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The best way to watch the 'X-Men' movies for the ultimate marathon

INSIDER logoINSIDER 10/17/2020 kacuna@insider.com (Kirsten Acuna)
Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men kicked off a vast superhero franchise. "Days of Future Past" is key to understanding the "X-Men" universe. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men kicked off a vast superhero franchise. "Days of Future Past" is key to understanding the "X-Men" universe. 20th Century Fox
  • There are 13 movies in Fox's X-Men universe. The final one, "New Mutants," was released in August.
  • If you're rewatching the films, there are three basic ways you can watch: Chronologically, release order, or going by the two timelines created by 2014's "Days of Future Past." 
  • You can watch them in chronological order, but that would probably cause some confusion. 
  • Chronologically, for the most part, the films start with 2011's "First Class" and end with 2017's "Logan."
  • The two "Deadpool" movies more or less exist outside of the timeline since Wade Wilson is a fourth-wall-breaking character. 
  • "New Mutants," while standing on its own, appears to take place around 2026 because of a scene it shares with 2017's "Logan."

After more than two years of delays, Fox's final X-Men movie, "The New Mutants," has been released in theaters and will be available on Blu-ray and digital release on November 17.

Though you won't need to see the previous films to understand the spinoff, you may want to revisit the dozen previous X-Men movies that have been released since 2000 before checking it out. Or, at the least, "Logan" and "X-Men: Apocalypse."

If you're planning to watch the films in chronological order and start with 2000's "X-Men," you're doing it all wrong. The "X-Men" franchise is one of the most difficult ones to keep straight.

The 2014 crossover film "X-Men: Days of Future Past" reset the franchise by venturing into the past, creating a second movie timeline. Then there are the two "Deadpool" movies which pretty much exist outside of time.

So how should you watch the films? There are a few ways to navigate the "X-Men" films. 

Here's the chronological order of the "X-Men" movies. It's not the way you should watch the films:

a man wearing a hat and sunglasses: Ian McKellen stars across the X-Men movies as one of the franchise's most powerful mutants, Magneto. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox Ian McKellen stars across the X-Men movies as one of the franchise's most powerful mutants, Magneto. 20th Century Fox

"X-Men: First Class" 1962

"X-Men: Days of Future Past"* 1973/2023

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" 1973/1979

"X-Men: Apocalypse" 1983

"X-Men: Dark Phoenix"

"X-Men"

"X2: X-Men: United"

"X-Men: The Last Stand"

"The Wolverine"

(an alternate location to watch "Days of Future Past")

"Deadpool"

"Deadpool 2"

"New Mutants"

"Logan"

It looks like we just tossed most of the "X-Men" movies in a hat and pulled out titles at random. Here's the thing. Fox's "X-Men" franchise is a bit more complicated than Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe.

After the original "X-Men" trilogy, some of the sequels were actually prequels. 2014's "Days of Future Past" erased most of those films from existence. Just about every release afterward took place before 2000's "X-Men." "Days of Future Past" ("DoFP") simultaneously takes place in the future and the past as Wolverine time travels. So you can feel free to watch it second or later on. 

If you're watching the movies for the first time, "DoFP" may be too confusing to have as your second "X-Men" watch. It's more of an intermediate "X-Men" film (and the franchise's best). Save it for later in your binge. The payoff will be greater.

Though this order shows the films (for the most part) in their most basic chronological order, this isn't even how you should watch them. Why? If you haven't watched the films in quite some time, watching the saga in the above order may cause a more confusing viewing experience since you're jumbling moments from two different timelines into one.

There's a better way to watch the films when you consider the second, rebooted timeline caused by "DoFP."

Making sense of the multiple timelines. Here's how I recommend watching the X-Men movies before watching "The New Mutants":

Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry looking at the camera: The X-Men universe can seem overwhelming to navigate. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox The X-Men universe can seem overwhelming to navigate. 20th Century Fox

"First Class"

"X-Men"

"X2"

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine"

"X3"

"The Wolverine"

"Days of Future Past"

"X-Men: Apocalypse"

"Dark Phoenix"

"Deadpool"

"Deadpool 2"

"New Mutants"*

"Logan"

This order gives you the first "X-Men" timeline up to "Days of Future Past" and then gives you the new timeline which exists after Wolverine travels back in time to fix the future.

"Deadpool" and "Deadpool 2" are outliers, but do take place chronologically after "Days of Future Past" in the new timeline. They can really be watched at any point after "DoFP," but it's probably easiest to watch "Apocalypse" and "Dark Phoenix" back to back. It's also easier to end the binge on three solid "X-Men" movies before you have to watch "New Mutants." 

"Deadpool 2" and "Logan" are probably two of the best films to watch last before heading into "New Mutants" as both films deal with younger mutants. If you've seen both films before, they're interchangeable. If you've never seen "Logan," watch that first or "Deadpool 2" will give away a massive spoiler for the film. 

We previously thought "New Mutants" would take place in between the two "Deadpool" films because of the "mutant re-education center" shown in "Deadpool 2" that's filled with young mutants being held against their will. Similarly, "New Mutants" takes place entirely inside a mutant detainment center.

In actuality, it turns out "New Mutants" likely takes place a few years before "Logan," well into the 2020s. However, since the film is pretty self-contained, you could still watch it right after "Apocalypse" or right before or after "Deadpool 2" and it would make sense.

Why you should watch the films in this order instead of chronologically

If this is all a bit confusing, here's when all 13 "X-Men" movies take place, more or less. Dates aren't always provided in each movie, so we've taken a few liberties to place the films as best we can.

"X-Men: First Class": 1962

a person wearing a wet suit carrying a surfboard: Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and James McAvoy play younger versions of the beloved X-Men. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and James McAvoy play younger versions of the beloved X-Men. 20th Century Fox

The film starts with a flashback of Magneto in 1944 (eagle-eyed viewers will recognize it's an extension of the first scene from 2000's "X-Men") and another of Charles and Raven. The majority of the film flashes forward to 1962 with a brief appearance of Wolverine. 

Where to watch: streaming on HBO Max. Available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.

"X-Men": Around 2003

Anna Paquin standing in a room: Nightcrawler joined the franchise in "X2." 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox Nightcrawler joined the franchise in "X2." 20th Century Fox

Despite coming out in 2000, the beginning of the film tells us it doesn't take place in that year. Instead, we're told the film takes place in the "not too distant future" as we're introduced to Rogue (Anna Paquin). Though the majority of the film takes place in the present, the very start of the film has a flashback to Poland in 1944 to introduce us to a young Magneto in an internment camp.

Where to watch: Streaming on Disney Plus with a subscription. Available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.

"X2: X-Men United": Around 2003

a man holding a cat: Nightcrawler joined the franchise in "X2" by attempting to take the president's life. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox Nightcrawler joined the franchise in "X2" by attempting to take the president's life. 20th Century Fox

Released in 2003, the film takes place a short time after the first film. Though no year is given, it's clear that some months have transpired because of conversations between Jean and Scott at a museum. Logan also returns after being away from the Xavier school for an undisclosed amount of time. 

The general consensus online is that most consider the first two films to take place in or around 2003 despite no specific date appearing in either film. 

Where to watch: Streaming with a Disney Plus subscription. Available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine": primarily 1979

Hugh Jackman looking at the camera: Logan witnesses his adamantium claws for the first time. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox Logan witnesses his adamantium claws for the first time. 20th Century Fox

This film is good to watch right after "X2" for some additional background on William Stryker, the man who experiments on Wolverine to give him his adamantium claws. Stryker is first introduced in "X2" and is a prominent B-level villain across much of the franchise. Pausing at this point to watch Wolverine's origin movie gives you a nice look back in time at Logan's history, which is useful early on in your binge since Logan appears in or is referenced in 11 of the 12 films. 

The film will tell you everything you need to know about Logan (real name James Howlett) from 1845 to his time fighting in four wars up through 1979.

Where to watch: Streaming with a Starz and DirecTV subscription. Available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.


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"X-Men: The Last Stand": around 2006

a close up of Famke Janssen: You can probably skip this film since "Days of Future Past" erases it from existence. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox You can probably skip this film since "Days of Future Past" erases it from existence. 20th Century Fox

Once you're a Wolverine expert, you can finish out the end of the first "X-Men" trilogy. No specific year is given for when it takes place, but it can't be too long after the end of "X2" because Jean Grey returns from her watery grave. 

Most just take the movie at face value and place it in 2005 or 2006 even though two to three years would be a long time for Jean to stay in a protective hibernation bubble underwater.

If you're going to skip any movie in the franchise, it's this one. Later movies undo events of this film regarding Scott, Jean, and Professor X. 

Where to watch: Available to rent on YouTube, Amazon, and Apple.

"The Wolverine": around 2013

Hugh Jackman looking at the camera: Logan tries to escape memories of Jean's death which haunt him. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox Logan tries to escape memories of Jean's death which haunt him. 20th Century Fox

Other than a flashback to August 1945 at the film's start, no specific date is given to tell us when the majority of Logan's second standalone Wolverine movie takes place. So most just use the release year, 2013, as a place holder. 

The movie deals with Logan's fallout from the end of "The Last Stand" as he travels to Japan to forget the events of "The Last Stand." 

Honestly, the movie could take place a year after "X3" and that would make sense as we watch Logan grieve the loss of Jean Gray. He still may be grieving her seven years later, but Logan is having vivid nightmares as if her death just happened. Either way, it's a good segue before moving onto the next main "X-Men" movie. 

Where to watch: Streaming with Disney Plus and TNT subscriptions. Available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.

"Days of Future Past": 1973 / 2023

Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart standing in front of a building: The X-Men must rely on their younger selves to save the future. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox The X-Men must rely on their younger selves to save the future. 20th Century Fox

The mid-credits scene at the end of "The Wolverine" sets up this film perfectly. We're told Wolverine runs into Professor X and Magneto two years after the film's end to prepare to take down a Sentinel army that will begin annihilating mutants in "DoFP."

Whatever transpired in the next large gap of time anywhere between 2013 and 2023 is a mystery, but Wolverine's efforts obviously didn't help Professor X and Magneto win the war against mutants. Because of that, Wolverine's consciousness is sent back in time to January 1973, as is later noted on a newspaper in "X-Men: Apocalypse." At least twice in the film, we're told Wolverine is about 50 years in the past.

After he prevents the Sentinels from being built, he returns to a new 2023 where Jean Grey, Scott, and everyone he knew is alive. However, because Wolverine altered the past, the films you just watched were essentially erased from 1973 onward. Every film moving forward is part of a second "X-Men" timeline.

Where to watch: Streaming with a Disney Plus or Fubu subscription. Available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.

"X-Men: Apocalypse": 3600, BCE / 1983

a close up of a statue: Poor Oscar Isaac looked like a "Power Rangers" villain in this "X-Men" sequel. Fox © Fox Poor Oscar Isaac looked like a "Power Rangers" villain in this "X-Men" sequel. Fox

The first seven minutes of the film take place in 3,600 BCE in the Nile Valley. Otherwise, the main plot of the movie takes place in 1983. For the next two films, we're back with the younger versions of the mutants. Wolverine gets an unexpected cameo.

Make sure to pay special attention to the end-credits in this one as the scene teases the Essex Corporation, which pops up later in "New Mutants."

Where to watch: Streaming with a Disney Plus and FXNow subscription. Available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.

"Dark Phoenix": primarily 1992

Sophie Turner standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: "X-Men" tried to deliver the phoenix story again. Unfortunately, the story wasn't much better than the 2006 film. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox "X-Men" tried to deliver the phoenix story again. Unfortunately, the story wasn't much better than the 2006 film. 20th Century Fox

This is one of the easiest films to date. The movie starts with a flashback in 1975 before moving forward to 1992 for the rest of the film to deliver a do-over of Jean Grey's Phoenix storyline from "The Last Stand." 

Where to watch: Streaming on HBOMax, HBONow, and with a DirecTV subscription. Available to buy on Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.

"Deadpool": Let's say 2016, the year the movie debuted 

a red fire hydrant sitting next to a fireplace: I like to think that "Deadpool" movies take place in the present, or whatever "the present" means for its titular character. @VancityReynolds © @VancityReynolds I like to think that "Deadpool" movies take place in the present, or whatever "the present" means for its titular character. @VancityReynolds

"Deadpool" never tells us when the movie takes place. That's probably because it took over a decade to get this film made. Screenwriter Paul Wernick told Insider in 2016 Fox was afraid of it being an R-rated Marvel superhero movie. If it was going to be a one-off, so be it. If it happened to do well, even better! 

It's best to not get too finicky over where it falls in the timeline, which is fine for a character like Deadpool. The fourth-wall-breaking character pretty much exists outside of time and space, aware of everything the viewer is knowledgeable about. "X-Men" writer, producer, and director Simon Kinberg has said both "Deadpool" films take place after "DoFP" and "Apocalypse" in the present while acknowledging everything before it and in the universe.

Where to watch: Streaming with a Fubo, FXNow, or DirecTV subscription. Available to rent through Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.

"Deadpool 2": 2018

a person posing for the camera: Deadpool finds his family in this sequel. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox © Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Deadpool finds his family in this sequel. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

"Deadpool 2" seems tricky because it appears to simultaneously take place somewhere in the '90s because of a cameo from some younger X-Men and after 2029 because of a "Logan" spoiler. Again, you shouldn't overthink it.

Deadpool just exists and is able to reference whatever pop culture reference he pleases in a Looney Tunes-esque fashion. You can read a more extensive breakdown on why "Deadpool 2," and the "Deadpool" films in general, exist outside of the main "X-Men" timeline here

If you've never seen "Logan," watch that film before "Deadpool 2" otherwise it will spoil the ending. 

Where to watch: Available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.

"The New Mutants": possibly 2026

Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy posing for the camera: A vision by Dani connects the film directly to cell phone footage seen in "Logan." 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox A vision by Dani connects the film directly to cell phone footage seen in "Logan." 20th Century Fox

No year is revealed in "New Mutants"; however, it gives us a huge clue that it takes place in the future. An hour into the film, Dani gets a glimpse of a containment center where other young mutants are detained, including a shot of Dafne Keen's X-23 who appeared in "Logan."

That scene should look familiar if you've seen the 2017 movie. Dani's vision is the same cell phone footage that's shown in the film centered around Wolverine. "Logan" takes place in 2029 when most mutants are considered extinct.

If you revisit the scene 45 minutes into the movie where Logan watches the detainment center cell phone footage, you can spot the year 2026. If Dani was seeing that footage in real time, then that places their characters a few years behind the "Logan" timeline.

text, letter: The cell phone footage was captured by a nurse, Gabriela Lopez, who worked for a company owned by the Essex Corporation that was bringing new mutants into the world illegally. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox The cell phone footage was captured by a nurse, Gabriela Lopez, who worked for a company owned by the Essex Corporation that was bringing new mutants into the world illegally. 20th Century Fox

Since "New Mutants" mentions the Essex Corporation, a scientific organization that's secretly making mutants of its own, you can alternatively watch the film directly after the end of "X-Men: Apocalypse." The post-credits scene in that film teases the Essex Corporation. 

It's worth noting this movie was originally supposed to come out in 2018 before "Deadpool 2." So that's another place where you could comfortably watch it. Why? "Deadpool 2" introduces an orphanage where young mutants are held and abused by staff. That's the entire plot of "New Mutants." 

If it's your first go-around, you may want to watch "New Mutants" after "Logan." You'll recognize Dani's vision and X-23 from the 2017 movie. If you're a big "X-Men" fan, I recommend watching it here as you'll understand the connection to the similar detention center introduced in "Deadpool 2" and get a tease of X-23 before her scene-stealing performance in "Logan."

Where to watch: In theaters. It will be available to own on November 17.

"Logan": 2029

Hugh Jackman wearing a suit and tie: Close out the franchise with Logan. Ben Rothstein-© 2017 Marvel. TM and © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation © Ben Rothstein-© 2017 Marvel. TM and © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Close out the franchise with Logan. Ben Rothstein-© 2017 Marvel. TM and © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

A radio broadcast in the movie's first few minutes tells us it's 2029. Logan made it past the events of "DoFP"; however, this outcome isn't much better for mutants. According to Logan, no new mutants have been born in 25 years. Charles accidentally killed a number of them due to increasing uncontrollable seizures in his old age. 

If you're going to close the Fox saga out after 20 years, you may as well end it the way it began, with Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart. 

Where to watch: Available to stream on Fubu and FXNow with a subscription. You can rent it on Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.

This is all helpful, but I just want to watch them in release order

a man wearing a hat: You can't go wrong with the original release order. 20th Century Fox © 20th Century Fox You can't go wrong with the original release order. 20th Century Fox

No problem. 

Honestly, the most straightforward way to indulge in the X-Men may be to watch them in release order.

This way you're getting the original trilogy together, followed by some adventures with Wolverine who broke out as a franchise favorite. The films then head back in time to show you the evolution of mutants through time. Guess what? You learn JFK was a mutant, something Kinberg has confirmed.

Once again, this watch makes 2014's "DoFP" entry more satisfying as you see the two generations of actors come together on screen.

"X-Men" (2000)

"X2" (2003)

"X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006)

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (2009)

"X-Men: First Class" (2011)

"The Wolverine" (2013)

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014)

"X-Men: Apocalypse" (2016)

"Deadpool" (2016)

"Logan" (2017)

"Deadpool 2" (2018)

"Dark Phoenix" (2019)

"The New Mutants" (2020)

The ultimate chronological viewing order for a massive 'X-Men' viewing party. We'll call this The Wolverine order.

a man that is standing in the rain: One of the many beautiful shots in James Mangold's "Logan." Ben Rothstein-© 2017 Marvel. TM and © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation © Ben Rothstein-© 2017 Marvel. TM and © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation One of the many beautiful shots in James Mangold's "Logan." Ben Rothstein-© 2017 Marvel. TM and © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

If you're a big X-Men fan, have all of the films at the ready, and are up for a challenge, there's another way you can watch the franchise. It just involves a lot of pausing and changing up of films.

The first seven minutes of "X-Men: Apocalypse" (3000 B.C.)

The first eight minutes of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (1845 and then 1861-1973 in a montage)

The "X-Men" opening paired with the first nine minutes and 24 seconds of "X-Men: First Class" (You get two flashbacks to 1944, Poland and one of Westchester, New York)

The first five minutes of "The Wolverine" (1945)

The rest of "X-Men: First Class" (1962)

"Days of Future Past" (If you're watching the theatrical cut, Wolverine goes back in time to 1973 around 17 minutes)

Continue "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" until around the 18-minute mark when the movie flashes forward six years.

The first seven minutes of "Dark Phoenix" (1975)

The rest of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"

The rest of "X-Men: Apocalypse" (1983)

The first three minutes and 24 seconds of "X-Men: The Last Stand" (We're told it takes place 20 years ago, placing it in 1985 or 1986.)

The rest of "Dark Phoenix" (1992)

3:25 through 4:31 of "X-Men: The Last Stand" (We're told it takes place 10 years after the film's opening in 1995 or 1996)

"X-Men" (presumably 2003)

"X2" (circa 2003)

"X3" (around 2006)

"The Wolverine" (~2013)

"Deadpool" (2016)

"Deadpool 2" (2018)

"Days of Future Past" (If you want to revisit the film's beginning and end for two different versions of 2023.)

"New Mutants" (supposedly ~2026)

"Logan" (2029)

This way, more or less, is guided by the course of Wolverine's life from start to end, but it really doesn't make the most sense if you're trying to comprehend the full "X-Men" universe.

I'm dubbing it The Wolverine order as it starts and ends with Hugh Jackman, who has starred in the majority of these movies.

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