X-Men: Dark Phoenix is out in UK cinemas on June 5th, but it’s been a bumpy ride getting here. After the release date was pushed back twice, the whole third act had to be reshot and rumours of on-set tensions between some of the cast, things don’t look too rosey for our merry band of mutants.
Nevertheless, this is the culmination of everything Fox has been working towards since the release of X-Men: First Class in 2011, so it seems prudent to rank all the X-Men films, including standalone movies, before our spoiler-free review of Dark Phoenix is released on Friday 7th June. Without further ado, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
As a starting point and a precursor to the massive success superhero movies would come to have over the next two decades, the original X-Men movie was something of a trendsetter. Featuring a fabulous cast that brought Hugh Jackman’s snarling Wolverine into our lives as well as iconic portrayals of Professor X and Magneto by the wonderful Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, X-Men is great fun, if a little underwhelming by today’s standards. Some of the dialogue is a little off and Halle Berry’s accent for Storm is, well, truly awful.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Fans had to wait three years for the release of X2, and with it came a much better film in almost every way. By introducing new mutants including Nightcrawler, played fabulously by Alan Cumming, to proceedings, X2 was a triumph in the superhero genre that brought this untested genre into the mainstream. The opening scene in which Nightcrawler tries to assassinate the US President is one of the best action sequences put in a superhero film, with perfect pacing and great tension building.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Then it all came crashing down with 2006’s The Last Stand. All the fan favourites returned and the cast remains a highlight of this film, but everything else was such a mess. It didn’t help that Bryan Singer left the franchise and Fox brought in Brett Ratner, hardly renowned for his understated filming style. The Jean Grey side-plot was muddled, the special effects were poor and this was such a disservice to the fans who had stayed with the franchise for six years. To its credit however, the action was staged well and there were some very exciting set pieces that saved it from total oblivion. Unfortunately, Vinnie Jones as the Juggernaut was the final nail in this film’s coffin.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Meant to be the start of a new Origins series in which we would learn about our favourite X-Men characters, Origins: Wolverine was a dreadful mess directed by Gavin Hood. Hugh Jackman has since could out and criticised the film, but it wasn’t helped by a practically finished version being leaked on the internet just months before its release. Loud, obnoxious and what were they thinking with Deadpool? Thankfully, Ryan Reynolds would have another chance at putting it right in 2016. It remains the worst in the series.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
After Kingsman: The Secret Service director Matthew Vaughn left X-Men: The Last Stand because of its rushed production schedule, Fox decided to bring him back to direct this reboot of the series. Things worked well overall, though the introduction of James McAvoy as Professor X did draw some criticism. Michael Fassbender’s role as young Magneto went down very well but fans still missed the original actors. The film was nicely paced but without a compelling villain, the overall script suffered.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
The Wolverine (2013)
Darren Aronofsky was originally chosen to direct this second Wolverine solo outing but had to drop out due to travel restraints. Instead, James Mangold was brought in to helm this thrilling adventure as Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was the fish-out-of-water that the series needed. Set for the majority of the runtime in Japan, and with an exciting action sequence set atop a bullet train, The Wolverine was a reasonable return to form for the X-Men solo movies.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Only one year later, Bryan Singer returned to the franchise with X-Men: Days of Future Past. An ambitious film set across two timelines, it brought original characters back after fans protested about their omission from the new series. It worked, and remains a highlight in a series chequered with black marks. Filled with exciting set pieces and a great script, Days of Future Past is a real hoot.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
After campaigning for years to get the merc with the mouth back on the big screen, Ryan Reynolds got his wish with director Tim Miller. The result was the gory and hilarious, Deadpool. A film that undid the dreadful characterisation of the character in Origins: Wolverine and with some great action sequences, Deadpool showed the world that 15-rated superhero movies can be popular. After all, it grossed over $700million.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Things came right back down to earth with X-Men: Apocalypse. What should’ve been an exciting trilogy closer ended up being a muddled mess of poor special effects, ugly CGI and a truly dreadful villain. The franchise once again did away with the characters that fans loved, instead saddling them with the younger versions of them. Most did ok, with Fassbender again being a highlight, but Sophie Turner as young Jean Grey didn’t work and the film wasn’t a runaway success at the box office either.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Probably the closest the X-Men franchise has ever got at beating the MCU, Logan is an emotional rollercoaster that showed a softer side to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. With a career-best performance from Sir Patrick Stewart as an ageing Professor X and a poignant story, Logan is part western, part superhero movie and it’s all the better for it. A must watch for any fans of the franchise who haven’t managed to catch it yet.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Deadpool 2 (2018)
After the success of Deadpool, it was always going to be difficult for Fox to come up with a sequel that bettered the winning formula. Thankfully, Deadpool 2 manages to be both entertaining and thrilling with great performances from Ryan Reynolds and Josh Brolin. John Wick’s David Leitch takes over from Tim Miller and serves up some serious style, but the story is lacking and stops it short of overtaking its predecessor.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is out in UK cinemas on Wednesday June 5th. In the meantime, check out the latest trailer below: