To put it mildly, there are a lot of X-Men. With hundreds of members in the main X-Men and their affiliate X-squads, Marvel has enough mutant heroes to fill a dozen teams. With a potentially limitless number of astonishing and uncanny line-ups, no two X-Men crews look the same in comics, or in any other form of media. After decades of TV and movie appearances, audiences have seen everything from classic X-Men line-ups to teams where Marvel’s most iconic X-Men have been replaced by obscure mutants and original characters. Despite their differences, all of these X-Men teams have found some level of success by dedicating themselves to protecting a world that hates and fears them.
Now, CBR is counting down the most x-cellent on-screen X-Men teams. In this list, we’ll be ranking these X-Men squads based on their raw power, experience and overall popularity. While we won’t be looking at motion comics, we will be looking at the core teams from the X-Men’s movies, live-action TV shows and cartoons. We won’t be considering minor affiliate X-teams like X-Men The Animated Series‘ X-Factor, but we will be counting the main teams from shows like Legion and The Gifted since they basically serve the same primary role as the X-Men.
18. GENERATION X
While it might be the first X-Men-related live action adventure, Generation X doesn’t really have a lot going for it. The 1996 TV movie was inspired by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo’s Generation X, which followed the next generation of X-Men throughout the 1990s. The movie’s team was led by Emma Frost and Banshee, who led Jubilee, M, Skin, Mondo, Buff and Refrax. The last two characters were created for the film to replace Husk and Chamber, two comic book mutants with powers that couldn’t be feasibly duplicated on screen.
Together, the inexperienced Generation X team was barely able to defeat Matt Frewer’s Russell Tresh, a human mad scientist who was obsessed with accessing the “dream dimension.” While the movie may have featured Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and a few former X-Men, the film’s team is largely forgettable and most noteworthy for white-washing Jubilee, a traditionally Chinese-American character.
17. SPIDER-MAN’S AMAZING X-MEN
In Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Iceman and Firestar, Spidey’s Amazing Friends, were both mutants and former X-Men members. Over the well-remembered show’s three season run, the X-Men made a few appearances. The show’s team featured a mix of 1970s and early 1980s X-Men like Professor X, Cyclops, Storm, an Australian Wolverine, Angel, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Kitty Pryde, and Thunderbird, who had animal shape-shifting abilities instead of his usual super-strength.
Despite that impressive roster, the X-Men got beat up a lot. In their first full appearance, they were easily defeated by the Juggernaut until Spider-Man gave them an assist. Then, Firestar’s cybernetic ex-boyfriend, Cyberiad, successfully took over the X-Mansion until the heat-controlling mutant fused his circuits together. With that track record, it’s not surprising that NBC passed on a proposed X-Men spin-off series in favor of something closer to The Smurfs.
16. X-MEN, THE ALLIES FOR PEACE
In the X-Men’s first TV appearance, they weren’t even called the X-Men. Instead, Professor X, Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman and Marvel Girl hit airwaves as the Allies for Peace. In a 1966 episode of Marvel Superheroes: Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Allies teamed up with Namor and the Avengers to defeat a host of villains including Doctor Doom.
The lightly-animated, exposition-heavy cartoon was a loose adaptation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four Annual #3, with the X-Men filling the FF’s role due to rights issues. Doom claimed that the Allies were “the greatest fighting team the world has ever known,” and the team successfully defeated villains like the Mandarin and the Mad Thinker. Still, they counted on Namor to save them from Doom in this totally forgotten cartoon.
15. THE GIFTED’S MUTANT UNDERGROUND
For a show without any marquee X-Men members, The Gifted captures the spirit of the X-Men remarkably well. In a world where the X-Men have vanished, the Mutant Underground has taken their place as mutant guardians in an increasingly hostile world. The Underground’s core is made up of B-list mutants like Thunderbird, Polaris, Blink, Dreamer, the original character Eclipse and supporting players like Sage. The super-powerful Lauren and Andy Strucker, also play a big role in the Underground, along with their human parents.
Like several X-Men teams, The Gifted‘s Underground is just trying to survive a world dominated by anti-mutant sentiment. While the mutants managed to stay one step ahead of Sentinel Services, they lost several of their members and their headquarters by the end of the show’s first season. Still, this young team has already developed a knack for getting out of seemingly hopeless situations.
14. WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN (FUTURE TEAM)
In the 2009 animated series Wolverine and the X-Men, the emergence of the Phoenix Force sent Professor X’s consciousness 20 years into the future. Since this is an X-Men cartoon, that future is naturally a dystopian world ruled by Master Mold and the Sentinels. Over the course of the show’s only season, Charles Xavier tried to help the present-day X-Men prevent that future and find a way back to the past.
Drawing from that future’s imprisoned mutant population, Professor X put together a rag-tag team of “future X-Men.” Besides Xavier, this group included Bishop, Domino, Marrow, Bezerker, Hellion, Kamal, Vanisher, X-23, Wolverine and Rover the Sentinel. While they spent most of their time escaping from mutant camps and other Sentinels, this makeshift X-Men team was able to save the rest of that world’s mutants and defeat Master Mold with the help of their ally Polaris.
13. X-MEN: THE LAST STAND
While X-Men: The Last Stand was criticized for a number of issues, the 2006 movie certainly didn’t have a lack of mutants. That movie’s X-Men team featured Professor X, Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Beast, Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Colossus and Angel. Together, those X-Men had to deal with a less cosmic version of the Dark Phoenix, Magneto’s revived Brotherhood and a formula that could “cure” mutant powers.
While the X-Men were able to defeat their foes, they didn’t exactly do it with style. Several major X-Men were reduced to glorified cameos and Professor X, Cyclops and Jean Grey were all seemingly dead by the end of the movie. Despite the pitch-perfect casting of Kelsey Grammer’s Beast, this massive X-Men team couldn’t keep X-Men: The Last Stand from leaving the franchise’s timeline in a mess that took the better part of the next decade to untangle.
12. LEGION’S SUMMERLAND MUTANTS
It’s not totally clear how, or if, Legion fits into the larger timeline of the X-Men’s universe. While Professor X’s existence has been heavily implied, it’s unclear whether or not the X-Men even exist in this world. Instead, Legion focuses on a team of largely original characters who train at the Summerland compound.
As the show’s title suggests, the heart of the team is Dan Stevens’ David Haller, the omega-level telepath and reality warper. The rest of the Summerland team is made up of the human Dr. Melanie Bird, the body-sharing Cary/Kerry Loudermilk, the consciousness-transferring Sydney Barrett, and the dream-reading Ptonomy Wallace. While this might not seem like the most formidable mutant team, they were still able to defeat the Shadow King, an evil psychic entity who’s one of the X-Men’s most dangerous foes. The Summerland mutants will have another chance to prove themselves when Legion returns for another season in April 2018.
11. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (1973 TEAM)
In 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, the X-Men were effectively over in 1973. Over the course of the film, Professor X, Beast and Wolverine formed a makeshift team, with a noteworthy assist from Evan Peters’ Quicksilver. While the X-Men’s other cinematic teams had been stuffed with mutants, this minimal squad made sense for a movie that had to leave room for Magneto, Mystique and a large team of future X-Men.
Even though James McAvoy’s Xavier and Hugh Jackman’s Logan were at some of their weaker points, this team was able to recruit Mystique to their cause and defeat Magneto and the Sentinels. Thanks to the experience and knowledge of Wolverine’s future self and the encouragement from Patrick Stewart’s future Xavier, this small team still managed to change the course of the X-Men’s cinematic history.
10. X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
After the time-traveling shenanigans of X-Men: Days of Future Past reset the X-Men’s cinematic timeline, 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse featured an unlikely mix of familiar cinematic mutants and teenage versions of X-Men icons. This group included Professor X, Mystique, Beast, Quicksilver, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler and, eventually, Storm.
With three blue-skinned members, this X-Men team was well-suited to take on the blue-skinned Apocalypse and his less blue Horsemen. Despite their inexperience, these X-Men were able to take down the ancient Egyptian mutant, largely thanks to the emergent Phoenix Force within Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey. Still, some of these characters filled roles that they haven’t traditionally held. Most notably, Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique became a team leader and Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops was a young rebel. While this inversion helped keep the focus on the film’s biggest stars, it was only met with a lukewarm reception from audiences.
9. X-MEN ANIME
In 2011, famed Japanese animation studio Madhouse produced a few different anime shows based on Marvel’s heroes. The only season of Marvel Anime: X-Men followed a team heavily influenced by the then-recent Astonishing X-Men line-up. The group included Professor X, Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Storm, Armor and Emma Frost.
In the Warren Ellis-plotted show, the X-Men dealt with the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle, their cybernetic U-Men and Takeo Sasaki, Xavier’s Japanese son who bears a striking resemblance to Legion. The X-Men also had to deal with a series of violent secondary mutations brought on by Damon-Hall Syndrome. Unfortunately, these violent mutations resulted in the deaths of several innocent mutants that the X-Men couldn’t prevent. After that, these X-Men proved themselves by defeating Mastermind, his re-envisioned Hellfire Club and Takeo without too much trouble.
8. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
In 2011’s X-Men: First Class, Matthew Vaughn and his fellow filmmakers had the unenviable task of assembling the first cinematic X-Men team without Wolverine. Instead, James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto took center stage in this flashback to the 1960s. While the creation and dissolution of the relationship between those two powerful mutants was the heart of the film, Mystique, Beast, Moira MacTaggert, Havok and Banshee rounded out the film’s X-Men team.
Before the alliance between Xavier and Magneto split the X-Men apart, the team was able to successfully prevent Sebastian Shaw and the Hellfire Club from plunging the world into nuclear world. While its powerhouse members had plenty of room to shine, some of the team’s other members were essentially reduced to bit players. Still, this fragile team stayed together long enough to relight the spark of the X-Men’s cinematic franchise.
7. PRYDE OF THE X-MEN
A few years before X-Men: The Animated Series, the X-Men’s first solo animated outing was the pilot Pryde of the X-Men. The 1989 pilot featured an X-Men team that included Professor X, Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Dazzler and the teenage Kitty Pryde. Despite an inexplicably Australian Logan, this experienced team was able to stop Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutant Terrorists, which included villains like Pyro, Emma Frost and Juggernaut.
As the X-Men split up to take on the individual members of the Brotherhood, each member of the team proved that they were competent enough to hold off a major X-villain by themselves as they tried to stop a comet from plunging into Earth. While this team might’ve started out in an unsuccessful TV pilot for a cartoon series, this X-squad gained fame later as the inspiration behind Konami’s classic 1992 arcade game, X-Men.
6. X-MEN: THE MOVIE
After years of false starts and speculation about the X-Men’s cinematic debut, 2000’s X-Men had to work. Fortunately for fans, the X-Men were compelling enough to jumpstart the modern superhero movie boom. The team of Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Wolverine and a teenage Rogue successfully introduced moviegoers to the intimidating world of Marvel’s mutants.
Highlighted by Patrick Stewart’s Xavier and Hugh Jackman’s Logan, this X-Men cast proved that a superhero team was feasible on-screen. While none of the X-Men got to explore the full extent of their powers, they were still able to keep Ian McKellen’s Magneto and his Brotherhood from turning the world’s leaders into mutants. Despite that, this team’s greatest accomplishment happened off-screen. This movie cemented the X-Men as a multimedia force that could thrive outside of comics and cartoons and set a new standard for superhero movies.
5. X2: X-MEN UNITED
For the most part, the team from 2003’s X2 is largely the same as the team that starred in 2000’s X-Men. Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Wolverine and Rogue are joined by Alan Cumming’s Nightcrawler and Shawn Ashmore’s Iceman, who stepped up from his minor role in the first film. From Logan’s berserker rage to Nightcrawler’s teleporting acrobatics, this movie gave most of these X-Men the chance to show off their powers in impressive displays.
Over the course of the film, these X-Men defeated Brian Cox’s anti-mutant military man William Stryker, Kelly Hu’s Lady Deathstrike, the illusion-casting Jason Stryker and the machinations of Magneto and Mystique. While Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey seemingly sacrificed her life to save the X-Men near the end of the film, they were still able to save every mutant, and every human, on Earth from telepathic overload.
4. WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN (MODERN TEAM)
In the 2009 series premiere of Wolverine and the X-Men, the X-Men scattered after the emergence of the Phoenix Force left Jean Grey and Professor X missing. Over the course of the series, Wolverine assembled a new team of X-Men that included Beast, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Storm, Cyclops, Forge, Emma Frost, Jean Grey and a psychic projection of Professor X.
Over the course of the series, this formidable X-Men team fought several of the X-Men’s most dangerous villains. The team’s biggest accomplishments were taking on the government-sponsored Mutant Response Division and keeping the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle from unleashing the full might of the Phoenix Force. Although Frost died to stop the Phoenix, these victories kept a dystopian future ruled by the Sentinels from ever coming to pass. Although the underrated series ended before the team could fully reform, this team is still a well-rounded X-Men squad.
3. X-MEN: EVOLUTION
Over four seasons, the X-Men went back to school in X-Men: Evolution. Under the leadership of Professor X, Wolverine, Storm and Beast, teenage versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Kitty Pryde and Storm’s bone-controlling nephew Spyke learned how to control their powers. While the show featured a healthy dose of teenage melodrama, these inexperienced X-Men still fought off major threats like Magneto, Mystique and Apocalypse.
The more experienced teen X-Men were eventually joined by the New Mutants, a group of younger new recruits that included Boom Boom, Wolfsbane and Iceman. Even though the show’s X-Men had over a dozen core and recurring members, this group’s biggest vulnerability was its pure inexperience. Still, these young characters helped the show become a fan-favorite X-Men series that successfully escaped the shadow of the era-defining X-Men: The Animated Series.
2. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (FUTURE TEAM)
After years of evading Sentinels and watching the world end, the grizzled, future X-Men from X-Men: Days of Future Past survived impossible odds to save a world that didn’t exist. The team consisted of Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine, Storm, Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Blink, Sunspot, Warpath, Bishop and, depending on the cut of the movie, Rogue. Even though most of the team died repeated violent deaths, they usually found a way out thanks to Ellen Page’s Pryde, who could send minds back through time.
Although they were outnumbered and out-gunned by waves of countless Sentinels, this team of powerhouse mutants and combat veterans worked together as a team to find a way to live on. Thanks to Kitty, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Professor X, they were even able to save the countless lives that had been lost by inspiring the 1970s X-Men to change the past.
1. X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
For generations of viewers, the X-Men are still defined by the team that starred in X-Men: The Animated Series. Over five seasons, the show gave the X-Men their first major animated showcase during the team’s most popular era in the 1990s. The show’s core team was made up of Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Wolverine, Beast, Rogue, Gambit and Jubilee. With frequent guest spots from characters like Cable, Bishop and Morph, Kitty Pryde was the only major X-Man who never appeared on the show.
This iconic X-Men squad faced off against every major X-Men villain at least once during the show’s 76-episode run. While the shape-shifting Morph briefly died and Beast was imprisoned during the show’s early days, these X-Men saved the world and the universe numerous times without suffering any lasting casualties. Even though the cartoon ended two decades ago, this team still defines the X-Men for millions of fans.
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