Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ranking the X-Men Movies

"Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward." - Professor Charles Xavier.

I've finally leapt forward.

What I mean is that after several failed late night attempts, I took the opposite tact, hopped out of the bed early one insomnia riddled morning and watched the entirety of X-Men: Apocalypse. Rather than writing a review on it, I figured I'd just make a list. After all, this marks my completion of all the X-Men films to this point. For this list, I am including all ten movies that exist within the same universe.

10. X-Men: The Last Stand
Back in 2006, it wasn't yet the norm for superhero flicks to run two-and-a-half hours. However, that's precisely what The Last Stand should've been, if not a full three hours. It brings the most famous story line from the X-Men comics, the Dark Phoenix Saga, to the silver screen. On the page it took almost a year to tell its story and provides a rich source for what should be an epic film. Instead, we got a truncated mess of a movie that crams everything into little more than an hour and a half and fails on every level.

9. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Speaking of failing on every level, there's this solo debut of the franchises most popular character, Wolverine. The strange thing, and what saves it from the bottom spot on this list, is that it starts with a brilliant montage showing our hero alongside his brother Victor as they fight in every American war from The Civil War through Vietnam. Everything after this sucks. Way too many characters crammed into a movie that alters the relationship between two characters who seemingly met for the first time in the very first X-Men, Wolverine and Sabretooth. Most egregiously, it completely screws up its depiction of Deadpool. In short, Wolverine's first solo outing was hardly solo and far less than auspicious.

8. X-Men: Apocalypse
Despite the low ranking, this film gives us a solid villain, Apocalypse. He's a worthy opponent for our heroes, posing a very real threat. The issue with the film is that the script has to cheat to make him beatable. The things we know he can do should probably defeat the X-Men handily, but of course, this cannot be the case in a superhero franchise movie. The other issue is it seems to rehash lots of what took place in Days of Future Past. It's not as terrible as some would have you believe, but its definitely in the lower tier for this series.

7. The Wolverine
Wolverine's second solo outing sought to right the wrongs committed by his first, and to a large extent, it did. The Wolverine forgoes the strategy of stuffing as many mutants as possible into every frame and gives us a story which greatly plays up the qualities that make its protagonist so relatable. Despite having incredible physical powers, including the ability to instantly heal his body, he's a fragile, broken man, constantly seeking to mend his soul. Things get a bit too comic-booky at the end with the big, cgi driven finale, but it's still a solid film that gives us a much better story than its predecessor. (My full review)

6. X-Men: First Class
Though the events of X-Men Origins: Wolverine take place before the previous movies in the franchise, this is the first true prequel as it takes us back to the beginning, the formation of the X-men. We also get to see the role they played in the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is the debut of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor Xavier and Magneto, respectively. Most important of all, this is the film where it became clear that the powers that be finally realized that non-stop action and paper thin stories are killing the series. We get a more patient story, better character development, and yes, good action scenes. It may be a bit on the slow side for the whiz-bang crowd that made both the first Wolverine movie and The Last Stand highly profitable, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. (My full review)

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Or, The X-Men Go to Washington. This installment sees Wolverine traveling back in time to stop an assassination that will lead to the creation of the weapons known as The Sentinels. These sentinels will very likely destroy the X-Men. Like in First Class, the continued development of Magneto is a major focal point. Mystique is also a more prominent figure from a human standpoint. Throughout the series, she's been an important player when it comes to the chess match played between Xavier and Magneto, but here we really begin to find out who she is. And it doesn't hurt that this film has two of the franchise's most spectacular sequences, Quicksilver's "Time in a Bottle" and Magneto lifting an entire stadium.

4. X-Men
The original introduces much of the movie going world to the X-Men as a whole, and Wolverine in particular. Despite being the first film in the franchise, it holds up as good as any because it deals with its themes of prejudice and the fight for civil rights in a way tangible to even the dullest of popcorn munchers. With Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen manning the roles of Xavier and Magneto, in that order, this is the first superhero movie to give us the dignity in its main players usually reserved for elderly, noble sidekicks. Along with Blade from two years earlier and Spider-Man two years later, this movie was a major cog in starting the current superhero craze.

3. X2: X-Men United
Until very recently, this was my clear number one when it came to this franchise. Despite its fall from that lofty perch, this is still a fantastic movie. Magneto is still imprisoned after the events of the first film and Wolverine has wandered off in search of the truth about his past. Colonel Stryker shows up and is trying to kill every mutant on Earth. Like the first film, the theme of discrimination is thoroughly explored. This time, that exploration expands beyond race and cultural differences to include sexuality. The stakes feel higher thanks to some narrative chances taken throughout the film and the action is better with Wolverine and some of the younger characters being unshackled. And of course, the opening sequence of Nightcrawler running rough shod through the White House is ridiculously good.

2. Deadpool
The existence of this film completely ignores the events of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, except for when it directly references it. And that's the beauty of Deadpool. It's a completely self-aware superhero movie that acknowledges many of the genre's routine mistakes and even some of its own. It pokes fun at superhero movie tropes left, right, and center and unburdens itself of the task of chasing the biggest box-office profit by going with a hard-R rating instead of a PG-13. The genius of it all is it then gives us those same tropes and makes them work. It gives Deadpool fans the portrayal of the character they had been clamoring for with a pitch perfect performance from Ryan Reynolds in the title role. It's hilarious and brutal. I couldn't ask for anything more. (My full review)

1. Logan
The swan song for Hugh Jackman as Logan, aka Wolverine, is his best turn in the franchise's best movie. On the surface, it finally unleashes the character's violent full potential and earns its R-rating with a bevy of brutal action scenes. That's the easy part. Luckily, the film masters the hard part. Our hero is a weary, decaying man. The person closest to him, Professor Xavier, is also falling apart. The only thing either has to cling to is the other. There is much weight on Logan's shoulders, it is crushing him, and we feel every bit of it. This final entry is not merely about a superhero. It's about a man whose body and spirit are fading rapidly, yet he has one more task for them both. (My full review)

If you're familiar with Sati over at Cinematic Corner, then you know she's gone all in on the Hugh Jackman love fest. Check out a great post she put together this week called "(Probably Endless) List of Things I Love About Logan, Part 1."

More Superhero Goodness...


  1. I can totally agree with your list as my list at the moment is a bit different though I think we can both agree on X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men III: The Last Stand as the 2 worst films of the series. I still haven't seen Logan but I do hope to in the coming months.

    1. Those are easily the worst two movies in the series.

  2. Excellent, excellent ranking! Our #1 is obviously the same but since I'm shallow as hell I so enjoy Origins. It's one of the most ridiculous movies ever made - why the hell Gambit, who wants Sabretooth dead stop Logan from killing him in the scene where he blasts his staff on the street? why does Logan climb on this tall tower to fight Deadpool - but Lord in heaven, the eye candy factor. X2 is terrific and would probably be my number 2...or Days of Future Past. It just connected the both sides of the franchise so well. And McAvoy's performance there is truly mesmerizing. Also it was just such a great fun seeing all those characters together. I'm not optimistic about the upcoming ones - I think Turner is a dreadful Jean Grey and with Hugh retired - excuse me while I'm crying - they don't have their biggest charmer anymore. Those flaws were so noticeable in Apocalypse

    1. Thanks! Origins is completely ridiculous. You gave some very good reasons why. I've no qualms with you having either of those in the #2 slot. I consider everything I have from 6 and up to be excellent. Yeah, I have no clue what they're going to do without Jackman.

  3. Oh and thanks so much for the link! I'm working on part 2 atm and there is no way around it - there will be 3 parts. There's just too much.

    1. You're welcome. Looking forward to the rest of it.

  4. I doubt that I've seen them all and couldn't really tell them apart if I tried. Well done for being able to put this together,.

  5. I think you're about right on here, man. I am one of the few who like Origins: Wolverine better than The Wolverine. Still haven't seen Apocalypse due to all the negativity. I'm gonna hit it up on down the road even further just so I don't have any of the bitter hatred on my mind. X2 over the original is a bold move, and I'm right there with you.

    Great stuff!

    1. Thanks! You are definitely one of the very few with that outlook. Yeah, waiting a bit before tackling Apocalypse is probably a good idea.

  6. Nice rankings here. I've always liked the X-Men series, but Days of Future Past confused the hell out of me. Messed with the timeline in a way I couldn't figure out. Logan is really good film though. Can't wait to watch that one again.

  7. This a great post. Your writing as always is amazing! And as always, we differ on certain points. Definitely think Logan is number 1 but I'd have omitted Deadpool because I think the movie was so cool that it can ditch the X-Men label and go do its own thing. Think First Class was the next best with The Wolverine third. The original X-Men trilogy just didn't do it for me. It was definitely a cog in the process of making superhero movies a craze but I think it was more of the intern getting coffee for the real brains of the movement.

    1. Thanks! Deadpool is definitely the most standalone of the bunch but I'm sure it will become more and more integrated as the franchise goes on. They hinted at as much in that first movie.

      First Class is an outstanding movie, so I wouldn't argue with anyone who wanted to place it that high. I think you're selling the first 2 movies short, but we'll just have to agree to disagree there.

  8. I wasn't crazy about Apocalypse to be honest. On paper, he is one of the most interesting and complex mutants; on film, he was dull and nothing more than just another bad guy who wants to rule the world. But I agree with most of your rankings.