When Hugh Jackman was originally cast of Wolverine, arguably the most popular X-Men character ever, almost two decades ago, the fan boys were quick to pile on the hate. He was too tall, they said. Too handsome. Too Australian. The naysayers were quickly quieted when X-Men was released, as Jackman slipped effortlessly into the role of the angry Canadian X-Men outcast. He was so good, in fact, that he continued to play Wolverine for the better part of two decades, culminating in 2017’s Logan, which has been announced as the final time Jackman will don the mutton chops, adamantium claws, and trademark cigar. To celebrate the end of what was easily the very best part of the entire X-Men film franchise to date, we are ranking every movie in which Jackman appeared as Wolverine, from the worst to the best.
9. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Widely regarded as the weakest of the X-Men movies, The Last Stand is also the worst film featuring Wolverine. The third in the original X-Men trilogy, The Last Stand had the original cast of mutants feeling a little played out back in 2006. The plot revolves around a cure that is found to treat mutations, and how it divides the world of mutants between those who favor a cure and those who are just fine being different. The divide inevitably pits the X-Men, led by Professor Charles Xavier, against the Brotherhood and their leader, Magneto. As with all the X-Men movies, Wolverine looms large in this movie, and his relationship with Jean Grey is brought to its inevitable conclusion here. Yet the film seems to lack weight and fails to hold the viewers interest. Based on the story, one would think this movie could be the most engaging, but it somehow falls flat.
8. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Last summer’s tent pole movie, X-Men: Apocalypse left viewers underwhelmed and divided critics, many of whom felt this film’s plot was too convoluted and that the villain, Apocalypse, was surprisingly uninteresting. The story seems simple enough. After Apocalypse, the world’s first mutant, reemerges, the X-Men have to come together to defeat him and his plan to exterminate life as we know it. Yet the alternate realities subplot and crossing timelines made this movie a confusing mess. Film critic Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said of this movie: “Enough already. (Director Brian) Singer throws so much mutant at us that nothing sticks. I was almost rooting for Trump to impose a quota.” That pretty much sums up this movie. Big, overstuffed and rather confusing. Not the best outing for the X-Men, or Wolverine, who only ended up making a brief cameo in the movie — being broken out of a holding cell in the Weapon X facility by Jean Grey and Cyclops.
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
The first standalone Wolverine movie is decent, but not as good as the others in the series. A straight forward origin story, The Wolverine examines the character’s early life in Canada, as well as his time with the government squad known as Team X, and the impact these developments had on Wolverine’s development. Part of the problem with this movie is that the supporting characters are never fully developed – notably Deadpool’s brief appearance (an early version of the character played by Ryan Reynolds) and Victor Creed, aka Sabertooth (played by Liev Schreiber). There are some extremely cool action sequences in this movie and, as an origin story, the whole thing holds together pretty well. But the supporting players could have been more developed and the pacing a bit faster.
6. X-Men (2000)
It may seem hard to remember now, but the first X-Men movie was also one of the first Marvel film properties developed. Back in 2000, movies based on comic books were not the sure bet at the box office they are today, and many people were skeptical that the available special effects could do the X-Men justice. Fortunately, most of those concerns were set aside when this movie was released. X-Men had a great cast of top notch actors and was faithful enough to the comic books to satisfy the fanboys. The special effects, while looking a bit dated by today’s standards, were good enough to earn critical praise. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine has a pivotal role in this movie, and its success not only set up the X-Men franchise for years to come, but also established movies based on comic books as a viable, money making enterprise.
5. X-Men: First Class (2011)
The first in the alternate timeline X-Men movies, First Class was a reboot of the franchise and introduced a new cast playing the beloved X-Men characters. Hugh Jackman was one of the few original cast members to reprise their role in this reboot. And while Wolverine barely appears in this movie for more than a split second, First Class stands as one of the best X-Men films so far. Set in 1962, the United States government enlists the help of the X-Men to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start World War III with a missile strike. This movie succeeded in refreshing the X-Men franchise and helped to keep viewers interested in the mutant characters. And, the alternate timeline approach feels intriguing in this movie. It is not yet confusing and jumbled, as it would become in subsequent movies.
4. X2 / X-Men 2 (2003)
The first X-Men sequel was arguably the best in the original trilogy, and still holds up years after its initial release. What’s great about this film is that it introduces a number of new characters, particularly Nightcrawler and Iceman, without all the new entries feeling overwhelming or distracting from the story. In this X-Men film, the mutants band together to find an assassin (Nightcrawler) who has made an attempt on the U.S. President’s life, while the Mutant Academy is attacked by military forces. X2 also features a strong villain in William Stryker, and the movie manages to do what all great sequels do – go bigger than the first movie while managing to sufficiently advance the plot. It works and the result is one of the strongest X-Men movies.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
The strongest X-Men movie has to be 2014’s Days of Future Past. While X-Men: Apocalypse seemed to go too far with the alternate timeline approach, Days of Future Past walks the tightrope extremely well – balancing events in the present, past, and future skillfully. This movie also features Wolverine in one of his biggest roles in the franchise. In the film, the X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent a cataclysmic event that results in the ultimate doom for humans and mutants. The special effects are top notch, the story is compelling, and all the jumping around between time periods is juggled nicely. Plus, it is always cool to see the mutant killing Sentinels in a movie, or the comic books for that matter. Jackman is particularly strong in this movie as Wolverine, giving this movie and the entire franchise a great shot in the arm.
2. The Wolverine (2013)
As far as movies about Logan aka Wolverine go, the 2013 flick The Wolverine is hands down the best. This movie pretty much has everything you could want in a movie starring Wolverine – ninjas, Japan, lots of claw mashing action, and further developments in the Wolverine origin story. When Wolverine is summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, he finds himself caught up in a conflict that forces him to confront his own past and demons. There is even a semi-interesting love story that is not too offensive and some real cool ninja play that is worth the price of admission. If you have to watch one movie starring Jackman as Wolverine, make it this one. You will not be disappointed. Right now, this movie stands as the definitive Wolverine film. We’ll see if Logan changes our minds in a few weeks.
If you could only watch a single movie featuring Wolverine, Logan is without a doubt the best option. Set in 2029, in a time where the mutants are all but extinct, Logan encounters Laura, a young girl with the same powers as him — right down to the claws and healing ability, plus similar issues with rage and a general distrust of every other person she encounters.
Loosely based on the Old Man Logan comic story arc, Logan was the first X-Men film (other than Deadpool) to be released with an R rating. That meant more violence, more swearing, and a more adult examination of Logan’s attempts to deal with the horrors of his past, while at the same time trying to figure out how to keep Laura from walking down the same road. We’ve already proclaimed this movie as the best X-Men film that Fox has ever mad, so it is a very worthy champion at the top of this list. Good luck to whichever actor might take over the role of Wolverine in the future. Whoever it is will have very big shoes to fill.