I recently watched Dark Phoenix, The Wolverine, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Afterwards, I realized I have now watched all the released movies in the Fox X-Men franchise. (New Mutants is set to be released at some point in the future(maybe?) and will be the last movie in the franchise.)
The first X-Men movie came out in 2000 near the beginning of the current era of comic book movies. After three mainline movies and one spinoff, the franchise was soft rebooted with X-Men: First Class. It was set in the ’60s as a prequel to the first movie but it also contradicted some events of the preceding movies causing most to simply declare it a full reboot. The next movie X-Men: Days of Future Past confused things further by strengthening ties to the Original Trilogy era movies but also creating an alternate timeline for future Retro Series movies whose future was portrayed by actors from the Original Trilogy movies. And then you have the DeadPool movies doing their own thing.
All in all, it can be confusing knowing where to start. You could watch them in release order but the movies weren’t planned to tell an overarching story like the MCU movies. Imagine if Endgame was released after Civil War and then followed by Ant-Man.
Watching in continuity order creates its problems. “Early” movies while technically a new continuity can not help referencing “later” movies. Also in this order, the second movie in continuity draws entire characters and actors from “future” movies. The already muddled meta-story is thrown in complete disarray.
The answer is a custom watch order. I’m not going to claim this is the only way to watch the X-Men movies but I’ve done my best to reorder the movies to support the overall X-Men story and make the overall experience enjoyable.
Click on through to read my Watch Order for the X-Men Movies.
X-Men – This is the movie that started the franchise. It isn’t the best of the Original Trilogy but it does have Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. In my opinion, they elevate a mediocre script into pretty good(they’re just two men they can’t carry the entire movie (but they nearly do) by themselves). They breathe life into the flimsy cardboard roles they were given.
X-Men: First Class – The first of the Retro Series Movies. While it was produced several years after the Original Trilogy was ended, it adds some context to Charles’ and Erik’s relationship by showing the beginnings of their friendship and the end of it. An added benefit of moving this up in the watch order is we get a short reprieve from Wolverine as a main character. He is a central character in every Original Trilogy era movie and one Retro Series movie. We’re going to see a lot of him so a small break is warranted.
X2: X-Men United – Back to the Original Trilogy. This movie is the best of the three. It features more mutants than the first but not so many that they become faceless mobs like in the third. The X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants join forces to fight an enemy with a connection to Wolverine’s past. I know I was just complaining about Wolverine getting too much attention in these early movies but it’s done right in this movie. We get just enough hints and teases to let us fill in some of the blanks but we also don’t get the full picture. This is the sweet spot of Wolverine stories.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine – And this is how not to do a Wolverine story. All those delicious hints and teases about Wolverine’s past are buried in the avalanche of showing us his entire history. I’m including it because it is part of the franchise but I wouldn’t blame you for skipping it and you won’t miss anything.
Deadpool – The miracle movie. After being written in and out of the X-Men movies, in a character killing manner, after ‘leaked’ test footage affirmed the character had a following, seven years later, Ryan Reynolds reprised the role of Wade Wilson aka Deadpool. If you didn’t skip the previous movie, this movie is a good chaser to cleanse the bad Deadpool from your mind.
X-Men: The Last Stand – The final movie in the Original Trilogy but not the last time we will see these versions of these characters. This is another largely skippable movie. The ending does have some bearing on the next movie and is referenced in the one after next. It is the worst adaptation of the Dark Phoenix story mashed up with a ‘mutant cure’ story neither of which gets their due.
The Wolverine – In this movie, we catch up with Wolverine post “The Last Stand” mourning Jean Grey and getting into trouble in small-town Canada. A young woman shows up and whisks him away to Japan for an action crime thriller. The last act goes a little over the top but on the whole, it’s an extreme improvement over X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Another reason to move First Class up in the watch order is this movie ends with a mid-credits scene that teases the next movie in the order.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – I struggled with where to place this movie in the watch order. On one hand, it is a final send-off for the Original Trilogy movies and caps off the entire franchise with an epilogue scene showing the future of the Retro Series. But there are two more movies in the Retro Series set after it so it can’t be the last in the watch order. Ultimately, I placed it at the turning point from Original movies to Retro Series. I recommend the Rogue Cut version.
X-Men: Apocalypse – Movie three in the Retro Series and the worst of the bunch. The Quicksilver speed sequence is the highlight of the movie. The short side trip to Striker’s base and meeting Weapon X is better done than all of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. However, the rest of the movie involving Apocalypse’s plan to take over the world isn’t as compelling.
Dark Phoenix – This is likely to be the last movie Retro series due to Disney’s acquisition of Fox. It’s a step up from X-Men: Apocalypse but isn’t without flaws.
Deadpool 2 – This movie like the first isn’t as tied into the continuity of the other movies but unlike the first, it isn’t a response to another movie in the franchise. So it gets slotted here; after both series are complete but before the grand finale.
Logan – The final Wolverine movie(and the final X-Men movie timeline-wise). Patrick Stewart returns ratcheting up the gravitas of the film. Set in the far future of 2029 it shows us a future with no mutants, Professor X’s dream shattered, and time is beginning to take its toll on Logan. A beautiful movie with a great story and a good end for the X-Men Franchise.