With 10 films and over a billion dollars in profits, the X-Men films are not going away anytime soon. But in the 17 year history of Fox’s mutant movie franchise, there have been as many critical misses as hits — inconsistency may be the X-gene baked into the DNA of these films. Like mutant abilities, not all of the movies will be great. Some will have adamantium staying power. Others in the series, much like that poor kid at Xavier’s with the “gift” of blinking to change the channel, will inspire you to keep channel surfing when it comes on cable.
Even with beloved entries in the franchise like X2, viewers that revisit it may find themselves rolling their eyes at certain jokes and regrettable costume choices. All superhero films are prone to cringe-worthy moments upon re-watch (hello, Captain America’s Avengers costume), but the X-Men’s focus on modern struggles and style are what makes them appealing. It’s also why they’re susceptible to being quickly dated. While they continue to mutate with each new era, the mileage of the previous stories in both the comics and films may vary. With many more to come in the future, here are 15 of the most uncomfortable moments from the X-Men films so far.
15. NIGHTCRAWLER HITS ON HIS COMIC BOOK MOM
Move over Game of Thrones, you’re not the only franchise with unintentional incest! After Nightcrawler is saved by the X-Men in X2, they find themselves in hiding from authorities in the woods with the Brotherhood of Mutants. This gives two notoriously blue-skinned characters a chance to interact, and it ends with Nightcrawler looking love struck, and one can assume from his tail twist, turned on by the very defiant Mystique.
Though most viewers of the film were none the wiser, fans of the comics would have known about the true relationship between Mystique the mother and her son, Nightcrawler. Most of the time a nod to the comic fans doesn’t make one gag, but this is one joke we wish we didn’t know the subtext.
14. APOCALYPSE GIVES EVERYONE RAD ‘80S MAKEOVERS
After X-Men: Apocalypse was released, many of us began to wonder if The Last Stand is still the worst film of the franchise. The jury is still out as to which one should now hold that title. Apocalypse also took a character that already had a terrible debut, Angel, and made him even worse, and that’s a special kind of awful.
Without explanation beyond possibly wanting to make them look more like in the comics, each of Apocalypse’s horsemen characters are given new outfits and hairdos after they are introduced. From Storm’s signature mohawk to Psylocke’s unnecessarily banded swimsuit, iconic looks are gifted by the wannabe god. But Angel easily has the most over-designed look of the film, with new tackier elements added in each of his scenes. We are still wondering why.
13. QUICKSILVER MEETS HIS DAD (AND DOESN’T KNOW IT)
When Quicksilver was announced as a new character in X-Men: Days of Future Past, many were keen to see how exactly the familial connection between him and his father Magneto would be addressed, and the movie does not disappoint. Logan introduces Quicksilver to the X-Men, and by extension Magneto, leading to an awkward exchange in an elevator where neither character connects the dots. If only Peter Maximoff’s mutant powers to be quick extended to an ability to think fast!
This is one of the few entries on this list of awkward moments that is intentionally uncomfortable, so we must give the creators of Days of Future Past props for creating a memorable comedic exchange on purpose. Two films later though, and Magneto still hasn’t figured it out.
12. CYCLOPS DIES (AND NO ONE CARES)
Remember in X-Men: The Last Stand when Scott Summers was killed? No? We understand if you blocked this entire film from your memory, but it might also be because he meets a “blink and you’ll miss it” demise. Unlike when Jean Grey obliterates Charles Xavier later in the film, Scott’s death is heavily implied by not really shown. When they find Scott’s visor floating near Jean, fellow X-Men are far more preoccupied with Jean seemingly coming back to life.
Ironically, the only person that would be concerned about Scott is the person that just straight up murdered him. They don’t even hold a funeral service for him until they bury Jean and Xavier at the end of the film, proving once again how inconsequential the character was to everyone at the school.
11. TEEN JEAN MEETS WEAPON X
It is understandable to have Wolverine in literally every X-Men film, but the way the character is shoehorned in just so he can interact with a young Jean Grey is awkward for a few reasons. For one, Hugh Jackman is getting up there in age! Being older was a necessary part of the film Logan, but it is distracting in Apocalypse.
While audience members have always been aware of the age difference between Logan and the rest of the X-Men, having the future love interest meet Jean as a teenager is a tad bit gross. One could argue that them both being in Stryker’s prison but not quite meeting would’ve been more emotionally effective, too. Lastly, Jean perpetually having to defend herself/tame a feral Logan isn’t a new take in this franchise, making this scene unnecessary on many levels.
10. DARWIN FAILS TO ADAPT
Everything about the way that Darwin is killed in X-Men: First Class is uncomfortable. The X-Men films always have a surplus of characters, but most of those characters are white. There are literally more blue characters in lead roles than people of color, and that’s an unfortunate fact of the franchise.
First Class attempts to touch on the tumultuous politics of the time period by having villain Shaw give a hamfisted speech about enslavement, in which the camera lingers on the soon-to-be killed Darwin. There is no subtlety in the choice of using Darwin to demonstrate the villains power, and it is made worse by the fact that Darwin’s mutant ability is to adapt. Rather than exploring the topic of discrimination, the scene reinforces it by making one of the few black characters expendable.
9. MAGNETO’S DAUGHTER REVEALS HITCHCOCKIAN POWERS
If you’re the child of one of the most powerful mutants in the world, the expectation for what you can do is bound to be high. But audience members expecting a big reveal of Magneto’s daughter Nina’s power in X-Men: Apocalypse were likely disappointed. After local police threaten Magneto’s family, her power is revealed to be something more akin to B-movie Birdemic than the X-Men films.
Being able to control animals is a killer mutant ability, but the way the filmmakers reveal this is so poorly done that it is almost laughable. Though the local police need little reason to be frightened, the visuals in this scene of birds swooping in feels lazy and ineffectual. You really do need the skills of Alfred Hitchcock to make birds seem threatening, and Singer is no Hitchcock.
8. A LIFELESS EMMA FROST
What is it about the X-Men franchise that inspires award-winning actresses to turn in their worst performances? January Jones joins both Halle Berry and Jennifer Lawrence as examples of this phenomenon. What makes January Jones particularly cringe-worthy to watch is that it seemed like the perfect casting initially. Known for playing Betty Draper, the smart but calculatingly cold housewife of Mad Men sounded like an inspired choice when it was announced.
It could be attributed to the fact that Jones wasn’t given much to do besides look pretty as the diamond bodied villain, or that she made a choice to be as lifeless as possible within the role. Whatever combination of circumstances, all of Jones’ scenes in X-Men: First Class stand out for the wrong reasons and prove distracting in a film with few missteps.
7. SCOTT’S GUILTY PLEASURE REVEALED: *NSYNC
For a few reasons, this is easily the most uncomfortable scene in X2: X-Men United. After helping several of Xavier’s students escape General Stryker, Logan jumps into Scott’s brand new Mazda. The not-at-all-subtle-product-placement is enough to take you out of the tense scene, but then Pyro decides to cut the “uncomfortable silence” by playing whatever random CD Scott has and it ends up being *NSYNC’s classic pop album No Strings Attached.
Everyone responds as if the radio literally farted in their faces, and the audience is supposed to laugh at Scott’s teen leaning tastes. Much like making fun of music traditionally enjoyed by young girls, jokes made at the expense of Scott Summers are low blows by default. It also immediately carbon dates the film to 2003, and we don’t think it was worth the cheap laugh.
6. GAMBIT’S LACKLUSTER CREOLE ACCENT
It is difficult to talk about X-Men Origins: Wolverine without being cruel, but it is so spectacularly awful that the entire movie could be an entry on this list as two hours of perpetually uncomfortable viewing. But Gambit, and specifically Taylor Kitsch’s terrible accent, stand out as one of the more egregious elements worth examining.
The muddled not-quite-southern-or-creole concoction that Kitsch went with was distracting every time he spoke. Fans of Gambit might’ve expected a certain amount of dramatic flair, so an over the top exaggerated accent might have even been preferred. At least that would’ve come across as an intentional choice. Halle Berry has faced similar criticism for her Storm accent, proving that “do or do not” is the best way option for accents because something in between will most certainly be a failure.
5. EVERY TIME MYSTIQUE IS INEXPLICABLY NAKED
Though it may now be normalized, there was a time when Mystique wasn’t always naked! The decision to have the character act in essentially latex and body paint is not one that came from the comics, and yet it has been accepted as a part of the character within the X-Men films. That is until you stop and think — why is Mystique naked? What is the tactical benefit of this? Why can she slide backwards on the floor? Also, why is she naked?
The decision is explained as a point of pride for the character, but we think it has more to do with Rebecca Rominj and Jennifer Lawrence making it look good, too. We won’t deny anyone their enjoyment of this aspect — but it’s distracting even if titillating. Does anyone else miss her white costume and skull belt, too?
4. EVERY SINGLE WIG WORN BY STORM
As much as it pains us to include this one on the list, these wigs deserve to be called out. This is a multi-million dollar film franchise where mere dimes are spent on the wig budget. Who let this happen?
Each X-Men film brings a new, terrible wig for Storm. From white, to grey, to salt and pepper, the color and cut change frequently over time, but the low quality remains. And it’s not just that they look awful — the technology exists! There have been plenty of Storm cosplayers over the last 30 years who have done a better job styling wigs than Fox. They can make a woman fly and a man have claws on his hands, but Fox can’t make a good looking wig for Storm.
3. WOLVERINE BECOMES LADY LIBERTY’S JEWELRY
Sometimes the most awkward jokes are the ones when you aren’t sure if it is intentional, and that includes visual gags, too. In Wolverine’s final fight with Sabretooth in the original X-Men, it ends with Logan hiding by using his claws to dangle from the side of the Statue of Liberty.
Did the film’s creators intend for him to land on the left side of Lady Liberty’s head looking like a leather clip on earring? Was this an intentionally cheeky placement or something that no one noticed until it was committed to film? Perhaps those with the director’s commentary of X-Men can confirm one way or the other, but it may be funnier to imagine that they were unaware of Wolverine’s bold decorative statement. If anyone sees “Wolverine earrings” on Etsy, please send us a link.
2. SABRETOOTH’S DISTRACTINGLY DOG-LIKE PERFORMANCE
Though we can see what Liev Schreiber was attempting to accomplish with his performance as Sabretooth in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it simply doesn’t work. Unlike the character design from the original X-Men film, this version of Sabretooth is a lot less animal-like and nowhere near as hairy, and yet in Origins the action scenes involve Schreiber bounding toward Wolverine on all fours. Did no one notice how goofy this looked while filming?
Having him be quadrupedal turns Sabretooth into Wolverine’s laughable heal, adding to the ample unintended humor on display throughout the film. Had they full canine with the character and shown Sabretooth scratching his ear with his foot, it still would have been just one more ridiculous aspect in this mess of a film.
1. PROFESSOR X AND MAGNETO HIT THE STRIP CLUB
Imagine that headline, but it’s about your grandpa attending a stag night in the ’60s and you can see why this made the list. X-Men: First Class finds Xavier and Magneto going undercover in a go-go strip club as part of a “mutant recruitment” montage. The audience’s previously established notion of the characters combined with the unusual setting makes for a humorous bit that isn’t just a cheap joke about strippers.
Prior to this film, we came to know the two as older men whose opposing desires are intellectual in nature. It is equally funny and titillating to see the two frenemies literally share a bed as they view the mutant Angel’s “performance”. Undoubtedly this inspired countless extended scene fan-fiction, and for that we are grateful for this uncomfortable detour.
Which X-scenes made you cringe? Let us know in the comments section!
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