With Dark Phoenix now released in theatres, the X-Men Movie Franchise has wrapped up after nineteen years.
So, with that in mind, it is time to look back at some of the most memorable moments in the past nineteen years of Mutant mania. Memorable for good reasons…or bad reasons – all will be X-ed off the list.
This will be a chronological look at the franchise in terms of cinematic release as opposed to in-canon timeline as any fan can admit that the continuity within the franchise is one of its biggest headscratchers.
- Erik at Auschwitz
The first ever scene in the first X-Men depicted a young Erik Lehnsherr and his parents during World War II entering the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
Erik is then separated from his parents in a rather harrowing scene which seemingly is also the first display of Erik’s powers over magnetism as he attempts to tear the iron gates down that are keeping him apart from his mother.
Being detained by a Nazi soldier, Erik is left knocked out in a mud puddle in the pouring rain.
The scene is later expanded upon in X-Men: First Class which adds more context to the torture Erik suffered during his formative years.
- Enter the Wolverine
After running away from Mississippi when her powers manifest putting her boyfriend in a coma, Rogue ends up in Laughlin City, Canada where she witnesses a cage match featuring her future friend and father figure Wolverine.
At this point, Wolverine is an amnesic animalistic brawler who has become a cage fighting champion for money. His adamantium skeleton and superhuman senses make him unbeatable and, after his opponent realizes he is a Mutant and demands his winnings, Wolverine lets him know exactly who he’s dealing with, with small help from Rogue.
Once his employer realizes he is in fact a Mutant, Wolverine is held at gunpoint but easily slices through the rifle and simply walks away.
This introduction to one of the X-Men’s most notable characters was simple yet action-packed with barely any dialogue required.
- Nightcrawler Attacks the White House
In the opening scene to the X-Men sequel, newcomer Nightcrawler is seen in-disguise as a tourist in the White House. But once he reveals his devilish features all hell breaks loose.
Despite not being fully shown until towards the end of the battle, the use of camera angles and special effects depict Nightcrawler slipping by the security and detaining those who are in his way. Flashes of dark blue smoke fill the corridors as the security try, in vain, to incapacitate the Mutant.
In the first full shot of the teleporting Nightcrawler, he appears in the oval office giving his best martial arts to defeat every secret service agent before reaching the President, raising a knife ready to strike before finally being shot and disappearing.
Alan Cumming gives a fantastic introduction to Nightcrawler in this scene, despite not having any dialogue, he demonstrates why the religious pacifist is such a fan-favourite character.
- Magneto’s Prison Break
From the end of X-Men, Magneto has been detained in a plastic prison cell on accessible via plastic retracting tube. On the outside, Mystique sees to it that her boss is freed by injecting iron into one of the security guards after seducing him.
When visiting Magneto for an inspection, the Master of Magnetism senses the high level of iron in the guard’s blood and proceeds to extract it killing him instantly.
Turning the iron ore into a plate for which he levitates across the chasm on, Magneto uses the other iron pieces as projectile weapons to break out of the cell and presumably murder his captors.
This scene was called back to during X-Men: Days of Future Past when Fassbender’s Magneto uses two metallic balls to incapacitate security who is guarding his helmet.
- Bobby Comes Out to His Parents
Mutants have often been considered a metaphor and personification for “the other” – and often persecuted. Around the time of X2’s release, this discrimination was also was used as a pointed metaphor for LGBTQ youths coming out of the closet.
This makes the rather touching scene of young X-Man, Bobby Drake aka Iceman, revealing he is a Mutant to his family that much more layered as the terms and language used during the scene can also be associated with a sexual coming-out of sorts.
The reaction could also be described as a somewhat typical response both to Mutantism and homosexuality at the time of the movie (early 2000s), Bobby’s family essentially turns on him, or at least his brother does, and Bobby is forced to leave his family, never with another mention of them or their relationship again.
To this day, sixteen years later, the question Bobby’s mother asks her son of “Have you ever tried not being a Mutant?” still echoes that feeling of a coming-out scene and debate where you have less-educated people believing homosexuality, and here mutation, is a choice, not a way of life.
- Wolverine vs. Lady Deathstrike
So, while this isn’t the classic conflict of former lovers that they are in the comics. Wolverine facing off against his former employer’s current bodyguard Lady Deathstrike is still a must-see in X2.
While not a cyborg in the movie version and simply an augmented Mutant, Deathstrike shows her formidable side against the brawler Wolverine as she bests him a couple of times during the fight.
From the beginning of the battle when Deathstrike reveals her adamantium finger claws pushing Wolverine to exclaim his disbelief in the best way possible, the fight is well choreographed & very intense at times, and makes interesting use of the Weapon X Facility.
Ending in a rather gruesome way, Wolverine injects smelted adamantium into Deathstrike forcing her organs to suffocate. The fight is one of many highlights in the X-Men sequel that also furthers Wolverine’s character development.
- Magneto Lifts the Golden Gate Bridge
In one of few scenes that can be considered awe-inspiring in the third of the X-Men movies, X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto with his assembled Brotherhood of Mutants seeks to reach the isolated Worthington Labs.
Not able to get his assembly across naturally, Magneto employs the nearby Golden Gate Bridge pulling it from its original position to allow the villains to access Alcatraz Island with ease.
While the act and effects of moving a real-world monument is epic in itself, Magneto’s one line in the scene of “Charles always wanted to build bridges” either made the deed seem like Magneto honoring his fallen friend or besmirching his friend’s name to carry out his plans.
- Last Stand
Almost straight after the Golden Gate Bridge scene, we have the setup of Magneto and his army preparing to carry out an onslaught on Worthington Labs in an effort to kill the Mutant child who is being utilized as a Mutant Cure, but the remaining X-Men arrive as the laboratory’s last line of defence.
This high-energy Mutant battle demonstrates various Mutant powers utilized rather well as Beast bludgeons various unnamed villains, Storm battles comic-book rival Callisto and Iceman faces off against his former friend Pyro.
In one of the most meme-worthy moments in cinema, Kitty outwits the Juggernaut leading him to utter the infamous immortal words “I’m the Juggernaut bitch!”.
Meanwhile, after the pawns have been defeated, Wolverine, Storm, Beast and Colossus team-up against Magneto who is eventually depowered and left for dead as Jean, who has become the Phoenix, resorts to unleashing a fiery hell against anyone in her path.
The scene ends with a distraught Wolverine being forced to murder the woman he loves in order to save the world. While not the most faithful Dark Phoenix adaptation, the scene was still rather put together.
- The Cuban Missile Crisis
In their first official mission out, Xavier and his newly formed X-Men attempt to thwart the villainous Hellfire Club as the villains attempt to start the real-world confrontation that would result in a war.
The X-Men approach Cuba and initially prevent the first onslaught when Xavier telepathically forces a Russian crew-member to fire a missile detouring it from target.
While Magneto boards the Hellfire Club’s submarine, the remaining X-Men battle the Hellfire Club on the beach and by air.
With an impressive display of powers as well as action sequences at play, the pivotal moment in the scene is Erik Lehnsherr finally exacting his revenge against his childhood tormenter Sebastian Shaw in the best way possible, by moving the coin Shaw tried forcing him to move as a child straight through the middle of Shaw’s skull.
The scene ends with Magneto declaring war against the humans and, in an attempt to stop him from murdering innocent soldiers, Xavier is accidentally paralyzed by Magneto which sets the foundation for their friendship going forward.
- Wolverine On The Bullet Train
In a somewhat underwhelming installment to the X-Men franchise, the movie actually takes full advantage of being set in Japan in a rather well put together fight scene with Wolverine against the Yakuza atop a bullet train.
The sequence begins inside the carriages before being taken to the side of the train and finally the top where a less than healthy Wolverine must combine his brute strength and intelligence to defeat the Yakuza members before they can get to their target and his love interest Mariko.
The scene escalates when a series of overhanging signs forces the battle to take a crouched stance as Wolverine comes up with the idea to outwit the Yakuza member by forcing him to believe there is an overhanging sign just before the sign comes up forcing the man to go flying.
Once all the Yakuza have been defeated, Wolverine returns to the carriage and informs his new friend Mariko they need to depart the train.
it’s a very well put together action sequence with no visual powers allowing Wolverine to let it rip, as he does.
- Dystopian Fight for Survival
This was the first time in a while that I felt I was watching a full-blown X-Men battle as in the year 2023, the Free Mutants are seen battling with the robotic Sentinels while Shadowcat works on sending Bishop’s consciousness back in time to warn the team of the past.
They are joined by Xavier, Magneto, Storm and Wolverine who have arrived to work on a way to fix this dystopian future by changing the past. While Shadowcat sends Wolverine’s consciousness back in time, Storm and the other Free Mutants prepare to hold the fort outside in an attempt to buy their allies some time.
The sequences see portal-creator, Blink, assisting teammates Colossus and Bishop as a way of catching the Sentinels by surprise. Magneto joins the fight and disassembles the X-Jet so that Storm can detonate the power core to destroy as many Sentinels as possible and Magneto meets his grizzly end being pierced by a piece of shrapnel as he barricades the doors to the building to further delay the Sentinel onslaught.
The entire scene is a testament to the past fourteen years of X-Men movies which didn’t always deliver on the full-on Mutant battles but more than made up for it in this sequence.
- Time in a Bottle
Evan Peters was the first cinematic portrayal of Quicksilver and he seemed to only appear in these movies for one epic super speed scene, but with the first moment being the slowdown kitchen security agent incapacitation to Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle”, fans were not disappointed.
The scene perfectly showcases how a speedster can be vital to any mission as Quicksilver manages to detour the bullets aimed for his allies as well as mock the security agents in the process.
A similar scene occurs in the sequel X-Men: Apocalypse only this time to “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These) by Eurythmics as Quicksilver races into the X-Mansion to save every Mutant adult, child and animal before the building explodes.
Both scenes are shot rather well and Evan Peters allows his charismatic charm to shine through.
- Changing the Future
In a final confrontation between Xavier, Beast, Wolverine and Magneto, Magneto sends Wolverine hurtling into the ocean chained down by metallic rubble. Meanwhile Mystique, who has impersonated President Nixon, attempts to assassinate both Bolivar Trask and the real president but not before Xavier manages to telepathically get through to her despite being trapped under debris.
With Mystique seeing that her old friend is right, she knocks out Magneto and allows Xavier to take control of him before taking her leave. With no assassination of Bolivar Trask, the future is changed just as Wolverine begins to drown and awakens in an apparent utopian future back at the X-Mansion.
Here, the original trilogy cast of characters such as Beast, Rogue, Cyclops and Jean Grey make surprises returns showing how the future has changed and erased the original trilogy from the new timeline.
Meanwhile, the future of the X-Men movies franchise now resides within the newly revised timeline.
- Deadpool’s Highway Chase
Being originally teased as a flash-forward at the beginning of the movie before returning to the scene in chronological order later in the movie, Ryan Reynolds demonstrates just how well Deadpool can come across when in the right hands.
With an R-Rating, the Merc with a Mouth shoots and slices his way through the onslaught of soldiers searching for the man that did him wrong.
Mocking the soldiers for their intellect while admiring the one for his choice of legwear, as well as giving a bullet countdown of who he kills ending in a rather impressive trick shot of one bullet three skulls, this gore-fest provides a brilliant distillation of what the Deadpool movies offer.
- Weapon X
After William Stryker captures members of the X-Men and detains them at Alkali Lake, new recruits Cyclops, Jean and Nightcrawler are left to free them from the facility.
On their way they enter a room where a supposed caged animal is being kept, before being released and revealing Wolverine complete with classic Weapon X helmet.
The berserker-rage animal slices through Stryker’s forces before being set free by Jean Grey and goes running off into the Rockies. With Cyclops hoping they never see him again…how right he was.
- Jean Unleashes the Phoenix
Before Dark Phoenix even had its title, Jean Grey already demonstrated she had the power of the Phoenix Force inside her during the X-Men’s confrontation with Apocalypse and his Horsemen.
Despite not being in anyway linked to what comes in the following movie, the scene does offer a rather brilliant visual as the fiery Phoenix completely obliterates the First Mutant Apocalypse as well as seemingly restoring the energy of Jean’s comrades.
While it may not have been acquired in the way that die-hard comic book fans would have hoped it was, even the most cynical of fans cannot dispute that Jean unleashing her full power was very impressive.
- X-23 Takes on the Reavers
X-23 has been a long-awaited fan-favourite character from the comics to grace the live-action screen since her animated debut in the 00’s series X-Men: Evolution. Well she finally arrived in 2017’s Logan and actress Dafne Keen definitely brought everything that made the teenage clone of Wolverine such a brilliant character.
In a scene where movie antagonist Donald Pierce and his Reavers surround Wolverine. Professor X and their compound, X-23 is surrounded by several Reavers but after a commotion is heard from the outside, the young clone approaches with a bloody Reaver head in her hands.
She then proceeds to incapacitate all of Pierce’s men with her twin adamantium claws and foot claws exhibiting the exact same rage that a young Wolverine once had.
Being later assisted by her “father” Logan and the two manage to escape with Professor X leaving Pierce and the remainder of his army in the dust.
- Logan’s Death
This was, by a mile, the most emotional scene in the entire X-Men franchise and it was a credit to the movie it was in and the character the franchise built up for seventeen years.
Throughout 2017’s Logan, Wolverine is dying of adamantium poisoning, this comes to a head at the end of the movie in the climactic battle between Transigen with their soldiers Pierce and X-24 (Wolverine’s other clone) against Wolverine, X-23 and the other kids like her in the X-23 Program.
While the X-23 kids detain and incapacitate the Reavers, Wolverine takes an artificial enhancer to finally defeat his clone but not before going full berserker-rage through the forest slicing his way through Transigen soldiers.
In a final confrontation against his clone, Wolverine meets his maker as the younger X-24 manages to get the upper hand with him giving him his death sentence.
Logan dies in his “daughter’s” arms and is buried by the X-23 kids with an X at his gravesite and there is not a dry eye in the house.
Alright, so this isn’t really an outstanding team debut as the introduction of this version of X-Force is treated more as Deadpool’s backup, for all of five minutes.
The sequence begins with an audition scene which introduces the likes of Domino, Shatterstar, and Vanisher. Some random character called Peter is also introduced which cements the fact this isn’t meant to be a comic-accurate moment.
On their first and only mission which begins with a helicopter parachute jump and land on the ground. Almost every single member of the team dies save for Deadpool who’s the star and Domino who is “lucky”.
The biggest shock and greatest cameo in this sequence however is the identity of the Vanisher who is never seen until he dies colliding into some power lines and his body is revealed to be none other than Brad Pitt. It is such a quick moment but such a great laugh.
- Deadpool Through Time
This was simply an entertaining sequence at the end of an entertaining movie. Getting hold of Cable’s time-travelling device, Deadpool has it fixed but rather than returning it to the rightful owner decides to right some wrongs in his personal history, the meta-joke here being his isn’t Deadpool but instead actor Ryan Reynolds.
While the first couple of stops may have been beneficial to the character with saving both his lover Vanessa Carlyle and apparent friend Peter from being murdered in the X-Force self-slaughter. The next scene is a reprise of X-Men Origins: Wolverine when that interpretation of Deadpool appears before Wolverine, only to then be shot repeatedly by the present day Deadpool multiple times with Wolverine looking on.
The final two scenes are mostly meta-references with a shot of Ryan Reynolds about to agree to 2011’s Green Lantern but is then shot through the head with the script splattered in blood by Deadpool and, in an extended cut scene, Deadpool arrives in a hospital ward at baby Hitler’s cot…I will leave that open to imagination.
The whole scene screams Deadpool and it is a brilliant way to end a brilliant movie.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is out in theaters now!
What are your favourite X-Men Movie Moments?