X-Men was the film franchise that brought superheroes into mainstream cinema and began a new start for comic book movies, after the butchering of the batman franchise. This put a lot of pressure on 20th Century Fox to give us a good film. Did it deliver? Yes, of course it did otherwise you wouldn't be reading this! With each of the original trilogy raking in more cash than the last, there was bound to be more sequels. Well...1 spin-off sequel, 1 spin-off prequel, a prequel and a semi-reboot sequel/prequel hybrid. But just because the franchise was a worldwide success doesn't mean that it had great critical reception (Brett Ratner). This (unfortunately) wasn't the only issue, there are a great deal of continuity errors. I adore this series so I've attempted to compile a theory to right the wrongs and correct the timeline. ***Spoilers for the entire X-Men franchise (obviously)***
Now, I know many of you hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand and you probably just pretend they don't exist. But unfortunately they did and so they are included in this. I haven't had the chance to read any of the movie prequel comics so they aren't included in this theory.
Lets start with the big issue, X-Men: First Class, a great film with a great cast and an epic director (Matthew Vaughn). Even the great Jeremy Jahns called this film awesometacular. However just because it's a good film doesn't mean it has a good impact. In fact this is one of the main causes of continuity errors. So for now let's pretend that it doesn't exist.
If you watch X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand and then The Wolverine. Then the series makes perfect sense (apart from Cyclops' age, but it's reasonable to assume that he's nearly 50 in the first X-Men film. And also how Wolverine remembers Japan when he clearly had his memory wiped in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but like Moira Taggart did in X-Men: First Class we can assume that he sometimes remembers "fragments" and that these fragments came in the form of the Nagasaki bombing). Anyway watching those 5 films make sense chronologically. But X-Men: First Class messed all of that up, which is why I believe that there are I fact 2 separate universes. Universe A and Universe B. In Universe A the 5 above films take place and the future segments of X-Men: Days Of Future Past. But in Universe B X-Men: First Class and the past segments of X-Men: Days Of Future Past take place. According to Charles Xavier ,in Days Of Future Past, there was and incident on Cuba similar to X-Men: First Class' Cuban missile crisis but according to my theory it happens slightly differently.
Heres a timeline of Universe A which varys slightly from X-Men: First Class: ~ Charles and Erik meet when Charles was about 17 ~ Charles grew up with his twin brother and Raven Darkholme (AKA Mystique) ~ Charles, Raven and Erik search for other mutants (Moira Taggart however isn't present (And not even born yet)) ~ They encounter Banshee, Darwin and Angel (X-Men: First Class Angel not Warren Worthington III) ~ They encounter The Hellfire Club which includes Sebastian Shaw, Azazel and Riptide (Not Emma Frost) ~ Darwin is killed during their first meeting ~ Proffesor X and Magneto construct Cerebro to help locate mutants ~ The X-Men fight The Hellfire Club at the Cuban Missile Crisis ~ The Hellfire Club are defeated and Sebastian Shaw killed (Charles does not lose use of his legs) ~ Erik (now called Magneto) takes the survivors of the battle that follow his cause. Azazel, Riptide, Angel and Raven (now called Mystique) ~ Charles opens his School for Gifted Youngsters. But this is soon interrupted by the war in Vietnam ~ Due to a previous promise Charles keeps out of Mystiques head and doesn't look for her ~ Magneto loses his team when Bolivar Trask takes them and experiments on them. Azazel, Riptide and Angel die in the process (so does Banshee). ~ At some point after the experimentation Mystique escapes and kills Bolivar Trask, because of this action the Government (using her DNA) begin the construction of Sentinels ~ Bolivar Trask previously had a child with his African American wife and she names him Bolivar in his honour, this man can be seen in X-Men: The Last Stand in a meeting with Hank McCoy
X-Men Origins: Wolverine takes place ~ It is unclear what becomes of Universe A's Wade Wilson from this point ~ After Charles picked up students from Stryker's facility he presumably used them to get the school back up and running ~ At some point Hank McCoy joins and leaves the X-Men (this possibly happens later) and Charles becomes friends with Moira Taggart ~ Moira Taggart takes care of Charles' twin brother (this is presumably how they met) ~ Magneto forms the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants which includes Mystique, Toad and Sabretooth (he now has no recollection of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, similar to Wolverine ~ Charles recruits Storm and Jean (Cyclops is already a member (and Hank McCoy may have stayed on the team long enough to become friends with Storm)) ~ The X-Men encounter and battle the Brotherhood ~ The events of X-Men and X2: X-Men United take place ~ At some point Hank McCoy becomes Blue and furry ~ The events of X-Men: The Last Stand take place ~ Mystique is "cured" and appears to be in her 30s-40s, this is because she has a longer lifespan than a normal human ~ Charles' conscience takes over his twin brother's after his death who then meets Moira and all "cured" mutants regain their powers, because the "cure" has no long term effects ~ Sentinels are use for an Occupy Wall Street march on the X-Mansion and Warren Worthington III (Angel) is killed ~ The events of The Wolverine ~ Trask Industries releases the Sentinel Mark X upon mutant kind ~ Charles and Magneto band together and collect Wolverine at an airport ~ Hank McCoy (Beast) is killed by Human Majority Protesters ~ Magneto attatches adamantium back onto Wolverines Skeleton ~ Bishop forms the Free Mutants. Which include Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Collosus, Sunspot, Warpath and Blink (they are in league with Storm, Proffesor X, Magneto and Wolverine (still know as the X-Men)) ~ They decide to send Wolverine back I time and are massacred in China.
But Kitty didn't only send Wolverine back in time she also sent him into another Universe. Universe B. This Universe simply consists of: ~ The events of X-Men: First Class ~ The Past segments of X-Men: Days Of Future Past ~ And the X-Men are seen alive and well in the X-Mansion in 2023.
So basically everyone believes that Wolverine is altering their past but he is in fact saving another Universes future. So all the deaths at the end of X-Men: Days Of Future Past all did happen so when you see Charles, Magneto and Kitty Pryde about to die they actually do die, the scene only fades away because it's showing us Universe B's future. Universe A has now ended because the series follows Wolverine and he now lives in a different Universe. In 2023 Wolverine's conscience from Universe A is put into Wolverine from Universe B's head because Kitty dies and leaves his mind in that Universe. So Wolverine thinks that he is suffering from amnesia and that He and Charles are the only ones that know the future, when in fact what they think was their future was Universe A's future.
If I had a recommended watch order the it would be: X-Men Origins: Wolverine ~ X-Men ~ X2: X-Men United ~ X-Men: The Last Stand ~ The Wolverine. I would then watch X-Men: First Class because First Class and The Wolverine all seem like Build up to X-Men: Days Of Future Past which I would watch last (The Rogue Cut if possible).
The reason I didn't put Havok in Universe A is because he is Scott's brother and it didn't make sense to have them born 20-30 years apart as X-Men: First Class suggests. I don't even know if Havok exists in Universe A or if the X-Men cinematic Universe even says that they are brothers. I don't know if Fantastic Four fits into the cinematic Universe, it could be set I Universe C. X-Men: Apocalypse May absolutely destroy this theory but it's nice to have an explanation for the last 15 years of X-Men madness. I hope you enjoyed my theory, if there are any errors I missed then please notify me so that I can update my theory. Thank you for reading.