Murphy's Multiverse -

‘X-MEN’ Franchise Postmortem: Ranking the 13 Fox X-Films

With Fox’s The New Mutants making its way into homes last week, folks who were unable to see it during its theatrical run finally got a chance to see the last entry in the studio’s long-running X-Men franchise. The curtain has fallen on the Logan-verse films and while many are looking forward to the next iteration of the characters under the care of Marvel Studios One-Above-All, Kevin Feige, we at Murphy’s Multiverse wanted to take a look back at the past twenty years of films. While they were certainly a roller coaster ride, they paved the way for modern CBMs and introduced general audiences to the X-Men. With the corpse of the franchise fresh on the table, here’s our postmortem ranking, reviews and hot takes on Fox’s X-films.

The 10 Best and 10 Worst Moments from the X-Men Movies

 

Ranking and Reviewing the X-Films From Worst to Best

About Our Rankings

8 members of the Murphy’s Multiverse team ranked the films from 1-13. When all the personal rankings were in, we tallied to points. A ranking of 1 (the best film) gained a film 13 points; a ranking of 13 (the worst film) gained a film 1 point. 

About Our Reviews

For the most part, team members who felt more strongly about the film one way or another were given the opportunity to describe their take in a short blurb.

13. Dark Phoenix (2019)

X-Men: Dark Phoenix' Director Reveals What Wrong With 'X-Men: The Last Stand' | ScienceFiction.com

Total Points: 16
Average Rank: 2.3
Points per Film: 1.2

The final film of the modern X-Men quadrology was dealt some heavy damage before it was ever released thanks to the Fox/Disney merger. Reshoots and poor decision making by the creative team behind it led to the studio dropping the ball for the second time on one of the greatest comic books arc ever written.

5 Multiverse team members ranked it as the worst of the bunch while one team member ranked it as 7th best but even that high score wasn’t enough to keep this off the bottom of the list.

Dalbin Osorio’s Take:

So, Fox decided that the best way to utilize Apocalypse, arguably the X-Men’s greatest threat, was to waste him. Certainly, they would try and end their X-Men trilogy with a…. oh, wait, they hired the guy who wrote the Last Stand to direct the Dark Phoenix storyline? And the uniforms that resembled the comics, from First Class, were going to be even worse this time around? No, no, Fox would never do this. Oh, they did, did they? And they cast Sansa Stark as a brooding conflicted young girl with immense power that she never asked for? I’ve never seen that before, like ever. The best thing I can say about this one is that this was the last one before the X-Men came home.

Superhero Theorist’s Take:

Imagine you come into the theater, saying to yourself; “This film couldn’t possibly be worse than X-Men: Apocalypse. I’m sure Bryan Singer learned his lesson from X-Men: Last Stand.” The fact alone that the film doesn’t even have X-Men in the title should be a clear indication of the faith people had in this movie. They adapted this story TWICE, and somehow the second time was worse than the first one.

12. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Weapon Blech — X-Men Origins: Wolverine | Tor.com

Total Points: 24
Average Rank: 3.0
Points per Film: 1.8

This one barely outclassed Dark Phoenix but wasn’t treated well by the group. While it’s more memorable for the bastardization of Deadpool and the altogether inexplicable addition of Gambit,  a memorable performance by Liev Schreiber keeps it just a rung above the bottom.

While none of the team ranked it at THE bottom, it sat between 2 and 5 on everyone’s list.

John Sabato’s Take:

While the first solo outing of Weapon x suffers from some less than super creative choices it’s few shining stars helped it in the long run, paving the way for the future. What could be considered the worst choice that the film made caused one of the biggest redemption stories in the Superhero film genre, with the debut of Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. This paired with the shining star that was Hugh Jackman’s James Howlett make it a watch up to scratch.

Charles Villanueva’s Take:

When you cast will.i.am as a superhero, you know you’re already in trouble. I haven’t seen Origins since it came out but I remember laughing at the Gambit sequence because of how stupid it was. I imagine that scene is even worse to watch now. Even Liev Schrieber’s A+ casting as Victor Creed couldn’t save this movie.

11. The New Mutants (2020)

New Mutants is full-fledged horror, says Charlie Heaton

 

Total Points: 24
Average Rank: 3.4
Points per Film: 1.8

The final film of Fox’s 20-year run had quite the chaotic path to the big screen, only making it into theaters in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic meaning it never had a chance at the box office. The film was pretty much D.O.A. and while it certainly wasn’t “the worst of the bunch”, that’s hardly an accomplishment in a film series where the lows are very low.

It came down to a tie-breaker of average rank to keep this two steps out of the basement. While some of us liked it better than others, it didn’t make the top half of anyone’s list here and was one of 3 films to receive fewer than 1.8 ppf, an entirely made up metric used exclusively here at Murphy’s Multiverse!

Dalbin Osorio’s Take:

Charles tricked me again, I see. Alright, so this had a ton of potential and the casting of Arya Stark as a powerful chosen one-like character who is out for revenge from the people responsible for what’s happened to her is casting I just never saw coming. Factor in a hospital-setting to trick us into thinking it’s a horror story, some very bad racism, and you get the real final gift from FOX before the mutants return to the MCU. It’s finally over.

Charles Murphy’s Take:

The film’s premise is that these new mutants are too dangerous to be a part of the greater society and so they are kept in isolation and studied; ironically this film found itself in the middle of my list for the same reason: it’s forever going to be kept in isolation and never be able to do any further damage to the X-series. While I enjoyed the sweet and believable relationship between Maisie Williams’ Rhane and Blu Hunt’s Dani, I was incredibly underwhelmed by the rest of the characters. It’s certainly not the worst of the X-films, but that’s no reason to celebrate it. 

10. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse director says he expected criticism of the film's villain | GamesRadar+

Total Points: 30
Average Rank: 3.8
Points per Film: 2.3

This collaboration by Simon Kinberg and Bryan Singer accomplished the impossible: rendering one of Marvel Comics most fascinating characters meaningless. More than just misusing the title character, the film also misused Oscar Isaac in the role, giving him nearly nothing to do other than look entirely uncomfortable. For a film about the most evolved mutant, it showed a surprising lack of creative fitness.

This one finds itself at the top of the bottom tier of films by garnering a whopping 2.3 ppf but only because one team member either actually enjoyed it or mistakenly ranked it as the 6th best X-film. Either way, the film’s take on En Sabah Nur didn’t really connect with the team.

John Sabato’s Take:

Unlike First Class, I found Apocalypse, while flawed, to be a much more recognizable adaptation of the characters. While the execution was a bit botched the characters were what sold the film for me. With these new additions to the roster having felt more familiar than previous incarnations, we’d met throughout the franchise. It’s a shame we never saw the return of Olivia Munn’s Psylocke, one of the most underrated characters in the franchise.

Superhero Theorist’s Take:

Imagine you come into the theater, super excited to see how 20th Century Fox could possibly top X-Men: Days of Future Past and then you have X-Men: Apocalypse. Whether it was Apocalypse’s look, a story that was just everywhere or a Mister Sinister set up that will never see the light of day, this film was a letdown for the potential it set up.

9. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

10 Movie Deaths That Totally Trolled Audiences – Page 2

Total Points: 40
Average Rank: 5.0
Points per Film: 3.1

Simon Kinberg’s first shot at adapting the classic Dark Phoenix arc to film is memorably horrible but, to his credit, he didn’t give up after his first failure and moved on to an even greater one in 2019! From Cyclops’ ridiculous death scene to Vinnie Jones Juggernaut, this was one that should never have made it past the first draft.

This one was down towards the bottom of almost everyone’s list but one team member holds it in high esteem, as you’ll read below. That ranking held it out of the bottom tier of films by pushing it JUUUUUUUUUUST over 3.1 ppf.

Dalbin Osorio’s Take:

What could be better than leather suits and a really creative Dark Phoenix teaser that leads into the trilogy of what was, at the time, the gold standard for superhero movies? Handing the reins to a director who was only known for Rush Hour, who believed we needed more leather suits, and we needed Jean Grey to turn into the Phoenix and then turn everybody into bubbles! The Last Stand, with Spider Man 3, are the best examples I can think of of a studio wasting the goodwill fans give them by churning out absolutely awful films. I, for one, am thrilled that Fox never tried to looks at note Charles passes me about the other blurbs on my list* oh, dear God.

Charles Villanueva’s Take:

It’s hard to forgive a film that kills off Cyclops for no reason but here we are with the Last Stand. The film sticks out as the worst in the entire franchise simply for having so many bad takes on the characters. They botched probably the most iconic X-Men story in history in a hilariously tone-deaf way. The way they treated these characters had no rhyme or reason. Characters were in it simply because and they were treated like shit simply because.

8. The Wolverine (2013)

6 X-Men The Fox Franchise Didn't Do Justice - CINEMABLEND

Total Points: 59
Average Rank: 7.4
Points per Film: 4.5

Despite not being a bad film by any means, The Wolverine might be the most forgettable film of the bunch despite being directed by James Mangold. Mangold, of course, redeemed himself with Logan, but this one seemed to just miss the mark while telling the story of one the most interesting parts of Logan’s complicated past.

As you can see, this one was firmly in the middle for the team, finding itself between 4 and 9 on everyone’s list. Probably a credit to Jackman’s ownership of the role, The Wolverine serves as the fulcrum of our rankings of the X-films.

Joseph “The Machine” Aberl’s Take:

I have a soft spot for The Wolverine, as I watched it with my father in cinemas while visiting. I was so disappointed by X-Men Origins that I went in hesitant if the film was going to be good. Chris Claremont and Frank Miller‘s Wolverine run was so iconic that I was worried about how they would adapt it, but was very surprised by the film. Even if the ending jumped the gun, it was a slower-paced and an introspective film about Logan’s struggle, which was a welcome change of pace at the time.

Dalbin Osorio’s Take:

After X-Men Origins, I didn’t think there would ever be any demand for my favorite X-Men character, and yet Fox put Hugh Jackman on a bullet train in Japan to fight a CGI Silver Samurai with a huge sword. We, ALSO, get a glimpse of the comic-accurate costume for Logan and that’s enough to purchase the extended edition of this movie alone. Then we get to a post-credit scene where Xavier and Mags show up because it’s time travel, baby, and I consider this an absolute win.

 

7. X-Men: First Class (2011)

Peace was never an option” — X-Men: First Class | Tor.com

Total Points: 60
Average Rank: 7.5
Points per Film: 4.6

When X-Men: First Class came out in 2011, it came 5 years after the end of the first X-trilogy and offered fans a fresh if not confusing take on the X-Men. The studio assembled an absolutely stellar cast with Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy leading the way and even convinced Kevin Bacon to sign on as the film’s villain, Sebastian Shaw. However, in hindsight, the first cracks in the armor started to show as any and all attempts to truly translate the beloved comics to the screen stopped with the disservice paid to the Summers brothers, the strange Charles/Raven relationship and the terrifying choices made about Moira.

This one truly fell in the middle of the pack for most of the team but, as you’ll see below, Charles V. and JJ had some hot takes on the property that left them as the outliers.

Charles Villanueva’s Take:

First Class gets a win for me simply for being the first X-Men that actually tried to respect the source material. Granted, there are some ridiculously dumb things in this movie such as their treatment of Darwin and using Havok for no reason but in a franchise that has so much bad stuff, simply seeing the team actually come together as X-Men made this film worthwhile. The blue and yellow costumes looked great. Fassbender hunting Nazis was amazing to watch. Plus props to them for trying to include the Hellfire Club in some way.

John Sabato’s Take:

While many regard it as one of the best X-Men films I don’t find it to be all that it’s chalked up to be. It just wasn’t a plot that held much promise for me and I found the film to be quite dull and uninspired. This problem was quite conflicting when you realize some of the most interesting and prominent characters in comics are part of this film and feel unrecognizable.

6. X-Men (2000)

Super Movie Monday – X-Men, Part 3 | Hero Go Home

Total Points: 61
Average Rank: 7.6
Points per Film: 4.7

The original X-Men film will always be remembered for introducing the X-Men to the big screen. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan gave the film a sense of legitimacy that other early CBMs didn’t necessarily carry but (and this is a pretty common theme with the X-films) it was choices about how to portray the characters that keep this one from ascending to the top of the list. The original trilogy swung and missed on Rogue, Storm, Jean Grey and Scott Summers and that all started here.

Nostalgia points elevated the OG just above its reboot counterpart, First Class, but the black leather costumes and the questionable characterization of some beloved characters kept this one firmly planted in the middle of the pack.

Joao Pinto’s Take:

At a time when superhero movies had lost some of the character Richard Donner and Tim Burton had reinvigorated the genre with, before Spider-Man, five years before the Dark Knight trilogy, eight years before the MCU, and thirteen years before the DCEU, there was the X-Men. It’s common for a CGI-heavy movie not to age too well, but 20 years on it it still manages to hold up once it becomes obvious that side of things was never the movie’s true strength. Its theme is still as relevant as ever and it was smart enough to make it about the relationships between characters and not about some flashy special effects that would become outdated in a couple of years. The cast, not being perfect, was pretty spot on, so much so that its three main characters/actors managed to stay relevant to this day.

 

Ms. Lizzie Hill’s Take:

I read X-Men comics as a kid like so many others, so I was very excited when the mutants finally hit the big screen. A recent rewatch reminded me how disappointed I was in one of my favorites Kitty Pryde only having a quick cameo and how instead they opted for a young scared little girl version of Rogue which I barely recognize from my days reading the comics. Storm also is very off, and despite having Oscar winner Halle Berry in the role, Ororo is never really done justice. In addition, a rather cosplay looking Sabertooth (more weird looking than scary), some effects not quite up to par by today’s standards, and a few corny lines and gags peppered in, pushes an otherwise still fairly enjoyable film down on my list a bit.

5 (tie). Deadpool 2 (2018)

Deadpool 2': Creating the Colossus vs. Juggernaut Slugfest in VFX | IndieWire

Total Points: 71
Average Rank: 8.9
Points per Film: 5.5

Ironically the two Deadpool films found themselves dead even in both average rank and ppf (our totally made-up metric that had been used for the tiebreaker previously). The sequel is the highest-grossing of all the X-films and certainly set the stage for some bigger things in a threequel or even the planned X-Force film. Josh Brolin was damn good as Cable, we got a different take on Juggernaut and a really, really different (and not in a good way) take on Black Tom. Overall there’s no argument against this one being a part of the top tier of X-films.

Everyone treated this one pretty kindly, but it was Joao’s take that ultimately ended up forcing the tie with the original.

Joseph “The Machine” Aberl’s Take:

So, I’ve been a Deadpool fan for the longest time. Some of the first comics I collected are from the character and it took me some time to warm-up to Ryan Reynold’s rendition of the Merc with a Mouth. The first film’s plot felt surprisingly by-the-numbers that the sequel did what I was hoping for. It felt less restricted and just gave us an incredibly fun story with memorable set-pieces and lines. Yet, what truly stuck out was the emotional core of the film, as that rendition of Take On Me still brings me to tears to this day.

Joao Pinto’s Take:

After really enjoying the first movie, mostly because it felt like something relatively new for a mainstream superhero movie, Deadpool 2 felt like much of the same. It was as if they thought that the dick-joke-loving crowd wasn’t capable of expecting something more out of the sequel. It felt repetitive and with a much slower pace than the original. After basically having the same writing team for both movies, even Kevin Feige understood that it was time for a change since it didn’t manage to live up to expectations at all.

 

5 (tie). Deadpool (2016)

Watch: Deadpool "Creating Colossus" Behind-The-Scenes With Concept Art | Cosmic Book News

Total Points: 71
Average Rank: 8.9
Points per Film: 5.5

Deadpool will forever serve as a testament to the role that social media has played in the development of films and the power of fandom. Director Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds shot a sizzle reel for their pitch to Fox. That sizzle reel “leaked” and the rest is history. Reynolds’ sustained passion for the character not only helped this one make it to the big screen but also helped the property survive the move from Fox to Disney.

The team consistently appreciated this one and even those who didn’t “love” it certainly don’t hate it. I guess everyone loves a good dick joke…or 50.

Ms. Lizzie Hill’s Take:

When Deadpool first came out, many fans were excited for a fun, curse filled, R rated, uber violent superhero movie. I was not one of them. However, when I finally saw Deadpool I absolutely did not expect to be so drawn in by the merc with a mouth, and his girlfriend Vanessa. Superhero movies often don’t do justice to love stories or love interests of superheros. The chemistry between Reynolds and Baccarin is palpable and delightful onscreen. That combined with a very poignant story about a man who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and what he does to try to spare his loved one the heartache of watching him die, really makes Deadpool a much more emotionally engaging film than it’s given credit for.

Superhero Theorist’s Take:

Now you’re probably asking why I put Deadpool as a low rather than a high? Specifically, because of stuff like the first sentence. 40% 4th wall breaking, 30% satire, 20% pop culture references, and 10% Ryan Reynolds. It’s like an 1 hour and 49-minute episode of Family Guy. The film wasn’t bad, but it’s just not as high up for me if we’re ranking all the X-Men films together.

 

3. X2 (2003)

The Hateful Debate: X2: X-Men United (2003)

Total Points: 81
Average Rank: 10.1
Points per Film: 6.2

As the sequel to X-Men, X2 certainly elevated the original and set the stage from big things in the franchise. Whether you like it or not, this one really cemented the X-films as Logan-centric and is probably the reason why you got a Wolverine trilogy.

The team treated this one much more kindly than any of the other OG X-films with it ending up in EVERYONE’S top 4 with the exception of one…

Dalbin Osorio’s Take:

I loved X2, went to go see it the day it came out, and Nightcrawler’s attack on the President is not anything I haven’t thought of the last four years, that’s for sure. Halle Berry got rid of the accent, so that was weird, but we get an iconic Magneto line when he tells Xavier “you should’ve killed me when you had the chance.” Chills from the older Michael Fassbender. Wolverine v Lady Deathstrike STILL holds up, and Bryan Cox as William Stryker was phenomenal casting. It’s my 2nd favorite X-Men movie.

Charles Murphy’s Take:

The first time I saw this film, it continually caught me off guard. From the introduction of Nightcrawler to the invasion of Xavier’s school where we see Wolverine go into berserker rage to Magneto’s prison break to the revelations of Logan’s past and the secret of Stryker’s son, this one felt like one jolt of adrenalin after another when I saw it in theaters. It still holds up well other than the fact that we know the Phoenix set up at the end is doomed to fail miserably. 

2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

X-Men - Days of Future Past, Sunspot, Sentinel - Electric Shadows

Total Points: 89
Average Rank: 11.1
Points per Film: 6.8

The crown jewel of the modern X-quadrology, X-Men: Days of Future Past was able to weave the 7 team films into one crooked tapestry. The studio did a MUCH better job of adapting this classic storyline to the screen than they did with the Phoenix Saga, though it wasn’t perfect. A few wasted character cameos weren’t enough to weigh down our first live-action look at Quicksilver, a pretty great Sentinel design and a reunion of the old cast.

True to its cumulative ranking, this one most commonly found itself in the # slot for most of the team and only fell as low as 5th on one ballot.

Joseph “The Machine” Aberl’s take:

Days of Future Past felt like a return to form for the franchise that was able to make a time travel story featuring mutants truly work. Jackman’s return as Wolverine was something many were excited for after his cameo in First Class, but he didn’t overrun the story this time. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence continued their strong performances from the last entry, while also giving us some great emotional moments. Plus, the iconic Quicksilver sequence is something that stuck in my mind after all this time.

Joao Pinto’s Take:

Had Fox managed to retain the X-Men movie rights we were probably getting yet another retelling of this particular storyline in a couple of years, just like they did with Dark Phoenix after X-Men: The Last Stand. It would always end up as a poor attempt at adapting a great arc from the comics because they wouldn’t give it enough time for its significance to be properly appreciated. It took Fox fewer movies to get to this than for the Avengers to get the team together. It should have taken them at least double that amount. We also continue to focus too much on Logan at a time when it was Kitty Pryde’s turn under the spotlight. 

1. Logan (2017)

Logan: A Film Fighting With Itself — Feminist Frequency

 

 

Total Points: 99
Average Rank: 12.4
Points per Film: 7.6

Everybody loves Logan. It was the end of the road for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart and was supposed to be the beginning of the road for Dafne Keen’s X-23. James Mangold’s film received high marks from critics and fans alike and paid off on the great friendship between Logan and Charles that began nearly 20 years prior.

The gap in total points between it and the second-place film (Days of Future Past) is striking considering how well-liked the second-place film was. It made the top 4 on everyone’s list and was the top film on 6 of 8 ballots.

Ms. Lizzie Hill’s Take:

Logan is an emotionally ravaging gritty swan song for not one but two iconic X-Men film figures. When we first saw the Wolverine, he was alone, with no memory and no family. In Logan, between his deep and complex relationship with Charles, now acting as a sort of elderly parent with dementia, and a reluctant father-daughter relationship with Laura, a young girl who is much more like him than he realizes, Logan finally has a family. There are, as in most superhero movies, exciting fight scenes, throughout, but it’s the heart of the film, the well-developed “familial” relationships like this, that really make it a top film for me.

Charles Murphy’s Take:

Logan is the most visceral of the X-films and served as a ride into the sunset for Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman who had both done some heavy lifting for the franchise. As much as I enjoyed watching Laura grunt and gut a bunch of guys, I was equally put off by the really strange decision to introduce X-24 to the mix. I think as a fan of Old Man Logan, I was set up to fail for this one because there was no way for Fox to deliver on that story but I still have it ranked as my 3rd most enjoyable film though I may not celebrate it as vigorously as others.

A Look at the Box Office 

Even from a Box Office perspective, there was an interesting development within the X-Men franchise. The two strongest Box Office hits were both Deadpool films. While the second one only barely out beat its predecessor with a higher budget, it is still remarkable that two R-rated films managed to beat out most of the franchise’s tentpole films. Only X-Men: Days of Future Past was able to break the $700M mark, which can mostly be connected to its major campaign of Bryan Singer‘s return to the franchise since he left after X2. Still, the franchise has seen substantial growth throughout its original trilogy until the reboot with a completely new cast saw a fall in viewers.

The stark contrast between it and its sequel Days of Future Past showed how attached viewers were to the original cast and creative team. It also highlighted how much star power Hugh Jackman has garnered in the iconic role with his spin-offs performing incredibly well, especially his swan song Logan. The numbers, however, started to drop for the mainline X-Men series, as Apocalypse couldn’t manage the same as its predecessor before it officially crashed down below the original’s Box Office with Dark Phoenix. The franchise saw a wild ride, as their most successful franchise almost never saw the light of day until some test footage was leaked.

  1. Deadpool 2 (786,680,557)
  2. Deadpool ($784,682,527)
  3. X-Men: Days of Future Past ($747,862,527)
  4. Logan ($614,202,315)
  5. X-Men: Apocalypse ($542,537,546)
  6. X-Men: The Last Stand ($459,260,946)
  7. The Wolverine ($416,456,852)
  8. X2 ($406,348,630)
  9. X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($374,825,760)
  10. X-Men: First Class ($355,408,305)
  11. X-Men ($296,872,367)
  12. Dark Phoenix ($246,356,895)
  13. The New Mutants ($44,616,390)

Source: The Numbers

The team had a blast looking back on the bloated corpse of the Fox films and now feel that we can truly turn our attention to the future of these characters as they begin to enter the MCU!

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