Every Wolverine movie ranked from worst to best

There's no way Hugh Jackman, a last-minute replacement for overbooked actor Dougray Scott, could have known he would wind up playing Wolverine in nine films over nearly 20 years. A relative unknown at the time of his casting, Jackman has used the part to launch a blockbuster career, bringing legendary musicals to the screen, hosting Oscar telecasts, and becoming one of the most beloved triple threats Hollywood has seen in decades. Now that he's delivered his X-Men swan song, let's take a look back at the highs and lows of his time as Wolverine and rank what worked—and what made us go berserk.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

There are bad movies, and then there's whatever they made out of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Just look at that title. If it doesn't scream "you're overthinking this," then what does? Here's a movie in which poor Hugh had to walk away from an explosion in slo-mo with a straight face. Here's a movie in which the adamantium ass-kicker had to scream "NOOOOOOOOOO" into the air not once, but twice. Here's a movie that took Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool and sewed his mouth shut, just to make sure there was no chance he could be remotely enjoyable. Here's a movie that co-starred will.i.am. Look, Mr. Jackman did his best with the overwrought, corny and muddled screenplay, but this movie is somehow a parody of itself without ever figuring out how to make that fun. That's a feat, but not one worth watching.

X-Men: The Last Stand

The conclusion to the original X-Men trilogy is bad, so overstuffed, and so undercooked, it almost killed a franchise even Magneto couldn't bring down. With Bryan Singer departing at the last minute to helm Superman Returns, directing duties for the third X-Men movie fell to Brett Ratner. Yes, that Brett Ratner, who made his name by pointing a camera at Chris Tucker and having him yell vaguely racist things at Jackie Chan.

At best this movie is forgettable, at worst it's a tutorial on how not to make a blockbuster. If you can think of a character from the X-Men universe, they probably show up here at some point, spouting some awful catchphrase before fading back into the special effects. Or worse: Cyclops, who had been central to the first two movies, is killed off in a brief prologue and then never mentioned again. Wolverine shows up, of course, but ends up coming across as oddly neutered and bland.

And then there's the "Dark Phoenix" storyline, a pivotal arc from the X-Men comics that gets tossed into a plot pot with about seven other stories and mixed into an incoherent stew. Jackman did his best with the material, but there was no saving this mutant monstrosity.

X-Men: First Class

If brevity is the soul of wit, then Wolverine takes the brief cake in X-Men: First Class, showing up to deliver one memorable line and then disappear for the rest of the movie. As Jackman told Collider, "The line was 'F— off,' and then I said, 'Matthew [Vaughn], give me one more. I have a feeling.' So the last one I said, 'Go f— yourself' and Matthew said, 'I think that's gonna be the one.'" It may be short, even by cameo standards, but it also may be the funniest scene Jackman ever got to film as the surly superhero.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Wolverine can be such a tortured character, fretting about his failing memory and lost loves, it's fun when he gets the chance to just loosen up for a minute. Trying to save the world seems like an odd time to crack a smile—or smirk, in his case—but while the stakes are high here, there's no doubt the tone is lighter than some of Wolvie's other outings.

Sure, fans of the comic can debate endlessly about swapping out Kitty Pride, who fronted the time-traveling story in the original comics, but Jackman's jacked time-traveler proves a smart choice to bridge the original and rebooted X-Men casts.

Director Bryan Singer, in a return to the franchise he helped launch, shows he can evolve as well as any mutant, creating a fun movie full of '70s style and startling set pieces. Plus, we've got Logan's buns, hun, so for all those fans who like their Wolverine a little cheeky, this is definitely the X-Men movie for you.

X-Men: Apocalypse

Another cameo, but with very different results. Unlike First Class, which saw Jackman stripped down to a cigar and a one-liner, X-Men: Apocalypse finally lets Wolverine cut loose. The Wolverine from the comic books has always nurtured a darker side, which shows itself in the peak of battle. Wild and erratic, full of blood lust, this feral ferocity is known as "berserker rage." The mainstream movies shied away from this, for the most part. Thankfully, eight movies in, they finally decided to cut him loose.

Back at the familiar setting of Akali Lake, which played a hefty part in Wolverine's origin story, we see Weapon X as a caged animal, finally getting a chance to fight for his freedom. It's a moment fans of the comics have waited decades to see, and it is glorious to behold. While the rest of the movie is overblown, mimicking the colors and cluttered storytelling of the source material's worst moments, Jackman's brief moment on the screen is a revelation, and helped lay the groundwork for what was to come.

X-Men

No one knew if this could work. What would a full-blown superhero team, full of wacky powers and competing plotlines, look like on the big screen? Would they wear florescent spandex? Would audiences turn out for comic book characters that weren't Superman, Batman or Spider-Man? With X-Men, those questions were definitively answered. It was faithful to the comics it adapted, but used just enough black leather to welcome mainstream audiences into the fold.

And no one helped carry the film, or captured the imagination of the audience more, than Jackman with his portrayal of Wolverine. An amnesiatic drifter, without a past or a future, Wolvie was our in to this world of outcast and misfits. If we found them weird, that was okay, because he did too. Jackman became a star the moment he appeared on screen, and Wolverine proved he could kick ass with the best of them.

The Wolverine

Following the undeniable failure of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, acclaimed director James Mangold was brought in to clean up the Wolverine franchise. And for two-thirds of The Wolverine he did just that, crafting a nuanced, more intimate look at Logan and drawing heavily on perhaps his most celebrated comic book plotline: Chris Claremont and Frank Miller's Wolverine limited series.

By rooting the movie in his grief at the loss of Jean Grey, and temporarily taking away his healing power, this movie shows Wolverine at his most vulnerable. True, the third act then descended into the typical bloat of a big-budget action movie, with cartoonish robots and CGI-heavy fight scenes that undid much of the good will the first two acts fostered. Still, it showed that there were more Logan stories to tell, especially if you stick to his source material as closely as possible.

X2: X-Men United

The best standalone X-Men movie by a mile, thanks largely to its Wolverine-centered plot. The franchise took this step forward by looking to its past, specifically the mysterious background of its most tortured hero. By pitting Logan against William Stryker, the man who coated Wolvie's bones with adamantium and turned his memory into Swiss cheese, we got to see a plot that was both personal, and explosive.

And its central set piece, when babysitter Logan hints at his beserker rage for the first time onscreen, is perhaps the best melding of action and emotion this franchise has ever delivered. No other X-Men movie has allowed Wolverine to grow this much as a character, going from a tortured loner to a member of the team. While the first X-Men movie set the stage, this is what turned the franchise into an out-and-out hit.

Logan

It only took nine tries to get it right…but boy, was it worth the wait. The is the Wolverine we've all been waiting for, a grizzled bastard who isn't looking for a fight, but by God will finish it if one starts. Loosely inspired by the acclaimed and influential Old Man Logan arc, it tells the story of an aged, grieving veteran of too many superhero battles who wants to disappear—but gets pulled back in one last time.

With a hard R rating that allows the blood and guts Wolverine is famous for, nobody holds back here. Not the filmmakers, and not our hero. Hell, the first line of the movie is "f—." Family friendly, this one isn't. Like a Johnny Cash song come to life, Logan is both poetic and kickass—and it's one of the best superhero movies ever made. Period.