With so much to choose from, there’s no need to do the same story twice!
With more than 50 years of stories behind them, the X-Men are rich with lore to mine. That is why it puzzles me that Fox chose to retread the Dark Phoenix Saga concept with two different casts. With so many options out there, it’s disappointing that they’ve wasted time and funds to retell a story they tackled little more than ten-years prior. With the franchise finally coming to Marvel Studios, there’s a chance we’ll be able to see some of our favorites stories and crossovers come to life. Here are the Top 10 X-Men movies Disney should make!
10. The Phalanx Covenant
Out of all the X-Men tales told in the 90’s, the Phalanx Covenant was among the most ambitious and influential. It paved the way for Generation-X that gave us fan-favorite characters Chamber and M, and allowed Emma Frost to enter into a long phase of do-gooding. So, why’s it so low on the list? While the story was fun, it has something going against it that will probably stop it from getting greenlit. The Phalanx themselves are much too similar to the Star Trek antagonists, the Borg.
If you’re able to get past the similarities between the two alien, hive-minded, assimilating antagonists, the reasons why the Phalanx would be so much fun to see on screen is obvious. Visually-speaking, there haven’t been many foes like them. Unlike the human-shaped Borg, the Phalanx don’t always have bodies as we know them. Actually, they only take human-form during combat situations, but even then, they rarely limited themselves. During the battle, they constantly shift their bodies from one form to another.
Their metamorphic nature allowed them to instantly adapt to their prey in a number of ways including; manipulating their bodies like Mr. Fantastic, increasing their size and even molding their limbs into high-powered weapons. Not to mention, their key ability to absorb matter (including people) and make it a part of their collective.
During the story, the Phalanx struggled to assimilate mutants due to the presence of the X-Gene. For a young, or an experienced X-Men team, this fact makes them the perfect, and a potentially heartbreaking onscreen obstacle to overcome. And they just look cool…
9. Messiah Complex & Second Coming
Of all the stories on this list, Messiah Complex is the one that will require the most set-up. It’s the result of several years of comic book events that ultimately led to mutants numbering less than 200 members worldwide. This is due to the uber overpowered Scarlet Witch’s three-word sentence uttered at the tail-end of House of M. Those infamous words were “No More Mutants.” The result was the instant eradication of millions of mutant powers and caused the deaths of thousands (including many of a secret offshoot species called the Neo… we don’t talk about them).
It also stopped new mutants from being born, though I find that hard to prove seeing as most mutants don’t develop abilities until puberty. House of M was a 2005 story and Messiah Complex was only two years later, so in comic book time, this couldn’t have lasted more than a few months. The story was ultimately brought to its conclusion in 2012’s Avengers Vs. X-Men with the return of the Phoenix Force to Earth- sorry, I’m trying to make sense of this for you, but there were a lot of questionable editorial choices happening around this time. I digress.
Scarlet Witch #$%^#* the X-Men up. Period. Messiah Complex saw the birth of the first mutant child since then and it created a multi-prong war to claim ownership of the child. The X-Men, Mr. Sinister, the mutant-hating, Religious fanatics, the Purifiers, and Cable, the most famous time-traveling X-Man. It’s a crazy story that created as many problems as it solved including Cable’s adoption of the mutant-baby (he named Hope Summers), Bishop’s abrupt heel-turn, the unceremonious returns of Gambit and Sunfire, and the ‘death’ of the original Mr. Sinister. Presumably. It also set up Second Coming.
Cable, and his now teenaged adopted-daughter return after years of being chased through time by Bishop, who by then had gone completely mad. Other than seeing the fruits of Cable’s child-rearing, Second Coming ended with a gigantic war between the majority of the surviving mutants and an army of Nimrods (hive-minded, human-sized, super-sentinels with future tech). During the battle, we saw several characters mutilated and even the tragic death of a longtime fan-favorite X-Man in Nightcrawler. I’ve got no idea if these two arcs could be adapted into a single feature or turned a two-parter. But that’s one of the reasons it scores so low on this list. It’d be tricky to set up, but it’d for sure make a fun ride!
8. E Is For Extinction
Speaking of the long string of stories that led up to Messiah Complex and Second Coming, Grant Morrison’s initial run on the X-Men is one of the first that followed and really began to mirror the Fox movie-verse in both approaches and look. The X-Mansion became a real school with dozens or hundreds of students and the X-Men themselves became teachers. This isn’t all that new for an X-Men movie, but E is For Extinction brought a lot more baggage with it than school angst.
It was the debut of Professor-X’s twin sister Cassandra Nova, an evil alien-entity that he killed while they were both still in the womb. Fully mature, and brimming with hate Cassandra located a gigantic, secret cash of inactivate Sentinels and sicked them on the isle of Genosha. By this time, it’d become a sovereign nation led by Magneto. Out of millions, Cassandra’s horde of Sentinels only left a handful alive including Emma Frost and Polaris. The island was utterly devastated.
While this story isn’t as multi-faceted as others on the list, its more focused story lends itself for an easier adaptation surrounding a nationwide massacre and fight for survival. Not to mention the primary threat having the face of the X-Men’s mentor doesn’t make the matter any easier to deal with. The majority of the budget of this film would probably be used in the Sentinel attack on Genosha. In the books, the X-Men weren’t able to make much of difference, but that could easily be adjusted to allow top-shelf action and feats of heroism.
Like The New Mutants movie, Inferno would be a chance for the X-Men to dabble in the horror genre. Albeit with characters you actually know and care about (hey, I still got love you, Magik). In many ways, it could have functioned as a sequel to the aforementioned feature. It heavily involved the New Mutant characters themselves. Magik is tricked by the demon N’astirh into opening a portal from Limbo to the heart of Manhattan. In league with another demon, S’ym, they have designs on invading Earth and used Magik’s abilities to launch their campaign of terror.
From the portal, a horde of demons spilled out into the city. The chaos draws out just about every New York City-based hero including Spider-Man and the Avengers. This alone should be enough of a reason for an MCU rooted X-Men movie. I think it’s obvious by now that Kevin Feige enjoys smashing his toys together. A demonic invasion of New York is a good a reason as any to dump out his toybox.
The entire city is infected, people, X-Men and even the landscape. Objects like trash cans and light-posts come to life to torment the denizens of New York- so there is no shortage of baddies to fight. Unlike the first two Avengers films, our heroes won’t be relegated to battling an army of identical NPCs. To further connect the story to others, there’s use of the Transmode virus, the substance that caused the Phalanx Covenant storyline.
6. Fatal Attractions
One of the first big stories of the 90’s era X-Men, Fatal Attractions saw Magneto retake his crown as the X-Men’s king-baddie. This story is one of the more innately cinematic stories ripe with all kinds of angst and philosophical arguments aimed at dividing fans. From atop his orbital fortress, Avalon (a gigantic space/time-craft he liberated from Cable), Magneto and his personal guard, the Acolytes, hold the world at nuclear gunpoint. However, he wouldn’t have those warheads at all, had they not been launched at him in the first place.
So, there’s that. In response, to Magneto’s response, the Earth’s leaders deployed measures that would rob Magneto of his electromagnetic powers in the way of a network of satellites. Magneto then launched a pre-emptive strike. He hit the earth with an EM-pulse that severely damaged power across the planet and resulted in the loss of many lives.
The X-Men, in true X-Men fashion, on behalf of a world that feared and hated them, assembled a strike-team and boarded Avalon. The conflict ended with two large events; a comatose Magneto (courtesy of Professor-X), and Wolverine having his adamantium ripped out of him (courtesy of Magneto). Fatal Attraction was also a turning point for Colossus.
While mourning the death of his sister, Illyana (better known as Magik), he chose to side with Magneto and became one of his Acolytes. The backdrop for the story alone would be enough to humor a screenplay but it’s hard to turn down so many milestones in the lives of at least three very popular characters in Magneto, Professor-X and of course, Wolverine.
5. X-Tinction Agenda
Many of these stories could function as precursors to others, probably because they were written during the same era and mostly originated from the genius mind of Chris Claremont. X-Tinction Agenda generally takes place on Genosha but kicks off with an attack on the X-Mansion. It’s quite possibly what inspired the legendary siege scene from X2: X-Men United. The story has several key X-Men characters of the time kidnapped, brainwashed, and turned into slaves. A process that was 100% legal on Genosha at the time.
A large portion of the story involved political intrigue, and betrayal, both voluntary and involuntary, but it also pushed the Summers brothers to the forefront. The Genoshians often used mutants to capture other mutants. Some of these were brainwashed, others were willing participants. Alex Summers, also known as Havok, was a combination of the two. Suffering from amnesia, he acted as the central antagonist, Cameron Hodge’s right-hand throughout much of the story. Cyclops, Alex’s older brother and the most famous leader of the X-Men, saw to restore his sibling’s memory amid recovering his abducted allies.
Much of X-Tinction Agenda is a set up for the lower ranked story, The Phalanx Covenant. One of the X-Men Hodge abducted from Westchester, was the alien being named Warlock. The Phalanx were essentially an offshoot of his race. They came to be on Earth after Hodge and several others infected themselves with a techno-organic contagion (the Transmode virus) which originated from Warlock’s remains, obviously, he didn’t survive the story.
Other than setting the tracks for sequels, X-Tinction Agenda stands out among the pack by showing the uglier side of humanity. Slavery has been a part of just about every society on Earth. Most people don’t know how to or do not wish to understand the implications or the reality of it. This could be an opportunity to expose it, by way of a good flick.
4. The Mutant Massacre
One of the most graphic and tragic stories in the X-Men catalog, The Mutant Massacre saw the X-Men face a cadre of enemies that wanted nothing more than to see blood. Under the orders of Mr. Sinister, the Marauders (a group of supervillain mercenaries) were hellbent on wiping out every single member of the Morlocks, a subterranean community. There aren’t many lessons to learn here, it’s more of an opportunity to see some of our X-Men favorites cut loose in a movie based on one of the best-written tales of the 80s.
Just about every comic book movie out there is PG-13, mostly in an effort to keep it marketable and appealing to the largest audience possible. I think Deadpool proved that it’s not exactly a must. Deadpool was a great movie, indeed, but at the end of the day, it was based on a relatively unknown character. Just think what a rated-R movie starring household names could do? The Massacre wouldn’t have to be rated-R merely for the sake of it. It’s a very bloody story that ended with several characters mauled and on the cusp of death. Angel lost the use of his wings and Wolverine was left crucified among other atrocities. In my opinion, outside of the Demon Bear story in New Mutants, it was the first truly dark X-Men story.
3. Operation: Zero Tolerance
Much of Messiah Complex’s follow-up story, Second Coming was set up by another story. A tale where governments openly declared war on mutant-kind. Everyday people and law enforcement officers willingly and unwillingly are infected with nanotechnology that would transform them into powerful, remorseless, robot-human hybrids called Prime Sentinels. When they’d be in the presence of a mutant they’d horrifically and sometimes tragically transform into lethal mutant hunting cyborgs.
The visuals alone would make for a dope feature, but it’s the emotion that goes along with the story that would shine here. Friends turned against each other, families were ripped apart and relationships forever altered. Any mutants that survived were quickly delivered to camps where they were mistreated, experimented on, or otherwise disappeared. The X-Men weren’t exempt as several were arrested when the Prime Sentinels invaded the X-Mansion including Cyclops and Professor-X.
By no means was Zero Tolerance one of the best written or executed X-Men stories of all time, but it would simply lend itself well for an adaptation. The Prime Sentinels were human-sized and the story was very urban in nature. The battlegrounds were city streets, schools, and homes. It showed what could happen when a society gives into fear and hatred. A story like this can entertain as well as educate. It can be a powerful tool in helping people empathize with each other, even if it involves meta-morphic cyborgs and their mutant prey.
2. Age of Apocalypse
In the X-Men mythos, no other story outside of the Dark Phoenix is as influential as 1995’s Age of Apocalypse (AoA). Loosely based off of the X-Men: The Animated Series’ two-part episode, One Man’s Worth, the X-Men fail at stopping a young Charles Xavier from being killed by his son, Legion. The result doesn’t stop the X-Men from being formed but it’s done much later. In a twist, they are brought together, led and mentored by Magneto. However, without Xavier’s influences, the X-Men are not nearly as effective. Apocalypse, the immortal mutant plunged the world into chaos and tyrannically ruled over most of North America.
AoA isn’t a dystopian future like Days of Future Past. It’s a worst-case scenario that takes place in the present. It stars both new and familiar characters, some still their heroic selves, others are twisted, bloodthirsty versions. AoA is likely the least capable of existing without another movie to proceed it. For viewers to care about seeing these characters be the worst versions of themselves, they’d have to be familiar with them.
It may be the most fun to watch, but it most definitely would be among the most difficult to produce from a narrative standpoint. The most plausible way would be to use a cliffhanger and an after-credit scene. In this method, it may be the first of its kind. A sequel predominantly set-up via a two-minute scene. It’d also have to be resolved within the next or perhaps be part of a trilogy. It’s not so farfetched. The original AoA story encompassed several books over more than 4 months. Obviously, there is more than enough material to mine. The biggest accomplishment would simply be seeing it all make sense. Personally, I’d pay good money to see one-eyed, sociopath Cyclops and a one-handed Wolverine!
1. Avengers Vs. X-Men
Avengers Vs. X-Men is unique on this list for reasons beyond its story. To be honest, most of AvX was a mess. It was too long, overly intricate, and overblown. By all counts, this conflict could have been resolved with a civilized conversation. AvX is a prime example of what happens when corporate synergy is put ahead of the story. So, you ask… if I disliked AvX so much, how and why is it rated #1 on this list? I’ll tell you. It’s at the top because of the insane amount of money it could generate. This movie, if done correctly, and built up with the care and attention it deserves, could be one of the biggest box offices draws of all time.
Even before the massive success of the 90’s series, the X-Men’s popularity has only been rivaled by their imprint-mate Spider-Man. Due the efforts of Kevin Feige and his vision for the MCU, the Avengers have become a cinematic juggernaut Hollywood has never before seen (however, I’d argue that CBS in the 70’s was the original ‘shared universe’ concept… seriously, all their shows spun out of each other, check for yourself). Combining these two franchises will do nothing but break records and blow minds. With that said, I’d recommend a radical change to the premise.
In the comics, what we got was basically every active X-Man versus every earth-bound hero in the Marvel Universe. It was ridiculous. In a live-action adaptation, I’d hope to see something a bit more realistic and intimate. It would need an incident that forces the X-Men and Avengers to clash. Not something as superficial as a mere misunderstanding or being tricked to fight each other by a villain’s over-complicated scheme. Both sides should know why they are fighting each other and understand what the consequences are.
Sadly, it’s kind of been done in Captain America: Civil War. The motivations here must be rock solid (perhaps like the Avengers failing to aide in stopping the destruction of a mutant populated Genosha). And not just for this movie. I believe there needs to be some lasting tension between the two camps. Unlike the comics, it’s going to be hard to accept not seeing the Avengers swoop in to help every time the world is ending, and vice versa. As much as this needs to be built up to, it should happen soon after the X-Men make their debut.
Finally, the end! With new X-Men movies on the horizon, there’s a good chance we’ll see more than a few of the stories listed here adapted in some form. Disagree with the list? Have an X-Men story you’d like to see that wasn’t mentioned? Let us know, true believers!