In the wake of Batman & Robin in 1997, superhero movies were on the verge of extinction. It’s hard to imagine that period of time today, as the superhero genre is now the epicenter of Hollywood, for better or worse. The reason for this is not because of The Avengers. It’s not because of Iron Man. It’s not even because of The Dark Knight. In 2000, director Bryan Singer gave us the most important superhero movie ever made: X-Men. X-Men was the first true superhero movie that showed critics and audiences, “this isn’t a joke.” It was darker. More grounded. The camp was gone. It took the genre seriously.There would be no Batman Begins without this film. Period. And while the X-Men franchise has had diminishing returns the last few years, and has never reached the box office heights that Batman or the Avengers have, it’s still alive and kicking fourteen years later. What other superhero franchise can say that? None. No other actor has played a superhero in film more times than Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
For as long as this franchise has been around, I believe X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best entry to date. So, with Days of Future Past owning the box office, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to revisit the best moments from the previous films (we’re keeping scenes from the current movie off the list, because we still want you to see it first). So let’s plug in cerebro, and take a trip down memory lane with Professor X, Magneto, Iceman, Jean Grey, Mystique, and of course, Wolverine – this is my top ten best scenes from the X-Men franchise.
*X-MEN MOVIE SPOILERS GALORE*
10) Logan the Woodsman (The Wolverine)
I had to include this in the top ten. The Wolverine is a great film, but it never reaches the heights that it does in the first fifteen minutes. Logan doesn’t even really do anything in this scene. He just wanders around the woods with a long ass beard, and spots a huge fucking bear. I don’t know what it is, but Hugh Jackman looks like such a bad ass in this sequence, and this image perfectly encapsulates who Wolverine is. I could have watched a 90 minute movie where Logan hangs out in the woods with a grizzly bear.
9) The Cuban Missile Crisis (X-Men: First Class)
Even though I enjoyed X-Men: The Last Stand, and didn’t think X-Men Origins: Wolverine was the giant piece of shit that most do, X-Men: First Class definitely reinvigorated the franchise, and might even be my favorite of the series so far. This final battle sequence between the X-Men and the Hellfire Club was a perfect payoff to the great character development we saw throughout the movie between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr. Eric lifting that sub was pure bliss, and this won’t be the last time we talk about Magneto’s power, I promise you that. This sequence had everything you could ever want from an X-Men battle scene, including a great use of mutant powers all around. But it’s the final standoff at the beach that brought real intensity and tragedy to the film. Even though you knew the friendship between Charles and Erik had to fracture at some point, the way it’s executed was flawless. To make Erik the one to paralyze Charles by pure accident was powerful, and even caught me completely off guard. The acting by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender is incredible. You even get the tension of Erik pushing the missiles back towards the US and Russian ships. It’s just a magnificent sequence all around.
8) Magneto Escapes Prison (X2)
I told you we weren’t done talking about Magneto’s power. While a lot of the set-up for this is done earlier with Mystique, the payoff is pure pleasure to watch. As Magneto lies in his plastic prison, and we see that douchebag guard walk in, Ian McKellen delivers this subtle little smile that is probably my favorite single moment of the entire movie. He can feel the metal inside the guard’s body instantly. Magneto had been completely abused and gutted throughout the film until this point. To see him get his mojo back like this was truly a sight to behold.
7) Jean Grey’s Display of Power (X2)
So many superhero movies today shove the hero’s arrogance and power right in your face. While I enjoy this at times, I miss a lot of those subtle moments. X2 does a brilliant job of building up Jean’s power throughout the movie, and it all comes crashing down in tragic fashion at the end. Let me put what Jean does here in perspective: She controls a large jet, pushes back a tidal wave of water and ice, doesn’t allow Nightcrawler to teleport, and takes control of Professor X, all at the same time. Holy shit. Now that’s a display of superhero power. And it’s not shown through fighting a bunch of aliens and robots. Yeah, Thor knocking around monsters with his hammer, and Captain America tossing his shield a hundred times is cool, but this to me is what superhero movies need more of. This is true superhero power on display.
6) “The Wolverine” (The Wolverine)
For as much of a bad ass as Wolverine is, a major element to his character in every X-Men movie is his desire to stop fighting and live a quiet existence. What I love about The Wolverine is that Logan finally accepts who he is – a soldier. And it’s in this moment where he fully embraces it. Not only do we see a bad ass fight between him and Shingen, but Hugh Jackman’s delivery of “the Wolverine” could not have been more perfect. But the reason this catapulted into my top ten is the shot of Wolverine pulling a samurai sword out of his torso. It is an epic moment, and a picture I would love to have blown up and framed on my wall. For me, it’s the ultimate Wolverine moment.
5) Chess (X-Men)
My favorite element to the entire world of X-Men is probably the relationship between Professor X and Magneto. To say it’s complicated would be an understatement. They were great friends, allies, and finally enemies, but they always had a great respect for one another. Even though Magneto almost killed a bunch of world leaders, Professor X still comes to visit his old friend in prison, and they even play a game of chess while continuing to debate their differences. It’s one of my favorite endings ever to superhero film, and even more enhanced after watching X-Men: First Class.
4) Magneto Moves the Golden Gate Bridge (X-Men: The Last Stand)
You can say what you want about X-Men: The Last Stand, but there is no denying how unbelievably awe-inspiring this was. I think the scene speaks for itself:
3) Poland 1944 (X-Men)
This scene goes back to what I said in the opening. Not only is this how the entire series begins, but it showed everyone right off the bat we weren’t watching a typical superhero movie. I’m sure many critics and audiences came into this film thinking, “here’s another dumb cartoon for kids.” By opening with a sequence right out of the Holocaust, you had no choice but to take this film seriously. From that moment on, the entire superhero genre changed, and it’s the reason why I have it so high on the list.
2) Power through Serenity (X-Men: First Class)
I go to superhero movies for moments like these. As I mentioned before, the relationship between Professor X and Magneto is the heart of the entire X-Men story. To watch Charles show Erik another dimension to unlocking his power other than anger and rage was a truly powerful moment. It’s a scene like this that makes the action in superhero films truly earned. When Erik is responsible for paralyzing Charles on the beach, I immediately thought of this highly emotional bonding moment between the two characters. It’s tragic in every sense of the word, and why X-Men: First Class belongs in the upper echelon of superhero films such as The Dark Knight and Man of Steel.
1) The Introduction of Wolverine (X-Men)
Aside from Batman’s introduction at the docks in Batman Begins, and Batman gliding down the smoke in the backdrop of Tim Burton’s original film, this is probably the greatest introduction ever for a superhero. Wolverine is one of the most well known comic book characters in existence, probably only behind Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. When X-Men begins, we know he’s coming. It’s just a matter of when. But when Rogue walks into that seedy Canadian bar, everybody seeing this film for the first time knew that in a matter of minutes, we were about to see Wolverine for the very first time in live action. It’s a flawlessly executed scene, and cage fighting was the perfect way to go. The suspense is drawn out beautifully. You can only see his back as he takes a swig of alcohol. The challenger comes into the ring and beats his ass, and then CLANG! There he is, growling like a wild animal – the Wolverine.