With the huge deal between Disney and 20th Century Fox finalized, it brings the story of Superhero movies in the 2000s almost full circle. For context, the massive boom in comic book collecting raised the profiles of so many superhero brands, and advancements in CGI special effects made stories and characters that were once unfilmable a possibility. It was only natural that the first major team to break it big in movies was the X-Men. For decades they had been Marvel's best selling spandex soap opera, and their bizarre "not-quite-hero-more-of-an-extremely-violent-social-awareness-campaign" backstory were perfect for an era where the public still associated comic book characters with embarrassingly campy outings at the cinema.
Even though the horror-tinged New Mutants movie and the canonical Dark Phoenix prequel-sequel-reboot are still due for a 2018 release, there's going to be big changes ahead for this franchise, which is why we've decided to rank them (in alphabetical order).
In both the Domestic Box Office AND the English alphabet, the big "D" comes in at first place. The result of Ryan Reynolds' constant pestering of Fox studio executives and almost Juggernaut-like social media pimping, this "R" rated action-comedy surprised industry experts while giving fans exactly what they had been begging for. The fact that this meta-movie was littered with jabs and callouts about how Fox had mishandled the franchise and the character was glorious as well.
Another "X"-less entry with an R rating, this barebones reflection on death and redemption proved that maybe people care more about their favorite CHARACTERS rather than the "franchise" itself. It also gave Patrick Stewart his SECOND on-screen murder as Charles Xavier, except this time he wasn't popped like a CGI water balloon (that was in X3, it's ludicrous).
Can we talk about the superfluous "THE" in the title to "The Wolverine". Nobody has ever referred to the character like this. "Wolverine" is not a title bestowed on him by the Duke of Canada, it's a military codename. Let's not get into how while Hugh Jackman's iconic performances as Logan are near-universally beloved, he's actually quite TALL and BROODING, which is the exact opposite of the "tiny and ferocious" attitude that's supposed to be invoked by calling him Wolverine in the first place! Interestingly enough though, even if the title was just "Wolverine" it would still occupy the same spot on this, the only TRULY OBJECTIVE ranking of X-Men movies on the Internet.
Bryan Singer's sleek and stylish retooling of the Uncanny Marvel Mutants was the shot heard round the movie industry and thanks to its distinct lack of hyphenated subtitle means it's the first of the "X" movies to appear on this list as well. While the pitch perfect casting has aged better than the now-cringey CG special effects, it's still a perfect snapshot of Y2K-era coolness.
One of the biggest (critical) flops in superhero movie history, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was emblematic of the studio meddling that has plagued the franchise since the very beginning. Famously, director Gavin Hood (who had won an Academy Award for the South African gang drama Tsotsi) wanted to tell a gritty and violent story true to the characters' most famous stories, but after a family emergency drew him away from the set, studio heads came in and retooled entire segments of the movie. The film's missteps were quickly glossed over in later films and even became the source for multiple punchlines in Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool. In any other ranking this'd be dead last, but alphabetically we're placing it solidly in the middle of the pack due to the unique placement of the colon (coming AFTER the word 'Origins')
Another groaner that was panned by the critics, this incredibly chaotic story about the rise En Sabah Nur was still successful enough to keep the series going. I've previously written about my problems with this movie and it really highlights just how far Singer has fallen as an effective storyteller. But, if you've ever wanted to see why Professor X is canonically bald over the course of two and a half hours of toothless cgi destruction, this is the movie for you.
This politically-tinged attempt to formally weave the First Class and Original Trilogy timelines into one canonical universe was a smash hit at the box office and secured that the X-Men would continue as a decade-hopping prequel-sequel miasma of a franchise, carried aloft by the gravitas of McAvoy, Fassbender, and a very-clearly-sick-of-this Jennifer Lawrence.
Still kind of hard to believe that this unlikely prequel kickstarted the seemingly dead franchise, but thanks to some distinctive Mad-Men swingin' 60s vibes and a handful of brilliant casting choices (and a few not-so-brilliant ones, see photo above) we were given a movie that was all over the map in the funnest way possible. Matthew Vaughn deserves credit for digging the universe out of the crater left by X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Plus, for some reason I have positive memories of Kevin Bacon hamming up his role as Mastermind so hard that he feels like he's being directed by Joel Schumacher.
After butting heads with Fox executives too many times, Singer bailed and decided to make the better-yet-also-disappointing Superman Returns instead of finishing the trilogy he started. Brett Ratner's attempt to wrap up the series' dangling threads, introduce more fan-favorite mutants, AND encapsulate the entire Dark Phoenix Saga at the same time was doomed from the start. That the final product was SO eyeroll-worthy was still surprising and cast a shadow over the rest of the movies. By dropping the number scheme the film also dropped to the near-bottom of this list.
One of the most beloved superhero movies ever made, this sequel combined unique action sequences, sharp character acting, and an oh-so-relevant analogy to the gay rights debate that was happening in America at the time. Loosely based on the graphic novel "God Loves, Man Kills" by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson, this is still considered the peak of the franchise. However, due to its unfortunately off-kilter title, it's actually the LOWEST ranked X-Men movie, alphabetically.