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Every X-Men movie ranked from worst to best

In 1963, Marvel Comics introduced the world to the Uncanny X-Men, a team of mutants with some incredible superpowers. Over 50 years later, the X-Men have become some of the most famous heroes in comic book history, thanks in no small part to the successful film franchise from 20th Century Fox. Since the series started in 2000, there have been a grand total of ten films, filled with iconic characters like Wolverine, Mystique, Magneto, and Professor X. Of course, with that many movies, the X-Men franchise has weathered plenty of ups and downs — the series includes its fair share of garbage, balanced out by some of the greatest superhero movies ever made. To separate the bad from the good, we spent some time with every X-Men movie — so get ready to spend some time at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters as we rank the X-Men films from worst to best.

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

X-Men Origins: Wolverine was Fox's return to the X-Men franchise after the original trilogy ended in 2006, but while it's always fun watching Hugh Jackman smoke cigars and slice bad guys, even he couldn't save this schlockfest from cheap CGI, cardboard characters, and a screenplay that doesn't know the difference between a wolf and a wolverine.

X-Men Origins starts in the 19th century, when a little Wolverine sprouts claws, kills a dude, and discovers a completely pointless plot twist about his dad…all within three minutes. It's also the first of several times that Wolverine drops to his knees, holds out his arms, and lets loose with a Revenge of the Sith-level "nooooo." From there, Wolverine grows up with his half-brother, Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), fighting across the decades in slow motion wars until he gets sick of killing and falls in love.

Of course, Logan's girlfriend doesn't last long, and soon he's back to killing. Only this time, it's for revenge. So it's okay. As Wolverine hunts down his murderous half-brother, we're treated to cheesy dialogue ("You wanted the animal. You got him.") and pointless action scenes like Logan's boxing match with the Blob. The romance is so rushed that we feel nothing when Logan loses his love, but worst of all, the CGI makes The Scorpion King look like Avatar.

Logan's claws are atrocious, the alleyway battle with Gambit is laughably bad, and an animated Charles Xavier shows up, straight from the uncanny valley. Adding insult to injury, this is the movie that stitched up Wade Wilson's mouth, giving us a dumb and dull version of Deadpool that kept Ryan Reynolds out of the X-Men universe for seven years. It's legitimately one of the worst superhero movies ever made. But despite all the damage he took, Wolverine quickly recovered and soon clawed his way back onto the big screen.

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X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

After two solid entries, the original X-Men trilogy crashed and burned with The Last Stand. Set in the aftermath of Jean Grey's death, The Last Stand revolves around a young boy with the ability to "cure" mutants. Naturally, this doesn't sit well with Magneto, who raises a ragtag army to kill the kid, and of course, the X-Men show up to stop him, resulting in a messy movie with far too many characters.

There's Kitty Pryde, Multiple Man, and a group of Goth mutants with flashy moves and zero personality. There are so many new characters running around that we never get to know them past their powers. As a result, characters from the previous films are almost forgotten (the drama between Iceman and Pyro has totally burned out), and we're treated to some truly cringe-worthy moments involving new mutants ("I'm the Juggernaut, b***!").

So many crucial scenes either happen offscreen, or they're just glossed over. Mystique is morphed back into a human and then basically dropped from the plot. We never see Hank McCoy grapple with his decision regarding the mutant cure. Cyclops — one of the most important X-Men — is murdered off-camera. And the weird love triangle between Iceman, Rogue, and Kitty Pryde is never fully developed. It's just a plot device that forces Rogue out of the movie, so we can focus on the explosions instead of her enormous decision.

The movie especially fails when it comes to the Dark Phoenix. Remove Jean Grey, and you lose nothing from the film. The entire movie should've revolved around her descent into darkness. Instead, she's just there to look sexy and make things blow up. Speaking of which, the action scenes are goofy and embarrassing (Magneto flipping cars is painful to watch), and the filmmaking in that Golden Gate sequence — the scene goes from a dusky evening to pitch black night in a matter of seconds — is just sloppy. Luckily, despite the title, this was far from being the X-Men's last stand.

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X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse has a lot going for it. There's the exciting intro set in ancient Egypt, Magneto's backstory could've been its own awesome movie, and Quicksilver is an absolute delight, saving students from an explosion, accompanied by the Eurythmics. There are so many cool scenes that it's a shame that X-Men: Apocalypse is ultimately a catastrophe.

The plot involves an ancient deity named, yep, Apocalypse, who wants to take over the world. And while Oscar Isaac occasionally shines from under those silly-looking prosthetics, he's done no favors by a script full of cliched dialogue and poor motivations. Apocalypse is another boring supervillain who wants to rule the planet…just because. It doesn't help that there are too many characters, from Storm and Psylocke to Cyclops and Nightcrawler. And that's not even counting all the old characters from the previous prequels. The movie is just too crowded to give every character their due, and as a result, the film falls flat in the big emotional moments. A mutant dies for the cause? So what. The kids step up to face the big bad? Meh. Jean Grey gives way to the Dark Phoenix? We barely understand her struggle, so who cares?

There's an entire section of the movie involving Col. Stryker — and a gratuitous Wolverine cameo — that has zero impact on the plot. And while the screenplay has some genuinely clever moments (Apocalypse disabling the world's nuclear arsenal), there are plenty of straight-up lazy scenes (Apocalypse waking up from his millenia-long nap and immediately running into Storm). Thankfully, Fassbender and McAvoy bring their scenes to life, but the same can't be said for Jennifer Lawrence, who doesn't seem like she wants to be here. Plus, Olivia Munn is completely miscast as the monosyllabic and motivation-less Psylocke. Of course, this is a movie where Professor X actually says, "You're in my house now," so you've got to give it props for that.

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X-Men (2000)

The superhero genre was in a weird place in the year 2000. A little over a decade before, Tim Burton revitalized the genre with Batman, but after a long line of flops, the genre had slowly fizzled out. And that's when X-Men came along. Released by 20th Century Fox, the film was a hit, taking superhero movies in a new direction and making things a little more grounded. (For comparison, check out the stuff that came before, like Batman and Robin.) In short, X-Men laid the groundwork for the modern-day superhero boom, and whether you're a Superman fan or an Avengers aficionado, we owe this 2000 flick a debt of gratitude.

But is it any good? Well, you've got some dated CGI, Sabretooth's roar is laughable, and it's hard to forget Halle Berry's line about lighting and toads. Nitpicks aside, Bryan Singer's take on the X-Men is incredibly fun, with characters we actually care about, simple but well-choreographed action scenes, and iconic figures who quickly became a permanent part of the Hollywood landscape. Ian McKellan is absolutely magnetic as the metal-bending Magneto, and Hugh Jackman is excitingly feral and savage as the Wolverine. The relationship between Logan and Rogue is legitimately sweet, Mystique is a genuinely creepy and intimidating villain (accompanied by a great musical cue), and the movie moves along at a brisk pace that's sorely lacking in today's superhero movies.

Plus, it has one of the greatest openings of any superhero movie ever, with a young Magneto discovering his powers in a Nazi concentration camp. It sets up Magneto as a sympathetic villain — especially compared with boring bad guys like Apocalypse — and it helps establish the film's big metaphor about oppression, tolerance, and finding a place in society. While we wish the good guys had more colorful costumes, X-Men was a fantastic way to start the franchise…and two entire decades of superhero films.

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X-Men: First Class (2011)

After the disappointing double whammy of The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the X-Men franchise was in serious trouble. Fortunately, director Matthew Vaughn gave the series a much-needed boost with X-Men: First Class, an origin story of the mutant supergroup. The movie opens in the 1940s, contrasting the backstories of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr. Charles grows up in a mansion, befriending a young Mystique and living a peaceful, privileged life. Erik, on the other hand, watches as his mom is murdered by the Nazis and becomes a test subject for a perfectly smarmy Kevin Bacon.

So naturally, these two grow up with radically different worldviews. It's idealist vs. cynic, and some of the best scenes involve Xavier and Magneto discussing their opposing worldviews. James McAvoy is delightful as Professor X, and unlike her performance in Apocalypse, Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic here, portraying an earnest Raven Darkholme who's struggling with her own self-esteem. (Lawrence's makeup is incredible, as are the award-winning designs for Beast and Azazel.) She isn't yet the cool, confident mutant we've seen in the previous films. She's still searching for answers, torn between Xavier's diplomacy and Magneto's destruction.

Speaking of Erik Lehnsherr, Michael Fassbender as Magneto might be the most inspired bit of casting in the franchise since Hugh Jackman as the Wolverine (who shows up with a hilarious cameo). Fassbender's Magneto is a tragic hero grappling with the need for revenge versus the need for a family. His Nazi-hunting scenes are incredibly cool, and the tense standoff at the South American bar is almost on par with another scene involving Fassbender, beer, and Nazis. Whether he's pulling submarines out of the ocean or yanking metal filings from a bad guy's mouth, Fassbender is a worthy successor to Ian McKellen's helmet.

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X2: X-Men United (2003)

The best film in the original trilogy, X2 starts with one of the most exciting openers in superhero history. A demonic-looking mutant with teleporting powers attacks the White House, flipping through hallways and taking out Secret Service agents one by one, all while accompanied by some intimidating Mozart music. And everything is just uphill from there.

The plot follows the X-Men as they confront one of their nastiest villains, the mutant-hating Col. Stryker who kidnaps Charles Xavier. Desperate, the X-Men are forced to ally with Magneto and Mystique in an effort to save the professor and protect mutantkind. Every single characters gets a moment to shine here—whether its Pyro facing off with the cops, Rogue taking down her fiery friend, or Storm and Nightcrawler discussing their views on humanity. Plus, this is one good-looking movie, filled with some incredible images, like the moment where Nightcrawler pauses, head down, next to the White House portrait of JFK.

Then there's the rocky relationship between Rogue, Iceman, and Pyro, and we get to watch as they experience everything from teen love to discrimination. (The scene where Iceman is disowned by his family is a nice metaphor, especially by 2003 mainstream movie standards, for a kid coming out of the closet.) And if you're looking for killer action scenes, it doesn't stop at the Oval Office beatdown. When Stryker's men attack Xavier's mansion, Logan goes full Wolverine for the first time, chopping up bad guys left and right. His battle with Lady Deathstrike is one of the better brawls in the series, capped off with a clever kill and some unexpected poignancy. And then there's Magneto's escape from a plastic prison. No matter what, it's always a delight watching Magneto murder dudes while laughing maniacally.

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The Wolverine (2013)

A loner with katana-like claws, Wolverine has always been a ronin, a masterless samurai wandering from one adventure to the next. So it makes perfect sense that he'd eventually wind up in Japan, throwing down with tattooed gangsters and a giant swordsman. Inspired by the 1982 comics series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, The Wolverine was directed by James Mangold (of Logan fame), and it was the first film to give the mutton-chopped hero a revisionist spin. This Logan has lost his cocky swagger. Instead, he's a tired man, living as a hermit in the mountains, visited nightly by the ghost of Jean Grey. All he wants out of life is death.

That starts to change when he's invited to Japan to meet a sickly businessman he saved years ago. Afraid of dying, the man wants to take Logan's powers for himself, and in exchange, offers him an ordinary life. But while Logan turns down the deal, he soon finds himself mysteriously drained of his regenerative abilities. That makes things super difficult when he's drawn into a plot involving a corporate heiress, shady tycoons, and yakuza thugs. So when Logan takes a shotgun blast, he's feeling the pain like never before. But as he fights to protect an innocent woman, he rediscovers old feelings he thought died long ago…like the will to live and the need to protect others. Drawing inspiration from everything from The Outlaw Josey Wales to Floating Weeds, James Mangold created a truly unique X-Men movie and gave a classic comic book hero a whole new depth of humanity.

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Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool's first appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was an absolute disaster. Thankfully, a few years and some leaked test footage later, Wade Wilson was back on the big screen. Only this time, the "Merc with a Mouth" could drop as many f-bombs as possible. There were no stitches in sight, letting Ryan Reynolds give the craziest performance of his career. The man cracks jokes, decapitates crooks, and gleefully breaks down the fourth wall his razor-sharp swords and even sharper wit.

Directed by Tim Miller, Deadpool tells the story of special ops soldier-turned-assassin Wade Wilson who's stricken with cancer and forced to seek radical treatment. Unfortunately, the "cure" leaves him permanently disfigured, though he does pick up some impressive regenerative powers. So after donning a tight red suit, he starts hunting the evil scientist who turned his face into a "testicle with teeth." Along the way, he jokes about James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart, takes a few shots at Hugh Jackman, makes fun of Wade Wilson lookalike Ryan Reynolds, and skewers the superhero genre with his wisecracks and katanas. Even the opening credits are in on the joke.

In addition to the never-ending streams of humor and humors, Deadpool works so well thanks to the raunchy and real love story between Wade and his girlfriend Vanessa, played by Morena Baccarin. The whole story hinges on their relationship, with all its tender moments and torrid sexcapades, and honestly, it's the best romance in the entire franchise. We've also got to give some love to Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (the only two X-Men the studio could afford, as Deadpool points out). Rude, crude, and caked with blood, Deadpool is a wonderfully self-aware departure from your usual superhero flick, which is probably why it's the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

The second installment of the prequel trilogy, X-Men Days of Future Past is a timey-wimey adventure that asks some classic sci-fi questions: Can you change the past? Or is the future set in stone? The movie opens in a devastating post-apocalypse, where mutants are being wiped out by ever-evolving androids called Sentinels. These things are impossible to kill, so the X-Men borrow a page from the Marty McFly playbook and send the Wolverine back in time to stop the Sentinels from ever being created.

In order to do that, Logan must unite Magneto and Professor X and then stop Mystique from assassinating a mustachioed Peter Dinklage. Part of the fun comes from watching Logan wandering through the 1970s, slashing his way through a world of water beds and lava lamps. Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely ferocious here as Mystique, giving an incredibly physical performance as a mad mutant on a mission. And this is the first time Evan Peters shows up as Quicksilver, putting the MCU's version to shame with a wonderful set piece involving slow-mo bullets and "Time in a Bottle."

And if X-Men: First Class was Michael Fassbender's movie, then Days of Future Past belongs to James McAvoy. This 1970s Professor X is radically different from the wise old mutant we know and love. He's angry and depressed, beaten down by life and tortured by the voices of the dead and dying. McAvoy gives Xavier new depths, portraying him as an unkempt cynic before transforming into a kind and compassionate leader. Throw in some crazy visuals (metal pipes slithering through Logan's body, a floating baseball stadium) and some clever action scenes (the dynamic opening battle, Magneto vs. Beast and Mystique on Super 8 cameras), and Days of Future Past is the perfect X-Men film to watch in the present.

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Logan (2017)

If you made a list of the best superhero movies, you'd probably count The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2, and The Avengers. And of course, Logan — our pick for the best of the X-Men movies — would need to be ranked among them too. Directed by James Mangold, Logan is a sweaty, dusty Western, populated with lonely heroes looking for hope. It's set in the year 2029, when mutants are supposedly extinct, except for the Wolverine, Professor X, and their albino friend Caliban. The trio live in Mexico, hiding away from the rest of the world as Logan chauffeurs tourists and Xavier succumbs to dementia. Worse still, Wolverine is slowly dying—poisoned by his own adamantium — and his soul is marked by years of killing.

And that's when Laura shows up. Played to feral perfection by Dafne Keen, Laura is both a violent animal and a scared little girl. After all, there are some very bad dudes hunting her down, so she needs Logan to drive her to safety. Ever the reluctant warrior, Logan turns down the gig before his conscience kicks in. With Xavier in the backseat, the trio set off on a blood-soaked road trip, where Logan is forced to become the hero he once was to save a child from evil men and a monstrous future.

Hugh Jackman's turn as Logan is the man's finest performance — not just in the franchise, but in his entire career. He plays Wolverine as a tired old gunslinger, bitter, lost, and staring death in the face until he's given one last shot at redemption. Patrick Stewart has never been better than Professor X in his final days. And when the action comes, the violence is heavy and hard, a repudiation of every fight scene that's come before in the franchise. It's a reminder that death has serious consequences, no matter who you're cutting down. And that final shot, with a tilted cross at a lonely grave, is perhaps the most perfect image in X-Men history.