Back in 2000, what is now the modern superhero genre didn’t seem possible. “Blade,” about a half-vampire Marvel Comics anti-hero, was the closest audiences had at the time. That changed with “X-Men,” which introduced a franchise that came to a disappointing conclusion over the weekend.
“Dark Phoenix” opened in the US with $US33 million, the lowest opening in the franchise, signalling that audiences might be over Fox’s mutant superheros – until Disney and Marvel introduce them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe that is. With Disney’s acquisition of Fox this year, “Dark Phoenix” is the final Fox X-Men movie, and the franchise’s future is in Disney’s hands.
But even though it’s suffered from a confusing timeline and less-than-impressive entries in recent years, the X-Men series may be the original superhero “cinematic universe,” before the MCU came to be.
Business Insider has ranked all 12 X-Men movies from worst to best, from “X-Men” to “Dark Phoenix.”
Below is every X-Men movie, ranked:
12. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)
A movie so bad it basically destroyed any plans Fox had for future “Origins” spin-offs, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is a monstrosity of a movie that is cluttered with useless characters (will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas shows up for some reason?) and a nonsensical storyline. It also had the audacity to cast Ryan Reynolds in a role he was born to play (Deadpool, before Deadpool was even cool) and sewed his mouth shut. Deadpool’s nickname is “The Merc with a Mouth,” and this movie sews his mouth shut.
11. “X-Men: Apocalypse” (2016)
I don’t know who had the idea to cast a great actor like Oscar Isaac in a role that demanded he be covered in blue make-up the entire movie, but it was a bad idea. Unlike Josh Brolin’s Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War,” Isaac is miscast as the universe-decimating big blue alien. Bryan Singer came back to the “X-Men” franchise in full-force with “Days of Future Past,” so it was disappointing he followed that up with this.
10. “Dark Phoenix”
“Dark Phoenix” puts an end to Fox’s long-running “X-Men” saga with disappointing results. The movie is a certified box-office bomb, and will no doubt be the worst-performing movie of the franchise, both critically and financially. “Dark Phoenix” dedicates its plot to the B-plot of “X-Men: The Last Stand” in the hopes of finally, properly, bringing the famous comic-book storyline, “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” to the screen. But the movie is a snorefest, and a tonal mess. It’s part dramatic character study, part alien invasion, and none of it works. It all leads to a rushed, anti-climactic ending that is an unworthy conclusion to these characters.
9. “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006)
After director Bryan Singer left the third “X-Men” movie to make “Superman Returns” (not the greatest decision in hindsight), Brett Ratner stepped in to direct “X-Men: The Last Stand.” The promise of the superb “X2’s” ending, in which Jean Grey sacrifices herself but a phoenix silhouette hovers over the water as the screen fades to black, meant that the third movie had a lot to live up to. Turns out Ratner was not the guy to answer the call. “The Last Stand” presents a lot of good ideas, but ultimately fails to deliver on the only one that matters: The Dark Phoenix storyline that is an essential part of the X-Men comic books. Instead, it pushes that story to the side in favour of a main plot about a mutant cure, straight out of Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” comic which was popular at the time.
8. “Deadpool” (2016)
I’m of the unpopular opinion that the original “Deadpool” is a tad overrated. The premise is noble: a “deconstruction” of the superhero genre with a self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking anti-hero at its center, whose very existence is to make fun of superhero genre cliches. But while doing so, the movie falls into those same cliches, while not exactly saying anything worthwhile about them. “Deadpool” still has an underwritten female lead, for example, and just because it makes fun of that idea doesn’t change that. Still, I understand the appeal. I really do. “Deadpool” is a tremendously fun movie and, as mentioned, Ryan Reynolds was born to play this character.
7. “The Wolverine” (2013)
Before the brilliant “Logan,” James Mangold first took a stab at the character with “The Wolverine.” Compared to “X-Men Origins,” it’s a huge step in the right direction. But compared to “Logan,” it’s hard to believe it’s directed by the same guy. Mangold’s talents lie in Western-like drama (see “3:10 to Yuma”) so it makes sense that “Logan” seemed more suited for the director. Still, “The Wolverine” is much better than the Wolverine solo movie that preceded it and better than the worst X-Men movies.
6. “Deadpool 2” (2018)
The $US125 million opening weekend of “Deadpool 2” proved that the first movie wasn’t a fluke, and it actually improves on the first in memorable ways (including a shocking and brilliant X-Force joke). I still have similar complaints as I had about the first movie, specifically how it falls into the same cliches that it is trying to make fun of, but it is overall a fun experience. Ryan Reynolds’ passion for the character is obvious, and director David Leitch is the real deal when it comes to action filmmaking.
5. “X-Men” (2000)
A movie so stuck in the time it was made that it’s hard not to love it nearly 20 years later, “X-Men” is the one that started it all. The movie is as awkward as the leather costumes these actors are forced to wear. At one point, Halle Berry’s Storm utters the now-infamous joke, “You know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else.” And then a character named Toad gets struck by lightning. “X-Men” may not hold up as well today, but it’s still a fun, nostalgic trip to revisit that was instrumental in kick-starting the superhero movie phenomenon that has grown into what it is today.
4. “X-Men: First Class” (2011)
Whether “First Class” is a prequel or a reboot matters less than the movie’s appealing period setting and dynamite cast. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy step into the roles of Magneto and Charles Xavier originated by Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, respectively. As a slick 1960s movie, it offers a perspective on the X-Men that audiences hadn’t seen at that point, and it’s brought to life by the unique style of director Matthew Vaughn, who had just come off of another comic-inspired win with “Kick-Arse.”
3. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014)
Bryan Singer returned to the “X-Men” franchise in 2014 with “Days of Future Past,” which adapted one of the best X-Men comic book storylines of all time much better than “The Last Stand” did for The Dark Phoenix Saga. “Days of Future Past” brings together the original cast members and their younger counterparts introduced in “First Class” for a movie that could have gone totally off the rails due to its time-travel storyline. But Singer keeps things focused, and this movie perhaps doesn’t get the credit it deserves for being a worthy superhero crossover event. It’s not as big as “Infinity War” or “Endgame,” but impressive all the same.
2. “X2: X-Men United” (2003)
“X2” holds up a lot better than its predecessor, primarily because director Bryan Singer seemed to have a much better handle on the characters and world he was bringing to life this time around. “X2” is similar to other “better than the original” sequels in that it builds on the mythology introduced in the original in more serious, dramatic ways (“Empire Strikes Back” and “The Dark Knight,” for example). The movie is “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” before that movie even existed, and done much, much better. That doesn’t mean that Wolverine is the only appealing character – Ian McKellen is superb as always as Magneto and Jean Grey’s story arc deserved a heck of a lot better of a resolution in “The Last Stand” – but Wolverine’s rampage through the X-Mansion as Stryker’s forces break in is still one of the best moments in a superhero movie of all time.
1. “Logan” (2017)
You won’t see any Magnetos or time-travel here. “Logan” is a bare-bones X-Men movie, meaning it hardly feels like an X-Men movie. Instead, it’s more of a Western take on Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, who gets the swan song he deserves. Having played the character regularly for nearly two decades and seven movies (not including cameos), Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine is one of the best superhero performances of all time. Director James Mangold knew that, and dedicates every bit of this movie to the emotional and physical toll years of violence has taken on the character. In the process, the audience is taken on an emotional ride of its own. It’s hard to say good-bye to characters we have grown so accustomed to, and it’s nerve-racking to discover how they may leave us. “Logan” doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. Oh, and it’s also the only superhero movie to be nominated for a screenplay Oscar.
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