Over the years, the X-Men roster has included dozens of characters. Some of them belonged there (Emma Frost), others probably should’ve been ignored after their debut issues (Maggot). Who are the best of the best, though? We're not thinking in terms of power levels alone, as that quickly narrows things down to an impossible conversation about who qualifies as an “Omega” mutant and which characters are more Omega-ier than others. It can get quite messy.
In this instance, we’re not just looking at power, but at other factors too. Name recognition, uniqueness, and most importantly, the amount of time each member has been on the team, displaying their commitment to the dream that humans and mutants can work together. Let's dive into things!
This is a bit of a shock pick, but Ilyana Rasputin has actually been a pretty important member of the team. Initially one of the youngest members, she was hyper-aged after spending years in Limbo, eventually joining the New Mutants and putting her skills and mutant abilities to use there. Since then, much like Kitty Pryde, she’s grown up with the team.
The two of them have been the best of friends, and put in the most work of any younger members. She’s proven loyal to the cause no matter how bleak things have gotten, even when Earth was so deadly to mutants she had to provide a home in Limbo itself. It isn’t a stretch to say that in the aftermath of M-Day, she’s put in even more work than Colossus.
9 RACHEL SUMMERS
Rachel was initially introduced as a character from the "Days of Future Past" timeline, where she had briefly served as a Hound: a mutant responsible for hunting down other mutants and capturing them. From those beginnings, she became one of the people fighting the hardest for mutants and their rights by joining the X-Men.
She ditched her own timeline to come to the Marvel Prime Earth, where she would eventually gain the power of the Phoenix Force briefly. Though she spent some time away from the team in the 90s, she’s been a mainstay since the early 2000s and one of the team’s best telepaths.
Aside from having some of the best costumes of any X-Men, Storm has also been a member of the team for longer than anyone (other than Cyclops). While others have come and gone, Ororo joined up with the team in 1975, along with the rest of the International team in “Giant Size X-Men #1”, and hasn’t ever lost touch with them since.
When Scott isn’t around, she’s the automatic first choice to lead the team. Sometimes, even when Cyclops is around, she better fits the role as leader of the team. She’s gone through everything, from the loss of her powers to marrying (and divorcing) royalty, but the one constant in her life has always been her devotion to the team.
Despite being one of the oldest members of the X-Men, Hank doesn’t rank very high. Sure, he’s been on the team more often than not—aside from his stint with the Avengers—but he never seems quite as committed as the rest. He gained blue skin and fur because he refused to accept who he was and tried to cure himself.
He nearly destroyed time itself by bringing back the original five X-Men from the past, to get a glimpse of the present and hopefully go back and be better versions of themselves. He’s there when the team really needs him, but it does often times feel like he’d rather be anywhere else. Still, it’s hard to discount such a long-serving and iconic member of the squad.
One of the worst parts of the original 1990s X-Men cartoon was that it didn’t make Nightcrawler a member of the team. He guest-stars in some of the series’ best episodes, but he absolutely should’ve been a main member of the team. The swashbuckler joined up with the team as a member of its “International” crew, and brought levity and his own brand of heroism, even though he'd been mistreated by humanity as a result of his looks.
Though he joined Excalibur for a time when he believed the X-Men were gone, he returned a decade later and has been fighting alongside them ever since; a gentle-yet-powerful veteran voice during many of their dark years.
5 JEAN GREY
Admittedly, Jean might not have the exact same reputation as some of the other members of the team, but her devotion to Charles Xavier’s dream shouldn’t be denied. She was one of the original members of the team, and has returned time and time again to aid them when they need it the most.
Of course, she’s not perfect— she’s spent more time dead than some characters have spent on the team! Usually, though, this is because she has sacrificed herself for the sake of a better tomorrow for the X-Men.
Rogue got off to a rocky start with the X-Men, having been manipulated by her foster mother Mystique into joining the Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants. This came to an end when she drained the energy of Carol Danvers for so long that she took on a great deal of her memories and personality.
She turned to Xavier for help coping with all of this, and since then, she’s been as staunch a member of the X-Men as anyone. Unlike many of the other members on this team, it wasn’t until the late 2000s that she even had an affiliation with a team that wasn’t the X-Men after leaving the Brotherhood.
3 KITTY PRYDE
Perhaps more than any mutant (other than Cyclops), Katherine Pryde has grown up as a member of the X-Men. She joined the team as a young teenager, but has spent years working and training alongside the team. She faced the Hellfire Club and the Morlocks when she wasn’t even sixteen yet.
Now, she’s a grown woman, and she’s just as used to being a member of a team as she is to leading one (or even teaching a group of new mutants). It’s difficult to even imagine the team without her at this point, as she’s been a part of most of the major incarnations of the group since her introduction.
Wolverine has had an interesting journey throughout his time with in the X-Men. Originally, the character only seemed to care about working with Xavier because of his telepathic abilities, wanting help to figure out who he was and what had happened to him. He didn’t even seem to agree with the X-Men’s peaceful ways, as he... well, we all know what Wolverine does to his enemies.
In the decades since he joined, Wolverine has become one of the biggest proponents of the team. During the Schism era, he brought some normality back to mutantkind by choosing to open and lead a school for Gifted Mutants, once again. Along the way, he became one of the most beloved and iconic X-Men (and Marvel characters in general) of all.
Second only to Wolverine in terms of sheer popularity, the other major member of the X-Men to immediately come to everyone’s mind is Cyclops. He’s not just the first person Xavier recruited to his cause, he’s also the person who’s stuck around the longest.
When the original class left, he was the one to lead the new, “International” team. Since then, that’s been his MO, sticking around to lead the team through any and every challenge, whether it’s magicians wishing mutants away or the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Arguably, he’s worked harder than anyone to bring Xavier’s dream to life.