It's the end of an era. 17 years after he first stepped into Wolverine's shoes, Hugh Jackman has made his final appearance as Marvel's favorite mutant. But how has the character developed over the course of the years? How has Jackman's portrayal changed? In honor of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, it's time to run through his iconic character history, and rank his appearances...
Before we get to the rankings, though, it's worth making note of one honorable mention:
X-Men: First Class (2011)
It's not right to include this in the rankings — after all, #HughJackman only makes the very briefest of cameos! That said, the brilliant scene in X-Men: First Class was rich in humor, and is a real fan-favorite. It's definitely worth an honorable mention!
With that done, let's get to the main films...
8. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
X-Men: The Last Stand had seemingly killed off the #XMen franchise, but Fox wasn't willing to just give it up. They knew if they stopped making X-Men films, they'd lose the rights; so they ultimately decided to go with a Wolverine prequel, revealing the truth behind the Weapon X project we saw hinted at in X2. It was a smart move, but unfortunately the film just didn't quite work.
Although Jackman did his best, he was working with a poor script, and with even worse CGI; unfortunately, the CGI was particularly poor around Wolverine's iconic claws, which effectively undermined the whole script. Although the film has some good moments, it's hard not to view it as a mis-step for the X-Men franchise.
7. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Sadly, X-Men: The Last Stand was where the franchise missed a beat, becoming overly focused on Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. The plot was a strange one, mixing up a 'cure' for mutantkind with the iconic Dark Phoenix Saga, and not really managing either all that well.
With James Marsden wanting to swiftly bow out in order to appear in Superman Returns, the classic relationship between Cyclops and Famke Janssen's Jean Grey is swiftly brought to an end. It's Wolverine who takes the center-stage, with Jean's powers flaring out of control. Only his healing factor can allow him to fight past the Phoenix Fire, and his strange, obsessive romance comes to a tragic — if predictable — end.
6. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
No film illustrated Fox's dependence on Wolverine more than X-Men: Apocalypse. It was only when the third film showed some familiar claws that interest began to pick up, and unfortunately, the Wolverine cameo seemed pretty forced. It would take James Mangold's Logan to make sense of the second act, which didn't really have any relevance to the third act at all.
5. X-Men (2000)
It all began in 2000's X-Men, and we were introduced to Wolverine as a cage-fighter, drifting from place to place, lost in amnesiac despair. A chance encounter with Anna Paquin's Rogue drew him into the battle between the X-Men and the Brotherhood, and it was rather well-handled; he was a reluctant hero, only choosing a side because he couldn't abandon a child. Hugh Jackman pulled the part off perfectly, surprising purists who were initially angry that they weren't getting a short, stubbly 'runt'.
One of the film's most uncomfortable missteps, though, was in its portrayal of the relationship between Wolverine and Tyler Mane's Sabretooth. There was no trace of the old animosity that you find in the comics, no hint of the bitter vendetta, and Sabretooth didn't even make it out of the film alive. Although this was an iconic film, it also presented a missed opportunity.
4. The Wolverine (2013)
For me, The Wolverine is really where the X-Men franchise gets back on its feet. It's a tightly focused film (albeit with a disappointing third act), and it really gave Hugh Jackman a chance to develop his character. Not all the character beats are persuasive; given the brevity of Wolverine's relationship with Jean Grey, that particular arc makes him come across as more than a little obsessive. In spite of this, Jackman really got a chance to shine in his relationship with Tao Okamoto's Mariko and Rila Fukushima's Yukio.
Over in the comics, Wolverine has always worked best when he's had a sidekick to bounce off of; it's become something of a truism that Wolverine is usually about as interesting as his relationship with his sidekick. The Wolverine proved that to be true in the movies, too, with Wolverine and Yukio making a particularly cool team. In a way, I actually regret that this didn't serve as the launch-pad for a whole new series of films, set in this future timeline, and showing this team working so well together.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Taking on a starring role in Days of Future Past, Hugh Jackman was central to a plot that allowed Fox to reboot their entire X-Men timeline. Given that the original arc starred the young Kitty Pryde, many fans felt this illustrated just how dependent Fox was becoming on Jackman's Wolverine.
That said, Days of Future Past is one of the strongest X-Men films to date. It's a well-crafted story that spans two time-zones, and Jackman was clearly having a blast playing the character. The film ends with a charming moment where Logan returns to his own time, and realizes that he's been successful in his quest. There's a sense in which this marks a beautiful, poignant close to the original X-Men timeline.
2. X2: X-Men United (2003)
A fan-favorite superhero movie, X2 was loosely based on Chris Claremont's God Loves, Man Kills graphic novel. In a smart move, though, the script heavily adapted Brian Cox's William Stryker, turning him from a right-wing religious figure to a military colonel. That allowed the film to carefully place Stryker in Wolverine's history, and the movie dropped some beautifully done hints at the classic Weapon X comics and concepts.
If X-Men introduced us to Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, this was where his star really began to shine. For all the drama, the film has a sense of being a character-piece, exploring the tantalizing questions of Wolverine's history. It's generally viewed as one of the highlights of the X-Men franchise, and of Hugh Jackman's career in the X-Men films.
1. Logan (2017)
Taking a pay-cut in order to get a bloodier, more brutal film, Hugh Jackman bows out with this year's Logan. It returns James Mangold to the franchise (who also directed The Wolverine), and shows just how capable Mangold truly is. As with The Wolverine, he puts Logan in the context of a relationship, this time with newcomer Dafne Keen's X-23.
The film pulls no punches, and from the outset, it showcases a very different Wolverine; a tired, bone-weary man who's struggling to find a reason to stay alive. The script gives Jackman a chance to perform in a way no other X-Men film has, and he absolutely shines here. It's little wonder this is his swan song; thematically, it's a perfect close to a 17-year era. Mangold gives little continuity nods to both timelines, giving the film a certain timeless quality, and ensuring that it feels like a true 'end of an era'.
- From Screen To Page And Back Again: How 'Logan' Adapted X-23
- 3 Reasons Why A Solo X-23 Film Should Follow On From 'Logan'!
- James Mangold Hints At His Initially Even Darker Plot For 'Logan' — And The Cameos We Could Have Had
So there you have it! Over the course of 17 years, we've seen Hugh Jackman's Wolverine become an iconic figure in geek culture. He's dominated the X-Men franchise, sometimes too much so, but that's largely because of the sheer quality of Hugh Jackman's performance. Now, Jackman's X-Men story has finally come to a close. He's earned our respect for his commitment to the character, and he'll truly be missed; for all that's the case, though, it's going to be fascinating to see where Fox go from here!
Which of these do you think was the best Wolverine film?
(Poll Image Credit: 20th Century Fox)