The X-Men film franchise has seen many ups and downs since it first came to life nearly 20 years ago. We’ve seen huge, soaring box office achievements like X-Men: Days of Future Past, X2, and Deadpool that please the core fan base and get high praise from critics. And we’ve also seen cinematic trainwrecks so inane that they practically spit in the face of everything that made the source material great. You know, films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine (no, we will never let the scars from those awful CGI claws heal). As with the quality of the films, the quality of the villains within them have had some mighty highs and some steep lows.
It is often said a story is only as good as its villain. Luckily, the X-Men films have brought to life some great ones. Magneto (Fassbender or McKellen, take your pick) is a gem in the X-crown. William Stryker is as terrifying as he is sadly topical, even today. And Kevin Bacon’s turn as Hellfire Club leader, Sebastian Shaw is criminally under looked in the greater pantheon of superhero films. However, there are some stinkers…more than there’s room to list, really. So let’s make fun of both sides, shall we?
15 DIVINE WARDROBE
Is there an X-Men villain as iconic or as recognizable as Apocalypse? Okay, sure Magneto probably takes that title, but after him? Probably not. Apocalypse is such a dominating presence in the comics and has been the bane of do-gooder mutants across the globe for a centuries. When Fox announced his inclusion in X-Men: Apocalypse (it’s right there in the name), we were eager to see how En Sabah Nur would be portrayed on the big screen. And, well…
To say Oscar Isaac’s portrayal was a tad underwhelming is somewhat of an understatement. Now, it’s not fair to blame Isaac completely. His calm tone and steely glare were perfect for Apocalypse, but his stature and questionable make-up application were not. For a character who is for all intents and purposes a god among mortals, Apocalypse should have been terrifying. What we got instead was just another disposable villain.
14 DADDY DEAREST
The legal disputes over characters between film studios is as complicated as they are exhausting and restrictive for allowing great characters into great franchises. Disney and Marvel Studios circumvented the stranglehold Fox had on literally every mutants in the Marvel Comics universe, but making Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver obtaining their powers through experimentation(?) rather than being born with them.
Now, anyone familiar with the comic books these characters often populate can tell you two things: one is that they have been members of both the Avengers and the X-Men. And two, their dad is Magneto. This does make for a pretty ironic turn of events since Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver’s introduction was in Avengers: Age of Ultron, a movie with an army of metal villains. We’re certain daddy could have helped out immensely.
The issues plaguing X-Men Origins: Wolverine are bountiful. From the horribly rendered CGI claws the titular hero of the film awkwardly wielded to the nonsensical action sequences, the movie was more or less a phantasmagoria of misguided scenes that tarnished several beloved characters. But no character was as poorly presented as he merc with the mouth, Deadpool.
Ryan Reynolds certainly did the best he could with what little screen time he was given. However, once his character was turned into the dreaded Weapon XI, things took a massive turn for the worse. Sewing up Deadpool’s mouth and giving him strange adamantium swords that extended from his arms like a physics-defying Baraka was arguably the worst thing the filmmakers could have done with the character. Luckily, Reynolds redeemed the character in his own film and even poked fun of the horrible version that came before.
12 DADDY ISSUES
Oh, Azazel, you rascally devil you. When the early production photos of X-Men: First Class were leaked showing Azazel’s inclusion (played by Jason Flemyng, an actor who has collaborated with just about every Mathew Vaugh production), we were curious as to whether or not we would see the “romance” between him and Mystique. In the comics, Azazel and Mystique are Nightcrawler’s biological parents. This wasn’t really hinted to in the original films, but with the inclusion of a younger Raven, this callback to the comics was suddenly a very real possibility.
But as the fractured timeline of the X-Men films slowly began to heal itself (mostly) it became apparent that Azazel’s inclusion was just a fun little nod to this lineage. This might be for the best. We’re all for omitting creepy relationships.
11 TRASK 'STACHE
Peter Dinklage is a national treasure. He is a larger-than-life presence in any scene he’s in despite his stature (and sometimes because of it). With the X-Men film franchise timeline being a wonky as it is, casting Dinklage as Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinels, in X-Men: Days of Future Past, was a brazen choice. After all, Peter Dinklage looks about as much like Bill Duke as he does Rebecca Romijn.
However, the one thing that makes Dinklage’s Trask strangely unnerving is his ‘70s mustache and hairdo. Look, we know Days of Future Past is a period piece and not everyone can look as cool as Wolverine in any period in history, but c’mon! Trask looks like he should be a news desk giving local viewers the lowdown on the weather.
10 MASTER OF MAGNETISM
The best inclusion in the new X-Men films (even better than James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier) is Michael Fassbender as Magneto. Fassbender is charming, menacing, and captivating as the Master of Magnetism in every scene that he’s in. He brings a certain spark of hope to the character that was not there before due to the fact that Sir Ian McKellen played a much older and more jaded version of Erik Lehnsherr.
Fassbender’s portrayal is much closer to the tragic, vindictive version of the character fans know and love. His Magneto might be the first real villain of the X-Men film franchise that would garner a solo film…besides Deadpool, of course. It’s as easy to side with him as it is to fear him, which makes him arguably one of the best villains in the films. It’s apropos since Magneto is one of the best villains in comics. Period.
9 THE REAL DEAL
Some would say pointing out the fact that a cosplayer can put together a better supervillain costume than a big budget film production is an insult. But frankly, it isn’t. Cosplayers are often far more devoted to the characters and have been studying them for decades. There is a certain level of passion in cosplay that some costume specialists may not have.
That isn’t to say that movie costumers don’t have passion for their craft or are lacking an eye for detail, but the fact that cosplayers often work within the constraints of their own personal budget (not one provided by a studio’s multi-million dollar production), gives them a certain edge when it comes to the heart behind their work. The cosplay community has brought to life characters that movies seem to miss the mark on.
8 I DON'T GET IT
Magneto isn’t known for his sense of humor, at least not in the X-Men comics. Sure, he gets a snarky clap back on Charles Xavier or Scott Summers every now and again, but those are usually there to point out the hypocrisies in their political views despite being valiant and altruistic.
Michael Fassbender’s take on Magneto carries over this dry wit wonderfully. While the younger on screen version of Erik Lehnsherr (nee Max Eisenhardt) is prone to wry smiles that almost scream “ain’t I a stinker?” he’s still a deeply conflicted villain, one whose motivations are almost justifiable (if you disregard that whole kill innocent people thing, of course). It’s also hard not to fall in love this Magneto. After all, he might be too handsome. We’re talking Magneto stranded in the Savage Land-era handsome level of charm.
7 HOUSTON BOOSTIN'
Character actor Danny Huston is fantastic in any role he is in, but for some strange reason, he seems to have a real knack for bringing his A game when portraying comic book movie villains. His turn as Marlow, the leader of a marauding pack of vampires in 30 Days on Night is terrifying. His portrayal of a fictional version of German general Erich Ludendorff in Wonder Woman was great, even if his reveal was a bid red herring many of us saw a mile away. But arguably his best comic book movie baddie was William Stryker.
Stryker had already graced the big screen in the 2003 film X2: X-Men United and was played by character actor titan, Brian Cox. Huston had some big shoes to fill as the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and he did not disappoint even if the movie did.
6 TRUE COLORS
One of the more arresting visual aspect of X-Men: Days of Future Past is the potential dystopian future our heroes have been saddled with. It’s bleak, grim, and competently devoid of the vibrant colors we are used to seeing the X-Men wear (we suppose the same could be said for those black leather getups from the original trilogy, too). This world stands in even starker contrast when help up against the costumes from the previous film, X-Men: First Class and the scenes taking place in 1973 (ah, the polyester).
Magneto is arguably the most jarring. Michael Fassbender’s final costume in the Days of Future Past is as close to the source material that any incarnation has been before it. Seeing a similar design worn by Sir Ian McKellen but in drab ash grey make you appreciate the brighter color scheme even more.
5 NEEDLE IN THE "HEY!"
Thank you, meme makers for addressing the pincushion in the room. Ken Leung (Lost, Saw) is a fantastic actor who often gets saddled with small supporting roles. Despite how diminutive his screen time often is, he makes the best out of it. Sadly, even his talents couldn’t save the ridiculous character or Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand.
The thing about Kid Omega, who is essentially a version of the character Quill, is this: he’s pretty much useless. Sure, the X-Men Universe has no shortage of useless powers (you guys remember Maggott, right?), but is there anything more lame than fatal hugs? In a film about war between rival ideals of the same group of people, the inclusion of such a silly character seems out of place, especially when his powers are in the spot light for a scene we’re supposed to take seriously.
4 YOU HAD ONE JOB
When bringing a popular supervillain to the big screen, filmmakers have several hurdles to jump over when it comes to how they will be perceived by a wider audience. Most comic book costumes are bright, flashy, and meant to catch the reader’s eye at first glance. Audaciousness, however, is not always warmly received. Fortunately, man big screen adaptations of supervillains tend to tone things down and present a version of the character that is more palatable.
But scaling things back isn’t always for the best. The villainous mutant Apocalypse, for example was somewhat detrimental to the character’s legacy. While many facets of the character did make it to the big screen, the overall execution was lackluster with a large number of fans. At least he looked better than Juggernaut (so much for small victories).
3 THAT SMILE THO
Is Michael Fassbender half handsome man, half shark…who also happens to be handsome? If his toothy smile is any indication, then maybe. Fassbender’s role as Magneto in X-Men: First Class and the movies that followed it is something to truly hold up on a pedestal. His charisma oozes out of him in each scene, even the ones where he’s hunting down the war criminal who made his life a living nightmare.
Seeing Charles Xavier and Mystique cower in his would be dental trap is both hilarious and oddly poignant. Despite his leanings toward radicalization early on, Fassbender plays Magneto so charmingly he makes you want to root for him even if his actions will eventually cause a great deal of pain for the heroes of the films.
2 LITTLE GIRL BLUE
Is Mystique a villain in the X-Men film franchise? Honestly, who knows anymore? In the original trilogy of films, she was deadly shape-shifting assassin and the right hand of Magneto. But in the new timeline, she’s Xavier’s would-be main squeeze and de facto leader of the X-Men. Jennifer Lawrence does a decent enough job conveying Raven’s split feeling on her role in the progression of mutant civil rights, but we’re still waiting to see what makes her go bad, if the upcoming films even go down that route.
Both versions of Mystique are ironically played by beautiful women, Rebecca Romijn in the original films, and Lawrence in the new movies. Mystique in her natural state is supposed to be presented as something monstrous, but we can see the real women through that blue makeup…maybe a little too much.
1 WILL THE REAL WARREN PLEASE STAND UP
Warren Worthington III was a member of Charles Xavier’s first class of X-Men in the comics. He underwent such hardships during his tenure as a soldier in Xavier’s army, losing himself after being recruited as one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse and being transformed into Archangel. Even after being “turned to the dark side,” Warren bounced back to his role as a hero and continued to deal with moral struggle raging inside him, which came to a crescendo in Rick Remender’s stellar run of Uncanny X-Force.
Sadly, Warren gets the short straw in the film X-Men: Apocalypse. We never see the struggle of Angel, nor do we find any shred of humanity in the character after he is corrupted by Apocalypse. Warren is just another henchman, and he deserved better. Warren Worthington III is not a villain. He never really was despite some of his actions in the comics.