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Though it’s had its ups and downs over the years, the X-Men franchise has managed to not only persist, but also grow in the last 16 years - recently leading to the release of X-Men: Apocalypse. We’ve seen characters grow, timelines altered, and spin-offs launched, all as the series continues to help mold the comic book movie genre. Obviously lot has changed since the first film was released back in 2000, but one thing that has stayed consistent is the level of big screen spectacle – and that’s what we’re here to discuss.
Now that X-Men: Apocalypse is in theaters and we can look at the totality of the franchise’s path over the last 16 years, we figured now would be a great time to look back at the long legacy of fantastic action sequences and rank them. Where will your favorite land? Read on to find out!
16. X-Men - Statue of Liberty Torch battleWhen Bryan Singer’s original X-Men movie first came out, the modern comic book movie genre was only starting to grow, and CGI wasn’t exactly what it is today. As a result, the action in the blockbuster is a bit weaker than its predecessors, but we still have to give credit to the climactic battle on the torch of the Statue of Liberty. The fight between Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and Tyler Mane’s Sabertooth is definitely the highlight, but credit is also due for having each core member of the team contribute to the mission with their own special gifts.
15. X-Men Origins: Wolverine – The sibling bar brawlSpeaking of the long-lasting conflict between Wolverine and Sabertooth, Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine provided them with their second time to do battle on the big screen, and while the film is arguably the worst in the franchise, the scuffles between the hero and villain are well done. In particular, we want to highlight the showdown between the two mutants following what Logan believes is the murder of Kayla Silverfox. Also, the fact that it’s a fight that the good guy doesn’t win makes it a special entry on this list.
14. X2: X-Men United - Wolverine vs. Lady DeathstrikeWe’ll be hitting pause on this Wolverine streak soon, but first we want to highlight the excellent showdown featured towards the end of Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United. In the movie franchise Kelly Hu’s Lady Deathstrike is a powerful foil for Wolverine, given that she has similar healing powers and also her own set of dangerous adamantium blades. Singer makes you feel every single cut in the sequence, but also caps it off with a fantastic finish – with the clawed lady mutant getting pumped full of unbreakable metal and drowned.
13. X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Wade Wilson shows off his sword skillsX-Men Origins: Wolverine is notorious for its completely awful treatment of Deadpool, betraying the character from the page by giving him ridiculous powers and sewing his mouth shut. Before all that happened in the conclusion, however, the movie did give us a taste of how awesome Ryan Reynolds could be as Wade Wilson. The sequence where he uses his impressive sword skills to deflect bullets as a member of Team X is really the only genuine character moment he gets, and it’s sad he couldn’t get more. Thankfully, 20th Century Fox would make it up to the character and fans years later… but we’ll get more into that in a bit.
12. X2: X-Men United - Stryker’s raid on the X-MansionBryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United is arguably the best all-around movie that the franchise has to offer, and while most of that is based in the story that’s told, the film also has some truly fantastic action sequences. We’ve already talked about one, but the raid executed by General Stryker’s men on the Xavier School For Gifted Mutants is the best the blockbuster has to offer. Once again, we get to see a lot of different mutant powers used in creative and interesting ways, plus even the layout of the mansion gets well explored – particularly in the revelation of secret passages that students can take to get to safety.
11. X-Men: First Class - The Cuban Missile CrisisOne of the best elements of Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class is the way in which it integrates true historical events into the fictional narrative being constructed – and it’s actually the universe’s version of the Cuban Missile Crisis that becomes one of the best action sequences in the franchise. The mission to stop Sebastian Shaw is compelling enough, but Magneto’s manipulation of all the missiles launched from both American and Russian ships is heart-pounding stuff, and it makes for a great conclusion to one of the best X-Men titles we’ve seen.
10. The Wolverine – The funeral fightA funeral isn’t the most appropriate place for a bloody brawl, but what else are you going to do when a disguised hitman whips out a machine gun in order to try and carry out an assassination attempt? James Mangold’s The Wolverine does a great job of embracing its Japanese setting within the impressive choreography, and in the funeral fight there is a particularly fantastic contrast created between the beautiful and graceful martial arts executed by some characters, and the berserker rage executed by the titular hero.
9. X-Men: The Last Stand - Magneto takes the Golden Gate BridgeThere aren’t a ton of nice things to be said about Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand from a narrative perspective, but it is honestly quite spectacular when Magneto establishes a way to get his army of mutants over to Alcatraz Island to stop the "cure" being produced. Lifting the entire Golden Gate Bridge is exactly the same kind of crazy display of power that the Master of Magnetism has demonstrated many times over the years in Marvel Comics, and it’s rather spectacular to watch on the big screen.
8. The Wolverine – On top of the bullet trainRemember what I was saying earlier about James Mangold’s The Wolverine taking full advantage of the movie’s Japanese setting? That’s once again present again at the mid-point of the movie, as Logan finds himself acting as a bodyguard for Mariko and fighting ninjas on top of a bullet train. It manages to find a balance between thrilling and tongue-in-cheek that fits the sequence well (gotta love the bluff used to take out one of Wolverine’s final opponents), and it’s ultimately one of the best sequences in a well-made action blockbuster.
7. Deadpool - The "Helicarrier" battleSure, it’s not really a decommissioned Helicarrier featured in the final act of Tim Miller’s Deadpool, as the rights to that particular vehicle belong to Marvel Studios, but that’s the best way to describe the location of the excellent final showdown between the eponymous hero and the dastardly Ajax a.k.a. Francis. Due to a low budget, the film notoriously had to cut back a lot on the big action sequence, but what it lacks in scale it makes up for in fun mutant action (with Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Angel Dust also in the mix) but also hilarious moments (you gotta love the appearance of Bob from "Hydra").
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past - Mutants vs. SentinelsBryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past ultimately gives most of the film’s runtime over to the young mutants introduced in X-Men: First Class, but the movie features one of its best sequences right at the start of the story, set in the distant future. Showcasing a Sentinel raid on a mutant hideout, movie-goers are immediately put on the edge of their seat as they watch fan-favorite mutants like Ice Man and Colossus killed by robotic monsters. Of course, time manipulation eventually reverses all of this, but it’s still one hell of a way to for the blockbuster to kick things off.
5. Deadpool – Battle on the highwayAdmittedly "battle on the highway" is a bit vague for Tim Miller’s Deadpool, as about a third of the movie takes place on the same stretch of freeway, but we’re specifically referring to the SUV and motorcycle-filled assault that the titular character literally leaps into in the first act of the movie – followed by a series of kills with the anti-hero famously using just 12 bullets. Like the rest of the movie, the sequence is jam-packed with hilarious one-liners and physical gags, but it also happens to be equally thrilling and spell-binding, especially when looked at with the context of the project’s budget.
4. The Wolverine – On the hunt for Mariko (the unrated version)Fans who saw James Mangold’s The Wolverine in theaters were treated to a cool-yet-abbreviated action sequence where Logan does battle with ninjas on his way to rescue Mariko – but the version of the same scene in the unrated extended cut is not only much better, but also one of the best blockbuster moments in the entire franchise. The reason why the scene didn’t make it into the PG-13 version is because it is a lot longer and a lot bloodier – particularly when Yukio gets behind the wheel of a snow plow/combine harvester – and simply put, it’s awesome.
3. X2: X-Men United - Nightcrawler invades the White HouseNightcrawler has been a fan favorite character in X-Men comics for decades, but to this point hasn’t exactly gotten a lot of attention on the big screen. Thankfully, though, we do at the very least have the incredible sequence that Bryan Singer used to open X2: X-Men United. The teleporting mutant’s behavior is a bit out of character, thanks to the fact that he is being controlled by William Stryker, but it’s an amazing display of Nightcrawler’s special gift, and an absolutely perfect way for the blockbuster to kick off its amazing story.
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Quicksilver prison breakIt took the use of some advanced camera technology, a good amount of time, and some seriously bright sets, but Bryan Singer delivered a truly revolutionary speedster sequence in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and helped cement Evan Peters’ Quicksilver as a fan favorite character on the big screen. Set to the tune of Jim Croce’s "Time In A Bottle," the scene is as energetic and fun as the hero that it centers around, and a true piece of cinematic magic… only to be topped by one other action sequence in the X-Men franchise.
1. X-Men: Apocalypse - Quicksilver saves Xavier’s gifted youngstersIn the development of X-Men: Apocalypse, Bryan Singer recognized the love that fans had for the Quicksilver sequence in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and decided that it would be in the movie’s best interest to feature another major sequence centered around the speedster. This time he upped the scale to a location much bigger than a kitchen at the Pentagon, and while it could have simply come across as a tired rehash, watching Peter Maximoff race around the X-Mansion saving everyone to the tune of the Eurithmic’s "Sweet Dreams" is an absolute delight. It’s the best sequence we’ve seen from the franchise to date – but with many new projects on the horizon, we’re excited to see how the movies take it to the next level in the future.