Long before Marvel got their act together and gave us a cinematic universe, Hugh Jackman and a bunch of familiar faces turned up wielding a host of special abilities, and helped pave the way for comic book films forever. Now, with X-Men Apocalypse just around the corner, I decided to look back and see some of the most important moments of a franchise that we really couldn’t be without, yes even one’s from The Last Stand and X-Men Origins.
Have a look and see which ones made the list, bub and give a vote of your favourite whilst you’re at it.
Poland 1944 | X-Men / X-Men: First Class
One of the X-Men sagas most important scenes is actually the very first one we see. Displaying a motive for the films superhuman antagonist and setting him in one of the darkest moments in human history packed a punch that was so devastating it would be expanded on eleven years later in X-Men: First Class. After being torn away from his parents at a concentration camp, Erik Lensherr does all he can to keep his family together, tapping into a power that no one is aware of. It’s a subtle introduction into a superhuman world not unlike our own, haunting and heart-pounding at the same time, and as First Class would prove, only got better with age.
After trying to tear open a prison gate, Erik is brought to Sebastian Shaw who is all too familiar with people of this kind. Keen to see what he can do he pushes the boy to breaking point, which sends weapons rattling and helmets getting shrunk. It’s a great start to what is one of the strongest X films and gave solid proof that the franchise wasn’t dead after all.
Enter The Wolverine | X-Men
As odd as it may seem, there was a time when everyone’s favourite X-Man was going to be played by a Scotsman. Back in 2000, Dougray Scott was picked to play Wolverine in Singer’s introductory instalment but was forced to back out after Mission: Impossible 2 ran over schedule and as a result, some off the radar gent named Hugh Jackman stepped in to replace him. The rest as they say, is comic-book movie history.
Sticking the mutant poster boy behind a cage to begin with, Jackman does a quick job of setting himself into the skin of one of Marvel’s most beloved characters with a shrug and a crack of the neck. He sure looks the part (full chest and perfectly parted head of hair to boot) but what fans really want to see is how he handles that lethal dose of adamantium, and after a post cage match discussion that’s exactly what they get. The shot of Logan’s middle claw sliding towards the camera should still send shivers down the spine of any X-fan, bringing the character to life perfectly and setting Jackman up for a role he'd return to for the next 14 years. Not bad for a no named Aussie from Oklahoma.
"You homosapiens and your guns.” | X-Men
The crazed Canook might be the front man for Singer's series but the X-Men films have always been about the journey of the bittersweet bromance between Charles and Erik. Getting the full attention in the recent prequels, the original pair played by Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart had their fair share of heated moments that made the relationship so interesting, and none more so than the stand off in the very first film.
After going after Rogue at the train station, Magneto is halted by Charles and a flood of cop cars blocking his escape. His old friend tries to change his mind but his pleas (fed through Sabretooth and Toad) fall on deaf ears, as Erik retaliates by turning the laws weapons on them threatening to let the bullets take their course, winning the battle of enhanced brains as a result. Even 14 years on, it's moments like this in the mutant worlds debut that still stand up, showing just how powerful these two foes are and how creative Singer was in displaying it.
Logan’s Sacrifice | X-Men
Every so often in the X-Men saga, the films cut back on the mutant v mutant madness, and attempt to go for an emotional punch rather than a physical one. One such powerful jab to the gut was Logan’s brave attempt to bring Rogue back to the land of the living just as she had done before. Even now, their moment atop lady Liberty should get any fan choked up every time.
Drained of energy thanks to Magneto’s infernal machine, Rogue lays lifeless with only Wolverine (who else?) there to save her. Out of options, Logan sacrifices himself to bring her back (but keep her hair colour as is, of course) and for a second there’s almost a bit doubt that it might not work. Thankfully, the gorgeous score from Michael Kamen kicks in as Logan's skin tears and old wounds reopen. Such is the price to pay for being a hero.
“Ah yes, your continuing search for hope." | X-Men
Interesting bit of trivia now, readers. Whilst they may have made audiences believe for an entire film that they had special abilities like mind-reading and moving their own desk ornaments, the real test of their talents came in the in the final scene of chess between Prof. X and Magneto. As it turns out, neither cast member actually knew how to play the blooming thing! Still, as Sir Ian McKellen’s Magneto and Sir Patrick Stewart’s Charles move their pieces around the table, it’s clear that a game is being played that stretches past pawns and rooks and it’s one that will go on for years to come.
Accepting defeat in his plastic prison, Erik questions Charles over the fate he’s set for himself, what the future holds and what side his old friend will be standing on when the time comes. The film began with their battle and ended with only one victor, and thankfully it’s the one that fought for humanity. McKellen’s master of magnetism is like a wounded lion, snarling in his cage at the victor staring back at him, who wanted peace between friends above all else. Nevertheless, Magneto knows that a war is coming, and he intends to fight it. Cue credits.
Security Breach | X-Men 2: Mutants United
The rule of filmic thumb is that a sequel should always surpass its predecessor, and with X2 Bryan Singer suggests he’s heading for that goal in the first five minutes. Beginning with the tour of the White House, a popular character from the comic books makes his debut in a beautiful display of acrobatics and Bamfs. Lots of Bamfs. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Kurt Wagner - the incredible Nightcrawler.
As always with the casting of the X-Men films, picking Alan Cumming to become the teleporting hero was a stroke of genius. Whilst he doesn’t stretch his acting muscles too much with his entrance, his flitting about the President’s home in an anarchic but calculated fashion is enough to provide a warm welcome and sets the pulse racing for what proves to be a very impressive sequel. Thankfully, not a moment was wasted with this new addition to the X-Men, the real shame is that this was the only time we’d see the character for the rest of the series.
Attack on Xavier’s Mansion | X-Men 2: Mutants United
To quote a rather annoyed amnesiac mutant as he takes down a soldier armed to the teeth, “you picked the wrong house, bub.” Still standing as one of the best sequences in the entire series, the attack on Xavier’s School For the Gifted ticks a number of boxes throughout. Not only do we get to see a variety of students defend themselves with their abilities against Stryker’s men, we get to see Wolverine go absolutely Berserk on any of the poor souls that cross his path.
In between Colossus suiting up and a girl screaming down the house, Logan dispatches the intruders with various stabbings and slicings (the one through the toe - yeesh!) and looks like an absolute badass doing so. However, the real money shot is seeing the crazed Canook do a dive bomb off the landing to take down four men, before he’s greeted by a familiar face that could hold the answers to his past, and seal his fate in the future. School’s out, kids.
Wolverine vs. Lady Deathstrike | X-Men 2: Mutants United
Whilst it was great to see them share the screen together, there was something seriously lacking in the scrap between Sabretooth and Logan in the X-Men’s debut film. Thankfully, we actually got our money’s worth in mutant v. mutant action when Logan goes claw to nail with Kelly Hu’s Lady Deathstrike in X-Men 2.
Wandering through the halls of the Weapon X facility, Logan encounters Stryker once again, only this time with company. Snikt’s are sounded on both sides as Logan and Yuriko stab, swipe and throw each other around the room. Even now it still looks like a wonderfully choreographed showdown and almost makes you wish that Deathstrike didn’t take that final dunk in the end. RIP m’lady.
Jean’s Goodbye | X-Men 2: Mutants United
The students are saved, Stryker’s fate is sealed and Charles and his school are all aboard - except one, that is. With the dam close to breaking, Jean sacrifices herself so that others may live to see another day. Channelling through Charles and speaking to the heartbroken Scott and Logan, she gives them all a goodbye - of course any other comic book fan would know different.
Leaving with the fall of Jean Grey, Charles’ opening speech from the first film is uttered once again as flickers in the waves above the Weapon X remains begin to show. As expected, a Phoenix is set to rise from the ashes, just a shame the film she’d take flight in was such a turkey.
“This One’s Different.” | X-Men: The Last Stand
There’s no denying that when it comes to the X-Men picture pack, The Last Stand is the runt of the litter. Even so, there are some shining moments in Brett Ratner’s nightmare of a production and the first appears the minute we see well-established foes at a time when they were friends.
At a time when Fassbender and McAvoy hadn’t even filled a comic book thought bubble yet, The Last Stand hosted a flashback sequence explaining how Professor X first met Jean and had Erik accompanying him. The scene didn’t necessarily have any importance to the saga, but it was an impressive feat technologically. Our favourite budding thespians had their body clock subtly wound back thanks to some digital skin grafting, and both look pretty flawless.
Attack On Alcatraz | X-Men: The Last Stand
Since the beginning, the X-Men films had really been focussed on one mutant with the franchise caught in his adamantium laced glare (they were even on the teaser poster for heavens sake). There had been brief moments of team work, but not enough to make this a true X-Men film, so at least Ratner had a go when it came to his films final act.
Though there had been unnecessary casualties throughout, the titular last stand Logan and the group made between the Brotherhood of Mutants and humanity isn’t really that bad. There’s a bit of back and forth between Kelsey Grammar’s Beast and the crazed Canook, and Bobby finally switches to full Iceman-mode in his showdown with Pyro. Overall, it’s a brief moment of redemption in an other wise ill-favoured chapter of the X-Men saga.
Battle Through History | X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Fans had a few negative things to say about Logan’s solo gig, but one thing that couldn’t be knocked was the films opening sequence. After a pre-credit scene showing a young Logan discover his mutant powers only to go on the run, we were then propelled through a glorious and grisly journey through history as Logan and Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) fight through every known war there was.
In truth, it might have been better to make a film out of this, seeing the man do the best at what he does (even if it isn’t very nice). Instead we got a mashed up movie that tried to squeeze in as much references as possible and Will.I.Am for good measure. Well, we can’t have everything, kids.
Dream Casting Choices | X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Okay, so this isn’t a favourite moment per se, but you have to give credit where it’s due. Undeniably the weakest of the Wolverine solo showdowns, the biggest frustration with Gavin Hood’s spin-off is some of the talent wasted in it. So far, Ryan Reynolds is the only one to have walked away unscathed and reprise his role as Wade Wilson aka Deadpool, even if his character was mutilated by the end of this one (taking the mouth from the Merc with a Mouth? What were they thinking?!). Still, the same can’t be said for Taylor Kitsch as Gambit and Liev Schreiber who gave a decent spin on Sabertooth, as opposed to the muted Tyler Mane from the first film.
Whether it’s the numerous scuffles that Victor and Logan have, Wade’s constant babbling before he’s silenced, or Taylor Kitsch shuffling cards before dealing them out to our hero in top class fashion, there are are some moments when Origins got its mutants right. It’s just a terrible shame that they’re running around in such a hodgepodge piece of a comic book movie.
Frankenstein’s Monster | X-Men: First Class
The story goes that Daniel Craig won the role for 007 when he wandered round a flat with a gun in Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake. If so, then here’s hoping that the lucky charm of director Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class gives Fassbender a chance to pick the license to kill up next, thanks to one scene with three dead bodies and a pint.
Directing what often feels like a spy film with mutants pre-Kingsman (our heroes even spend most the film chasing a villain in a submarine), at the centre of it is Vaughn’s very own metal-bending James Bond. Cool, calculated and deadly, Erik’s journey almost replaces Logan’s as the central character in this new chapter of the X-Men universe, playing it a lot sharper and spy-like as the lone hero, when he wanders into a pub in Argentina and calling last orders on the place.
Fassbender is so cool he probably kept his beer chilled all by himself as he explains where he’s come from and makes it perfectly clear what he plans to do to the men he’s sat with. It’s handled wonderfully by Vaughn, from the slow glass raising and the beer being downed, to Erik throwing the knife round like a boomerang. He might well be as associated with Magneto as Ian McKellen is now, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him as James Bond after this either.
The End of the Beginning | X-Men: First Class
The end of First Class marks the beginning of the story we came to know with the X-Men series. With Erik’s mission of vengeance complete, and the great powers of the world witnessing a potential threat in these gifted individuals, Magneto’s first steps down a villainous road begin, drawing a line in the sand and turning friends into enemies.
In what feels like a homage to the very first chapter of the X-Men, Erik takes control of everything thats aimed at him and turns it on humanities forces (you homosapiens and your missiles), but its one bullet he fails to keep a hold of that changes everything. It’s an emotional and hair-raising scene, displaying the bittersweet friendship that both this generations Charles and Erik share as well as the ones we’ve always known. It also finally puts the pieces permanently in place for what we know is set to come.
1945, Nagasaki | The Wolverine
Director James Mangold had a lot to do when it came to reassuring fans another solo Wolverine film was a good idea. Thankfully, he got off to an impressive start when he dropped a bombshell on the story to get things going. Showing a time in Logan’s life that fans had only glimpsed at in the opening of Origins, we saw our hero witness a horror of war and be one of the few people to survive it in the process. Barely.
We’ve seen Logan’s body take a whipping and keep on ticking throughout the X-Men films, but this one looked the most painful. After pulling his captor down into the pit he’d been kept in, Logan is forced to keep a lid on things whilst his skin burns away from the explosion of the atom bomb. What’s left is an exceptionally charred Wolverine in the worst state we’ve ever seen him, and things are just getting started.
Battle on the Train | The Wolverine
There’s been enough fight sequences onboard trains in films to fill a first class carriage or two, the trick is trying to reinvent them - something that The Wolverine was fairly successful in. After numerous deaths at a funeral, Logan goes on the run with Mariko only to be briefly stopped in their tracks from the Yakuza. Naturally, the only sensible thing was to throw Logan from the train.
Though it might be bursting at the seams with CGI, it’s a fairly impressive sequence and one of the best brawls Logan has been a part of. Moving round the carriages like a sharply clawed spider-monkey, it makes for a very different spin on a familiar battleground and the woman he’s protecting is clueless to the whole thing. Poor Logan, can catch a train but can’t catch a break, so it seems.
Fight In The Future | X-Men: Days of Future Past
With the hairs already raised thanks to the surprisingly entertaining prequel that was First Class, original X-Men director Bryan Singer kept them standing by not only adapting one of the original comic books most coveted story-arcs but bringing the original cast back to help tell it. Kicking things off with a heart-pounding Sentinel attack on some original core members and some new ones, a cameo-killing session turns into something very different when the clock is wound back and we see them reunited with the likes of Storm, Wolverine and opposing founding fathers, Erik and Charles.
Getting the band back together isn’t simply a cool bit of filler, but a solid statement that this universe wasn’t getting rebooted. Merging the world of the mutants present past and potential future strengthened the X-Men saga that had lost its way pre First Class getting it back on the straight and narrow, and with the impressive action sequences showing our favourite mutant team working together, it was safe to say that they were just as strong as Marvel’s other avenging all-stars.
A Quick(silver) Escape | X-Men: Days of Future Past
Giving a single mutant the spotlight to reveal their skills was something that’s occasionally popped up through the X-Men films with Nightcrawler’s attack on the White House being the one to beat. That all changed when Evan Peters donned a pair of goggles and a very questionable set of threads as Pietro Maximoff aka Quicksilver leaving any doubting fans in the dust.
Putting Marvel and Aaron Johnson’s take on the character to shame, Peters stole the show the millisecond he burst onto the screen for Days of Future Past. A breakout in every sense of the word the clever display of how he sees the world was wonderfully handled as he played around with it to the tune of ‘Time in a Bottle’ leaving audiences desperate to see more of him. Regardless of some of the new mutants that are going to be back for X-Men: Apocalypse, seeing Quicksilver do another lap will no doubt be something to look out for.
Professors Of Future Past | X-Men: Days of Future Past
Considering the fresh and familiar talent that was squeezed into this, the only gripe was that the younger mutants wouldn’t share any screen time with the old, but thankfully Singer did the best he could and it paid off. Still a wreck from the fallout in First Class, a drugged-up Charles Xavier needed a good talk with himself to get straight and thanks to some complex mind-merging, time travel equation that is too frustrating to look into, that’s exactly what we got.
Failing to tap into the power he had lost, Logan offered his own mind for Charles to speak to his future self (played by Patrick Stewart) for some kind words of wisdom and the scene was enough to bring the chills. Seeing McAvoy looking across from the man who was sharing the same role was pretty cool and hopefully not the only encounter these new members would have with the old. Class dismissed.
So that, as they say, is that. But what do you think? Add an ‘X’ to mark the spot of your favourite moment in the X-Men franchise in the poll. Also, what are your thoughts on X-Men Apocalypse? Share your thoughts (telepathy not necessary) in the comments below.