This Friday, the opening of “Logan” marks a key milestone in Fox’s X-Men franchise. Not only is it Hugh Jackman’s last film in the Wolverine role he originated; it also marks the 10th X-film, a run that started in 2000, when “X-Men” launched the entire current era in superhero cinema.
To celebrate the occasion, here is our ultimate ranking of the 10 X-Men franchise films:
10. “X3: The Last Stand” (2006)
To many X-Men fans, “Brett Ratner” is the dreadful director whose name we dare not speak. Bryan Singer had left the series to direct “Superman Returns”; then, in misguided fashion, Ratner tried to rush the Dark Phoenix saga, which isn’t something you rush. (We half-suspect that Fox just said: “Hey, it’s got X-Men in the title — we’ll be fine.”) This badly plotted film nearly killed the X-Franchise — requiring “Days of Future Past” to undo much of the damage.
9. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)
Gavin Hood directed the Oscar-winning “Tsotsi,” about a South African gang leader, but his was far from the right vision three years later for another violent character. Wolverine’s first solo film had massive potential, but was largely undone by all the universe-building (and it was a criminal waste of Ryan Reynolds’s introduction as Deadpool). The film deprived viewers of a true Origins story; instead, we got a small taste of the youthful tale, followed by an often woeful film about the fully realized Wolverine. What a pity.
8. “The Wolverine” (2013)
James Mangold came aboard to try to rescue Wolverine as a worthy character for a solo film. It was great to see Wolverine in Japan (given the character’s history there), but this film wasted the Silver Samurai — and passed on a Daken (son of Wolverine) plot.
7. “X-Men: Apocalypse” (2016)
So much talent, so little bang for our bucks. Sophie Turner (young Jean Grey) and Olivia Munn (Psylocke) joined the fun, but the gifted Oscar Isaac was misused here as the title villain — a visually misguided hybrid of live actor and motion capture that reduced a fearsome baddie to a murky mess.
6. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014)
Singer returned for this well-thought-out effort at tweaking a classic X-Men story, merging the two X-universes we’d seen in different time periods. The director clearly enjoyed playing with twin toolkits.
5. “X-Men” (2000)
The magical film that sparked the entire current wave of superhero cinema. Bryan Singer cast masterfully, with Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and a virtually unknown Hugh Jackman. Once the extended introductions are made, things get rolling beautifully.
4. “X-Men: First Class” (2011)
With Matthew Vaughn inheriting the director’s chair, this strange trip of taking the characters back to the ’60s was even more fun than we anticipated, as newbies like Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique came aboard. Seeing a young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) — and witnessing the events that turned two great friends against each other — opened up the franchise to whole new narrative riches.
3. “X2: X-Men United” (2003)
From effects to plotting to character, Bryan Singer gets all the balance levels just right in his second X-outing, which set the bar high for every other superhero team-up film to follow.
2. “Deadpool” (2016)
Our two favorite X-Men films are both “solo” films and R-rated — perhaps a great combination for some X-films going forward. And the raunchy-hearted “Deadpool” — the only comedy in the franchise — is especially crucial because it may well have saved the commercial fate of the X-Men. The Golden Globe nominee also reminded how — in a cinematic world of self-serious superheroes — you can just have some cheeky, wiseass fun.
1. “Logan” (2017)
“Logan” is the least “superhero” of the X-Men films yet manages to remain faithful to the comic books. The result is a highly engaging sci-fi Western that deftly plays to two crowds: It ticks off enough genres to have general-audience appeal, yet also rewards hard-core fans by successfully weaving together two popular Wolverine elements: the Old Man Logan story and the creation of young mutant X-23.