The X-Men film franchise began during the timid resurgence of superhero movies in the early 2000’s. At that point, the cardinal rule was “For the Love of All That Is Good, Don’t Make It Silly Or Unbelievable.” Audiences would still have had the goofball excesses of Batman and Robin from three years prior fresh in their minds at that point, so studios were being careful. But sixteen years and three and three quarters of a trilogy later (and the beginning of a new duology-maybe-trilogy starring Deadpool), the X-men film franchise has reinvented itself a few times…while trying to maintain continuity, which has resulted in a rather confusing timeline that hurts even Deadpool’s head (and that’s hard to do).
Here are the films in their production order: (legend: W=Wolverine trilogy; X=original trilogy; Y= Young era trilogy; D=Deadpool series)
(X1) X-Men (2000)
(X2) X2: X-Men United (2003)
(X3) X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) *stops to retch a bit*
(W1) X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) *continues retching*
(Y1) X-Men: First Class (2011)
(W2) The Wolverine (2013)
(Y2) X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
(D1) Deadpool (2016)
(Y3) X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
(D2) (In production) Deadpool 2 (2017)
(W3) (In Production) The Wolverine 3 (2017)
Now, in terms of a suggested viewing order, one could look at it a few different ways. You can break it up into trilogies. The original three movies, the Wolverine movies, and the Prequel trilogy with Deadpool as a fun aside. But the events of Days of Future Past sort of rewrite things, which means that, if you want, you can cut out the first trilogy of films. And Deadpool ignores that X-Men Origins exists (for good reason) so you can ignore that one, too.
BUT the Wolverine from Days of Future Past is haunted by the events of The Last Stand (aren’t we all?) so if you follow his story from beginning to end, you still need to watch the original trilogy of films (which is fine because the first two are amazing).
So, if you want to follow the story in a vaguely logical order, then all you really need to do is cut out Origins and then rearrange everything else as follows: (spoiler warning, I guess)
First Class (sets up how they all got together)
X-Men (introduces Wolverine to the group who’s all grown up, now)
X2 (gets into Wolverine’s past, Jean Grey “dies”)
The Last Stand (Jean Grey returns…and then dies for good, Cyclops dies (for realz), Rogue is “cured,” Xavier is “killed”)
The Wolverine (Wolverine is shaken up over Jean’s death, is warned (mid-credits sequence) of a new threat, and sees that Xavier ISN’T dead because of reasons that will be explained later)
Days of Future Past (the new threat (sentinels) are super scary and so Wolverine goes back in time to prevent them from happening and, in the process, changes the timeline so that Mystique is brought over to the good side, the events that led to Jean, Scott, and Xavier’s deaths never happened)
Deadpool (a goofy side trip in which we learn that Colossus is now Russian and always metal as opposed to the beefy sometimes-metal, always American version we saw in X2, so maybe Wolverine’s changing of the past in Days of Future Past had more severe ramifications than we thought, but it’s OK because THIS Colossus is actually the Colossus we needed in X2 because that’s how he is in the comics).
Apocalypse (since the future we know is fine, now we head back to the past to see how the new timeline played out to lead to that future, featuring more younger versions of all your favorite characters who have apparently not aged since the seventies).
In terms of future projects, we know that Deadpool 2 will be another fun side romp. Wolverine 3 (which should be called Wolverine 2 because, you know, Origins never happened, right?) will let us see the altered future Wolverine now lives in, which means that Jean and Scott are both alive. Does this mean the love triangle will return? (I hope not, ugh). They may not even appear, but I feel like Wolverine needs some closure there because he totally still remembers killing Jean…at least I think he does, since he was the one who time traveled… But if X-Men: Apocalypse is any indication, Wolverine’s next movie may just skip all this entirely and pick up after the events of Apocalypse instead of following the future events in Days of Future Past…which would mean that Wolverine 3 would take place before The Wolverine…
But anyways! The X-Men universe is now following two timelines. There’s the Young Cast who will eventually connect back up to the Older Cast, and then Deadpool and his X-Men contemporaries who are having fun in the present, occasionally meeting up with various folks from the Older Cast. Since the only set point in the timeline is the scene at the end of Days of Future Past, the Young Cast can conceivably continue on for many years working their way up to that point.
I don’t know if Hugh Jackman wants to continue past Wolverine 3, so we’ll need a new hero to follow in the present timeline (along with Deadpool). I vote Gambit! And non-cured Rogue! She can get her super cool flying abilities from Ms. Marvel (or whatever equivalent superhero Fox owns the rights to) and the two of them can own bad guys together.
This is getting long so I’ll end it here. Basically, the timeline is screwy and you can watch it however you want. *throws sheaf of papers in the air*
And I’ll see you on Monday with my review of X-Men: Apocalypse!