” stands out as the first of its kind. This film proves that a bloody comedy in the genre is profitable and enjoyable – evident by its $783.1 million gross. In terms of the X-Men franchise, “Deadpool” ranks as one of the best for its action, script, acting and authenticity to its comic book counterpart. 

1. “Logan”

Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

“Logan” is not only the best X-Men movie in the franchise, but possibly the best superhero movie ever. Jackson, Stewart and new-comer Dafne Keen are stellar in their roles. The plot is rough, realistic and bloody. 

The best part of the film surrounds the fact that Logan isn’t what he once was. After Charles has a seizure and kills several of the X-Men crew, Logan is now tasked with taking care of his old mentor. Now an alcoholic, aging and depressed man, Logan has lost all touch with the world and even with his own emotions. This changes when he finds Laura (Keen) and must help this young mutant find her companions and lead her to safety. 

The way Jackman portrays his role is perfect. Watching every bullet, punch and stabbing that Logan endures is gut-wrenching as Wolverine can’t heal at the same rate. This realistic story with tighter fights – although there are some epic sequences – fits the film perfectly. This was exactly what X-Men fans and Jackson were looking for in this movie: A story around Logan where he’s not as much of a hero but just a man. “Logan” is the best entry in this franchise and is one of the best Marvel movies there is.