This Friday marks a first for comic book movies, the release of the 7th entry in a film franchise and the same number of occurrences of Wolverine played by Hugh Jackman. We found this more than appropriate to celebrate the history of the X-Men cinematic universe and congratulate it on that achievement. You may say that Marvel has 9 movies under their belt now, with a 10th on the way, but those are separate films and are not (attempting) to tell the same character’s stories through time.

To kick off this momentous occasion, we’ve gone through all of the X-Men films and created a timeline to help understand how the Mutant Universe operates. Days of Future Past combines the cast of the original X-Men trilogy with the stars of the First Class film to bridge the gap between eras and give us the biggest list of A-listers to date.

At the end of this article, check out the scrapbook timeline we’ve created to help visualize how all of these films play together (or clash) since the first film was created in 2000. We hope this clears up some confusion for those who wish to jump into the franchise!

To begin, it is important to understand that the X-Men films were not created equally or sequentially. This isn’t the fault of anyone in particular, but rather a consequence of creating a super successful set of movies that wanted to tell stories from different parts of the robust X-Men catalog.

x-men movie logo 2000 comicuiIn 2000, Fox Studios released X-Men to the world. Directed by Bryan Singer, the film brought together the X-Men and proved that a team of super powered characters could work on screen. Acting as a message for equality and against discrimination, the film was a resounding success which spawned a sequel in 2003, X-2: X-Men United.

The sequel to one of the first successful comic book films had a lot to live up to, and delivered on every front. Many people hold X2 as a prime example of great filmmaking, a superior sequel, and how team movies should be made. We definitely agree. Bryan Singer returned to direct and brought with him many cast members from X-Men.

2006 saw the original X-Men trilogy come to a close with X-Men: The Last Stand. This time, Brett Ratner would be at the helm and because of such, receive the brunt of the blame for making an inferior end to the series. Despite being the most financially successful of any X-Men movie at the time, critics and fans were let down by the follow up to one of the most iconic superhero films to date.

X-Men frenzy was at a low point after The Last Stand seemed to in fact be, the last stand. However, Fox saw potential in taking the lead character, Wolverine, and crafting a film around his origins. X-Men Origins: Wolverine hit theaters in 2009 and proved that things could in fact get worse. Held as the lowest point in the Cinematic franchise, Origins was another financial success, but the worst critically. It was unsure at this time if we would see the mutants back on the big screen.

x-men first class movie logo 2011 comicuiFox again took the profits from Origins and tried a different approach. Viewed as a semi-reboot of the now 11 year old franchise, X-Men First Class released in 2011 to favorable reviews, but lower than hoped numbers. This introduced us to 1960’s mutants, as well as a brand new cast of X-Men, including leads Charles Xavier and Magneto. First Class reinvented the team and gave a breath of fresh air to the failing film series. The success of this movie ensured we’d see more X-Men in theaters.

In 2013, Fox took a similar, yet different approach and released a solo X-Men film, called The Wolverine. This focused on Logan after X-3 and what would happen if he lost his regenerative healing powers. This minimal-mutant movie gave us introspective to Logan’s battle with immortality and his actions from earlier films. By the end of it, it left us wanting more stories for the X-Men’s future.

x-men days of future past movie logo 2014 comicuiWe’re on the cusp of X-Men: Days of Future Past releasing this week and we’re confident the movie will be successful and satisfying. Bryan Singer is returning to the director’s seat and is bringing the original trilogy’s cast and the First Class group together for a story that spans decades. It is predicted to be so successful, Fox has already sanctioned a sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016 and a Gambit solo film afterwards starring Channing Tatum. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for a Deadpool outing and this weekend may be the bump that film ends.

The X-Men film franchise has been the longest series to-date for Marvel’s characters and will continue to do so for the next few years. It hasn’t always been sunshine for the mutants, in fact sometimes it looked dark as hell. The resilience of the characters and the undeniable resonance of their stories are what still drives these movies forward. As Days of Future Past arrives this weekend and inevitably removes several movies from this timeline, remember the journey it took to get here.

Enjoy the following timeline, showcasing the events throughout the X-Men films that have defined that cohesive universe and given us literally hundreds of years of Wolverine. If we’ve missed anything, let us know in the comments and also vote on your favorite X-Men movie before you watch Days of Future Past on Friday!
X-men cinematic timeline comicui christopher dillard

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Co-host of Superhero Slate podcast and the co-founder of ComicUI. My passions lie with Marvel, Star Wars, Halo, the Muppets, and my huge Funko Pop! Vinyl collection. Ask me about it sometime!