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A critical guide to the X-Movies: From X-Men to Days of Future Past

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Apr 29, 2019, 6:26 AM EDT (Updated)

Just as the original X-Men comic book was a pioneering title for both Marvel Comics and the art form in general, the film version of the mutants led the charge for today's explosion of superhero films.

While Blade set the table in 1998 with its surprising $70 million haul at the box office, 2000's X-Men was the real stunner, making $157 million in the U.S. alone and proving to disbelieving studio execs that movies based around the adventures of costumed crime fighters not named Batman or Superman could find an audience. 

An X-Men movie was in the works as early as 1989, when James Cameron (!) was interested in adapting the book to the screen for the now-defunct Carolco Pictures. But Cameron eventually moved on, Carolco went out of business, and Marvel got the rights back and sold them to Fox. Bryan Singer came on board as director in 1996 after turning it down several times, while a revolving roster of screenwriters -- including one Joss Whedon -- all took cracks at the script, changing plotlines and character lineups as they tried to figure out the best way to introduce Marvel's legendary mutants on the screen.

Eventually a script was hammered out, casting got underway and the cameras rolled in September 1999, with the $75 million film opening in July 2000. It earned an astounding (at the time) $54 million in its opening weekend in the U.S., on its way to a final tally of nearly $300 million globally.

The rest is history, and with a seventh movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, opening this week, the franchise becomes tied only with Batman as the superhero series with the most films released in the past 25 years. But how have the X-Men movies fared over that time? They've notoriously ignored or altered comic-book canon, character origins and story continuity, but have they succeeded as entertainment that's at least faithful in spirit to the source material? We've reassessed all seven films below -- take a look and see if you agree. (Warning: SPOILERS for all but the new film ahead.)