With the recent release of Logan, arguments are being made that 20th Century Fox needs to stick with this new trend of R-rated superhero films. While I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this, it’s safe to say that their films have significantly improved over the years — many of that being due to the fearlessness of the R-rated movies — but the fact of the matter is that X-Men movies are just fun. Anyway, here is my list of the top five films in the franchise.
5. X2: X-Men United (2003)
Of the Original X-Men trilogy, X2: X-Men United is easily the best. The plot alone is more complex than the other two and it’s much less obnoxiously smothering — not to mention just poorly done (*cough cough* Dark Phoenix *cough cough*). X2 was also the introduction to Pyro, advancement in the ever-so-important relationship between William Stryker and Wolverine, and a strong introduction to Nightcrawler.
On top of that, X2 exhibited Magneto’s power when he used the iron in a man’s blood to carry out my favorite prison break in cinematic history.
4. X-Men: First Class (2011)
This is my go-to movie whenever I’m feeling particularly bad (you know, it’s either this or Captain America: The First Avenger). X-Men first class was the first in the prequels and the only X-Men movie that can exist in both the first and second timelines, since the split didn’t occur until Days of Future Past. The film navigates fans through the origin stories of Charles Xavier, Erik Lensherr, and the X-Men as a team.
This movie is among my favorite due to the wonderful portrayal of young Charles and Erik. I’ve been a long-time lover of Magneto as a character, but Michael Fassbender’s portrayal added a new layer of development to him, helping to create a wonderful, very human character that calls for our sympathy. It also chronicles the friendship between Erik and Charles, something crucial to both of their stories and to the remainder of the series.
Also Kevin Bacon.
3. Deadpool (2016)
I know, I know. How could I place Deadpool so low on the list? Shouldn’t he be at least at number two? Well, to answer your question, no. Deadpool was the beginning of R-rated superhero movies and, while it was brilliant, the overall story falls just short of the last two on my countdown.
Anyway, Deadpool was more than just a hilarious comedy staring the wonderful Ryan Reynolds, but it was a well-made piece of cinema. The story was easy to follow and the struggles were — at least in part — easy to relate to. We’re all at least a little bit insecure about how we look, and who wouldn’t be vindictive if some asshole named Francis showed up and ruined how pretty you once were? Wade’s insecurities and emotional journey didn’t slap you in the face, but it was definitely there.
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Of all the movies in the franchise that are centered around more than one character, X-Men: Days of Future Past is clearly the best. The plot is the most complex, yet still relatively easy to follow, and the journey was exciting. There wasn’t a boring moment in the entire film. Sure, it was another Wolverine and the Pips film, but it was brilliantly carried out with beautiful special effects and the introduction to a few amazing characters, no matter how brief their screen time.
Among my favorite aspects of this film is the wonderful portrayal of Charles Xavier and his struggle with his abilities. We often think of Charles as this sort of mutant Holy man who was always in control of his powers and always dedicated to helping people. We often forget that he’s only human and that his mind is in touch with the pain and emotions of pretty much everyone on the planet. It is important to understand how much he had to fight what seems like a mental health issue in order to rise above his own pain and make the world a better place.
Also, Evan Peter’s Quicksilver — though inappropriately named Peter Maximoff — was brilliant and one of the most fun sections of the entire film.
1. Logan (2017)
There’s no disputing this one for me. Logan is not only one of the best made comic book films of all time, but one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I remember sitting in the theater and I really, really had to go to the bathroom, but I endured. There was not a single moment where I wasn’t on the edge of my seat and desperate to know what happened next. The action sequences were beautifully executed, though brutal, and the storyline was absolutely perfect.
This is, however, one of the most painful movies I’ve ever seen. I’ve dedicated much of my life to superhero films and the X-Men franchise was a massive portion of my childhood. Charles and Logan, though fictional, became like family to me. So (*Spoilers*) losing both of those character, especially in the brutal, heartbreaking manner that was portrayed on screen, was like losing my grandpa and my favorite uncle. It was the death of two major comic book icons that helped shape my life.
Then there was the wonderful portrayal of Laura Kinney, a.k.a. X-23. Needless to say, I can’t imagine a valid argument to put a single X-Men movie ahead of the cinematic masterpiece that is Logan.