Ranking the Six Live Action X-Men Films
The Wolverine’s release last week marked the sixth official entry in the on-going live action X-Men movie franchise. Since 2000 this franchise had made hundreds of millions of dollars, released a trilogy, a prequel, and now two solo films starring the greatest X-Men member of all-time – Wolverine. Each movie has its pros and cons, and some fared better with professional critics than others, but overall each of the six movies has been at least average or better.
For the most part fans of the comic book universe that these films are based on have been pleased with the results, but that doesn’t mean that every movie is perfect. Some are definitely better than others, and X-Men geeks are more than willing to share their opinions on what worked, as well as on what completely failed.
With that being said we thought it’d be a great time to rank each of the six X-Men movies that have been released between 2000 and 2013. This list is purely opinion based, and doesn’t reflect outside data from sites such as IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, or the unreliable Wiki-verse. Sales dollars have not been taken into account either. This list is purely based on one geek’s opinion of the live action X-Men films, and each movie has recently been viewed to make the most accurate judgment.
*Please not that this list is from someone versed in the comic book world, but one without detailed knowledge about each character’s past, present, and future. Basically, the list is based on each movie’s entertainment value, and not how well they did at maintaining X-Men canon.
6. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
This film was the first to zero in on a particular character from the X-Men universe, so it made sense to feature Wolverine. Unfortunately, the plot didn’t do this iconic, but troubled hero justice. The opening half does shed some light into his past, and seeing him sprout his bone claws was pretty rad, but the sluggish middle section, and the completely strange Deadpool battle at the end derailed this otherwise sound movie concept.
Origins made Wolverine feel like a wuss, and not the badass soldier without a cause that he is. All he wanted to do is log and chill with his women in some remote shed on the top of a mountain. BORING! Not even an appearance by a strangely depicted Deadpool could save the action, and Wolverine’s penchant for it in Origins.
It had a few solid moments, but overall X-Men Origins: Wolverine is without a doubt one of the worst entries in the X-Men live action film franchise.
5. X-Men: First Class
First Class is the initial entry in the franchise reboot that kicked off in 2011 (probably because of Origins), and it featured a prequel story about how the X-Men came to be. The concept seemed promising, but something about this movie just felt off. The cast is loaded with talent, and Fassbender and McAvoy do a great job fleshing out the young Professor X and Magneto, but they couldn’t save this film from feeling mediocre, and neither could a naked blue Jennifer Lawrence (although she does provide one of the better teen X-Men performances.)
Any scene that involved some sort of character growth in regards to the young X-Men members was told via a montage, so none of the young mutants ever had a chance to fully develop in the eyes of the audience. Outside of the already established characters it’s hard now to even remember what X-Men were featured in the movie itself.
Although, by the time the credits rolled the film did serve its purpose in establishing the X-Men universe for a whole new line of movies, but in the same light it also introduced a myriad of continuity issues (X3’s Jean Grey opening scene for starters), so ultimately it deserves its second to last ranking on our little list.
4. X-Men: The Last Stand
The third entry in the initial run of live action X-Men movies is universally considered the worst of the three X-Men ensemble movies, and the universe is right. The plot features a great story, and one that is core to the X-Men franchise as a whole, but a few scenes and characters help to ruin its intentions.
Many fans took umbrage with that fact that this movie killed off two of the main X-Men, especially Professor X. It’s definitely a shocking scene, and did work for the movie, but it also put the writers in a hole they couldn’t get out of without hitting the reset button. This reset button came in the form of X-Men: First Class, so depending how you feel about that movie, the franchise reset is either a good or bad thing to you.
The bigger issue with Last Stand is its lineup of secondary villains and X-Men. The whole Archangel thread is completely ridiculous, and hardly makes sense in the film outside of tying the cure maker to the mutants. Every scene this winged freak is in just doesn’t work, and they only serve as examples of bad special effects in filmmaking.
The new cast of secondary villains is even more forgettable, and the Juggernaut’s appearance made the movie feel more like a cartoon than a live action film. Without the Dark Phoenix Magneto’s army would’ve been laughed off of Alcatraz Island faster than it took him to bend the Golden Gate Bridge. The villains were laughable, which made them feel like they were scabs replacing the real bad guys and girls who were on strike.
X-Men: Last Stand isn’t as bad as the masses make it out to be, but it does suffer from a few glaring weaknesses, hence its fourth place ranking.
3. The Wolverine
Logan’s latest solo project is actually an entertaining comic book movie that doesn’t feature city busting explosions and alien invasions. This Ronin’s tale of sorts paints Wolverine in a vulnerable light, and offers a look behind the claws that makes this disturbed character come to life like never before. Hugh Jackman easily gives his best performance as Wolverine in this movie, and it has forever cemented him as the real life version of the Marvel character.
The movie does have a few faults, namely its clear lack of blood thanks to a PG-13 rating. The other issue is its slow and deliberate pace, which becomes abundantly clear during the middle section of the film where there’s a 45-minute stretch of no action taking place outside of character dialogue, which just shouldn’t happen in a movie about Wolverine.
The Wolverine’s plot may ultimately be predictable, but by the time it ends it does provide an entertaining tale and experience. Its lack of big budget explosions is appreciative, yet it still packs enough of a punch to make it a solid entry in the X-Men live action movie universe.
Quite frankly this movie could easily have been the number one choice just based on the fact that it kicked off the modern era of Marvel movies. Before 2000 comic book movies in general were not the mega blockbusters they are today. Batman and Superman saw success on the silver screen back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, but no other franchise managed to break through to audiences. That was until Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000. This movie proved that fans would flock to theaters to watch films about their favorite comic book characters, and the floodgate of new comic book movie releases hasn’t been shut off since.
The movie itself is also quite fantastic. It did a great job of introducing the ever-growing cast of X-Men characters, and it helped to define the path that the entire X-Men live action movie franchise would take. It did a great job establishing the key players on both sides of the mutant ball, while also casting a shroud of mystery over the character of Wolverine, who has since gone on to be the poster boy for the X-Men movie franchise.
One could easily say that without X-Men and its successes, there may not have been a comic book movie boom during the early part of the 21st century.
Out of all six X-Men movies, the second is the one that manages to tell the best overall story. Once again Wolverine and his past are at the heart of this film’s plot, and that’s a great thing. His connection to Stryker and Alkali Lake help to set the groundwork for the ultimate struggle in the X-Men series, which is the anti-mutant war. The same underlying theme pops up throughout all six films, but in X2 it’s made abundantly clear that a line has been drawn in the sand between humans and mutants, as well as between mutants themselves.
It’s this line that allows the X-Men to team up with their mortal enemies Magneto and Mystique without it feeling forced for the sake of cinema. Seeing these two warring factions do battle together is a X-Men fans wet dream, and the end result is pure comic book bad guy goodness.
X2 just seemed to hit all of the comic book movie ingredients for success. It featured a great cast of heroes and villains played by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The story is engaging and made sense for the world it’s based on, and it helped to setup the movies that followed it. The action is plentiful, but not Bayhem-like ridiculous. At times it provides emotional connections to fictional characters, which is hard to do in a comic book movie. Finally, and most importantly, it’s just plain fun!
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