Female superheroes still have yet to get their due on the big screen (with the exception of Wonder Woman), while we’ve seen great strides on television within the past few years. Thanks to TV hits like Supergirl, Jessica Jones and Wynonna Earp, audiences are starting to get a taste of the female fury that is the comic book superheroine. This is not to say that women haven’t had decent roles in superhero movies, it’s just they’ve been minimized when compared to their male counterparts. However, it’s the longest-running superhero franchise that has the best list of female heavy hitters; the women of X-Men.
We’ve been subjected to the Professor X versus Magneto story over and over again, to the point to where the secondary characters supporting them have become more entertaining. While the inner struggle between good and evil of Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique has grown tiresome, we continue to be thrilled by the evolution of a young Jean Grey’s powers, setting the stage for next year’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and giving fans new hope that the classic storyline will be realized better than the hot mess it was in X-Men: The Last Stand. CBR takes a look at some of the fiercest X-Women we love to see on the screen.
15. ANGEL DUST
While the huge success of Deadpool was a surprise to some Marvel fans, what was even more surprising was the use of so many obscure characters included in the film. Angel Dust was a relatively minor character in the X-Men’s comic book universe, but writers utilized her as the main villain’s right hand woman. This powerhouse holds her own in hand-to-hand combat with Colossus. The character also allowed for a few humorous scenes including a wardrobe malfunction and Deadpool comparing her to a “less angry Rosie O’Donnell.”
Angel Dust came to life so perfectly because she was portrayed by real life former Mixed Martial Arts champion Gina Carano. While she spent years competing on the private circuit, Carano has transitioned into acting the past few years with a starring role in the movie Haywire, as well as a supporting role in the Fast and Furious franchise.
14. MOIRA MACTAGGERT
Superheroines don’t always wear a cape, or in this instance, have any actual powers. The character of Dr. Moira MacTaggert from the comic books was translated into a CIA operative beginning in 2011’s X-Men: First Class. While Moira is still featured as a love interest for Charles Xavier, she also sees a lot more action. She would assist the X-Men in both the fight with Magneto on the beach and, years later, against Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen.
Moira was brought to life by award-winning actress Rose Byrne, who’s performance as the human among mutants trying to do her part to help save the world was a fan favorite. Originally from Australia, Byrne’s breakthrough performance was being cast opposite Glenn Close on TNT’s Damages in 2007. Since then, she started landing roles in films such as Bridesmaids, Insidious and Neighbors.
13. LAUREN STRUCKER
One of the characters created explicitly for Fox’s The Gifted television show, Lauren Strucker is the perfect teenager. Popular, confident, independent and, unlike her brother, well-versed in her mutant abilities. With the ability to create shields in a variety of ways, Lauren has saved the day on more than one occasion. She’s become an integral part of the Mutant Underground, as she and her family strive to rebuild their lives while avoiding apprehension by evil government forces.
No stranger to the superhero genre, Natalie Alyn Lind played Silver St. Cloud on season two of Gotham before becoming a regular on The Gifted. She also had a recurring role on ABC’s comedy, The Goldbergs, and previously guest-starred on shows like Criminal Minds, Chicago Fire and Flashpoint. With recent confirmation that Lauren and her brother Andy are direct descendants of the evil Fenris twins from the comics, we can’t wait to see what happens with Lind’s character next.
12. JEAN GREY (FAMKE JANSSEN)
Jean Grey is one of the most popular female heroines in the Marvel Universe and one of the most powerful mutants on Earth. Unfortunately, her powers were originally downgraded in the first X-Men movie, but they gradually started to grow, to the point to where she ended up being classified as a Level 5 mutant. While she’s always been an important part of the team, but her standout moment is in 2003’s X2 when she sacrifices herself by using her telekinetic abilities to save her teammates’ lives.
Portrayed by model-turned-actress Famke Janssen, Jean Grey was the heart of the X-Men. Although she died and was, temporarily, brought back to life, fans hope that the character will get the justice she deserves onscreen with next year’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Janssen would go on to be featured in such films as Taken and its two sequels, and on television in NBC’s The Blacklist.
As one of the mutants adapted from the pages of the X-Men comics, fans eagerly anticipated the first live-action depictions of Lorna Dane/Polaris. And we were not disappointed. On Fox’s television show The Gifted, Polaris is fierce, loyal and proud to be a mutant who also struggles with mental health issues. Some of the best scenes of the show have been Polaris using her magnetic abilities to break out of jail, interrogate a hostage and even as just an icebreaker to get other mutants to trust her.
One of the most engaging roles on The Gifted, Polaris is brought to life by relatively unknown actress Emma Dumont. While she’s had starring roles in shows like Bunheads and Aquarius, Dumont’s breakout performance as the feisty Lorna Dane stands out as being among the best parts of the show.
As a member of the X-Men since the ’80s, Psylocke was a long-awaited character to appear in the X-Men movies. Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock was brought to life by actress Olivia Munn in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse. Psylocke had some of the best fight scenes in the movie, including cutting a car in half (mid-air) and creating a whip out of psionic energy to fight Beast. Rumor has it that the character will be returning for future installments, so we’re hoping she’ll finally land on the side of good.
Olivia Munn is a former correspondent on The Daily Show who sharpened her acting skills on the critically-acclaimed HBO drama series The Newsroom. It’s well documented on social media that Munn trained vigorously in preparation for the role of Psylocke by taking fighting and fencing classes. She can next be seen reprising her role of Psylocke in next year’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
9. STORM (HALLE BERRY)
While she’s never really had much dialogue, Storm has always been a person of action, not necessarily words. She was involved in some of the best fights throughout the X-Men franchise, including infamously getting killed during a battle with the sentinels in X-Men: Days of Future Past. She would become a co-leader of the team along with Wolverine following the deaths of Cyclops and Professor X and take on the role of mentor to younger mutants like Kitty Pryde and Iceman.
Say what you will about her acting, but we feel like Halle Berry did the best she could with what she had in portraying the character. It’s just such a shame that she really didn’t get much screen-time until the later installments. And don’t get us started on the wigs. However, we eventually saw the strength and compassion come through Storm, following the death of her mentor Professor X.
8. BLINK (FAN BINGBING)
In 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, we get a glimpse into the post-apocalyptic future of the X-Men where Sentinels have all but exterminated mutants. Blink is part of a team that also includes Sunspot, Warpath, Bishop, Shadowcat, Iceman and Colossus. We see her use her teleporting abilities to help her teammates evade capture and also offensively against the sentinels by opening and closing multiple portals, causing the sentinels to do damage to each other.
This fan favorite character was portrayed by Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, who has stated that she is contracted to play Blink in multiple films. We have not heard anything about her reappearing, however the character has been adapted for the X-Men TV series The Gifted. Jamie Chung was cast in the role for the television version, which shows a runaway Blink finding a home with the underground mutant resistance run by Thunderbird and Polaris.
7. JEAN GREY (SOPHIE TURNER)
While we all know what happened to Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey, the character received a reboot (along with several others) in last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse. In this iteration, Jean is still a student at Xavier’s school who is trying desperately to control and understand her growing psychic powers. Jean is instrumental in the fight against Apocalypse, stepping out into thin air at one point to take on the ancient mutant. Viewers were surprised when Jean manifested the Phoenix raptor energy signature in an effort to defeat Apocalypse.
Sophie Turner is best known for her role on HBO’s Game of Thrones, but she will take center stage in the next installment of the X-Men franchise. X-Men: Dark Phoenix is scheduled to be released next year, and all parties have promised a film that follows the source material a little more closely than the previous attempt in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand.
6. KITTY PRYDE
One of the youngest mutants to join the X-Men, Katherine “Kitty” Pryde had cameo appearances in the first two installments of the franchise, portrayed by two different actresses. It wasn’t until X-Men: The Last Stand that her role was fleshed out a little more with her joining the fight against Magneto and his Brotherhood. In the Days of Future Past timeline, we see that she has become a field leader of the X-Men and also that her powers have evolved. Her newfound abilities make her an integral part in the mission to send Wolverine back in time.
Award-winning actress Ellen Page was cast as Kitty, and remains one of the few highlights of X-Men: The Last Stand. While fans were happy to see her return in Days of Future Past, they were also somewhat disappointed that she didn’t have a larger role, considering the fact that her character is the one sent back in time in the original comic book storyline.
In 2013, The Wolverine was released to mostly favorably reviews and did a fair amount at the box office. It was considered a step up from the previous installment, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, largely due to the authentic Tokyo backdrop and supporting cast. One standout performance is Yukio, Mariko Yashida’s adoptive sister, who aids Wolverine in saving Mariko from her insane grandfather and Silver Samurai. Along with being a fierce fighter, she also has the ability to foresee people’s death and becomes Logan’s self-appointed “bodyguard” by the end of the film.
Japanese fashion model-turned-actress Rila Fukushima played Yukio, which was her breakthrough role in America cinema. Arrowverse fans will also recognize her as the CW network’s iteration of Katana, an old friend and ally of Oliver Queen’s who appears in season three of Arrow.
4. MYSTIQUE (REBECCA ROMIJN)
Mystique first appears as Magneto’s right hand woman in 2000’s X-Men. An expert fighter and shapeshifter, she went on to assume the appearance of Wolverine (while fighting Wolverine), as well as using her abilities to infiltrate Stryker’s underground base in X2. A formidable villain on her own, in the first X-Men trilogy she is always paired with Magneto, up until she accidentally loses her powers and he turns his back on her.
Even though she didn’t have much dialogue, Rebecca Romijn’s portrayal of Mystique quickly won fans over. She would reprise the role for the first three movies and also made a cameo appearance in X-Men: First Class once Jennifer Lawrence took over the role. While Romijn has stayed busy starring in TNT’s television series The Librarians, she has stated that she is open to return to the franchise.
3. NEGASONIC TEENAGE WARHEAD
Largely altered from the original comic book character, Negasonic Teenage Warhead appears in 2016’s Deadpool as a junior member of the X-Men partnered with Colossus. A goth girl who is all attitude, she has the ability to detonate telekinetic energy, creating bursts of concussive force. While she and Deadpool initially get off on the wrong foot, she and Colossus are instrumental in aiding him in his fight against Ajax and Angel Dust, while saving Deadpool’s lady love, Vanessa Carlysle.
American actress Brianna Hildebrand’s portrayal of Negasonic Teenage Warhead was so popular with audiences, she has been confirmed to be returning in next year’s Deadpool 2, along with Colossus. She also recently joined the main cast of the second season of Fox’s The Exorcist television adaptation.
2. LADY DEATHSTRIKE
A brainwashed mutant with similar regenerative abilities to Wolverine, Lady Deathstrike is cybernetically enhanced with Adamantium fingernails. In 2003’s X2, she is one of William Stryker’s captive henchmen forced to do his bidding, specifically killing Wolverine. In one of the best fight scenes of the franchise, Wolverine battles Lady Deathstrike in one of Stryker’s labs. Logan is ultimately forced to inject her body with melted Admantium, killing her almost instantly.
After seasoned television actress Kelly Hu was cast in an undisclosed role for X2, many fans hoped she would be playing Psylocke but would we soon found out it was Lady Deathstrike instead. Though she only had a minor role, her nuanced performance as a formidable opponent against Wolverine makes her scenes all the more memorable.
1. LAURA KINNEY
Wolverine’s female clone is finally introduced on the big screen in 2017’s Logan, set in a post-X-Men future. Laura Kinney is a young, and deadly, mutant on the run from the Reavers who is taken in by Logan and a dying Charles Xavier. Throughout the movie, we see Logan become a parent to the girl experiencing so much of what he had felt coming into his powers. Logan, Laura and Charles form a loving, if dysfunctional, chosen family by the end of the movie that finds Logan dying to save her and other mutant children.
Dafne Keen’s breakthrough performance as Laura Kinney blew both critics and audiences away. Particularly, her scenes opposite Hugh Jackman were some of the major touchstones of the film, leaving fans hoping that she will return in the future as X-23 or the next Wolverine, just like in the comics.
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