When the first X-Men movie arrived in 2000, it revived a genre that would come to dominate cinemas: superhero movies.
The MCU, the DCEU, and all subsequent movies that center on superpowered individuals owe part of their success to X-Men for what it did to show the world what superhero movies could be.
With its outstanding cast—full of younger, lesser-known, yet experienced actors—the film initiated a series that would come to a confusing end, but not without giving us some of the greatest stories in the genre: Logan, Deadpool, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and X-Men 2.
Getting the beloved comic book characters right was a challenge for the producers, who knew that getting a single character wrong could lead to fans hating the picture before it was even released.
However, they survived a late Wolverine re-cast—bringing in a relatively unknown Australian to take the iconic character—and the superhero genre was born for the modern age.
But of all the characters in the X-Men movie franchise, which of them were executed and portrayed the best? Who had the greatest influence on the series? Here are the best X-Men movie characters.
7. Ororo Munroe (Storm)
Though some of her dialogue was woefully bad, Storm was ultimately brought across well by Halle Berry, who made Storm the most grounded character of the X-Men.
There was an assuredness about Storm that the rest of the team never quite matched, and she often proved her dependability while retaining an air of wise counsel.
Though the character felt marginalized at times, that had the advantage of ensuring Storm would always remain a stable part of Xavier’s school—and avoid any shocking character arcs or twists.
6. Hank McCoy (Beast)
Beast was a late addition to the X-Men franchise; he didn’t appear at all in the first two movies. But when Kelsey Grammer stepped into the role for the disappointing X-Men: The Last Stand, he shone.
Beast was everything in the film that he had been in the comics and the classic animated series: a man of dignity and intelligence, only fighting when there were no other options left.
The role was then played by Nicholas Hoult, who—much like Grammer—excelled. The prequel movies had much more of Hank McCoy, giving Hoult more screen time as Beast, all of which was good.
5. Laura Kinney (X-23)
Dafne Keen has only had one outing so far as Laura Kinney, but she stole her scenes in the cinematic superhero masterpiece Logan. The film is unlike any of the other X-Men films, as it tells the final days of Logan’s life and brings his daughter into the fray.
Keen was Laura Kinney in every aspect of her performance. She matched Jackman’s anger and intensity with a spin of her own, while giving Laura a gentle nature underneath her brutal surface.
The final scenes of Logan’s last moments with Laura as he dies are iconic—and, as they hold on to one another, the veil of the Wolverine drops, leaving behind a father with his daughter.
4. Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto)
Separating the performances of Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender as Magneto is impossible. Both of them brought something unique to the role, with McKellen having a Shakesperean grandiosity to him while Fassbender gave a burning intensity to Erik.
Through the films, Magneto was both a hero and a villain. His motivations were always driven by what he thought was best to do, and he was ruthless in carrying out his plans.
He provided a balance to the X-Men universe. Erik was best friend and worthy adversary to Charles Xavier, as both cared for one another, unwilling to strike killing blows. That part of Erik makes him relatable: he’s only doing what he thinks he must to survive and help those like himself.
3. Charles Xavier (Professor X)
Patrick Stewart’s role as Charles Xavier is one of the most perfectly cast in superhero cinematic history. His fatherly advice and wise counsel never appeared to be laborious under Stewart’s command because we all believed that he truly was Xavier in every aspect.
Then James McAvoy stepped into the role to play the younger Charles—and much like Michael Fassbender did with Magneto, McAvoy brought a different spin to the character of Professor X.
McAvoy did a great job of showing a younger and less confident Xavier, one who used his power more recklessly at times but never stopped trying to do the right thing.
Xavier lasted through into Logan and died a horrible death. Yet his final hours with Logan (and Laura) taught Logan his final lesson—one that Wolverine heeded at his own end, proving that Xavier was always striving for the best outcome, even in his last days.
2. Wade Wilson (Deadpool)
Ryan Reynolds’ performance as Deadpool started off badly. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Reynolds got little screen time to portray Deadpool’s unique personality and outlook before having his mouth sewn shut and getting his head cut off.
However, when Reynolds rebooted Wilson and returned for Deadpool, he demonstrated why Wade Wilson is fundamental to Marvel. Deadpool is utterly hilarious, brutal, unrelenting, and has no time for trying to be a conventional hero. He’s a breath of fresh air.
Such is the caliber of Reynolds’ performance that despite both Deadpool movies being R-rated, he garnered widespread acclaim for making a different kind of Marvel movie that remained lovable.
As Deadpool, Reynolds has proven himself irreplaceable to the point that he’s already been drafted from Fox into the MCU by Kevin Feige for the long-awaited Deadpool 3.
1. James “Logan” Howlett (Wolverine)
For the 17 years that Hugh Jackman portrayed Logan, he gave a performance that reshaped superhero performances, imbuing Logan with a vulnerability behind the savagery, a heart behind the adamantium. Without him, the landscape of superhero movies would be different.
For his whole career as Wolverine, Jackman never phoned in a performance. He was the focus of Fox’s X-Men universe and its brightest spark. In 2017, when Jackman ended his tenure as Wolverine in Logan, he blew us away with his magnificent bar-setting final outing.
Logan was a cinematic superhero tale like no other—and the most original comic book movie since The Dark Knight—making it the perfect farewell for Jackman. He finally got the R-rating the character deserved, and the final scenes were more emotionally raw than any comic book movie.