The X-Men franchise has seen incredible highs and lows over the last 16 years, since it blazed a new trail for superhero movies in 2000. From Bryan Singer’s first two films, to Brett Ratner’s abysmal entry, to spinoffs and new casts, X-Men has always been somewhat of a stepchild when it comes to the genre. Ahead of X-Men: Apocalypse this weekend, let’s look back at the seven entries (including those Wolverine flicks. Not including Deadpool) and see how they stack up:
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Following the commercial success of the original trilogy, a spinoff of the X-Men’s most compelling character, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, made perfect sense. Unfortunately, the movie itself made little to no sense, and was a mess of misused characters and aimless storytelling. And it’s definitely the worst portrayal of Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool we’ve had thus far…
6. X-Men: The Last Stand – Brett Ratner’s failed entry into the original trilogy sure felt like the last stand at the time. With a profound lack of awareness of his characters, Ratner’s film transfers from a weird CGI opening scene into a series of empty-headed action scenes and the very definition of more is less.
5. X-Men – The debut of the franchise still didn’t quite have its legs beneath it. Singer’s first film is morose and dreary, almost to a fault, but it nevertheless introduces us to the franchise’s most interesting characters. It was the breakout role for Hugh Jackman, perhaps the most perfect fit for a comic book character this side of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man.
4. The Wolverine – After the first Wolverine spinoff, it seemed the branch to the franchise may have died before it could even begin. However, the second installment was superior in just about every way. Taking Logan to Japan, a staple in his 80s comic adventures, and benefiting from lowered expectations, James Mangold’s film succeeded in giving our hero something worth fighting for.
3. X-Men: First Class – Matthew Vaughn’s reset was certainly a breath of fresh air for the characters, taking us back to the tumultuous 60s where the characters began. The Cold War setting was fully realized and richly textured, and casting Michael Fassbender as Magneto was a definite coup.
2. X2: X-Men United – By the time the second Singer film came around, the director was more confident, the budget was bigger, and the actors more comfortable in their roles. The sociological implications of these mutants on earth took center stage, which was a key element in the comics and what made them so indelible for fans, and the inclusion of Nightcrawler was pretty sweet to boot.
1. X-Men: Days of Future Past – Clunky title aside, this most recent entry saw the return of Singer to the franchise, and completely understood the misfit elements of these characters. On top of that, the 70s setting and the time travel all worked in perfect harmony, creating an expansive and complicated morality play amid some terrific action set pieces.