Now that Dark Phoenix is out in theaters and ending the Fox X-Men film series, it’s time to quickly look back at the franchise and rank the films. This obviously will not include The New Mutants because it is not out yet and frankly, after the way Dark Phoenix did so poorly in the box office, it’s doubtful The New Mutants will ever get released. Expect it to pop up in a streaming service like Hulu and given what is known about the film, it doesn’t seem like it is part of the Fox X-Men films.
It is easy for some superhero film fans to look down upon the Fox X-Men films and they are thrilled that Disney owns the film rights now. But keep in mind that many of these films are bonafide classics that rank among the best superhero films ever made. Also, it goes without saying that starting in 2000, the X-Men films ushered in the modern era of superhero films that were dramatic improvements over what came before.
With that, let’s get to the films and see how they rank.
12. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009):
Oh, boy, not only is this worst X-Men film but among the worst superhero films ever made. How could 20th Century Fox executives botch this one? A film exploring the origins of the most popular X-Man should have been great. Instead, we got bad CG, poor storytelling, limp action, and butchered characters. Exhibit A: Deadpool. His appearance in the film was so awful that it nearly prevented him from ever appearing again on film. At least, Deadpool 2 rectified this film during its post credits!
11. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006):
While the first two X-Men films were expertly guided by director Bryan Singer, this one was not, and it shows. After Singer left the project, Fox ultimately gave the directing job to Hollywood hack, Brett Ratner, who turned in a by-the-numbers superhero film. Not only was it crowded with too many undeveloped, new characters, but the story was all over the place. What could have been a great plot about a mutant cure was rushed. Plus, the famous “Dark Phoenix” story from the Marvel Comics was reduced to a subplot. One would think that when it came to retell the story, Fox would have learned its lesson…
10. Dark Phoenix (2019):
Despite the vitriol from some parts of the Internet, the final Fox X-Men film is not a complete disaster. Rather it is a disappointing adaptation of the classic story that defined the X-Men comic books. It sorely lacked the grand epic scale of the comic book story and came off as pedestrian. It has its moments, such as strong performances from many of the actors, and it covered some interesting ideas such as the hubris of Charles Xavier and Jean Grey’s struggle to control her new powers. However, under the tutelage of a rookie director, Dark Phoenix did not approach the intensity and visual punch demanded by the original story.
9. The Wolverine (2013):
Thankfully the Wolverine films recovered after the disastrous X-Men Origins: Wolverine with this effort that took Logan/Wolverine on a solo adventure in Japan. For the most part, The Wolverine is a well-executed superhero film that focused on the angst felt by the main character as he grappled with his past and the fact that he lost his healing ability. For the first time, Logan is actually vulnerable, which added a much-needed sense of danger during his fight scenes. The film loses some of its magic with its final act that did not match the grounded tone of the rest of The Wolverine.
8. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016):
Bryan Singer is a talented director, but by the time he helmed his fourth X-Men film, it was easy to tell he was checked out. This was evident with the way the chief villain Apocalypse was presented. A larger-than-life presence in the comic books, here Apocalypse is a rather mundane foe with little presence and poor motivation. Still, X-Men: Apocalypse has some spectacular segments such as Quicksilver’s rescue of Xavier’s students and a no-holds-barred final confrontation. During the climatic battle, the X-Men and their opponents get their moment to shine utilizing their unique powers, especially Jean Grey and Charles Xavier.
7. Deadpool 2 (2018):
While not as inventive or as fresh as the first Deadpool, this sequel is still a lot of fun. The Merc with a Mouth returns with even more gross-out gags, outrageous stints, and fourth-wall-breaking madness. This time out, Wade Wilson gets involved in a Terminator-inspired plot to protect a future mutant despot while meeting great, new characters from the comic books. These new characters help expand the madcap world of Deadpool and it would be a shame to completely lose it and Deadpool’s outrageousness now that he is in the House of Mouse.
6. X-Men (2000):
The very first X-Men film may feel a bit dated, especially when it comes to its action, but it still holds up. Most of the major players in the Fox X-Men films make their debut in this film and are immediately captivating. Needless to say, the breakout character of X-Men was Wolverine, well portrayed by Hugh Jackman. Unfortunately, his presence didn’t allow for the development of other X-Men like Cyclops. However, other actors were just as charismatic like Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellan, who both added gravitas. Overall, the film hit the ground running and brought us the modern age of superhero films.
5. Deadpool (2016):
Thankfully, after his debacle of a debut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Merc with a Mouth was given another chance and his mouth back. This was the first time a Fox X-Men film was allowed to have an R rating and it earns it well. Irreverent from the very start with its blood-soaked, but exciting scenes and hysterical opening credits, Deadpool did not hold back in terms of gory action, offensive jokes and banter, and lewd innuendo. Thanks for the success of Deadpool, of course, goes to its star Ryan Reynolds, who helped champion the foul-mouthed anti-hero for years until Fox relented and greenlit this classic dark comedy.
4. X-Men: First Class (2011):
After the poor reception of the previous two films, the Fox X-Men film series needed a course correction. X-Men: First Class provided that with this soft reboot/prequel that showcased the early days of Xavier and his uneasy friendship with Erik Lensherr/Magneto. Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was caused by evil mutants, the film presented fresh incarnations of established characters while introducing new and intriguing ones. Much of the credit for the success of rebooting the film franchise goes to Matthew Vaughn, who sadly never returned to do another film. He brought an invigorating approach to the characters and their situations and revived the series.
3. X2 (2003):
Often called X2: X-Men United, the first X-Men sequel is considered to this day by many as one of the best superhero films. The mutant superhero team are forced to team up with their mutant enemies to a grave threat: a scheme by a bigoted human to kill all mutants. The action kicks it up a notch as seen in various scenes which showcase the full potential of the mutants’ powers. These include Nightcrawler’s stunning attack in the White House and Wolverine unleashing his inner animal to defend Xavier’s young students. The final moments of X2 tantalize and frustrate us with an epic Dark Phoenix followup that never happened.
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014):
The greatest X-Men epic film unites the original and new cast of X-Men in this time-travel classic. Adapting the comic book story, X-Men: Days of Future Past starts in the future where mutants are nearly extinct and an older Wolverine’s consciousness is sent to the past to prevent this apocalyptic future. What follows is a superb time-travel tale set in the 1970s where he meets many of the First Class characters. As this goes on, the remaining mutants in the future have their last stand against the robotic Sentinels that are hunting them. Seeing the old and new cast interacting was such a blast and everyone involved with the film went all out to properly tell this expansive story. Simply put, X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the greatest comic book story adaptations of all time.
1. Logan (2017):
This masterpiece should have been the finale to the Fox X-Men films, because it is the perfect swan song to their saga. Somber, brutal and poignant, Logan follows the last days of the title character as he deals with old age and mortality. With his healing powers fading and striving for a quiet life of retirement, Logan is thrust with a final mission to save mutant children. Reluctant to take up the Wolverine mantle one last time, Logan nevertheless rises to the occasion. Logan is a haunting and heartbreaking film that is part Western, part superhero tale and will leave many in tears. Both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart gave their finest performances and it’s a shame neither of them were nominated for Academy Awards. By that count, Logan should have received a Best Picture nomination because it’s that great and one of the best superhero films ever made.