With the release of “Logan” in theaters this weekend, Hugh Jackman has officially said goodbye to the X-Men universe, and his run as Wolverine will go down in history as one of the most memorable runs by an actor as an iconic character.
In total, Jackman appeared in nine of the 10 X-Men films, with last year’s “Deadpool” being the only exception (much to Ryan Reynolds’ chagrin, I’m sure). Throughout the franchise, Jackman’s unique hairstyle, ripped physique, and dedication to getting the character right always shined through, and it could certainly be argued that without him, the franchise may not have gotten to the point that it has gotten to now.
Now, with Jackman out of the picture, it seems like a great time to reflect upon the movies that his character has helped to create. Which ones were the best? Which ones are better left unwatched?
To answer those questions, here is my ranking of the X-Men universe movies.
X-Men: The Last Stand
This movie regularly gets lampooned, and rightfully so. It’s unwatchable, the battle scenes are completely boring, and the stakes never feel properly amped up for what was supposed to be the potential end of the mutant race.
Naturally, you know a movie is bad when another movie (“X-Men: Days of Future Past”) is specifically designed to erase a story from the continuity of the cinematic universe. With that in mind, “Last Stand” is a very worthy dead-last film.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
A movie with Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds, and freaking Gambit should have been awesome, but the first Wolverine film was anything but. The story wasn’t compelling, and the action sequences, while fun, couldn’t make up for it.
It’s a very good thing that “Deadpool” came out and redeemed Wade Wilson’s character, because if this film was the lone representation of the Merc With a Mouth, then we would be worse off as movie fans.
The first two X-Men movies that featured the power trio of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence were both fantastic, but this one left a lot to be desired. Apocalypse is a huge villain and several of the characters introduced into this movie, including young Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm, will form the backbone of the next generation of the X-Men movie franchise, but even with all of that going for it, this movie felt jumbled, boring, and way, WAY too long.
A lot of folks hate this movie, and there are certainly bad elements to it. The final battle scene is certainly a letdown, but the depiction of Wolverine as mortal, along with certain scenes like the bullet train fight scene, make this one at least watchable in comparison to the bad movies at the bottom of this list.
After the Batman franchise went from edgy to kitsch in the 90’s, there was no telling what to expect with the first X-Men movie, and although this one wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad either. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen both dominated the screen in their turns as Professor Xavier and Magneto, and the quality casting didn’t stop there, as Jackman and Halle Berry were both perfectly fit for their roles in the new universe.
X2: X-Men United
Without a doubt the best film of the original movie trilogy, this movie had a ton going for it. Delving into Logan’s origins was definitely a step in the right direction, and Brian Cox absolutely dominated the screen as William Stryker. The scene with soldiers raiding Xavier’s mansion was masterfully done, and the handling of Jean Grey’s development in the movie was also top-notch.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
It pains me to rank this movie fourth. It was an absolutely fantastic bit of work, as the film perfectly worked with some tough source material to deliver a coherent and riveting film. There aren’t any dead spots in this movie, with highlights like Quicksilver’s grand entrance into the universe and Magneto’s fiendish machinations in the final act bolstering an incredibly strong story. This movie doesn’t put a single foot wrong.
After his treatment in “X-Men Origins,” Wade Wilson was due to get a strong stand-alone movie, and he definitely got it. Reynolds took the part of Deadpool and ran gleefully with it, putting together a gory and hilarious film that hit every note correctly and firmly established the character as one of the best comic book characters put to screen.
This movie is endlessly quotable and rewatchable, and both of those qualities serve it well on this list.
For those that haven’t seen Logan yet, I’ll spare you spoilers, but know this: it is unlike any comic book movie you have ever seen. Writers that have called it the Marvel equivalent to “The Dark Knight” may be overstating its impact on the comic book movie genre, but this movie feels more like a Western than a comic book film, and that tone and style perfectly suits the storyline that they chose.
If this is indeed Hugh Jackman’s last romp as Wolverine (and one has to assume that it is), then it is an absolutely perfect send-off, and he has done right by the character.
X-Men: First Class
If we’re being honest, there is no way that anyone could have possibly assumed that this movie was going to set a new benchmark for comic book movies. Yes, the casting was seemingly divinely inspired, with Lawrence serving as the perfect Mystique and McAvoy and Fassbender serving as a perfect duo, but it would have been impossible to predict just how perfect the whole thing would be.
The training montages with the young mutants learning to harness their powers were flawless. The interactions between Magneto and Xavier, including their first meeting and their first argument over the future relationship between mutants and humans, are stunning. The climactic battle scene, which does an incredible dance between painting Magneto as a madman and someone who is completely justified in his hatred of humans, is the best of the entire X-Men series.
Everything about this movie was flawless, and it provided an incredible hurdle that any X-Men film is going to have a really difficult time clearing in the future.