As you may have noticed, I have been going through an X-Men film phase of late. With the end of Fox’s era of X-Men films, I decided to go back and watch the entire franchise, reviewing the films I had yet to review on the site along the way. Kicking off with 2000s X-Men and concluding with next year’s New Mutants, and consisting of three spin-off series, the franchise has had its ups and downs over its nearly twenty-year run. Recently, I created the definitive viewing order for all twelve of the currently released X-Men movies. But now, it’s time to look at which movies I liked most in the franchise. Here are my fave five X-Men films.
I can hear you saying “What? Days of Future Past is only number 5??” Yes, but that’s nothing against the film. Days of Future Past is a magnificent film. However, it lacks the heart that most of the other films on this list has. But it does have an abundance of everything else: action, excitement, character development, and Wolverine. This is great to bring all the major characters from the core X-Men films up to that point together and gave the series the much needed reboot it needed (even if the continuity continued to make no sense afterwards). It deserves all of the praise that it has received but it is not the best film in the franchise in my opinion.
Over the last twenty years, the superhero genre has exploded and, dare I say, has become saturated. With the genre becoming congested, new entries need to do something different. Logan did just that. Rather than go the traditional superhero route, James Mangold and company told a western / noir film that happened to feature superheroes. The result was one of the best character studies in the genre. With the success of Deadpool the year prior, Fox elected to make this film R-rated, which enabled Mangold to give us the unleashed Wolverine we have been waiting for since he hit the screens in 2000. Over the years, Hugh Jackman came to embody the character of James Howlett, aka Wolverine, aka Logan, and Logan was the perfect farewell to the character, a sobering film filled with emotion and weight, yet brimming with hope and optimism.
After the conclusion of the X-Men trilogy with X-Men: The Last Stand, spin-off films for Wolverine, Charles Xavier, and Magneto began being talked about. Wolverine’s spin-off became X-Men Origins: Wolverine whereas Xavier’s and Magneto’s became X-Men: First Class. Set in the midst of the cold war between the United states and Russia, First Class shows how the X-Men came to be, breathing a breath of fresh air into the franchise after the critical flop that was The Last Stand. First Class centered around the idea that the X-Men are family, way more than X-Men or X2: X-Men United did. It might not be the flashiest or most exciting entry of the franchise but if offers some of the best character-driven moments of it.
For the longest time, X2: X-Men United was the benchmark the series needed to follow to create a great X-Men movie. It was clear since X-Men that Wolverine would play a prominent role in Fox’s X-Men franchise. X2 puts Wolverine front and center, making his unknown history the focus of the story. But where this film excels is that even though the main plot line focuses on Wolverine, the movie isn’t about him, not entirely anyway. Plenty of time is spent with the younger mutants, showing how the Xavier’s and Magneto’s conflict and general discrimination affects them. The heart in this film has never been captured since (First Class came close). And for that reason, X2 has continued to rank so high for me.
While I’ve talked a lot about heart and emotions so far, Deadpool doesn’t have the same emotional impact as the other films on this list, it was the first to be different. Despite an abominable version of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds never gave up on the character of Deadpool. Thankfully his perseverance paid off and we all won because of it. Like Jackman and Wolverine, Reynolds uniquely epitomized Deadpool. Deadpool is one of my favorite comic book characters so to see him brought to the big screen so perfectly and accuratly brought me great satisfaction. This continues to be a film I can watch over and over again and the jokes never get old or any less funny.
And there you have it! Next year will see the release of New Mutants, the final X-Men film before Marvel Studios brings the characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s doubtful that New Mutants will find its way onto my top five given the caliber of the films on it but who knows, maybe I’ll be surprised!
What are some of your favorite X-Men films? Are you looking forward to a reboot of the characters when the appear in the MCU?
Until next time, cheers!