X-Men movies in order: what’s the best way to watch the X-Men films?

What’s the best order to watch the X-Men movies? That’s a complicated question, with no easy answer. Fox produced over a dozen films based on Marvel’s mutants, and in that time, soft-rebooted the series once using time travel, adapted the Dark Phoenix Saga twice, and made no less than three Wolverine spin-offs.

Between the frenetic timeline, ever-shifting cast, and the broad spectrum of quality (to put it mildly), coherence is not a strong suit of Fox’s X-Men-related output. That’s not to say Hugh Jackman’s rock hard abs are the only thread connecting these movies, and if you can tolerate a little inconsistency, there’s a couple of ways to watch the big screen adventures of Charles Xavier’s best and brightest that give you something resembling a full story.

The first is simply putting them all in order of when they’re set. It’s the route of least resistance for organising a movie marathon, and so long as everyone accepts that one day Sophie Turner wakes up as Famke Janssen and doesn’t ask any more questions, it’s a fine slate of mutant action. The second involves diverging timelines, which takes a bit of work to keep straight, but the result is something that has a bit more thematic substance to it.

What is the correct order to watch X-Men movies?

  • X-Men: First Class (1962)
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (1979)
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (1983)
  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix (1992)
  • X-Men (2000)
  • X-Men 2/X2: X-Men United
  • X-Men: The Last Stand
  • The Wolverine
  • Deadpool
  • Deadpool 2
  • The New Mutants
  • X-Men: Days Of Future Past (starts and ends in 2023)
  • Logan (2029)

Chronological

One entry aside, each X-Men movie mostly depicts specific events happening over a short period. This means that starting from X-Men: First Class, you can form an orderly line of films that stretches from the early sixties, right up to the near future. Due to shifts in quality and personnel, some of the transitions are less than smooth, but on the whole, it lines up, at least on paper.

After the one-two gutterballs of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in 2006 and 2009 respectively, Fox made the wise decision to shift gears and start fresh with an origin story. The result was X-Men: First Class, depicting the foundation of Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Children, and sowing the seeds for Professor X and Magneto’s long, embattled rivalry.

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From there, in 1963, we move to 1979 for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a mostly self-contained dive into Wolvie’s checkered past that includes an appearance by fan-favourite Gambit, and Ryan Reynolds’ introduction as Wade Wilson.

A few years later, it’s 1983 and time for X-Men: Apocalypse, where the core group of mutated teens, including Scott ‘Cyclops’ Summers, Kurt ‘Nightcrawler’ Wagner, Ororo ‘Storm’ Munroe, and Jean Grey face En Sabah Nur, the world’s first mutant, played by Oscar Isaac. Then, we jump to the nineties for Dark Phoenix, Fox’s last X-Men movie, for a truncated adaption of the Dark Phoenix Saga, that places Sophie Turner’s Jean front-and-center. After this, the original X-Men trilogy kicks off, with 2000’s X-Men, featuring Halle Berry as Storm (Halle Berry), Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).

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We stick with them through X2: X-Men United, and X-Men: The Last Stand, with a redux of the Dark Phoenix story, before getting Jackman’s second headline appearance, his jaunt over to Japan for 2013’s The Wolverine. The series takes a detour at this point, shifting over to Ryan Reynolds and Wade ‘Deadpool’ Wilson for the anarchic Deadpool films. Both they and The New Mutants seem to take place around the time they were made, and watching them here won’t upset the continuity any.

X-Men: Days of Future Past, bookended by scenes in 2023, is next, combining the disparate casts as Wolverine fights to save the future. He succeeds, of course, but not necessarily for himself, as after that is James Mangold’s Logan, set in 2029. One of the more beloved X-related films, Logan brings the overarching story that began in X-Men: First Class to a bittersweet, yet optimistic conclusion, Jackman and Stewart bowing out for the next generation to take over.

Watching order:

  • X-Men: First Class (1962)
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (1979)
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (1983)
  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix (1992)
  • X-Men (2000)
  • X-Men 2/X2: X-Men United
  • X-Men: The Last Stand
  • The Wolverine
  • Deadpool
  • Deadpool 2
  • The New Mutants
  • X-Men: Days Of Future Past (starts and ends in 2023)
  • Logan (2029)

Split Timeline

Of course, one thing the above glosses over is that most of X-Men: Days of Future Past takes place in 1973, and everything after that is part of the alterations Logan puts in place. X-Men: Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix are both products of this other timeline, as are the Deadpool films, and The New Mutants. Therefore, if you want to experience Fox’s X-movies in their proper, messy glory, you need to separate them.

On one side is the 2000 timeline, staying with the cast of Fox’s original trilogy up through the noughties, into the Sentinel-ridden dystopia of Days of Future Past. On the other is the Apocalypse timeline, flowing through the seventies, eighties, and nineties in fulsome fashion. Peter ‘Quicksilver’ Maximoff (Evan Peters), Raven ‘Mystique’ Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence), Hank ‘Beast’ McCoy (Nicolas Hoult), and more contend against the invention of the Sentinels, Magneto, and mutant civil war. Oh, and the second run at Dark Phoenix, because one disastrous go wasn’t enough.

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All of which flows into Deadpool and The New Mutants, the other, more positive side of Future Past, and then Logan, for that sullen crescendo. Confusing as it is, watching them this way does grant the movies a little more resonance and clarity.

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Watching two different approaches fall apart serves as a keen allegory for the way properties can end up being mistreated by movie studios because production strays away from why people were attracted to these stories and characters in the first place. Likewise, Wolverine’s arc as a mutant born among violence who never manages to outrun the bloodshed makes for compelling, and teary-eyed watching by the end.

Watching order:

  • X-Men: First Class (both)

2000 timeline:

  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  • X-Men
  • X-Men 2/X2: X-Men United
  • X-Men: The Last Stand
  • The Wolverine
  • X-Men: Days Of Future Past (opening)

Apocalypse timeline:

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (1973 portion)
  • X-Men: Apocalypse
  • Dark Phoenix
  • Deadpool
  • Deadpool 2
  • New Mutants
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (new future ending)
  • Logan

There they are, the best ways to watch the X-Men films. It’s all a bit of a shambles, really, but these movies have their merits. Check out the best adventure movies for more fantastical hijinks without all the spandex and superpowers.

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Anthony McGlynn

Staff writer

Updated: Jun 06, 2021


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