It may be easy to forget, but one of the films that heralded the marvelous golden age of superhero movies was X-Men. The film came out in 2000 -- a time where live-action superhero adaptations were still considered great risks -- and despite some initial doubts, it became a critical and financial hit. Naturally, X-Men's success encouraged Fox to continue exploring the adventures of Professor Xavier and his team of heroic mutants on the big screen.
Aside from a few disappointments over the years, the franchise thrived, delivering constant hits like X-Men 2, Deadpool and Logan. Now, nearly two decades after X-Men was first released, Fox's ambitious superhero saga has become a true powerhouse that's been able to compete with franchises like the MCU and the DCEU. One thing in particular that's allowed the X-Men series to come this far is its darker take on the superhero concept. So far, the people behind the franchise haven't been afraid to push the boundaries of what audiences have come to expect from the superhero movie genre. The majority of the films in the saga are visceral, adult, and at times surprisingly violent. Taking that into account, let's have a look at 15 of the darkest moments in the X-Men franchise so far.
15 WOLVERINE PUTS DOWN A BEAR
The Wolverine started out with Logan hiding out in the woods, trying to forget his days as an X-Man. During his time in exile, the hero met and befriended a grizzly bear. Their encounter was brief, but the film did a great job at establishing a bond between the two. To Wolverine's dismay, however, their friendship wasn't meant to last. One fateful night, Logan woke up to screams from within the woods.
When he went to check what had happened, Logan found his furry friend lying on the ground, with a poisoned arrow on his back. Realizing he couldn't save the bear, Wolverine ultimately decided to end him. It was an extremely dark moment, both because of the bear's death, and the fact that Logan -- who was doing his best to put his murderous ways behind him -- had to use his claws to take a life once again.
14 DAYS OF FUTURE PAST'S FIRST ACT
X-Men: Days of Future Past had its fair share of dark moments, but none compare to its opening sequence. The movie kicked off with a battle between the X-Men and the Sentinels in the year 2023. Desperate to protect Kitty Pryde and Bishop, the heroic mutants put up a good fight. Unfortunately, the X-Men ultimately proved to be no match for the Sentinels, and they were quickly taken out by the mutant-hunting robots.
Seeing fan-favorite heroes like Iceman, Colossus and Blink getting killed was difficult enough, but what made the scene even darker was the way in which the X-Men died. Colossus got his arm chopped off, Blink was stabbed through the chest by a Sentinel arm and Iceman was destroyed. Granted, Kitty Pryde went back in time and erased the X-Men's defeat from existence. However that still didn't take away the shock delivered by the whole scene.
13 MAGNETO'S MOTHER
X-Men: First Class offered a frightening glimpse into Magneto's traumatic childhood. The film opened in '40s Germany, were a young Erik Lehnsherr was abruptly separated from his mother by Nazi soldiers. The stress of the situation triggered Erik's latent mutant abilities, and he bent the giant metal gate in front of him. Lehnsherr's powers caught the attention of a high-ranking Nazi scientist named Sebastian Shaw. Fascinated by the young mutant, Shaw ordered him to be taken into his office.
Realizing that Erik needed stress to manifest his abilities, the ruthless scientist brought the boy's mother into the room and threatened to shoot her if he failed to showcase his powers. Sadly, Erik was unable to use his abilities and Shaw killed his mom. The sequence was incredibly disturbing, and it will most likely go down as one of the most unnerving scenes in comic book movie history.
12 SENATOR KELLY
In 2000's X-Men, Magneto built a machine that could turn the world's human population into mutants. Before carrying out his twisted plan, though, Magneto tested his machine on Senator Kelly, a known mutant hater. The machine somewhat worked, as it gave Kelly the ability to turn into a goo-like substance, but it also made his body unstable. Kelly used his newfound powers to escape Magneto's custody, and he turned to the X-Men for help.
The Senator was placed in the X-Mansion's infirmary for observation. Unfortunately, his condition quickly worsened and his body started to decompose in an incredibly disturbing manner. That alone was bad enough, but what made the scene even more terrifying was Kelly's expression. He knew he was dying and he was terrified about it. Ultimately, the scene felt like something that came out of a horror movie as opposed to a kid-friendly superhero film.
11 MAGNETO'S FAMILY
X-Men: Apocalypse presented a whole new Magneto. Ten years after the events of Days of Future Past, Erik was no longer a misguided advocate for mutant rights. Instead, he adopted a new identity and lived a normal life with his wife, Magda, and his daughter, Nina. For the first time in decades, Erik Lehnsherr was a happy man. Sadly, Erik's world was turned upside down when he got outed as Magneto, and the police went to his house to arrest him.
The shock of seeing her father being taken away triggered Nina's mutant abilities and she summoned a swarm of birds to protect him. Unfortunately, one police officer got distracted by the commotion and accidentally shot Nina and her mother with an arrow, killing them instantly. As if watching that hadn't been traumatic enough, Magneto proceeded to murder all the police officers around him with his daughter's locket. Yikes.
10 ANGEL CUTS OFF HIS OWN WINGS
Despite being one of the most popular members of the X-Men, Warren Worthington, aka Angel, didn't appear in Fox's live-action X-Men franchise until 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand. Once the character arrived on the big screen, however, he made quite an entrance. The Last Stand opened with a young Warren cutting off his still-growing wings in secret to keep his father from finding out he was a mutant.
The film didn't hold back when depicting Angel's self-mutilation. The scene was visceral and incredibly uncomfortable. It also had a strong psychological component. Warren, at such an early age, didn't feel he was good enough as a mutant. Even worse, he didn't trust his parents enough to open up to them, and instead opted to hurt himself. Thankfully, the hero eventually embraced his mutant identity, and chose to become an X-Man.
9 WADE WILSON'S MUTANT TRANSFORMATION
It's difficult to find a superhero film as hilarious as Deadpool. Still, despite its heavy dose of comedy and lightheartedness, Deadpool's standalone adventure had its fair share of dark moments. One of the film's most somber sequences came in the form of Wade Wilson's mutant transformation. Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, Wilson signed up for a clandestine procedure that would cure him and give him superpowers.
Unfortunately, the procedure wasn't what he expected. In an effort to unlock his hidden mutant genes, Wilson was constantly tortured. After months of abuse, he was locked inside a container with minimum oxygen for two days. As you might imagine, the whole thing wasn't pretty, and the movie pulled no punches in depicting Wilson's torturous situation. The sequence was depressing, horrific and disturbing all at the same time, and it made it quite difficult not to feel bad for Deadpool.
8 MYSTIQUE SEES ALL OF HER FRIENDS
X-Men: Days of Future Past was a direct sequel to First Class. However, given the ten-year gap between the two movies, there were quite a few characters from the 2011 prequel that didn't return for the time-traveling adventure. Some of the most notable absentees included the villainous Azazel and the morally-ambiguous Angel. Instead of leaving fans to theorize about the mutants' respective fates, Days of Future Past offered a somber explanation for their absence.
At one point in the film, Mystique broke into Bolivar Trask's office and found a file labeled "Autopsies." In it, she saw the various mutants Trask had captured and killed over the years. Two that stood out were Azazel and Angel. Seeing her former friends dead took a deep emotional toll on Mystique, and her traumatized reaction turned the whole sequence into one of the most somber moments in the X-Men saga so far.
7 ANGEL'S FALL FROM GRACE
Ten years after his big screen debut in X-Men: The Last Stand, Warren Worthington returned to the X-franchise in X-Men: Apocalypse. Unlike the 2006 film, Apocalypse presented a considerably darker version of the character. This time around, Worthington made a name for himself around the mutant underworld as a merciless cage fighter. Unfortunately for him, his lucky fighting streak ended when he was pitted against Nightcrawler.
Nightcrawler incapacitated Angel by frying his wings on the arena's electrified cage, and the humiliating defeat sent Worthington on a downward spiral. Later on in the film, Apocalypse approached Warren to make him part of his Four Horsemen, but to his surprise, Worthington had become a depressed alcoholic who spent his days in the dark, listening to hard rock. The scene had an eerie, horror-like tone and it perfectly set-up Angel's ruthlessness for the remainder of the movie.
6 WHAT HAPPENS TO THE MUNSONS
In Logan, Wolverine, Laura and Charles found themselves running away from an evil organization known as Transigen. Halfway through the film, the heroes put a stop to their impromptu road trip to help out the Munsons, a family who was having trouble on the highway. As a show of gratitude, the Munsons invited the trio back to their house for dinner, and they accepted. At first, everything seemed to be going well for our heroes. They had a good time and enjoyed a great meal.
Unfortunately, their happiness wasn't meant to last. Transigen tracked down Laura to the Munsons' house and sent X-24 (Wolverine's clone) to retrieve her. The deranged clone went on a rampage and killed the entire Munson family. What made the scene all the more painful was the fact that, ultimately, the Munsons' deaths were indirectly caused by Wolverine, who unwittingly brought his troubles to them.
5 MAGNETO COINS SEBASTIAN SHAW
In X-Men: First Class, Magneto had one goal: kill Sebastian Shaw, the man responsible for murdering his mother. During the film's third act, following an altercation between the X-Men and the Hellfire Club in Cuba, Erik finally got to be face-to-face with Shaw. The two mutants got into a fight and initially, Shaw gained the upper hand. Erik, however, turned things around with the help of Professor Xavier, who took control of Shaw's mind and froze his body.
To Charles' dismay, Erik took this opportunity to finally quench his thirst for revenge. Magneto took out an old Nazi coin that belonged to Shaw, counted to three, and -- with Charles still in Shaw's mind -- proceeded to kill the villain by phasing the coin through his skull. We've seen Magneto do some pretty horrible things throughout the years, but that was, without a doubt, one of his worst moments.
4 QUILL AND KAVITA RAO
Early on in X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto approached an underground mutant committee to find recruits for his Brotherhood. One of the mutants who joined his crusade was Quill, an obscure character from the comics with the ability to release quills from his body. Unlike his comic book counterpart, Quill's live-action version was quite vicious. This was proven during the movie's third act, when the Brotherhood of Mutants attacked Worthington Labs to destroy the infamous mutant cure.
Amidst the chaos, Quill came across Kavita Rao, one of the people responsible for the mutant cure. Rao started to panic upon seeing Quill, but he responded by pulling her in for a hug. Right as she seemed to be calming down, the villain impaled her with his quills, killing her instantly. The sequence was difficult to watch and it successfully established Quill as one of the most ruthless X-Men baddies to date.
3 MAGNETO ABANDONS MYSTIQUE
Throughout most of the original X-Men trilogy, Magneto and Mystique were shown to be inseparable. They cared about each other and always had each other's backs. To fans's surprise, however, the villains' seemingly symbiotic relationship took a drastic turn in X-Men: The Last Stand. Early on in the film, Mystique got captured by the United States government and Magneto intercepted the convoy she was being transported in.
The two baddies reunited but unbeknownst to them, a guard that had been knocked out during the convoy assault woke up. The guard tried to shoot Magneto with a dose of Worthington Labs' mutant cure but Mystique stepped in front of the dart and lost her powers. Instead of helping her or showing any gratitude, Magneto abandoned Mystique, stating she was no longer one of them. The scene was both heartbreaking and terrifying, as it perfectly conveyed how ruthless Erik Lehnsherr could be.
2 WOLVERINE AND HIS FATHER
X-Men Origins: Wolverine opened with a flashback set in the 1800s. In the scene, a young and sickly Logan (then known as James Howlett) joked around with his father, John Howlett. To their dismay, their peaceful moment was abruptly interrupted by Logan -- John's volatile groundskeeper -- who showed up at the Howlett home, demanding to have a word with his employer and his wife. John went to confront him, but Logan shot and killed him.
Witnessing his father's death triggered James' mutant transformation and bone claws suddenly popped out of his hands. Enraged, James charged at Logan and impaled him. With his dying breath, Logan revealed himself to be James' biological father. That's right. Logan's first kill was his own dad. Having realized what he had done, James opted to run away from home alongside his half-brother, Victor Creed, thus starting to forge his path as the Wolverine.
1 SEBASTIAN SHAW AND DARWIN
Halfway through X-Men: First Class, Mystique, Beast, Havok, Darwin, Angel and Banshee found themselves under the protection of the CIA. Eager to expand his Hellfire Club, Sebastian Shaw tracked down the young mutants and raided the CIA facility they were in to convince them to join his nefarious team. Out of the entire group, only Angel agreed to join Shaw. In an effort to protect her, Darwin and Havok stepped in to confront the villain.
Unfortunately, the fight didn't go as the young heroes had hoped. Havok attacked Shaw with one of his energy waves, but the baddie easily absorbed it. Shaw then channeled Havok's attack into a small energy ball, which he forced Darwin to swallow. That was disturbing enough, but what made the scene all the more painful was seeing Darwin's body looking for ways to adapt to the attack, but ultimately failing.