No film in recent memory has had a harder time finding its way onto our screens than New Mutants. Fox’s final film set in the X-men universe has, to my knowledge, been pushed back 3 times. Here’s to hoping Disney will put it out of its misery and just release it on Hulu or Disney+ sometime soon. As it was set to release on April 3rd, I decided to rewatch all of the X-men films in anticipation. The timeline may be more convoluted than The Terminator, however there are some truly great performances and films in the X-men franchise; there are also its fair share of laughably bad films. So the X-men films are perfect for a ranking. If you decide to do a franchise rewatch, you can skip these first 3 and not miss anything important.
12. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
This film should have never been made. It was a bad idea from the start. The Wolverine character works better with a hint of mystery and ambiguity to him. To be fair, Hugh Jackman is decent here. He does the best he can with this script. The opening montage of Logan and Victor fighting in every American war is better than the actual film we got. The positives stop there. I could write an entire article here on what went wrong here and why this was a bad idea. However, I don’t have time for that, and you probably wouldn’t read a 2,000+ word article about an 11-year-old movie that everyone wants to forget. So I’m just going to pick on a few of the bad elements. Let’s start with the CGI. This film had a $150 million budget-literally double that of the original X-men film- and was their 4th venture into the realm of mutants, so how in God’s name did the CGI claws in this film turn out so cartoonish. It’s almost as if they didn’t even try. They are particularly bad in the slapstick bathroom scene. They also dedicate an entire subplot to Logan getting his leather jacket. SPOILER ALERT. The film ends, Logan doesn’t have his jacket on, and he now has amnesia. And lastly, what were they thinking with that Deadpool abomination? At least this terrible portrayal of a character started us on the path that would eventually give us Deadpool.
11. X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
Somehow, Fox tried to tell this story twice, and they botched it twice. I personally had this one ranked ahead of the next entry, but neither is particularly good. There’s not much positive to say about this film. Released only months after Captain Marvel, the script required extensive re-writes during production, as the story held too many similarities to the aforementioned MCU film. It was supposed to climax with a battle in space and even had the Skrulls as the original antagonistic alien race. Instead we got a bland and emotionless villain we didn’t really care about. The rewrites, however, did provide us with the excellent action set piece on a train. You also start to notice here that the characters don’t age appropriately in this franchise reboot. This film is set in the mid ‘90s almost 30 years after First Class and almost 10 years after Apocalypse, yet the characters haven’t aged a day. As evidenced by the Dark Phoenix comic book run, there is a compelling story to be told here. It just appears Fox didn’t fully understand the source material, and instead they committed the cardinal sin of film making: they told a boring story.
10. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Unlike the previous 2 entries, there is actually a good bit to like here. The opening act and setup of the Apocalypse character is quite compelling, and Magneto’s story is tragic and sympathetic. There is also an incredible Hugh Jackman/Wolverine extended cameo. However roughly 30 minutes into the film, when Apocalypse touches a TV and says, “learning,” the script becomes very elementary. Apocalypse’s powers are never explained. He can do whatever the plot needs him to do in that given moment. And the character design is laughably bad. Why cast someone as brilliant as Oscar Isaac and have him run around set in Ivan Ooze cosplay? We learned that Olivia Munn has the acting ability of Plank from Ed, Edd ‘n Eddy, and Sophie Turner forgot her emotions in Westeros. Possibly the most laugh-out-loud moment of the film is Bryan Singer’s attempt at meta humor. In an obvious attempt to poke fun at Brett Ratner and The Last Stand, he dooms his own film- the 3rd in the series reboot-with this gem of a joke, “At least we can all agree, the third one is always the worst.”
9. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
While this film isn’t good by any means, it’s not as offensively bad as the previous 3 films on our list. The franchise introduced a new director here, and I’m not entirely sure if the film’s shortcomings are Ratner’s fault or a textbook case of studio interference. This over-stuffed plot should have been 2 films. The mutant cure/Magneto’s brotherhood could be a compelling story, and as previously discussed, there is an epic Dark Phoenix story to be told. Here, as before, they simply dropped the ball. Why does Jean turn evil? The last time we saw her, she appeared to die saving the team. The next time we see her, she shows up and kills love interest. As they try to explore Jean’s backstory through flashback, the film gets off to a bad start when they attempted to de-age Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. While I applaud their attempt, the technology wasn’t ready yet, and the CGI is jarring. There is also a surprising lack of action in the finale of an action heavy trilogy. While there are worse films in the franchise, this one is the most disappointing, as it should have been the finale we deserved and the bow on top of a great super hero trilogy.
8. The Wolverine (2013)
To be fair, I am positive on all of the remaining films on this list. This is just the weakest of the good/great films in my opinion. Hugh Jackman, as always is great as this character. He was made for this role. And, as we will discuss later with Logan, James Mangold truly understands the character. Taking Wolverine to Japan and depositing him into the samurai culture just works. The story isn’t intimate to the character and the action choreography is some of the best in the franchise. They begin to explore the idea of Logan losing his ability to heal, which makes the character feel more real and less invincible. They didn’t quite stick the landing, as the finale features a decent plot twist and CGI Silver Samurai fight. And while they did drop the ball in the climax, this one is better than it gets credit for and deserves to be revisited. And if you’re going to rewatch this one, I recommend the extended cut.
6. Deadpool 2 (2018)
Ryan Reynold’s second solo outing as the titular Merc with a Mouth, and it’s a fun ride. While it isn’t as fresh as the original, the jokes are non-stop. Josh Brolin appearing as Cable and Thanos in the same calendar year lends itself to a lot of MCU jokes that don’t feel forced. The X-force scenes are fantastic and hilarious with a fun cameo, and they subvert your expectations with the twist. This film isn’t without its flaws, however. The Juggernaut CGI is noticeably bad compared to the rest of the film. The film is probably 15-20 minutes too long. And I have a hard time with the Russell/Firefist character. There is something off-putting about a kid dropping F-bombs every 3 minutes. I can forgive all the shortcomings here though because Ryan Reynolds gave us the single best post credits scene of all time.
6. X-Men (2000)
The film that kicked it all off changed cinema forever. This film set us on the path to expecting more than campy fun from super hero movies, and in some ways, lead us to the MCU. The special effects are 20 years old and still hold up. The race metaphor still feels relevant today. Most of the cast here is excellent however Halle Berry is a bit cheesy and James Marsden is underutilized. Cyclopes has always been a weak spot in the films. They never quite figured out how to write the character. The film isn’t excellent, but in a world that is over-saturated with superhero films, it is easy to forget how good this movie is.
4. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Coming after The Last Stand and Origins, this reboot was much needed. The cast here is excellent. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Kevin Bacon are all excellent. Though Fassbender has a hard time masking his natural Irish accent at times. Setting the film in the 60’s and giving it a spy aesthetic works really well here and is a clever way to reboot the franchise while not alienating what came before it, and it allows the franchise to intertwine with real life events-which I find interesting and well relevant to the story. The pacing can suffer a bit, and the opening scene with Magneto unlocking his powers is a bit cheesy. Overall, this entry is a breath of fresh air for the franchise.
4. X2: X-Men United (2003)
Not all sequels can be better than the original. While this is not Empire Strike Back, T2:Judgement Day, or Aliens, this is an excellent sequel and does a fantastic job building upon the world established in X-men. They explore just enough of Wolverine’s backstory to leave you satisfied yet intrigued. The action is excellent throughout, and possibly the best in the franchise. The opening scene with Nightcrawler’s assault on the White House is jaw dropping. Striker’s attack on the X mansion shows us just how incredible Wolverine can be. And the finale rescue mission/escape from Alkali Lake is thrilling. I did notice an editing mistake where you can catch a brief glimpse of Nightcrawler in the holding cell before he ever teleported into it. However, you can only notice it in HD, and I’m nit-picking to find flaws.
3. Deadpool (2016)
Thank you Origins for your insulting portrayal of the character. Without that, we may never have gotten this Ryan Reynolds passion project. You know from the opening credits that you are in for something special here, and I applaud Fox for allowing the R-rating. This character just doesn’t work in PG-13. Reynolds is hilarious in this role, and it plays to all of his strengths. While the humor can border on elementary levels at times, the jokes are non-stop, and it hits on most, if not all of them. Personally, I’m not a fan of TJ Miller, but he and Reynolds have good chemistry and play well off of each other. It’s also nice to see a comic book movie where the world isn’t at risk. The plot is self-contained, and it works as a revenge film, a comedy, and a hero’s journey. Thankfully Disney has no plans to dissolve this franchise after acquiring the X-men IP.
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Bryan Singer makes his triumphant return as the 2 X-men timelines merge. We are treated to the best of both franchises here and it’s a fun ride. The film opens with a large exposition dump, which can feel a bit forced. I much prefer subtle exposition through visuals, but other than typical time travel confusion that is the only weak points in the film. They found a way to keep the story exciting while somehow keeping Wolverine sidelined from the action. The Quicksilver pentagon scene is a work of art and one of the most memorable moments of the franchise. It is highly entertaining and blast to watch. I like the touch that Magneto was involved in the JFK murder, as real life evidence seems to show that the fatal bullet did curve somehow. The suspense is thrilling, and there is never a dull moment. Thankfully this film retconned The Last Stand and Origins from the timeline, and if they had stopped here, the franchise would have bowed out gracefully.
1. Logan (2017)
While it can be difficult to rank spots 6-2, this is easily the best film in the franchise. Hugh Jackman somehow delivers his best performance as the character after 7 films, 2 cameos and 17 years as Wolverine. It is also Logan’s best character arc in any film. We see him transform from old, calloused and defeated to selfless, caring and at peace. The action is brilliant throughout, and the R rating truly encapsulates the brutality of this story and this character. It’s tragic, it’s heartwarming, it’s brutal, and I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about it. This film is as close to perfect as a comic book film can get. If you haven’t seen it, and you love this character, or you love comic book movies, rent it on Vudu or Amazon tonight. You won’t regret it.
Of course this list isn’t definitive. It’s my list, and you’re allowed to disagree. What are your favorite X-men movies? Let us know in the comment section or on twitter. And be sure to download our app here to follow the ever-changing release schedule for New Mutants.