How to watch the X-Men movies in order

The X-Men Cinematic Universe (XCU, if you will) predates the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) by eight years and is one of the top 10 highest-grossing film franchises in the world. It also consists of a bunch of jumbled timelines and subfranchises, meaning watching the X-Men movies in order isn’t such an easy task.

Moreover, after Disney’s acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox early last year, the future of all mutantdom is in question. Disney canceled all films in the series that were in production, aside from The New Mutants, which opens in theaters April 3 and serves as the last film in the Twentieth Century XCU.

The New Mutants has suffered from behind-the-scenes drama and production delays, with its original projected release of April 2018 getting pushed back two full years. But this is not the first time the franchise has experienced complications. While there have been many highs, including 2003’s X2 and 2017’s Oscar-nominated indie drama Logan, the most recent films, X-Men: Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix, were significant steps down in quality for the X-films. And director Bryan Singer’s involvement in the films has been marred by several sexual assault allegations against him. 

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(Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox)

While we’re not optimistic that The New Mutants will be the best film to close out the pre-MCU X-Men movies, there’s a lot to look forward to in Disney’s upcoming take on our favorite mutants. The company could adapt last year’s game-changing and bestselling House of X and Powers of X comics by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva and Marte Gracia, in which the X-Men create and live on the sovereign island nation of Krakoa. Or X-Men could be introduced slowly, cameo-style throughout Marvel Studios’ Phase 4 of films. Beyond any of those predictions, though, we’re just excited for a new take on the X-Men that exists firmly in the MCU. 

Before that happens, and before April’s The New Mutants release, we’ve put together some comprehensive lists on how to watch the X-Men movies in order before the Fox mutant universe exists only in days of future past. 

X-Men movies in order of release

In our opinion, the best way to watch the X-films is in the order they were released. Following the upcoming release of The New Mutants on April 3, the films will have spanned two decades, but they all started with 2000’s X-Men. In many ways, X-Men paved the way for all big-budget superhero movies that followed it, coming two years before Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and five years before DC’s Batman Begins. From there, you can see how the films evolved (for better and worse) with the introduction of Deadpool, a new timeline, and the bold tonal and style shifts of Logan. Here’s the list in release order:

  • X-Men (2000)
  • X2: X-Men United (2003)
  • X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
  • X-Men: First Class (2011)
  • The Wolverine (2013)
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
  • Deadpool (2016)
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
  • Logan (2017)
  • Deadpool 2 (2018)
  • Dark Phoenix (2019)
  • The New Mutants (forthcoming April 2020)

X-Men movies in order of chronological events

Because the events of the X-films take place across almost seven decades and include multiple realities, watching in chronological order of events can get a little tricky. But it’s no doubt a fun and worthwhile binge for those who’ve already seen the movies once or multiple times. This viewing order starts with First Class, which is set primarily in 1962 and follows a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) as they embrace their mutant personas of Professor X and Magneto, respectively. Then, we jump to Days of Future Past, in which Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to the ’70s to prevent a future in which killer-robot Sentinels destroy the X-Men.

That’s when it gets a little confusing, because after Days of Future Past, the films are split into two timelines: one that comprises the original trilogy and The Wolverine and another that comprises Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix, Deadpool, Deadpool 2 and Logan. We’ve arranged these by the years in which they primarily take place for least confusion possible, but you could certainly watch them in two chunks based solely on classic and new timeline if you felt so inclined.

Though The New Mutants is rumored to be set in the present day, we’ve omitted the upcoming film from this list, as we’re not yet sure exactly where it’ll fall in this complicated chronology. Stay tuned for updates.

  • X-Men: First Class (2011) — set primarily in 1962
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) — set primarily in 1973
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) — set primarily in the 1970s
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) — set in 1983
  • Dark Phoenix (2019) — set in the 1990s
  • X-Men (2000) — set primarily in the early aughts 
  • X2: X-Men United (2003) — set primarily in the mid-aughts
  • X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) — set primarily in the mid-aughts
  • The Wolverine (2013) — set in 2013
  • Deadpool (2016) — set in 2016
  • Deadpool 2 (2018) — set around 2018
  • Logan (2017) — set in 2029

We don’t recommend this order for first-time viewers, because this viewing makes numerous plot holes more obvious, and these might confuse more than entertain. But if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and just go along for the ride, you’ll enjoy it. 

The best X-Men movies

Don’t have time to watch all 12 films but still want to get a taste of the X-Men before they join the MCU? We totally get it. And in fact, skipping some of the worst installments in this franchise has the added benefit of eliminating the peskiest plot inconsistencies. Back in May 2019, our staff ranked the films in advance of Dark Phoenix, and we unanimously agreed that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the worst of the X-movies while Logan is the best. Here’s an organized list of the best of the franchise that still maintain a somewhat consistent chronology:

  • X-Men: First Class (2011) 
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) 
  • X-Men (2000) 
  • X2: X-Men United (2003) 
  • The Wolverine (2013) 
  • Deadpool 2 (2018) 
  • Logan (2017)

Where to watch the X-Men movies

Because of Disney’s recent acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox, streaming the X-films for free is, sadly and surprisingly, difficult to do right now. We’ve outlined the best ways to watch below, but it might be worth waiting until the movies make their way to Disney Plus; many of them are already available on the streaming service in markets outside of the U.S., so it’s likely only a matter of time until we get them, too. Or, if you’re into owning the films for yourself, look to Best Buy, which is currently offering a Blu-ray collection for $59.99 that includes X-Men, X2, The Last Stand, First Class, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse, as well as oodles of bonus content. 

  • X-Men (2000) — $3.99 to rent on Amazon
  • X2: X-Men United (2003) — $3.99 to rent on Amazon
  • X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) — $3.99 to rent on Amazon
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) — $3.99 to rent on Amazon
  • X-Men: First Class (2011) — $3.99 to rent on Amazon
  • The Wolverine (2013) — $3.99 to rent on Amazon
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) — streaming on Hulu with Live TV subscription; $3.99 to rent on Amazon
  • Deadpool (2016) — streaming on Hulu with Live TV subscription; $3.99 to rent on Amazon
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) — streaming on Hulu with Live TV subscription; $3.99 to rent on Amazon
  • Logan (2017) — $3.99 to rent on Amazon
  • Deadpool 2 (2018) — streaming on Hulu with Cinemax add-on
  • Dark Phoenix (2019) — $5.99 to rent on Amazon

How the X-Men shows fit in

If you weren’t already confused by the X-Men chronology, adding the X-shows into the mix may send you over the edge. Thankfully, they mainly exist in their own realities, with distinct continuities, so you can treat them as individual properties that don’t make a strong effort to connect to the films’ already messy structure. Here, we’ll cover the three main X-Men shows we believe are worth your time if the films didn’t fully satisfy your mutant craving. 

Legion

Legion follows the mutant David Haller; son of Xavier, he is one of the most powerful mutants in existence. Showrunner Noah Hawley, best known for his FX anthology series Fargo, crafts a darker, more surreal X-verse than we’ve seen in the movies. Sometimes confusing, but never uninteresting, Legion assaults your senses and never lets up in its three-season run. If you’re looking for a more challenging story that upsets the blockbuster superhero formula, this is the show for you.

Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available to stream on Hulu. 

The Gifted

This Fox show was canceled after just two seasons, but there are some great episodes that make it worth sticking with the series. It follows two human parents who discover that their kids have mutant abilities, and the family has to go on the run to protect the kids from the government. The Gifted exists in its own timeline, so you don’t have to worry about how it connects to the movies, because it doesn’t. Featured X-Men include Blink, Thunderbird, Polaris and the Frost sisters.

Both seasons are available to stream on Hulu.

X-Men: The Animated Series

This ’90s animated classic is worth mentioning because A) it’s great and B) its availability on Disney Plus has made it easier than ever to watch or rewatch. There’s a lot to love beyond the show’s incredibly catchy theme music: Many plots from Jim Lee’s comic run are adapted throughout this show’s five seasons, all the original X-Men are heavily featured, and its rogues’ gallery includes the Sentinels, Magneto and Mister Sinister. It also arguably does the Dark Phoenix saga better justice than the movies.

All seasons are available to stream on Disney Plus. 

What’s next

There’s a lot to get excited about in the future of the X-Men. Now that mutants will be firmly part of the MCU, there’s a good chance we’ll see them interact with the larger group of Marvel heroes, adding a refreshingly new dynamic to the entire franchise. In Marvel’s current X-books, dubbed Dawn of X, exciting stories are being told about the mutants attempting to peacefully coexist away from humans on their island nation-state of Krakoa. With rebooted titles that include X-Force, Marauders and Excalibur, the film and show adaptation possibilities are abundant. 

Currently, Deadpool 3 is the only X-Men-adjacent film from Marvel Studios that’s known to be in production, but plans for more X-movies are certainly already underway. 

Image credit: Fox network
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