WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for X-Men: Dark Phoenix, in theaters now.
Fox's current run of main X-Men films have always taken a lot of relish in dropping a single F-bomb. The guidelines of the Motion Picture Association of America dictate that a film can use that word only once and still retain a PG-13 rating; two uses earns an R. While that's fine for something like Deadpool, the core X-Men films have always been targeted to a wider, younger audience.
In the final Fox-era X-Men movie, that trend continues. So, let's take a look back at how the X-Men prequels have used the word "fuck" over the years, and how those moments compare to each other, including in the newly released X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
It's a memorable gag in 2011's X-Men: First Class, which revived the franchise following 2006's First Class. When Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr try to recruit the first members of the team, they come across a sullen Logan drinking alone at a bar. When they approach him, they only get a few words out before Logan tells them, "Go fuck yourselves."
It's a quick moment that elicits a big laugh, thanks in part to how abrupt it is. During the otherwise-important sequence of recruiting the team, it gives the film a flash of levity.
The word is used in a similar manner in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse, but with a much darker context. After losing his family to the group of metal workers who'd discovered his powers, Magneto comes to them with a vengeance. He delivers a dark and foreboding monologue, promising to kill every man there.
But, his revenge is interrupted by a teleporting Apocalypse. The dramatic music cuts out, and a confused Magneto blurts, "Who the fuck are you?" This usage tries to deescalate an otherwise-tense sequence. And, while it does manage to do that, it's a far harsher tone shift than it was in First Class.
In stark contrast to the earlier uses of the word, the F-bomb was used as a more dramatic moment in 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past and this weekend's Dark Phoenix. In Days of Future Past, a time-displaced Wolverine comes to recruit Xavier to help stop Mystique from assassinating Bolivar Trask. But, his mission is hampered by Charles' bitter state -- dependent on a drug crafted by Beast to allow him to walk, but at the cost of his telepathic powers.
It's a genuinely tragic moment when Logan comes to him. Xavier is furious that a man who had turned him away in the previous film has come for his help. Echoing Logan's sentiment in First Class shows just how far gone Xavier is. Turning someone away so bluntly shows he's in a bad place, and the use of the word works perfectly there as a character moment.
The word is used in X-Men: Dark Phoenix as another character-building moment but, here, it's just meant to make Cyclops seem cooler. When Beast and Magneto decide to kill Jean in revenge for the death of Mystique, Xavier leads a small group of X-Men to stop them. Among them are Cyclops, who stares down Magneto. When Magneto asks the X-Men they to do to stop him from killing Jean, Cyclops says, "If you touch Jean, I'll fucking kill you."
It foreshadows how surprisingly effective Cyclops is during the battle. He even manages to stand up, one-on-one, against Magneto -- as if he's somehow empowered by the word. It certainly makes this Cyclops stand out in comparison to his more toned-down earlier incarnations in the franchise.
THE PAST (AND FUTURE)
The history of cursing in the X-Men films has been surprisingly fluid. The first two films drew huge shocked laughs when Wolverine called Cyclops a dick in 2000's X-Men or said "holy shit" in X2: X-Men United. But, as the series evolved, it also became more casual with cursing. You only have to look at things like Deadpool or Logan, which were produced with R ratings in min, and could be more liberal with their language. Logan often used the word to signify a decaying world, while Deadpool -- and its sequel -- employed the F-bomb with the versatility of a teenager.
But with Dark Phoenix, the prequels' F-bomb tradition has probably gone the way of Mystique (too soon?). The X-Men are now in the family-friendly Disney fold, along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The only two times the word in the MCU was even referenced were as gags, and they weren't actually said aloud. Senator Stern's use of it is bleeped in Iron Man 2, while May Parker's is cut off in Spider-Man: Homecoming. (It even becomes a running gag among the Avengers when Captain America corrects his teammate's etiquette in Avengers: Age of Ultron.)
Directed and written by Simon Kinberg, Dark Phoenix stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters and Jessica Chastain.