With great power comes great responsibility. With peanut butter comes jelly. With your mom comes an entire biker gang behind an Arby’s, and with every new installment of a superhero movie comes the opportunity, nay, the RESPONSIBILITY, to rank all of those installments numerically. So it is, on the eve of the release of X-Men: Days Of Future Past, that we find ourselves with the task of ranking all of the previous X-Men movies. Just know: I didn’t choose this blog life, this blog life chose me, and thus it is I who will create the infallible, indefatigable, ecumenical, undisputed X-Men movie rankings for all eternity, for it is both my birthright and my birthduty. KNIVES OUT!
It’s more difficult to rank X-Men movies than it is to rank, say, Spider-Man movies, because whereas the Spider-Man movies range all the way from amazing to atrocious, the X-Men movies mostly only range from solid but unspectacular to the Brett Ratner one. At its heart, X-Men is really the story of a rocky bromance between a disabled psychic and a Holocaust survivor, and most of the movies thus far have been in the B range, with various mixes of good and bad. Except, of course, for the Brett Ratner one, which is inarguably terrible. So on that note, let’s just start at the bottom.
X-Men: The Last Stand
One thing that’s always struck me about the X-Men is that the best mutants have powers that are really well thought out (he can heal fast and has an indestructible metal welded to all his bones!) while the worst ones all have powers that feel like someone screamed them out while being hung upside down and being beaten with sticks. “His mutation is that he’s uh… kind of like a toad! Oh God please make it stop!”
On that note, X3 gave us “I’m the Juggernaut, Bitch,” a gay angel, some ill-defined street punk mutants, and a dude in the forest whose mutant power was throwing sticks. It’s easy to forget how terrible this movie was, mainly because the entire movie is entirely forgettable. We also have it to blame for spawning the whole “and a CGI version of the Golden Gate Bridge gets destroyed for some reason!” trend, for that scene where Magneto rips off the entire Golden Gate Bridge in order to… get his buddies from Alcatraz to San Francisco. Right, so the giant set piece of the entire movie featured a guy who can control LITERALLY ANYTHING METAL ripping off a famous bridge to use it as… ANOTHER F*CKING BRIDGE (only much shorter). It’s not so much that it doesn’t make sense (and to be honest, I do wish they established some ground rules for exactly HOW MUCH metal Magneto can control, because otherwise he could just make planets crash into each other and destroy the whole Solar System and– MOM I NEED MY INHALER!) it’s that it throws all logic out the window in order to do something TOTALLY MUNDANE AND BORING. He used a bridge as a bridge. Jesus Christ, you’re all fired.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I debated whether or not to include this in the rankings since it’s technically a Wolverine spinoff and not an X-Men movie, but it does have “X-Men” in the title so I guess I have to. The best thing you could ever say about X-Men Origins: Wolverine is that it wasn’t as bad as X-Men: The Last Stand, and that’s all you should really ever trouble yourself to remember about it. Taylor Kitsch as Gambit! Danny Huston stealing Brian Cox’s Stryker role! A mute Deadpool! Three Mile Island is the landmark that gets destroyed!
Oh, and remember how Will.i.am. was in it?
Trust me, it’s better forgotten.
I remember liking this when it came out, but that was 14 (!!!) years ago now, in a pre-9/11 world of frosted tips, pooka shells, and pure innocence. I rewatched the whole thing the other night, and while I still enjoyed it overall, mainly it reminded me of how in 2000, Wolverine basically had to keep apologizing for being in a superhero movie. He makes fun of the X-Men name, the X-Men lair, the tight leather X-Men uniforms… “What would you prefer, yellow spandex?” Storm asks. (*CUE KNOWING AUDIENCE LAUGHTER*) META.
Also, remember when Wolverine always smoked cigars and could smell danger? There are at least two scenes in the first two X-Men movies where Wolverine is seen smelling something fishy right before they get attacked by baddies. Was an acute sense of smell one of his powers in the comic books? The movie never addresses it.
Other things I was reminded of during my rewatch sesh :
1. How hot Famke Janssen was. Do I need to move to Holland? Because boy, she does it for me.
2. How awful Storm was. Halle Berry was (and is) hot like fiyah, but whoever told her to play Storm as some slow-speaking oracle of the supernatural like Guinan from Star Trek TNG… that was not a good choice.
3. Aside from Magneto and Mystique, the villains really sucked. Could we really not have done better than “a guy who’s kinda like a toad” and “a guy who’s kinda like a sabre cat?” Toad may be the worst X-Men character ever to have a decently sizable role.
4. For a
British chick Kiwi, Anna Paquin sure has a bad Southern accent a lot.
5. Cyclops. Getting on 30 Rock really did wonders for my view of James Marsden, because I really hated him in this. I know Cyclops is supposed to be kind of a preppy douche, to contrast Wolverine’s leather-daddy biker roughness, but is he also supposed to be worthless and completely ineffectual?
And, this wasn’t something I noticed upon rewatch, it’s something that I could never forget: “You know what happens to a Toad when it gets struck by lightning? Same thing that happens to everything else.”
Probably the second worst line in the entire X-Men universe behind “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”, it combines the worst good guy with the worst villain into a Voltron of shittiness that’s somehow shittier than its shitty parts.
Also, X1 and X3 are the only X-Men movies to have Stan Lee cameos, and boy do I haaaate me some Stan Lee cameos. Any jackass who claps to prove that he recognizes Stan Lee during a Stan Lee cameo in a Marvel movie should be summarily throat-punched. Seriously, it’s like recognizing the Ghostbusters logo at this point – you’re not special, shut up.
I’m still wishy-washy on ranking X2 so low. It has more sex than any other X-Men movie, and I like sex. Every guy watching that scene where Mystique sneaks into Wolverine’s tent as Jean Grey and then keeps changing into different hot chicks – “I’ll be whoever you want me to be” – secretly wishes his girlfriend had that power. But if she did, would she get mad at you for wanting to role play, or would she be into it? So many questions.
I also enjoyed Alan Cummings as Nightcrawler and appreciated the lack of Toad or Sabretooth. Instead we got Brian Cox as William Stryker (not his best role, but it’s still Brian Cox) and Pyro. Pyro didn’t do much, but “a guy who can manipulate fire but can’t create it” is still a thousand times better than long tongue or throws-pointy-sticks guy. There’s also a great scene where Wolverine goes full aggro and starts stabbing soldiers in the heart when Strykers men break into the school. He’d been trying to be a nice guy up until that point, so when he started shish-kebabbing f*ckers all of a sudden, it actually seemed pretty metal.
The only things keeping X2 from being higher on my list are the fact that it was too long, there was a big stupid set piece at the aquaduct that took way too long to set up and seemed to exist only to exhaust the CGI budget, and once again there was far too much Storm and Cyclops.
Cyclops crying over Jean Grey’s death is pure unintentional hilarity.
Hahahahaha, oh man, I want to watch Marsden and Patrick Stewart rehearse this scene over and over for hours.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past
It was a tough choice deciding to put this before or after X2. Without spoiling my soon-to-be-published review (can you believe I’m still under embargo when everyone else is posting theirs? I can’t), there are a lot of good things about it on a premise and ambition level, and a lot of bad things about it on an execution level.
What gives it a slight edge over X2 for me is that there’s a slow-motion fight sequence in it with Quicksilver that’s probably the most impressive, beautifully shot and choreographed sequence in all of the movies, and possibly in any movie of the past five years. A lot of Days Of Future Past is confusing and/or doesn’t work, and the fact that they cast BooBoo Stewart makes me want to rank it at the bottom, but that one Quicksilver sequence is nothing short of incredible. Also, no Stan Lee cameo.
X-Men: First Class (original review)
Is it coincidence that my top X-Men film is also the one with the most Michael Fassbender? Probably not. It’s not perfect, and the whole “born this way” theme was a little heavy handed, but with Magneto roaming the Earth murdering Nazis (I would watch an entire film of just a guy wandering the globe murdering ex-Nazis, the more elderly the better), and an alternate history that presupposes that one misanthropic mutant caused the entire Cuban Missile Crisis, Matthew Vaughn just knew the way to my heart.
But Vince, What About The Wolverine?
Ugh, aren’t we done yet? Look, it’s better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and probably worse than X1. It had a cool fight scene on a train, but that ending suuucked. Also, there is not a single X-Men movie where a woman doesn’t fall madly in love with Wolverine, and in The Wolverine it happens like five times. He’s just so vascular!
Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. You can find more of his work on FilmDrunk, the Uproxx network, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.