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The Entire X-Men Timeline Explained

For better or worse, the "X-Men" movies didn't shy away from the often cosmic and science fiction-heavy plotlines that made the comic books so compelling to read.

The first three movies hit the big screen in the early 2000s, giving fans of the immensely popular and beloved 1990s animated cartoon their first glimpse of a live-action world where mutants exist and a band of heroes differ on how to protect their kind. As fans of the X-Men will likely agree, no matter what form the characters take (comic, movie, cartoon, etc.) the franchise is at its best when it's showing the perils of people who are different trying to fit into an often cruel society.

Unfortunately, after three movies and a couple of pretty fun spinoffs, the well ran dry of stories to tell without simply turning the franchise into a super-powered history of the civil rights movement — which no one is saying would be a bad idea.

However, the "X-Men" movies went in a different direction, opting for time jumps, time travel and, in some cases, time wasted. Consequently, the rather simple premise of champions fighting for mutant tolerance got convoluted in a hurry. Therefore, the actual timeline of the "X-Men" franchise is perhaps one of the most difficult to master.

Fortunately, due to the highly publicized purchase of 20th Century Fox by Disney, the stream of new movies may finally be over. So, now fans can look back at the beautiful mess that is the "X-Men" timeline:

X-Men: First Class is in session

The franchise opens in 1944 at a concentration camp. A Nazi scientist notices a young prisoner manipulating metal with his mind and becomes instantly intrigued. Meanwhile, in upstate New York, a young boy with telepathic powers meets a young girl who can shapeshift out of her blue, scaly form whenever she wants.

Fast forward to 1962 and the young boy from the concentration camp has become a Nazi hunter and the young telepath works with his face-swapping foster sister to study and find more of their kind. Just like that, the franchise has established Mystique as well as Magneto and Professor Xavier, the two pillars in the war for mutant supremacy.

When Magneto tracks down the Nazi that killed his family, he discovers that he's not only a mutant as well, but actively fighting for mutant supremacy by trying to start a nuclear war between the U.S. and the USSR in the hopes of wiping out anyone that isn't a mutant (typical Nazi stuff).

Magneto and Xavier discover that the CIA has been hip to mutants without realizing it for a while and meet a young scientist named Hank McCoy who is not only revealed to be a mutant too but is a super-genius who invented a machine called Cerebro that a powerful enough telepath can use to track down anyone on Earth.

Although they stop the bad guy together, Magneto and Xavier become estranged and the team splits due to differing views of how humanity should co-exist with mutants.

Bolivar Trask founds Trask Industries

After the events of First Class wake the world up to the existence of mutants, one man, Bolivar Trask, hypothesizes the destruction of all mankind at their hand. He's not entirely wrong given there's a contingent out there led by Magneto and Mystique, the blue shape-shifter from First Class, to do just that.

However, Trask is laughed out of most academic circles for his beliefs and is therefore forced to form Trask Industries in 1967. With the funds of a successful company, Trask sets out to create an army of robots known as Sentinels designed to not only identify mutants but combat and kill them.

In order to make the Sentinels a reality, Trask experiments on mutants. Unfortunately for him, he chooses some of Mystique's close friends. Estranged from Magneto after a falling out, Mystique seeks revenge on Trask. She eventually tracks him down to the Paris Peace Conference being held between the U.S. and Vietnamese military leaders, where he is pitching the concept of mutants as a greater enemy to the world leaders. She assassinates Trask but is captured in the process.

With the world now not only aware of mutants but afraid that they're assassinating beloved scientists, the world continues to live in fear of mutants, and the Sentinel program continues its development. Although it doesn't have its fearless leader at the helm, it does have Mystique's shape-shifting DNA — but more on all of that later.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

The audience meets James Howlett and Victor Creed, two half-brothers that ran away from home in the 1800s. When a groundskeeper killed Howlett's father, the stress triggered his mutation, including bone claws and a healing factor. He kills the groundskeeper, who reveals himself to be his birth father named Thomas Logan, before running off into the night accompanied by Creed.

Because of their healing factor, the two ageless beings fought in the American Civil War, both World Wars and Vietnam. While in Vietnam, they're sentenced to death when Victor kills a senior officer who tried to stop him from raping a woman. Of course, both men survive their execution and are approached by Major William Stryker to join an elite team of mutants. James, going by Logan, quickly gets tired of the team and by 1979, when the film takes place, has moved back to Canada.

He shacks up with a woman who Creed (A.K.A. Sabretooth) eventually kills. Logan seeks revenge but is handily defeated. He's then approached by Stryker who offers to fuse his skeleton with adamantium, an indestructible metal. However, when he overhears Stryker talk about wiping his memory in order to use him as his personal muscle, Logan escapes, now with razor-sharp claws.

He seeks revenge on Creed and Stryker by chasing them to an island where they're experimenting on mutants, all being held captive escape thanks to the surprise arrival of Professor X. However, Logan is tagged in the skull with an adamantium bullet, wiping his memory.

X-Men 2000 assembles the regular team

Wolverine survives the next two decades by drinking and generally being awesome. Meanwhile, Professor Xavier has opened a school for mutants to learn to use their powers and live safe from persecution. However, when the U.S. government suggests a Mutant Registration Act, he and Magneto cross paths again.

Having spent the years they've been apart forming the Mutant Brotherhood, Magneto leads a handful of villains, including Mystique, on a mission to use a machine that will turn everyone who is human into a mutant, or simply kill them. All he needs are the power-absorbing abilities of a young woman who calls herself Rogue.

Because her power can kill anyone she touches, Rogue ran away from home and found her way to Wolverine. When they're attacked by Sabertooth, who doesn't seem to recognize Wolverine as his half-brother (this will not be explained), they're both saved by Xavier pupils Cyclops and Storm, who introduce them both to the school.

It's here that Wolverine is introduced to Jean Grey and the other mutants who make up the X-Men. Grey does her best to piece together Wolverine's past, but she's unable to do so and he, frankly, doesn't seem too interested in figuring it out. He does, however, take a fatherly liking to Rogue, so when she's captured by Magneto and his Brotherhood, he sets off to find her.

With Wolverine's help, the X-Men chase Magneto to Liberty Island in New York City where they stop his evil plan, seemingly killing Mystique, Sabretooth and others.

X-2: X-Men United hosts an unlikely team up

After the events on Liberty Island, Xavier gives Logan a clue to his past. He finds his way to Alkali Lake, where his adamantium operation took place. Meanwhile, a mutant attempts to kill the President of the United States. In the ensuing fear, Stryker convinces the POTUS to let him raid Xavier's school. Meanwhile, he sends mutant allies to kidnap Cyclops and Professor X while they attempt to question an imprisoned Magneto.

Fortunately, Mystique infiltrates the prison and helps Magneto escape. He finds his way to the remaining X-Men that evaded the raid, including Wolverine and Jean Grey. He informs the heroes that Mystique discovered Stryker has constructed a new Cerebro and plans to use his son, who is a mutant telepath, to force Xavier to identify and kill every mutant on Earth.

Luckily, the base of this operation just so happens to be the Alkali Lake facility where Wolverine was "created." In an unlikely team-up, Magneto and Mystique join the X-Men in stopping this catastrophe. In a very likely move, Magneto flips the script and tries to force Professor X to kill all the humans on Earth instead. Both he and Stryker are foiled by the X-Men, but only Magneto and Mystique escape. Stryker is left for dead as the dam protecting the facility breaks.

However, as the X-Men's jet tries to take off, the water surrounds it. Jean is forced to step outside and sacrifice herself by using her powers to hold the water back long enough for them to escape.

Magneto falls in X-Men: Last Stand

Months later, Jean somehow returns, revealing that she had a mysterious dark alter ego inside her all along known as the Phoenix. Charles helped her repress that part of her mind when he first took her in, but the traumatic event awakened the Phoenix. She kills Cyclops just as Wolverine and Storm discover her.

Meanwhile, a company reveals that it has developed a "cure" to the mutant gene for people like Rogue who may want to be human voluntarily. Magneto, however, sees this as the first step in mutant extinction and reforms his Brotherhood. Their first stop is to rescue an imprisoned Mystique. In the ensuing fight, they discover that the cure has already been weaponized into guns. Just as a cure dart is headed for Magneto, Mystique jumps in front of it, sacrificing her powers. A curt Magneto simply abandons her now that she's human, opting instead to take other powerful mutant prisoners with him.

Magneto becomes aware of the Phoenix and both he and Xavier confront her at the same time. Magneto convinces her to join him after she kills Xavier. Although he has respect for his old friend and rival, he knows that he can use the Phoenix to stop the cure.

The Brotherhood and the X-Men (including Hank McCoy) make a last stand against the Brotherhood to protect the cure.

When the battle is over, Wolverine was forced to kill Jean and inject a cure into Magneto. However, it's implied the cure doesn't work on him.

The Wolverine addresses the Trask threat

Killing Jean doesn't do Wolverine's mental health any favors. He moves to the Yukon to live alone in the wilderness while he tortures himself with thoughts of the woman he loved, but was forced to kill.

However, he's brought out of the wild and to Japan by a rich businessman whose life he saved during World War II. The man, Ichiro, is dying and doesn't want to. He's used his immense resources to develop technology that would transfer Wolverine's healing factor into himself. In an effort to repay his life debt, Ichiro offers Wolverine death. However, when the hero refuses the offer, Ichiro hatches a scheme to take Logan's healing factor by force.

Having faked his death, Ichiro sends assassins after his granddaughter, Mariko, knowing Wolverine will help her. At the same time, he manages to implant a robot into Wolverine's body that suppresses his healing factor. Fortunately, Wolverine is able to stop Ichiro's master plan and regain his powers.

Frankly, this story doesn't factor into the timeline too much other than in the mid-credits scene.

In 2015, Logan decides to go back to the United States after his romp in Japan. While at the airport, he's confronted by Magneto, who appears to have his powers. He doesn't want a fight, though. He's there with Charles Xavier, who is somehow alive and looks the same despite his body being disintegrated (this will not be fully explained either). Together, they warn Wolverine about an imminent threat to mutants... Trask Industries.

A new timeline in Days of Future Past

By the year 2023, the danger that Xavier and Magneto teamed up to warn Wolverine about has come to fruition. Trask Industries managed to build and perfect its Sentinel army to hunt and kill all mutants after years of unrest due to their activities.

Kitty Pryde has developed the ability to send people's consciousnesses back in time. Xavier, Storm, and Magneto arrive and pitch a plan to send Wolverine's consciousness back in time to stop the assassination of Bolivar Trask. Here, the X-Men franchise splits into a second timeline.

Sent back to his younger body in 1973, Wolverine essentially undoes the events of every previous movie except "First Class." After finding a young Charles Xavier and convincing him that this whole time travel business is actually legit, he's persuaded to help rescue Mystique from her fate as a villainous assassin. Wolverine, McCoy, and Xavier enlist the aid of Quicksilver to bust Magneto out of jail knowing he'd be their best chance to get through to her.

Together, they foil Mystique's first attempt to kill Trask but the ensuing fight furthers the fear of mutants and bolsters Trask's chances to get his Sentinel program off the ground. However, Magneto takes control of the Sentinels and attempts to kill Trask, President Nixon and several other U.S. leaders to declare war on humanity. He's stopped by Mystique, an event that undoes the 2023 timeline and rescues future mutants from Sentinels.

X-Men: Apocalypse bonds the team in a new timeline

Now that there is a new timeline of events, the X-Men encounter a foe in 1983 that helps shape them as a team — and apparently never came up in the original timeline's history. The world's first and most powerful mutant, Apocalypse, wakes up after being entombed alive in ancient Egypt. His method of operating includes claiming four horsemen to fight alongside him as he destroys civilizations so that he may rebuild them the way he sees fit. One can imagine what he thought of the 1980s.

In an endeavor to start planet Earth from scratch, he convinces a young Storm, Angel, Psylocke, and Magneto to join him as his horsemen. Meanwhile, new students Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and Kurt Wagner arrive at the mansion and develop a quick bond. When Apocalypse figures out that there's a mutant telepath as strong as Xavier, he switches his M.O. and opts for total human enslavement rather than destruction. After an attack on the X Mansion results in its destruction, Scott, Jean, and Kurt hatch a rescue mission. With Angel and Psylocke defeated, Magneto and Storm turn on Apocalypse and the entire complement of X-Men are able to defeat him.

Together, they rebuild the X Mansion, but Magneto refuses Xavier's offer to stay and help him teach mutants how to manage their powers.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix concludes the past stories

In 1992, it is revealed that Professor Xavier recruited Jean Grey to the school when she was eight years old after losing control of her powers, leading to the death of her mother. Her father abandoned her out of fear, forcing Xavier to put mental blocks in her mind to shield her from trauma, as he did in the original timeline.

However, when the X-Men are tasked with saving a space shuttle, a solar flare hits Jean. Although she survives, she returns different, with significantly amplified powers. When those powers allow her to break down those mental blocks, Jean suffers PTSD that makes her powers uncontrollable and fills her with rage and pain.

Eventually, she has to fight the X-Men that are attempting to stop her from hurting innocent people. In the ensuing battle, she injures Quicksilver and kills Mystique. She seeks help from Magneto but is turned away when he sees what a threat she is. Jean is ultimately embraced by the D'Bari aliens, whose leader, Vuk, explains that she has been possessed by a cosmic force known as the Phoenix. Unfortunately, the D'Bari turn on Jean as Vuk seeks to obtain her power and enslave humanity. The X-Men win the battle, but it forces Jean to explode in a burst of Phoenix energy.

The aftermath sees McCoy taking over the school and Xavier retiring to Paris to hang out with Magneto. One day, a phoenix figure appears in the sky over them, implying that Jean may not be dead after all.

Deadpool further muddies the waters

In the modern day of the new timeline, Wade Wilson is horribly disfigured but given a powerful healing factor similar to Wolverine after agreeing to an experimental treatment from the villain Ajax.

The former special forces and current mercenary's quest for revenge gets the attention of the X-Men, who send newer members Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead to convince him to join. Wilson, under his new moniker of Deadpool, refuses until Vanessa, the love of his life, is in danger and convinces the duo to help him. It's only after Vanessa dies that Deadpool agrees to try being an X-Men team member on a trial basis.

Unfortunately, he fails his trial period by killing an alleged pedophile and child abuser.

In a desperate attempt to find purpose, Deadpool meets a time traveler named Cable who tells him that a boy exists in his timeline that goes on to become a great supervillain. After convincing Cable that he doesn't need to assassinate the boy to save his timeline, the duo team up and thwart the second dystopian future nightmare of the franchise.

Once it's all over, Deadpool gets his hands on the ability to time travel, rescues Vanessa from dying, considers killing Hitler, and murders the version of Wade Wilson that Wolverine fights in "X-Men Origins" in the original timeline. However, given Deadpool's meta, fourth-wall-breaking qualities, it's hard to know whether any of the events of his movies are truly canonical to the larger X-Men timeline.

The New Mutants escape from Essex

Due to its lack of visible crossover characters and sparse references to other points in the timeline, it's a little tricky to pinpoint when 2020's "The New Mutants" is happening. Luckily, previous investigations place it between 2024 and 2027 — after the other X-movies, but before the events of "Logan." 

When a tragic catastrophe befalls her reservation, Danielle "Dani" Moonstar wakes up in Milbury Hospital. Dr. Cecilia Reyes — the facility's seemingly benevolent overseer — leads Dani to believe Milbury is a treatment facility for mutants with recently emerged powers. Dani meets fellow teenage patients Rahne Sinclair, Illyana Rasputin, Sam Guthrie, and Roberto da Costa. As these new mutants all come from wildly different backgrounds and life experiences, they inevitably butt heads — and occasionally hook up.

Sadly, Dr. Reyes is not who she claims. Once her secret bosses order her to execute Dani, she's forced to reveal herself as a flunky for the mysterious Essex Corporation, with an endgame of shaping young mutants into assassins. Rahne rescues Dani and the rest of the gang rallies in her defense, but they're no match for Dr. Reyes' force field powers. The duplicitous doctor appears victorious until the Demon Bear — a manifestation of Dani's powers — eats her.  

Once the team subdues the Demon Bear, the New Mutants leave Milbury. Given the unlikelihood of a sequel, we might never find out exactly where they go. Let's hope it's somewhere fun and cool. 

The tragedy of Logan

After the events of "Days of Future Past," Logan's consciousness is transported back into his 2023 body. He finds himself in the X-Mansion, not a dystopia. He also sees Jean Grey, Cyclops and everyone else alive and well, having no recollection of the previous timeline. It's implied that Wolverine unpacks the experience to Xavier, but their celebration would not last long.

"Logan" brings the audience to 2029, where it is revealed that Charles Xavier, now senile, accidentally killed all the other X-Men in some kind of seizure episode a year prior. Only Wolverine is left alive and caring for Charles, who he hopes to take to the middle of the ocean where he won't be a threat to anyone while living out the rest of his days.

However, when the duo discovers a little girl that has similar powers to Logan based on experiments with his DNA, they set off on a quest to get her to safety in Canada. Along the way, they're attacked by another clone of Wolverine, one unencumbered by the current Logan's waning healing factor. The clone kills Xavier but Wolverine and the girl, Laura, manage to escape.

They reach the border of a safe haven in Canada only to be attacked by Laura's creators, who want her back to further experiment. Logan injects himself with a serum that temporarily restores his healing factor, allowing him to defeat both the soldiers and his clone. However, the film ends with the hero succumbing to his wounds and finally dying in his "daughter's" hands.