The mutants are coming to the MCU. After the X-Men ‘97 reveal at San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel’s Merry Mutants are the talk of the weekend. During its animation panel, Marvel showed off its return to the beloved 1990s X-Men, and we saw Magneto sporting his 1985 fashion sense.
As exciting as the cartoon promises to be, there is a much bigger picture, and X-Men ‘97 is only one piece of the puzzle. The moment that will set the internet on fire is when Marvel gives us the cast for the MCU X-Men movies. Considering that much of Marvel’s Phase Four entries have been hit or miss with critics and audiences alike, many fans are cautiously optimistic about the mutants’ cinematic future.
With the X-Men’s coming MCU debut on the horizon, let’s embrace the legacy of Fox’s X-Men movies. Today’s rankings are based on an average score from both critical and audience ratings.
13. Dark Phoenix (2019)
There is little to praise about Dark Phoenix. The story of Jean Grey succumbing to the power of the Phoenix Force has been adapted multiple times now. Originally part of Chris Claremont’s late-1970s run on the X-Men comics, it stands as one of the most-loved stories in the title’s history. The first adaptation was in the X-Men: the Animated Series cartoon, and that remains the best take on Dark Phoenix. X-Men: The Last Stand attempted to bring the tale to the big screen, and it mostly fell flat. Then came Dark Phoenix, which makes Last Stand look like an Oscar winner by comparison.
12. The New Mutants (2020)
As for the final movie in the X-Men franchise, Fox went out not with a bang, but a whimper. New Mutants was released after Disney acquired Fox and all its properties, and this one nearly didn’t see the light of day. That may have been preferable. A mess of a story that relied on subpar special effects and cliché storytelling, New Mutants couldn’t decide if it was a superhero movie or a rip off of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors.
11. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Between Last Stand and Wolverine, it seemed that Fox had entered the factory phase of its X-Men movies. Like a soul-crushing assembly line of bad ideas, Fox wanted to churn out as much X-related content as they could and squeeze out every penny from the franchise. Wolverine was meant to be the first in a series of X-Men Origins spinoffs, and there had been word that Magneto would have been the next entry. After seeing the bad special effects and even worse comedy of Wolverine, we’re fortunate this was the both the beginning and end of the Origins series.
10. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
As a longtime X-Men fan, we had such high hopes for Apocalypse. On the heels of one of the X-Men’s best movies, Days of Future Past, and with Bryan Singer behind the camera once again, this seemed like a can’t-miss opportunity. Then we saw the movie, and all hope was lost.
There was so much wrong with Apocalypse. From the uninspired story with more plot convenience than the Multiverse itself to the overuse of actors on cables, this was downright cringey. Great characters like Archangel, Nightcrawler, and Psylocke were wasted in a bad script, but there was no travesty like what was done to Apocalypse. Oscar Issac is a stellar actor; this is one role we’d like to forget. Maybe it was the odd voice he gave En Sabah Nur or possibly it was from Apocalypse looking like a Power Rangers villain, but this was wretched.
9. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
The only thing that got this movie a decent score were the performances. Despite a poor script littered with plot holes, the top-billed cast gave it their all. For their parts, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, and Famke Janssen made the most of things and salvaged what they could. Still, it was a better Dark Phoenix than Dark Phoenix.
9. The Wolverine (2013)
Had the final act been a little less over-the-top-CGI superhero cinema and more personal, this would likely rank toward the top five. Still, James Mangold gave a preview of things to come with a different type of X-Men movie. As is his style of directing, The Wolverine had its subtle, arthouse moments that aren’t seen in superhero movies. The opening sequence portraying Logan in a Japanese POW camp during the Nagasaki atomic bombing remains one of the most engaging scenes in the X-franchise. The biggest complaint was Silver Samurai who could have passed for a remodeled Iron Man villain.
8. X-Men (2000)
At this point in time, for a superhero film that stayed true to its comic roots to earn critical praise was nearly unheard of. Sure, Blade was a hit, but it was less about the comics and more about a combination of horror and action. Before Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film broke box office records, there was the X-Men. The more grounded approach to the comic characters took many viewers by surprise since superhero films from the 1980s and ‘90s were mostly kids’ affairs with campy lines and worse special effects. X-Men truly laid the groundwork for Marvel Studios’ future Hollywood takeover.
7. Deadpool 2 (2018)
Like the vast majority of sequels, Deadpool 2 was entertaining, but it lacked the inspiration and cleverness of the original. The R-rated “Merc with a Mouth” was as filthy and hilarious as ever, and credit has to be given to the perfect Deadpool casting possible in Ryan Reynolds. Staying true to sequel tropes, Deadpool 2 gave fans everything they liked about the previous movie but with more of it. Josh Brolin shined as Cable while Zazie Beetz turned heads as Domino, but the fan favorite was the CGI Juggernaut, who helped us forget the awful version from Last Stand.
6. X2: X-Men United (2003)
Fox knew they had something special in Hugh Jackman. The Australian actor became a star thanks to X-Men, and the sequel put the spotlight directly on Wolverine. Once again, Bryan Singer gave us a superhero film that took its characters and comic roots seriously. Fans and critics appreciated his efforts, and X2 did the unthinkable by outshining its predecessor.
5. Deadpool (2016)
Aside from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the X-films had prided themselves on being more mature than the average superhero movie. They still retained their PG-13 rating, but the plots and performances eased away from the campy side. In 2016, Fox took a gamble on the first R-rated superhero film in the MCU era. The result was magic, and Reynolds proved that his mutant power is being ridiculously charming. The action was high-octane, but the raunchy comedy was perfectly timed in every scene. Try as they might, Kevin Feige and company have yet to match the comedic brilliance of Deadpool.
4. X-Men: First Class (2011)
In some respects, First Class saved the X-Men franchise. Fox had been sitting on two duds after Last Stand and Origins both fell flat with audiences. By 2009, the X-Men had the stench of impending reboot all over them. When First Class was announced, fans were understandably skeptical of what Fox was churning out this time. To the surprise of many, the 1960s setting and great performances from the cast breathed new life into the wilted franchise.
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
After an 11-year absence from the X-universe, Bryan Singer returned to the director’s chair, and he created a masterpiece. While loosely based on the classic X-Men comics story, DOFP merged the characters and events of First Class with the earlier entries in the franchise. Although mostly a serious take not only on mutants but on the issues of discrimination the X-Men embody, it wasn’t without its laughs, mainly provided by Evan Peters’ perfect casting as a teenage Quicksilver.
1. Logan (2017)
All due respect to Black Panther and The Dark Knight, Logan is the single best superhero movie made in the last 20 years. Of course, it’s not actually a superhero movie, per se. This is a mature, emotional look at aging and reconciling with your past. Both Stewart and Jackman were phenomenal and deserved Oscar consideration. James Mangold earned the lion’s share of the credit, and he should have been in the running for Best Director. The biggest travesty is that Logan didn’t get a Best Picture nomination, though it did earn a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.