Disclaimer: As this is a ranking of every X-Men movie, expect light spoilers for X-Men: Dark Phoenix
With the release of Dark Phoenix completing 20th Century Fox’s X-Men Movie Franchise, this is the ranking order of every movie that has gone into the last 19 years of the first major comic-book movie cinematic franchise.
To be clear, this ranking is based on critical, fan and box office responses to the movies as well as their impact on Marvel movies and Mutants in fandom.
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Until recently being considered both critically and commercially the worst of the X-Men movies, X-Men Origin: Wolverine was the first of a side-series of Origin movies to be followed by planned movies such as Magneto, Storm and recently Gambit.
Unfortunately, the movie detailing the origin story of arguably the most popular X-Men character of the time turned out to be a flop that not even Hugh Jackman’s charisma could save.
Introducing long awaited characters such as Gambit, Blob and Deadpool (in name only) to the cinematic universe, X-Men Origins: Wolverine gained some interest from fans before delivering a half-baked version of the Canadian Mutant’s origin complete with disrespectful interpretations of fan-favourite characters and beginning to unravel the, at the time, stable timeline.
The greatest takeaway from the movie is it did inspire one of the greatest comebacks in movies proving that second chances do sometimes work when Ryan Reynolds was inspired to do justice to Deadpool and campaign to give him his own movie to get the character right.
The box office has been where this movie has been treated the best, sitting comfortably in the top of the bottom-range of X-Men movies at $373 million worldwide, which at the time beat the first X-Men released nine years previously by $77 million.
- X-Men: The Last Stand
Before there was X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Simon Kinberg had his first attempt at trying to tell one of the most famous comic-book stories ever told with X-Men: The Last Stand. The only issue is he tried to tell the well-known Dark Phoenix storyline with the lesser known Mutant Cure storyline which only came out in comics two years prior to the movie and was another loose interpretation.
While X2 gave a great Phoenix-style tease, The Last Stand did not deliver on what that tease and instead became a movie about moral choices and split-personalities rather than the cosmic battle that the original Dark Phoenix saga promised.
Brett Ratner takes over as director for this third installment to the X-Men franchise from original helmsman Bryan Singer. Singer’s presence and touch on the movie is missed given how the characters he spent two movies redesigning are treated the poorest in the movie with Mystique being essentially fridged in the first act, one first act death and two fan-favourites supposedly de-powered.
With the movie’s greatest plus being the perfect casting of Kelsey Grammar as fan-favourite Beast, X-Men: The Last Stand delivers decent trilogy ending acting but with confusing character development.
X-Men: The Last Stand, much like X-Men Origins: Wolverine has a surprising box office success rate at $459 million worldwide and remains the highest grossing movie with X-Men in the title domestically in North America.
- Dark Phoenix
A controversial placement I am sure but 2019’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix at least tries to be more faithful to the source material than the bottom two movies on this list.
Released thirteen years after the similarly unpopular X-Men: The Last Stand, Simon Kinberg returns as writer, director and producer to try and redeem himself with a purer Dark Phoenix story.
While he fails to bring forth the seismic cosmic event depicted in the comics and the 90s X-Men: The Animated Series, Dark Phoenix does at least incorporate space, the fact that the Phoenix is a cosmic entity, and even has aliens as villains.
Giving a less than satisfactory end to several fan-favourite X-Men characters, Dark Phoenix does at least manage to give hints of what made the X-Men franchise so popular in its heyday.
There is no excusing several choices made in this movie both story-wise and character-wise, but the early record-breaking Rotten Tomatoes critics score speaks to those decisions.
Bringing an end to 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, Dark Phoenix is best when it stands on its own and not titled as X-Men: Dark Phoenix given the lack of X-Men-related content missing from the movie.
- X-Men: Apocalypse
Similarly but not quite as offensively as Dark Phoenix, X-Men: Apocalypse adapts an infamous comic-book story, this time the rise of the X-Men’s most powerful enemy, but doesn’t quite capture the grandeur or fantastical nature that the title promises.
Being the first official X-Men movie to take place in the revised timeline created from the previous movie, Apocalypse does nothing to differentiate the original trilogy timeline with the newer timeline other than one scene depicting Wolverine’s new history.
The movie also completely redeems two of the X-Men’s best villains in Magneto and Mystique as members or allies of the X-Men, as well as introducing younger versions of original trilogy characters Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Nightcrawler and Angel, with only two of those characters gaining any character development.
While the teases at the end of the movie of Jean Grey seemingly unleashing the Phoenix Force to destroy Apocalypse and the ending shot of the new X-Men team led by Mystique were enough to bring fans back for more, the overall movie led critics to believe it would be them coming back for one last chance of redemption.
The movie still did rather well at the box office earning $543.9 million which put it just higher than X-Men: The Last Stand with $84.5 million. The movie however comes much lower than DC or Disney Marvel that year with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War definitively beating the franchise.
- Deadpool 2
Despite not being as strong a story as the first Deadpool, Deadpool 2 still delivers in what Ryan Reynolds originally delivered with making the Merch with a Mouth a fan-favourite stand-alone character.
Not only are there some brilliant cameos from X-Men: Apocalypse as well as revised original trilogy characters and minor comic-book villains. The movie’s greatest additions are Zazie Beats as a race-bent Domino and Josh Brolin as the time-traveling Cable who becomes the first actor to successfully portray two comic-book characters from the same comic-book universe at the same time in different movies.
While Deadpool 2 isn’t as fresh or edgy as the original, there is a lot to be said about a movie that not only delivers brilliantly in meta-humor throughout but also gives an end-credits scene which becomes so self-meta to an actor’s career that you cannot help but love the actor more for it.
While this list does not include the PG-13 version of the movie entitled Once Upon a Deadpool, the very fact that this movie warranted a cinematic release of this second version to see if Deadpool could work for the Mouse House.
Deadpool 2 is surprisingly the highest-grossing movie in the X-Men franchise, however as it comes in at just under $2 million in front of its predecessor Deadpool it makes this side-series the most profitable of the entire franchise despite not being officially affiliated with the main X-Men team movies.
- The Wolverine
In a complete turnaround from its predecessor, The Wolverine gives a more faithful adaptation of Wolverine’s comic-book history while also giving fans a Middle Eastern action story.
Being the only movie in the entire franchise to be almost completely separate from the main X-Men movies save for one end-credits sequence, The Wolverine is a standout in that the success or failure of the movie rests solely on Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the character he has brought to life for thirteen years at the time.
With little to no Mutants or visual powers on display, this samurai story relies on good acting, great action and stunning visuals. For the price of admission, the movie delivers. As a movie in the X-Men universe, fans were longing for more Mutant action as opposed to samurai action.
Despite bringing in a couple of well-known comic-book X-Men villains to the movie, their reinterpretations failed to impress fans as much as director James Mangold would have hoped.
Even though The Wolverine was a stronger installment to the X-Men franchise than its predecessor X-Men Origins: Wolverine bringing in a respectable $414.8 million, Fox’s 2013 Marvel hit paled in comparison to Disney’s Marvel flunkey Thor: The Dark World.
The movie that started it all both in successful superhero cinematic universes and being the first in the X-Men movie franchise.
Back in the year 2000, comic-book movies were not treated with the respect and the blockbuster appeal that they have today. X-Men was one of the first movies to break that mould and bring a sense of seriousness among the cheesiness and whimsy that comic-book movies have always had.
With an impressive cast line-up including Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart as well as Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman, this movie saw the beginning of their soon to be recognized careers as these iconic characters and would solidify Hugh Jackman as one of the most recognizable superhero roles of all time with his portrayal of Wolverine soon to be accompanied by Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.
Despite some clear deviations from the source material including a lack of individual costumes which allowed fans to settle into the realism that this movie franchise would not be as faithful to the source material as die-hard fans may hope, director Bryan Singer did introduce some innovate deviations that provided popular with fans including a nude and reptilian-style Mystique portrayed by Rebecca Romijn accompanied by the selling point of “blue boobs sell”.
X-Men may unfortunately be the lowest worldwide grossing of the entire franchise, adjusted for ticket prices it does sit just in the top 5 along with the other two installments to the original trilogy and the Deadpool movies.
- X2: X-Men United
Even though the first X-Men showed great promise for the franchise, X2 gave great action and superhero scenes that are still marveled at today. From Nightcrawler’s attack on the White House to Magneto’s Prison Break, Bryan Singer delivers some powerful character moments for some of X-Men’s greatest characters.
With new additions for the movie including acting veteran Brian Cox as the villainous William Stryker and Indie actor Alan Cumming as the incredible Nightcrawler. The second in the X-Men trilogy showcases the new and already established actors further developed in both dramatic and intense scenes.
Being one of the earlier X-Men movies to display Mutant powers at their fullest, the movie has a great balance of visual powers and invisible powers which are all utilized in a way fans would hope for in an X-Men movie.
Having one of the strongest teases at the end of the movie, X2 gives a powerful precursor to what the third X-Men movie could have been in one short scene, as opposed to what the fans ended up with.
X2 did what sequels are supposed to do which is one-up its previous installment, here by $101 million. The movie impresses with action, visuals, character development and romance.
- X-Men: First Class
The movie may not have been a faithful adaptation in bringing in the original X-Men team from the comics, but the team fans got was the team fans needed at the time.
First Class provided a mixed bag of known characters from the original trilogy as well as fan-favourites from the comics to create the foundation of the revamped “First Class trilogy” which helped the likes of Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence become the stars they are today.
What this movie does for setting up the backstory of Xavier and Magneto’s complex friendship, as well as the added development of Mystique being slotted in as the middle-woman between her apparent lover Magneto and foster brother Xavier, made for a captivating dynamic which would become the pillars of the franchise going forward more so than their older selves were in the original trilogy.
There are liberties taken with some of the characters and both critics and fans have accused the movie of “Americanizing” European characters with Irish-born Banshee and Scottish-born Moira MacTaggart being portrayed with American accents as well as the movie either killing or turning the originally heroic African-American characters to the dark side. However, the movie makes up for that in true blue style with some impressive make-up and visual effects work on bringing the younger versions of Beast and Mystique to life.
X-Men: First Class shocking had a poorer box office than X-Men Origins: Wolverine coming in $20 million behind the preceding movie in the franchise. However, fans and critics still praise the movie for breathing new life into the franchise both after the stale ending the original trilogy left as well as the dismal bomb that Wolverine set off.
Deadpool was one of the biggest wild card risks in modern-day superhero movies, in this instance because of the complete desecration made to the character seven years previously in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
However, Ryan Reynolds believed in his character and his vision and campaigned long and hard for a second chance at starting fresh, this second chance fortunately came with a revised timeline curtesy of X-Men: Days of Future Past and fans could not have been happier for the reset.
Deadpool became a surprise Valentine’s holiday success not only being an R-Rated gory action comedy but also a love story between Reynolds’ Merch with a Mouth and leading lady Vanessa Carlyle.
With some clever inclusions of lesser-used X-Men characters such as Colossus and the always fun to say Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Deadpool’s trademark meta-humor made for some fantastic comedic references not only to the state of the X-Men movie timeline but also the studio that houses it.
Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool became the best X-Men pairing since Hugh Jackman and Wolverine that the only one who managed to unseat Deadpool’s top spot as the highest grossing X-Men movie was…Deadpool 2 two years later.
Superhero meets Western in Wolverine’s final outing in 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise and it could not have been a more perfect ending for Hugh Jackman’s iconic character.
Depending on whether or not you believe the movie exists in its own standalone timeline or in a future beyond the X-Men: Days of Future Past epilogue, the movie captures the characters of Wolverine and Professor X and the emotion the respective actors have put in to them over the past seventeen years beautifully.
With the introduction of the Wolverine mini-miss X-23, this movie not only becomes a dramatic action movie, but a surprisingly touching surrogate family adventure, without taking away from the raw and animalistic action sequences provided when tangling with a fully berserk rage Wolverine.
In a movie that provides so many emotional moments it had fans and critics alike gushing in the screenings, Logan provides a finality not only for the X-Men timeline but for Wolverine’s character and solidifies the feeling amongst fans that Wolverine can only be played by Hugh Jackman.
Logan holds strong with a worldwide box office gross of $619 million which makes it the fourth highest grossing worldwide X-Men movie and the highest grossing Wolverine movie.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past
Giving true meaning to the theory that even the greatest movies can be flawed, Days of Future Past brings one of the better-known X-Men stories to life albeit with some in-universe liberties taken.
Despite Shadowcat from the comics being replaced with Wolverine in the movie, the story still fulfills a purpose of bringing together two trilogies of actors into one action-packed and dramatic opus of a movie.
With an epic apocalyptic fight for survival taking place in the dystopian future and a race to change history under a time constraint in the past, the stakes have never been higher for our heroes as Wolverine teams up with the younger versions of his X-Men teammates to save the lives of his future teammates.
With Evan Peters and Peter Dinklage joining the cast, Halle Berry, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page and Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart return to the roles they haven’t portrayed formally for eight years while James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult return to further develop the formative years of their characters.
With Days of Future Past grossing worldwide at $647 million, this 2014 crossover event has become the highest grossing movie in the franchise to have the word X-Men in the title.
What do you guys think of the ranking of the X-Men franchise post-Dark Phoenix?