X-Men Movies: Best Watch Order

There are various ways to tackle the X-Men movies. Here are our suggestions...

It happens so often in SFF fandoms. You have a series, it starts out releasing an original story, then some sequels, then… it all goes a bit wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey, whether through the release of prequels, through introducing a time-travel element to the story that confuses the order of the narrative, or other various narrative shenanigans.

The viewing order of the X-Men film series is especially complicated. The series includes prequels, at least two different timelines, and more internal inconsistencies than you can shake an adamantium (or bone) claw at. Now that the prequel era has seemingly come to a close with the 2019, Sophie Turner-led Dark Phoenix, we thought we’d firm up a few different options for approaches to an X-Men movie marathon.

None of these suggested viewing orders are intended to be definitive and, thanks to the determined lack of internal consistency in the series, none of them work perfectly. These are just a few suggestions for different routes through the series, as it were, and everyone’s preferred route will come down to personal taste more than anything else.

It should be noted that most of these suggested marathons can be further improved by removing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which introduces an extraordinary number of inconsistencies, and X-Men: Apocalypse, which sits rather awkwardly in any sequence since it exists in a different timeline to most of the rest of the franchise, but takes place midway through the series’ chronology.

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And, of course, none of this takes TV series like Legion (which might take place in an alternate reality entirely) or The Gifted into account! And, of course, Deadpool 2 offers its own bunch of headaches. And let’s not even mention the still as-yet-to-released New Mutants film.

Watching the X-Men Movies in Production Order

X-Men (2000)

So, the simplest viewing order is probably the order in which the movies were made, and in which we originally saw them in the cinema:

X-Men

X2: X-Men United

X-Men: The Last Stand

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X-Men: First Class

The Wolverine

X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Deadpool

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Logan

Deadpool 2

Dark Phoenix

Even this relatively simple approach, however is complicated – where does X-Men: Days Of Future Past: The Rogue Cut fit in? Should it be viewed instead of the theatrical cut? In addition to it? To be fair, it doesn’t make a huge difference to the overall plot, especially as it takes place in a future that has been erased from the timeline by the end of the film.

For the remainder of this article, please assume that any reference to Days Of Future Past can refer to either the theatrical cut or The Rogue Cut, depending on taste.

X-Men Movies in Chronological Order

X-Men: First Class

The next most simple approach ought to be to watch the films in order of the period in which the majority of the story is set, which suggests the following:

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X-Men: First Class (primarily 1962)

X-Men: Days of Future Past (largely 1973)

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (primarily late 1970s)

X-Men: Apocalypse (1983)

Dark Phoenix (1992)

X-Men (early noughties)*

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X2: X-Men United (mid-noughties)

X-Men: The Last Stand (mid-noughties)

The Wolverine (2013)

Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool 2 (2018?)

Logan (2029)

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*X-Men was made in 2000 but set in ‘the not too distant future’, so the exact period setting of the original movie trilogy is somewhat uncertain.

However, it could be argued that it makes more sense to put Days Of Future Past in its future setting of 2023, since that’s where we finish the story and the future is even more dramatically affected by the outcome of the plot than 1973 is, which gives us:

X-Men: First Class

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men: Apocalypse

Dark Phoenix

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X-Men

X2: X-Men United

X-Men: The Last Stand

The Wolverine

Deadpool

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Deadpool 2

Logan

However, either of these viewing orders comes with a major issue when it comes to the timeline. While we’d argue you can fiddle with these a little if you want to (see below), X-Men Origins: Wolverine belongs in an original timeline that was re-written in Days Of Future Past, while X-Men: Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix takes places in the new timeline. So any order which places the two together ends up being rather disjointed and inconsistent. And of course, Deadpool 2 references Wolverine’s death, but clearly doesn’t take place that far in the future. 

Which leads us to some other options…

X-Men Movies by Internal Chronology

X-Men: Days of Future Past

There are two main timelines in the current X-Men universe. The first timeline consists of all the movies produced up to Days Of Future Past and produces the following timeline in chronological order:

X-Men: First Class

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men

X2: X-Men United

X-Men: The Last Stand

The Wolverine

X-Men: Days Of Future Past

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Then Days Of Future Past changes events starting from 1973, producing a new timeline which includes the following films:

X-Men: First Class

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Apocalypse

Dark Phoenix

Deadpool

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Deadpool 2

Logan

However, there are two problems with trying to follow the timelines. One, you could end up trying to watch X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days Of Future Past twice, since they both exist in both timelines (the events of First Class are unchanged by the new timeline; the 2023-set events of Days Of Future Past belong to the old timeline but the 1973-set events belong to the new one).

However, more importantly, there are so many internal inconsistencies that you’re still going to end up with brainache. These are too numerous to list in the course of this article (although we have devoted an entire piece to it here), but there are a few particularly egregious examples:

– Wolverine is in two places at once during World War Two (In Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine, which are both in the same timeline)

– Wolverine’s adamantium claws are chopped off in The Wolverine but inexplicably back in Days Of Future Past. Bryan Singer suggested maybe Magneto put them back, which sort of works, but doesn’t go very well with Logan, since in that film the adamantium has been slowly poisoning Logan for years (and he never says ‘huh, I wish Magneto had taken it all out rather than putting some of it back’).

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– The biggest issue is probably the fact that everyone involved in the making of Logan viewed it as taking place in an entirely different timeline/parallel universe/whatever anyway, and included several references to events from the original timeline and the first film, despite the fact that it is, in theory, set in the new timeline. Possibly.

– And then Deadpool 2 messes everything up by taking place roughly in the present day but referencing Logan’s death multiple times.

You can just about explain it away as Charles reading Logan’s memories of finding him as a cage fighter, etc. (which are intact because Wolverine alone still experienced the original timeline), and to be fair, technically, Charles didn’t find him that way in X-Men Rogue did. But the way Charles speaks certainly doesn’t suggest he’s talking about someone else’s memories – he talks as if he experienced those events.

The obvious solution might be to try to put Logan in the original timeline (see below) – but that makes a nonsense of Days Of Future Past, since mutants can’t be being wiped out by Sentinels in 2023 if they have to hang around to be wiped out by a combination of Zander Price and Charles Xavier himself in 2028-9. So Logan exists entirely on its own, in a separate timeline – but it is also designed to be a farewell to two beloved versions of popular characters, and the culmination of 17 years of work for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, so in a sense, it really works best as part of a marathon with all the others. Plus, as we said, we’re completists.

We think there are three options in how to respond to these issues.

1. Ignore the inconsistencies. Creators frequently explain that they choose to ignore continuity for the sake of the current project, and that they can’t remember most of the inconsistencies that bother fans. Enjoy each movie by itself. Of course, this is not a helpful option if you’re trying to do a marathon of all the movies in a row.

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2. Find ways to explain the inconsistencies away. For example, Professor X can walk in 1979 in X-Men Origins: Wolverine because he’s been taking Beast’s serum again, and is bald because in the original timeline something made him bald before 1983.

3. Choose your own way of watching the movies in which, rather than necessarily follow the official established timeline, does something else with it. Explain away any inconsistencies you can, and ignore any you can’t!

So in the spirit of option 3 – some more, perhaps controversial, suggestions for other possible viewing orders.

X-Men Movies by Wolverine’s Story

X-Men: Origins - Wolverine

When the first X-Men film appeared in 2000, Wolverine was chosen as the lead character and the focaliser for the audience – the character whose point of view we follow through the film. Wolverine has continued to be the lead character through most of the subsequent films and Hugh Jackman has appeared in some form (even if only on a magazine cover) in all of them, which is what makes Logan so much the end of an era. There’s an argument to be made, therefore, for viewing all the films so far as, ultimatley, the story of Wolverine.

It isn’t possible to view events strictly in the order they are experienced by Wolverine, because there’s nowhere to put X-Men: Apocalypse – the Wolverine who wakes up in 2023 at the end of Days Of Future Past never experienced those events, but they did happen to the Wolverine left behind in 1973 (who is sort of wiped from existence by the return of the Prime Wolverine). This list, therefore, focuses on a viewing order that will provide a complete and satisfying story for the character, rather than strict adherance to timelines.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men: First Class

X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men

X2: X-Men United

X-Men: The Last Stand

The Wolverine

Deadpool

X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Logan

Much of Origins: Wolverine takes place after First Class, but since Wolverine only appears for a few seconds in that film, if we’re following his story particularly, it make more sense to tell his origin story first, then flash back, as it were, to see how Professor X formed his school before returning to Wolverine’s story.

Now, we realize that officially, X-Men: Apocalypse takes place in a different timeline. However, going back in between Days Of Future Past and Logan to take it in really interrupts the rhythm of the conclusion of Wolverine’s story, while placing it early on offers a nice first meeting for Wolverine and Jean Grey that actually plays rather nicely into the events of the original X-Men trilogy.

Plus, at the end of Apocalypse, Xavier and Magneto are friends, which does actually make the flashback to them as friends in X-Men: The Last Stand make a little more sense if you put them in the same timeline. So timeline purists won’t enjoy this one, but as a way of viewing Logan’s story, from Weapon X to the X-Men to the high of Days Of Future Past followed by the steep decline into Logan, it more or less works.

X-Men Movies by Charles Xavier’s Story

X-Men: Apocalypse

Wolverine may be a scene-stealer and point of view character, but his leader, friend and father-figure is in just as many of these films (9 out of 10 with a reference in the 10th) albeit played by two different actors. This viewing order emphasises the X-Men movies as the story of Charles Xavier, aka Professor X:

X-Men: First Class

X-Men: Days Of Future Past

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men: Apocalypse

Dark Phoenix

X-Men

X2: X-Men United

X-Men: The Last Stand

The Wolverine

Deadpool

Logan

This order places Days Of Future Past in its 1970s slot – this is because, while it’s the Wolverine of 2023 who is most affected by the story in the long run, it’s the Xavier of 1973 who finds the course of his life changed by his meeting with his older self. This order, of course, also has the serious downside of mixing up two different timelines, because if we want to follow Charles’s story in something resembling chronological order, there’s nowhere else for Origins: Wolverine and Apocalypse to go other than next to each other, despite being set in different timelines, but hey, what can you do!

Most of these lists end with Logan, since its the most recent film, the film set at the latest date, and the last one experienced by both Wolverine and Professor X. However, much we love Logan (and we do) as the final installment in this long-running saga it’s – well, it’s honestly a bit of a downer. Like, really – a lot of a downer. One solution would be to simply leave it out, but it’s brilliant, so we don’t really want to do that.

There are only really two ways to end with something other than Logan. One is to place Logan directly after The Wolverine as the culmination of the original timeline, but as noted above, the inconsistencies that introduces are enormous.

The other option is to end with Deadpool. This is for one of two reasons (take your pick which you prefer):

1. It is possible that Laura (or another Logan character) will come back in time to join Deadpool 2, and re-write history from that point onwards. Until the movie comes out and disproves this theory, we might as well assume its the case. So, since Deadpool doesn’t directly feature either of our two main characters (Wolverine and Xavier) anyway, we might as well finish with it. Yes, we know this is a very, very weak justification. Though if Deadpool 2 does go that route, it’ll look really good in a couple of years’ time.

2. While Deadpool gains healing powers, his true mutant super-power is, arguably, breaking the fourth wall. While the other movies (including Origins: Wolverine and its bizarro-Deadpool) follow these characters in universe, Deadpool features fourth-wall breaking references, not just to Wolverine and Professor X, but to their actors. So, after following their stories across the films, there’s a certain logic to capping it all off with Deadpool, as a sort of tribute to the whole franchise. Yes, we know this isn’t a great justification either. We just really want to include Logan but avoid finishing on it, OK?!

So, we could re-order any of the above viewing order suggestions to end with Deadpool following Logan, but let’s suggest this for what we’ll call:

X-Men Movies’ Happy Ending Viewing Order

Deadpool

X-Men: First Class

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Apocalypse

Dark Phoenix

X-Men

X2: X-Men United

X-Men: The Last Stand

The Wolverine

Logan

Deadpool

Deadpool 2

This viewing order, while not ideal in terms of mixing up timelines (here, we have to assume that the happy ending of Days Of Future Past does not end up happening after all, possibly due to events in Apocalypse and/or Dark Phoenix, it controversially puts the original trilogy into the new timeline, which it shouldn’t be really, and Days Of Future Past and Origins: Wolverine are technically the wrong way around) provides a clear journey for the Wolverine and Professor X characters, but adds a more upbeat ending.

The first two films provide origins for Xavier and then Wolverine, Days Of Future Past shows a possible future where they are very close, then we see them meet and establish their relationship through X-Men and X2: X-Men United. The Last Stand, The Wolverine, and Logan show them age into an increasingly dark world (and maintains the continuity between X-Men and Logan, since Xavier makes clear references to that timeline’s events). Logan provides an end to their story – however, rather than finish there, we then shift slightly back in time to watch Deadpool, a fourth-wall-breaking tribute to these characters and their world that allows us to enjoy them through references and end on a high note.

It’s really, really difficult to produce a viewing order with a happy ending. And Deadpool 2 may provide the happiest ending of all by eliminating X-Men Origins: Wolverine from the proceedings.

We love Logan. As an individual film in its own right, it’s a wonderful, beautiful tragedy. However, as the culmination of a ten-movie series it’s… making us re-think our feelings about Star Trek: Nemesis. So here’s our one big request for all X-Men universe movies over the new few years – if you could give us an alternative ending point to Logan – any alternative ending point, as long as it’s more upbeat – we’d be very grateful!