In 2000, X-Men effectively changed Hollywood forever. While the film wasn’t the first live-action adaptation of a Marvel Comic (titles including Howard The Duck and Blade beat it to the punch), it was the first to be made as an all-audiences action blockbuster with a tentpole budget, and its success ushered in the cinematic age of superheroes in which we are presently still living today. Over the course of 20 years, sequels and spin-offs inarguably turned it into one of the most influential franchises in movie history.
The canon officially came to an end in 2020 as a result of the Disney-Fox merger, and before long the Marvel Cinematic Universe will begin to feature its own version of the various mutant characters – but as a complete entity the X-Men franchise will forever have a special place in the hearts of comic book fans, and repeatedly discovered and rewatched. But what is the best way to watch all 13 of the films in the continuity? We’ve put together this guide to answer that very question.
If You’ve Never Seen The X-Men Movies Before
Over the course of two decades, the X-Men canon definitely got… complicated. This in mind, if you’ve never actually watched any of them before, and are looking to be initiated, your best bet is to watch the movies in the order in which they were actually released. You’ll experience a lot of jumping around in time, but it’s the best way to get to know the universe and all of the principal characters.
If You’ve Seen The X-Men Movies Before
If you’ve been following the X-Men franchise from the beginning and are getting in the mood to revisit all of them, you may want to consider the chronological approach. Not only is it a way to spice things up from the way you likely previously watched the movies, but it will give you the opportunity to gain a new perspective on the various characters who consistently pop up all the time (looking at you, Wolverine).
X-Men Movies In Order: Release Date
Following the launch of X-Men in 2000, a traditional trilogy was created – but that then led to a series of spin-offs and prequels and timeline shifts that changed the entire profile of the franchise. Below you’ll find a list of the films in the canon the order that they first hit theaters:
- 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)
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
- The New Mutants (2020)
X-Men Movies In Order: Chronologically
From adventures throughout the latter half of the 20th century, to depictions of a desolate future, the X-Men movies cover a hell of a lot of ground chronologically-speaking. This in mind, when the titles are reorganized to fit a linear timeline, the result is a very different arrangement compared to release date order. It starts with a trip back to the grooviest of decades…
X-Men: First Class (Set In 1962)
In the franchise’s effort to showcase how Professor X and Magneto first became frenemies, X-Men: First Class is a trip to the year 1962. Not only does the movie feature the first line-up of the titular team coming together in the canon, but it also notably makes use of major historical events – specifically the Cuban Missile Crisis (which is retconned with mutants and mind-control heavily influencing how things play out).
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Set In 1979)
While X-Men Origins: Wolverine begins in 1845, featuring its titular hero as a child, the main bulk of the action is set in 1979, with James Howlett a.k.a. Logan a.k.a. Wolverine finding his past come back to haunt him – specifically his past as part of a post-Vietnam War black ops unit called Team X. He goes through the notorious procedure that grafts the rare metal adamantium to his skeleton, and then gets a bullet to the brain that leaves him with no memory of his past.
X-Men: Apocalypse (Set In 1983)
This is where things get a bit tricky, as one has to remember that there are technically two canon timelines in the X-Men franchise: pre-Days of Future Past, and post-Days Of Future Past (so called because it’s in X-Men: Days of Future Past that the timeline splits). Unlike X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: Apocalypse is a “post” title, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll focus on the fact that the action in the film is primarily set in 1983. It is during this year in the timeline that the first mutant, the titular Apocalypse, is released from centuries-long entombment and attempts to take over the world after recruiting four powerful “Horsemen.”
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Set In 1992)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the film designed to specifically follow-up the events of X-Men: Apocalypse, and it picks things up with the same ensemble of characters nine years later (though it’s best not to go into the film expecting to see much in the way of 1990s style). It begins with the titular team of mutants heading into space for the first time as part of a rescue mission, and it sees Jean Grey come into contact with the Phoenix Force – ultimately making her a potential threat to the entire world.
X-Men (Set In The “Not Too Distant Future” )
Launching the franchise, X-Men is a film that is spectacularly vague about its setting. Following its Holocaust-set prologue, the modern action begins with a scene featuring a chyron identifying the setting as the “not too distant future” – the story featuring a memory-wiped Wolverine meeting and ingratiating himself with Professor X’s mutant team. The events that follow it in the later films ultimately pin this movie pretty close to the its 2000 release date, but we can just say “early 2000s.”
X2: X-Men United (Set In The “Not Too Distant Future”)
Like its immediate predecessor, X2: X-Men United doesn’t feature a specific date as a setting, but it’s real simple to place on the timeline given the film’s position in the middle of a linear trilogy. The movie picks up shortly after the events of X-Men, and it concludes by basically leading right into…
X-Men: The Last Stand (Set In The “Not Too Distant Future”)
After X2: X-Men United ends with Jean Grey sacrificing herself to save the team, X-Men: The Last Stand picks up with her resurrection and being imbued with the Phoenix Force (technically for the first time given the film’s position as a pre-Days of Future Past title). The film ends with Wolverine needing to kill Jean a.k.a. his true love, which ties directly into the events of…
The Wolverine (Set In The “Not Too Distant Future”)
The Wolverine begins with Logan isolating himself from not only the X-Men, but society after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand – though there still isn’t any clear indication regarding exactly what year it takes place. For our purposes, however, we just need to know when it takes place in relation to the other films, and that puts it right here on the timeline.
Deadpool (Set In The “Not Too Distant Future”)
The eponymous fourth-wall breaking merc with the mouth specifically notes in Deadpool how confusing the timelines are in the X-Men universe… but we have a general sense of when it takes place, which is to say probably right around its 2016 release date (garnered primarily through settings, technologies, cars, etc). Being noticeably separate from the other titles in the franchises, it’s hard to specifically say when it takes place, but between the events of the “present” and the “future” seems right.
Deadpool 2 (Set In The “Not Too Distant Future”)
Deadpool 2 technically goes further into the future than any other X-Men movie, as the sequences set in the when that Cable is from take place beyond any of the other movies – but mostly the story takes place in the present, and most definitely in the aftermath of the events in Deadpool. Things are made a bit confusing because of cameos from the X-Men of the 20th century (James McAvoy’s Professor X, et al.), but all things considered it basically has to be set right here on the timeline.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past (Set In 2023/1973)
As alluded to, the existence of X-Men: Days of Future Past makes the franchise’s timeline as a whole a bit screwy. Not only does it have a time travel plot that winds up rewriting a fair amount of the continuity, but it also splits action between the year 2023 and 1973. As far as its placement goes, the fact that it both begins and ends in the “future” date justifies putting it here toward the end… but we also acknowledge that it makes this whole chronological viewing order messy.
The New Mutants (Set In The 2020s)
The New Mutants is another movie that mostly keeps to its own corner of the continuity, set in and around an isolated hospital, and as such it’s not terrifically easy to precisely pinpoint when it takes place. That being said, it does have connection to one other X-Men movie – specifically Logan – which gives us a vague sense of when it takes place. The same operation run by the Essex Corporation featured in the Wolverine trilogy capper is in full swing in The New Mutants, so it seems safe to place it here on the timeline.
Logan (Set In 2029)
Speaking of Logan, it’s the terminal film on the X-Men movie timeline. The movie is explicitly set in 2029, telling a story in a world further into the future than any other franchise (and one that has seen mutants practically become extinct). The dates don’t line up all that well with the other films, but you just have to accept some things and not focus too much on the details.
All of the X-Men movies – including X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix – are all now streaming on Disney+, as is X-Men: Origins Wolverine. Hulu is presently where to find Deadpool, Deadpool 2 and Logan, and The Wolverine and The New Mutants are available on HBO Max.
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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