“X-Men: Days of Future Past” hits theaters on May 23, and you know what that means: it’s time to rank all the “X-Men” movies. And with a series that’s varied so wildly in tone, time period and casts, it’s not an easy task. But hey, maybe our mutant power is ranking movies?
Regardless, having seen “Days of Future Past,” we feel confident in our rankings… So here we go:
7. “X-Men: The Last Stand”
There’s a lot that’s wrong with the Brett Ratner directed third entry in the series, not least of which that it kills off fan-favorite characters and strips others of their powers without rhyme or reason. For comic book fans, it also took not one, but two beloved storylines and cobbled them together without really honoring or referencing the comics they came from.
But beyond that, “X-Men 3″ is just kind of bland in between the bits where it’s provoking fan anger, and that’s a bigger sin from a superhero movie than anything else.
Still, it did give us the pitch-perfect casting of Kelsey Grammer as Hank McCoy/Beast and Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, so you can’t totally write the movie off.
6. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”
Like “The Last Stand,” “Origins” gets a lot of flack from fans for the mess it makes of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) continuity. Memory erasing bullets, anyone? Add in a misuse of another fan-favorite character, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), and a storyline that jumps all over the place — and you get a shlock movie with a giant budget.
Still, the first ten minutes or so setting up the characters and relationships are delightfully fun, and with Hugh Jackman at the center you can’t go totally wrong. It’s not great, but it’s also not nearly as bad as its reputation would have you believe.
The original and the fount from where the modern era of superhero films erupted, Bryan Singer’s original film looks downright dated now. Seeing the rest of the series may have done that, but the effects are a little silly, the characters not as developed as they could be, and the set pieces remarkably small and stiff.
That said, it set the pace for everything that came afterwards and gave us several brilliant performances that have now lasted for decades. It’s a nostalgia piece, but it’s a good one.
4. “The Wolverine”
Before it devolves into a rote round of robot fights and multiple mutants in the final act, “The Wolverine” has ambition to spare. Slow, brooding and brutal, the movie may not quite hit the level of our top three, but at least the filmmakers were going for a look and feel.
Even Jackman has admitted they didn’t get everything right in this movie, but as a trial case for the next movie in the series (at least one more “Wolverine” solo film is in the works), it’s a solid entry.
3. “X2: X-Men United”
For years, “X2″ was the gold standard that superhero films were held to, and for good reason. The sequel ups the action, stakes and angst of the first movie, while delving deeper into the mutant metaphors prevalent throughout the series. From “coming out” as a mutant, to Wolverine struggling with his wild side, this is a movie that delivers visually and emotionally.
That said, like “The Wolverine” the movie has third act problems, with Jackman’s character spending a good portion of the time running down generic hallways and most of the cast running away from a wave. It may not nail the landing, but if “X-Men” showed the world that superheroes could be viable at the movies, “X2″ showed they could have emotional depth, too.
2. “X-Men: Days Of Future Past”
It may take repeat viewings to cement the most recent film’s place in the ranking, but for now we feel pretty confident placing “Days of Future Past” easily in the second spot. It’s epic in scope, incredibly emotional, and with a staggering cast, combines nearly every character from the franchise.
The “X-Men” series hasn’t always been the best with keeping its continuity straight (two Emma Frosts, anyone?), but here it dives right into that area with a time-traveling story that makes sense and works. The action is writ huge, and with new mutants with new powers, spectacularly staged as well.
And did we mention surprisingly emotional at the end? It might be necessary to watch the entire series to feel the full weight, but from the giddily nostalgic opening with Patrick Stewart’s Professor X talking about fate and genetics as the camera zooms through DNA, to the shockingly surprising and exciting ending, “DOFP” makes us excited about the future of the franchise.
1. “X-Men: First Class”
“First Class” is far and away the best “X-Men” movie. Not only does it have a stellar core cast in Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, but director Matthew Vaughan gives the movie style to spare. The ’60s setting makes the movie look and feel unlike any other superhero movie ever made and adds an air of excitement to the proceedings that was sorely lacking in other entries.
Not only that, but the emotional arcs of the characters — in particular Lawrence’s Mystique — are a revelation, the most fully realized of any film in the series.
Add in Kevin Bacon as a legitimately threatening villain and fights that feel like real team battles, and you have an “X-Men” movie for the ages.
Now, you let us know! Which is the best X-Men movie of all time? Agree with our ranking, or disagree? Let us know in the comments!