The ninth film in Fox’s X-Men series has arrived, heralding Apocalypse - a villain like no other the superhero mutant team has faced before.
The 16-year-old series is the longest running superhero franchise, so as the new film hits cinemas we thought we’d rank the films to date, including the three spin-offs and director Bryan Singer’s latest epic.
X-Men 2, or ‘X2: X-Men United’, is the unquestioned pinnacle of the series to date. It made excellent use of the characters set up in Bryan Singer’s 2000 original (though Cyclops remained under-served) and built on every facet of what makes the X-Men series tick in all forms of media.
Supporting players like Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) are better fleshed out (the scene with his parents is a series best) but the real star is Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. As the focal point of the story, this is where he really came into his own as the character - aided no end by Brian Cox’s excellent villain General Stryker.
2) X-Men: Days of Future Past
When you’re seven films deep in a series, film-makers and audiences want to see something a little different, and time travel will certainly shake things up a bit. 'Days of Future Past’ loosely adapts the famed Chris Claremont comic tale, allowing Singer and unite his older 'X-Men’ cast with the younger cast introduced in Matthew Vaughn’s 'First Class’.
The result is a fun adventure that balances its lighter and darker strokes well and has great fun with its part-70s setting. The final act also blends action with character in a way few superhero films have mustered.
'Deadpool’ is the most successful X-Men movie to date because it’s like no other superhero movie to date. It’s as subversive and weird as the character himself, and that faithfulness is why it worked so well.
Ryan Reynolds’s passion for bringing The Merc With A Mouth to the big screen (properly this time, we’ll get to the character’s debut later) was rewarded. It isn’t the best superhero movie ever, but it is refreshing and a passion project that wears that passion on its sleeve.
4) X-Men: First Class
'First Class’ was the “reboot” X-Men needed after 'The Last Stand’ and 'X-Men Origins’, and it succeeded in breathing new live into the series thanks to director Matthew Vaughn and some great casting. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are fantastic as Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, before they become Professor X and Magneto.
For its first two thirds, 'First Class’ is an excellent period superhero movie that has fun with its 60s setting, but by the end it starts to unravel - like Fassbender’s increasingly-Irish accent.
'X-Men’ was the first modern superhero blockbuster. So much has changed in the intervening 16 years that Bryan Singer’s original hasn’t aged brilliantly, but it’s still a fine superhero adventure.The film remains in good stead because of the class acts that are Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, who have always brought gravitas to the roles of Xavier and Magneto respectively.
6) X-Men: Apocalypse
The new film isn’t the strongest in the series, but it is still good fun and a solid outing for young and old mutants alike. McAvoy and Fassbender return alongside Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast and new faces in familiar roles.
An abundance of characters means the plot is kept simple but effective, as a recognisable X-Men team unites for the first time (in their timeline anyway) to take down Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse - an ancient mutant hell bent on world destruction, and offers a threat unlike any in the series to date.
Reviews have been mixed, but ‘Apocalypse’ is still well worth seeing.
7) The Wolverine
Hugh Jackman deserved a solo Wolverine film better than his first. As poorly received as 'X-Men Origins’ was however, it wasn’t enough to prevent Fox trying again to more successful ends.
Another solid superhero movie, 'The Wolverine’ succeeds because it gets Wolverine right and uses its supporting characters well. However, by the time the film was released 'First Class’ had already breathed new life into the series, making this adventure feel more than a little redundant.
8) X-Men 3: The Last Stand
In 'X-Men: Apocalypse’ Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey remarks that “the third one is always the worst” having just walked out of a screening of 'Return of the Jedi’. It was a self-referential line, but also a dig at Brett Ratner’s 'X-Men 3’.
Bryan Singer didn’t return to complete his trilogy, instead signing on for 'Superman Returns’, leaving Ratner to pay off his two films-worth of set-up. He failed.
The result is a film that squanders the potential of 'X2’s Dark Phoenix Saga tease, did nothing to push the series into anything resembling new territory, and turned what should have been meaningful character deaths into melodramatic damp squibs.
Still, at least we got Vinnie Jones’ Juggernaut.
9) X-Men Origins: Wolverine
For all of 'The Last Stand’s faults, it’s still not as bad as 'X-Men Origins’, which is not just the worst 'X-Men’ film, but a contender for one of the worst big budget films in recent memory.
It is a turgid mess that nearly killed the series, and its faults are epitomised by the depiction of Deadpool - a character known for his big mouth, whose mouth the filmmakers decided to literally stitch shut.
Picture Credits: 20th Century Fox