This is a crash course on the entire X-Men movie series and their plots. This is an article for anyone who wants to refresh their memories or wants to watch X-Men movies but has no context. Here’s your dummy’s guide – you can read this and parade around like you’ve watched all of the films.
What is the X-Men Movie Universe or X-Men Cinematic Universe?
Well, when they first decided to make an X-Men film, 20th Century Fox took licence for the Marvel characters that were core to the X-Men comic series. The films, therefore, are allowed to use only the core characters of the X-Men universe. The Marvel comic books however have stories that involve the X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spiderman etc all in one story. The movies can’t do this because each production house has signed separate contracts with Marvel for its characters. Avengers, for instance, is licensed by Walt Disney Studios. Spiderman was originally licensed by Columbia Pictures. Because the two new Amazing Spiderman movies did badly, the licence was moved to Walt Disney Studios. This means Spiderman can now feature in the Avengers Movie Universe but not in the X-Men Movie Universe.
Deadpool is also licensed by 20th Century Fox and hence they choose to merge with X-Men.
Who are the X-Men?
Mutants are a further step in the natural evolution of mankind. Some of these mutations are evident, some are dormant. Humans with evident natural mutations tend to get rejected by society for being deformed. A group of powerful mutants form the X-Men under Charles Xavier (Professor X), the bald guy in the wheelchair. X-Men fight for peace and equality between mankind and mutantkind. Their archrival is Magneto who believes that mutants should rule the world and not mankind. Magneto’s team are called the Brotherhood.
What was the order of release X-Men Films?
- X-Men (2000) : Directed by Bryan Singer
- X2 (2003) : Directed by Bryan Singer
- X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) : Directed by Brett Ratner
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) : Directed by Gavin Hood
- X-Men: First Class (2011) : Directed by Matthew Vaughn
- The Wolverine (2013) : Directed by James Mangold
- X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) : Directed by Bryan Singer
- Deadpool (2016) : Directed by Tim Miller
- X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) : Directed by Bryan Singer
- Logan (2017) : Directed by James Mangold
- Deadpool 2 (2018) : Directed by David Leitch
What is the order of the stories in the X-Men Films?
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) : Directed by Gavin Hood
The film focuses on the origin story of the character Wolverine (Logan played by Hugh Jackman). Wolverine is a mutant with healing powers. He heals at a very high rate. Sabretooth (Victor played by Liev Schreiber) is shown to be his brother. The two of them join and serve various armies. They are finally recruited by a man called Stryker (played by Danny Huston) who puts together a team of special assassins to hunt for a rare metal called Adamantium. The property of this metal is that once it’s moulded into its solid state, it cannot be destroyed. Wade Wilson, a.k.a Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is also part of this team. You can ignore his special abilities in this film. This film got the character Deadpool all wrong. The movie Deadpool gets it right. Victor kills Wolverine’s girl. In order to get his revenge on Victor, Wolverine agrees to a procedure to get Adamantium bound to his endoskeleton. This is the Weapon X program run by Stryker. All Stryker wants is to get a sample from Wolverine post the procedure and dispose of him. Wolverine escapes and finds out that his girl wasn’t dead. It was mostly an act to get Wolverine to agree to the proceedure. He pairs with Sabretooth eventually to take down Stryker’s operation. The movie ends with Wolverine getting shot in the head by Stryker with an Adamantium bullet. He loses most of his memories. The film ends there.
Additional mutants to know:
Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) who helps Wolverine in this movie. He can convert potential energy into kinetic energy.
X-Men: First Class (2011) : Directed by Matthew Vaughn
This film takes us into the lives of a young Charles Xavier and a man who calls himself Erik Lehnsherr. Charles grows up with a girl called Raven. Charles is a Telepath (one who can read and control minds) and is played by James McAvoy. Raven is a shapeshifter and is played by Jennifer Lawrence. Erik can control all metal and is played by Michael Fassbender. The main antagonist is the powerful mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) who can absorb and channel kinetic energy. When Erik is young, Shaw kills his parents in order to unleash his mutant powers. Erik seeks revenge. Many years later he meets Charles. Together they assemble their team of mutants and call them the X-Men. They run into Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) but he asks them to go perform coitus on themselves. Shaw, along with his mutant team, wants to cause a war between US and USSR to end the human race.
Shaw possesses a helmet that stops anyone from tapping into his mind telepathically. Capturing Emma (a mutant on the Side of Shaw) they find out Shaw’s plans and go to stop him. Shaw becomes extremely powerful by absorbing nuclear radiation. Erik manages to pull out his helmet. Once this happens, Charles is able to control Shaw. Erik wears the helmet and kills Shaw and completes his revenge (against Charles’ advice). The US and USSR realize that they were plotted against each other by the mutants and mutants become a common enemy. Charles loses his legs in the end of the film because of a deflected bullet from Erik, an accident. Shaw’s mutants join Erik to form the Brotherhood. Erik too believes that humans should all perish. Raven/Mystique joins Erik too. Erik takes on the name of Magneto.
Additional mutants to know:
Emma Frost (January Jones) who is a telepath and can take a diamond form. She’s with Shaw and later joins Magneto. The powerful and intelligent Beast (Nicholas Hoult), he’s one of the important members of the X-Men.
X-Men (2000) : Directed by Bryan Singer
Many years later Charles (played by Patrick Stewart) is now the Professor of a mutant school, hence Professor X. The X-Men have become a big team. They find Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and a mutant named Rogue (Anna Paquin) whose touch can steal other mutant powers. Magneto’s (played by Ian McKellen) brotherhood of mutants has become big too and he plans to mutate the entire set of attendees of the world leaders meet. Magneto has a machine that can do this. While he powers it the first time he gets very weak because of it. He uses Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) to find Rogue, kidnaps her and plans to use Rogue to power the machine from Liberty Island. Rogue’s ability will power the machine but will also killer. The X-Men land up on Liberty Island and foil magneto’s plan. Magneto is kept under arrest in a prison made purely of plastic. Wolverine tries to go looking for his past and recover fragments of his memories.
Additional mutants to know :
X-men : Storm (Halle Berry) who can control weather, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who has telekinetic and telepathic abilities, Cyclops (James Marsden) who can shoot energy blasts from his eyes.
The Brotherhood : Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) who has superhuman strength and healing powers.
X2 (2003) X-Men United : Directed by Bryan Singer
X2 is about a common enemy – Stryker (Brian Cox). He is the same guy who gives Wolverine his claws. Stryker eventually has a kid who is a mutant – Jason, who has the power of illusions. Stryker approaches Professor X (Patrick Stewart) to “fix” him. X is unable to help and Stryker’s wife eventually kills herself. Bottom line – Stryker hates mutants and intends to kill them all. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is now a part of the X-Men. Cyclops (James Marsden) and Wolverine have tension between them because they both like Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Jean likes Cyclops. In this movie Jean is slowly unable to control her powers. Stryker tortures Magneto (McKellen) in his plastic prison to get information on the X-Men’s location. Some of the X-Men get captured, the rest escape. Stryker uses his son to control Professor X and uses him to locate all the mutants of the world using cerebro and kill them. Magneto escapes with Mystique’s (Rebecca Romijn) help and the X-Men unite to stop Stryker. As the X-Men try to leave on their jet, the engines don’t start. Jean realizes that it’s her causing the electrical failure. The climax happens at a dam which breaks and water comes gushing. Jean telekinetically takes full control of the jet, stops the water around her and uses Professor X to tell her goodbye to Cyclops and lets go. The jet stays airborne but the water destroys Jean.
Additional mutants to know :
X-Men : Iceman (Bobby played by Shawn Ashmore) can control and manifest ice, Pyro (Aaron Stanford) who can control fire, not manifest it, hence his lighter. Pyro joins the Brotherhood at the end of this movie. Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) who has the power of teleportation.
Other : Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) who has healing powers like Wolverine and has Adamantium claws, she’s under Stryker’s control in this movie.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) : Directed by Brett Ratner
In this film, scientists at Alcatraz find a cure to mutation using a mutant kid called Jimmy. Jimmy has the power to undo the mutation gene of mutants near him. Beast (played by Kelsey Grammer) is now the Secretary of Mutant Affairs. The Brotherhood led by Magneto (Ian McKellen) is annoyed because of the concept of “cure” to mutation. They decide to shut down the operation and kill Jimmy. Cyclops (James Marsden) who is grieving for Jean heads to Alkali lake where is surprised to see Jean (Famke Janssen). This is not Jean, this is Phoenix, her alternate personality. The water never destroyed Jean’s body, she is powerful enough to create a telekinetic force field around herself. But this has also unleashed her alternate personality which has been kept caged by Professor X (Patrick Stewart) all these years. Phoenix kills Cyclops. Both Magneto and Professor X try to get to Jean and get her to come with them for their own reasons. Phoenix destroys Professor X and Magneto takes her with him. The rest of the film is about the Brotherhood wanting to kill Jimmy and the X-Men trying to protect him. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) distracts Magneto while Beast injects him with the “cure”. Magneto loses his mutation. Phoenix unleashes her full fury on everybody as she is now pure rage and completely out of control. She starts obliterating everything and everyone around her. While Jean likes Cyclops, Phoenix likes Wolverine so she lets him come close. Also Wolverine’s healing power keeps him from dying. Wolverine stabs her, killing Jean and Phoenix. Mutants are finally accepted and Beast is appointed as ambassador to the U.S.A. Rogue takes the cure to be normal. The movie ends with Magneto gaining part of his power back showing that the cure is not permanent. Professor X transfers his conscience to a body in coma and he too is shown to not be dead.
Additional mutants to know :
X-Men : Shadow Cat (Ellen Page), who can walk to walls, Angel (Ben Foster) who has wings and can fly. Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), who can transform into steel.
Brotherhood : Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) who can’t be stopped once he gains momentum, Callisto (Dania Ramirez), who has the power of speed and can sense mutant powers, Multiple Man (Eric Dane) who can duplicate himself multiple times. Kid Omega (Ken Leung), who has spikes coming out of him. Arclight (Omahyra Mota), who has the power to generate shock waves with her claps. Psylocke (Meiling Melançon), who in this film can teleport in shadowy areas.
The Wolverine (2013) : Directed by James Mangold
Frankly, you can skip this movie for various reasons. You can skip watching it, you can skip knowing about it. I could skip writing about it. But I’ll quickly mention why all the skipping. The story is about Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) who travels to Japan. None of the characters in this film connect to the other films in any which way. The antagonist in the film is Ichiro Yashida (played by Haruhiko Yamanouchi) who is an officer that Wolverine saves during the Nagasaki atomic bomb. Greedy Ichiro eventually grows old planning to take Wolverine’s healing power. He makes an adamantium suit (why does everyone have access to adamantium?) and calls it the Silver Samurai. The whole premise of the film is pointless. Wolverine is randomly caught up in someone else’s battle and loses his healing power for a while. Fight sequences are not great. Characters and other mutants are not interesting. On the whole, this was a disaster in the X-Men series. In fact, Wolverine’s Japan based comic stories are quite awesome, eg: Ogun, who mentors him in martial arts, Itsu his first wife and the mysterious character Romulus. But much of that happens before he meets the X-Men or gets his adamantium. I guess they just needed an excuse to bridge the gap between X-Men The Last Stand and X-Men Days Of Future Past. The movie ends with Wolverine being met by Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and told that there is a great threat to Mutantkind. They don’t explain how Professor X gets his body back. Here’s an explanation of this film in one line – Wolverine 2013 Explained
Additional mutants to know :
DON’T BOTHER !
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) : Directed by Bryan Singer
Now here we have a film that bridges the characters from the first three X-Men movie (X-Men, X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand) and the prequel origin story (X-Men: First Class). And how well this has been done. It’s the summation of the whole cast both young and old coming together into an epic story and battle. The film is about an event which leads to the creation of machines called Sentinels which can destroy mutants. After Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) meet Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), they take him back with them. Wolverine, who doesn’t age because of his healing, has his mind sent back to his younger self. The point of time he is sent back to is post the events of X-Men First Class but before he gets the Adamantium in him. He is sent back to stop an event that triggers the hunt for mutants. In the past Mistique (Jennifer Lawrence) ends up killing Bolivar Trask (played by Peter Dinklage) after which she is captured and her adaptive genes are used to create the Sentinels. They send Wolverine to stop this event, that way the Sentinels will never get sanctioned and the destruction of mutantkind can be prevented.
The younger Professor X (James McAvoy) has given up on the X-Men and stays aloof. The younger Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is in prison. Wolverine gets them together to stop Mistique’s killing. But things get out of control and her blood is recovered at the scene. The work on Sentinels continues. There is a lot that happens in this movie. While the younger mutants work, the older versions of themselves are getting killed and taken apart by the Sentinels in the future. It all comes to a grand finale as Mistique has a second chance to take out Trask and this time Professor X is able to convince Mistique to not do it. Magneto decides to take out the humans himself but is stopped by Mistique. Seeing that there are good mutants too, the Sentinel program is scrapped and the future gets re-written.
Wolverine’s consciousness from the future is no longer bound to the past self. But the future has been re-written and hence his consciousness occupies the mind of the future wolverine from the alternate future, the one where there are no Sentinels. In this universe, they show Cyclops and Jean Grey still alive. This means that many of the events from X2 and X-Men Last Stand have also been re-written. Most importantly, The Wolverine (2013) hasn’t happened at all in this new future. See, I told you could ignore that film. So ya, Wolverine meets professor X and they have a heart to heart about the world that this future is.
Additional mutants to know :
Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who has the power of operating at supersonic speeds. Blink (Fan Bingbing), who can create portals for teleportation.
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) : Directed by Tim Miller
This film continues right after the events of the White House in Days of Future Past. The film is about Apocalypse (played by Oscar Isaac) who is the first mutant. Over generations Apocalypse has been getting his conscience transferred from one body to another to continue living on and on. Everytime he moves into another body he acquires the powers of that body. Over generations Apocalypse has picked up a variety of powers and is super powerful, way more powerful than the other mutants we have known and loved. The story is also set in a new universe. Remember how the events of Days of Future Past changed the future to create a new timeline with Jean Grey and Cyclops still alive? This story is set in that altered timeline.
The story continues from right after Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) saves the day and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) goes into exile. Charles (James McAvoy) is running the school with Beast (Nicholas Hoult). The story features young mutants Jean Grey (played by Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones) and a young Cyclops (played by Tye Sheridan). The film also features a young Storm (played by Alexandra Shipp) and a mutant by the name Psylocke (played by Olivia Munn). Psylocke wields telekinetic weapons and is the only one who looks and has the costume straight out of the comic. A young Nightcrawler is played by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Evan Peters is back as Quicksilver. Archangel is played by Ben Hardy.
Apocalypse, persuades Storm, Angel, Psylocke and Magneto to join him and destroy the world and cleanse it so that only the strong survive. Professor X and his X-Men stop Apocalypse. Here’s more details on this movie – X-Men : Apocalypse Explained
Deadpool (2016) : Directed by Tim Miller
This movie is not connected to the X-Men as such. But Deadpool now belongs to the Movie Universe. Since his intro in Wolverine has been done all wrong, they did a first cut of the movie focusing on Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) who suffers from cancer. He enrolls in a program to get the cancer cured in unconventional methods. The program (which is originally supposed to be the Weapon X) turns out to be an experimentation and messes Wade up entirely. However, his cancer is cured but leaves him looking like a dried up avocado. He gains powers of regeneration and agility as well. Wade takes on the name Deadpool and seeks revenge. The only crossover between this and the X-Men is the character Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) who helps Deadpool out with his mission. More on Deadpool here – Deadpool (2016) : Movie vs Comic Book.
Deadpool 2 (2018) : Directed by David Leitch
This movie follows right after Deadpool 1. We have Cable, a time traveler, who’s come back in time to kill a kid called Russel Collins. Russel grows up to become the evil Firefist and happens to kill Cable’s family; if Russel is dead as a kid Cable’s family would be safe in the future. Collins is planning to kill the abusive headmaster of the orphanage he grew up in. This first kill takes him down the path of evil. Deadpool convinces Cable to stand down and give him a chance to stop Collins from killing. Long story short, Deadpool sacrifices himself to save Collins and this changes the future. Cable sacrifices his last charge to travel back to the future to his family and saves Deadpool.
Additional mutants to know :
Domino, who has the power of good luck, yes, that is a power.
Logan (2017) : Directed by James Mangold
This fantastic film is a solid, solid comeback for Mangold after the earlier Wolverine disaster. The film takes place in the same timeline as X-Men: Apocalypse, many years in the future. Logan is now old, so is Charles Xavier. Charles’ mind has also been affected by a mental disease and is considered a national threat. All the mutants in the world are now dead as the x-gene is receding. This also is why Wolverine now ages and his wounds don’t heal much. It is later told in the film that an engineered corn syrup causes the death of the x-gene. The film introduces us to a young child mutant who needs protection. Her name is Laura (X-23), she’s genetically engineered from the DNA of Wolverine. Logan and Charles help take Laura to the borders of Canada at North Dakota. In the process, Charles is killed. Wolverine manages to fight his way through and unites Laura with the other mutant kids. In the end Logan dies from his wounds as the kids pass on through to the Canadian border. This is probably the best made film in the entire X-Men series. Here’s a more detailed article explaining the film – Logan Explained.