The ‘X-Men’ Film Timeline, Clarified

One thing is very, very clear from San Diego Comic-Con this year: Fox is going all-in on the X-Men. The Wolverine hits screens this week and looks to be cleaning up, and X-Men: Days Of Future Past looks to be a blow-out with Bryan Singer returning to the franchise he started with almost the entire cast of the first two movies and the X-Men: First Class cast as well.

Unfortunately, the fact that there are no fewer than three separate franchises, soon to become four with X-Force, and a whole bunch of time travel seems to have confused the crap out of some people. So, here’s the timeline, clarified.

We sat down and watched the movies, and worked out the following timeline. Be warned, there are spoilers. And also we snark plot holes.

<!–pagetitle:The Openings and Credits of X-Men, The Wolverine, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and X-Men: First Class–>

These movies really enjoy opening decades before the majority of the action. The origin of Wolverine, Magneto, Professor X, and Mystique all kick off one of these movies, and The Wolverine will open with more backstory about Wolvie’s time in World War II.

Key Events:

  • Magneto discovers his powers at a concentration camp, and is tortured into becoming, well, Magneto.
  • Wolverine basically hangs out at wars with his bro, Sabretooth.
  • Xavier and Mystique meet for the first time and become friends.

<!–pagetitle:The Majority Of The Action In X-Men: First Class And The Opening Of X-Men: The Last Stand–>

The movie takes place during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which predates direct United States military involvement in Vietnam. Which also means Wolverine was knocking around America looking for something to do, as his cameo in the movie tells us. The opening of X-Men: The Last Stand also features Xavier and Magento being chummy, so, despite what the movie claims, they must first meet Jean Grey in 1962.

Key Events

  • Magneto and Xavier create the first team of X-Men.
  • Magneto founds the Brotherhood of Mutants.
  • Xavier founds his school.
  • Beast mutates himself in a blue-furred individual.
  • Magneto finds his trademark helmet, originally built by Sebastian Shaw and who he kills and takes it from. Which means he walks around with a murder trophy on his head.
  • Xavier is crippled.
  • Mystique and Xavier have a falling out over mutant rights and behavior, and also because Xavier is an insensitive ass.

<!–pagetitle:The "Past" Segment in X-Men: Days Of Future Past–>

This is confirmed to take place in 1973, about eleven years after X-Men: First Class.

Key Events (That We Know Of So Far):

  • Trask Industries, who build the Sentinels, is up and running.
  • William Stryker, the central antagonist of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-2, is first introduced.

<!–pagetitle:The Majority Of X-Men Origins: Wolverine–>

The timelines of this movie and X-Men: Days Of Future Past overlap a little bit, and the movie is non-committal about the precise era, but it would have to take place, all other things being equal, in the late 1970s (thanks to DiabolicDave for reminding us the finale was tied to the Three Mile Island disaster; it’s something the movie somewhat glosses over.)

Key Events:

  • Sabretooth goes nuts, and murders Will.I.Am.
  • Wolverine has adamantium forcibly bonded to his skeleton, and gets his memory erased in the stupidest way possible.
  • William Stryker discovers that pissing Wolverine off is a really bad idea.
  • Professor X rescues Cyclops and Quicksilver, who will play a role in X-Men: Days of Future Past. And also the next Avengers, because movie studios are petty, petty creatures.
  • Emma Frost apparently has a kid, since a teenager with her powers shows up in this movie.

<!–pagetitle:The Majority of X-Men–>

Thankfully, aside from Magneto, there’s little in the way of time jumping in this one, because this is already getting absurdly complex.

Key Events:

  • Wolverine saves Rogue and they both wind up joining the X-Men.
  • Storm and Jean Grey are introduced.
  • Sabretooth has somehow become a professional wrestler instead of Liev Schrieber.
  • Mystique replaces a key politician in the anti-mutant movement.


Once again, no time jumps, just plenty of pay-off in terms of the timeline.

Key Events:

  • William Stryker gets what’s coming to him.
  • Jean Grey dies, and the movie ends with hints that she’ll become the Phoenix, leading into one of the most beloved comic book storylines ever published.

<!–pagetitle:X-Men: The Last Stand–>

The supposed blow-out finale of the series crammed a lot in, mostly because Fox wanted a concise trilogy. Instead they largely created a massive number of plot holes for Bryan Singer to fix.

Key Events:

  • Professor X is “killed” and dumps his psyche into some random dude.
  • Jean Grey is killed by Wolverine to save the world.
  • Magneto, Mystique, and Rogue are depowered by a mutant cure.
  • What appears to be a Sentinel is seen in the X-Men’s training facility in the opening.

<!–pagetitle:The Majority of The Wolverine–>

Considering the trailers have been opening with Wolverine having nightmares about killing Jean Grey, it’s safe to say this picks up after X-Men: The Last Stand.

Key Events (That We Know Of):

  • According to the Comic-Con panel, this movie will have hints about X-Men: Days Of Future Past after the credits.

<!–pagetitle:The "Future" Part of X-Men: Days Of Future Past–>

In this movie, everybody’s got their powers back and Patrick Stewart is still Professor X. So we’re assuming either they’re going to handwave all of that, or just pretend the third movie never happened.

Key Events (That We Know Of):

  • Sentinels are kicking everyone’s asses.

These are just the broad strokes; if there’s anything you think we missed, let us know.