It’s not even officially summer yet, and 2016 has already delivered a bunch of superhero films. Deadpool kicked things off with Ryan Reynolds’ own X-Men spinoff. His successful solo turn was followed by Marvel and DC Comics’ biggest stars battling it out in Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Next up is everyone’s favorite team of mutants reuniting for X-Men: Apocalypse, in theaters on May 27.
With a total of nine (yep, nine!) film entries in the X-Men universe, it is hard to keep track of all our colorful mutants. To make matters even more confusing, there is an original trilogy (2000’s X-Men, 2002’s X2: X-Men United and 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand) as well as a prequel trilogy (2011’s X-Men: First Class, 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and now, 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse). Both trilogies boast many of the same characters -- but with a completely different set of A-list actors.
Which version of our favorite X-Men did it best? See our breakdown of each pairing below, but beware of some minor spoilers:
PROFESSOR CHARLES XAVIER
ORIGINAL: Patrick Stewart; X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (uncredited), The Wolverine (uncredited), X-Men: Days of Future Past
PREQUEL: James McAvoy; X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse
BREAKDOWN: Charles Xavier, known to his students as Professor X, is the surrogate father to the X-Men. Xavier has the most powerful mind on the planet, and while he could easily destroy anyone who crosses him, he chooses to use his powers for the better of mankind. He is the definition of a leader, in the comics and films alike. So, which incarnation led them better? It’s a tough call considering both portrayals of the character are pretty spot-on. McAvoy’s Xavier manages to be cheerful, charming and incredibly hopeful for a brighter future. While Stewart’s version is far more serious and jaded after his dark past, he was also the one person who could teach and lead Wolverine, no easy task. Stewart may not have as many jokes as McAvoy, but he represents a true authority figure, a man worth following into a brighter future, hopefully.
ERIK LEHNSHERR / MAGNETO
ORIGINAL: Ian McKellen; X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine (uncredited), X-Men: Days of Future Past
PREQUEL: Michael Fassbender; X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse
BREAKDOWN: The ultimate villain, the ying to Professor X’s yang, they started as brothers and became the world’s greatest enemies. Not only can Magneto manipulate metal, he can manipulate the impressionable minds of his mutant followers. Who was the more convincing foe? No disrespect to McKellen’s acting because there is no question he has immense talent, but Fassbender’s Magneto is much richer in development than the original. As opposed to just a one-note villain determined to take down the human race, the prequels give him a chance to really shine. Not only expanding on his dark past with the Holocaust, but also his inner battle between what Xavier wants and what he himself believes.
LOGAN / WOLVERINE
ORIGINAL/PREQUEL: Hugh Jackman; X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine, X-Men: First Class (uncredited), X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse (uncredited)
BREAKDOWN: This one doesn’t actually apply like the rest given that Jackman portrayed the role in all of the films, but given how crucial the character is, it was important to at least include him on the list. While any iteration of the character is perfection, given the fact that Wolverine only cameos in First Class and Apocalypse, and in Days of Future Past he is technically playing the future version of himself traveling back in time, it’s kind of a no-brainer that the original trilogy gave him the better treatment. Kudos to Jackman for portraying the infamous Wolverine in a total of eight films (with another Wolverine standalone on the way as well)!
RAVEN DARKHOLME / MYSTIQUE
ORIGINAL: Rebecca Romijn; X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand
PREQUEL: Jennifer Lawrence; X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse
BREAKDOWN: Mystique is everyone’s favorite shape-shifting assassin, as deadly as she is sexy. So who wore the naked blue skin best? This may be an unpopular opinion, but even though Mystique is much more relevant in the prequels, her portrayal in the original trilogy still takes the cake. Comic book fans know Mystique as a heartless villain who takes what she wants and offers no apologies. While Lawrence is no doubt a spectacular actress, Romijn absolutely nailed it in the femme fatale role. Sorry, Hunger Games fans, but Mystique is meant to be blue and proud, and the prequels spent way too much time with Lawrence in her own skin.
HANK McCOY / BEAST
ORIGINAL: Kelsey Grammer; X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Days of Future Past (uncredited)
PREQUEL: Nicholas Hoult; X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse
BREAKDOWN: A beast on the outside but a scholar on the inside, Hank McCoy is a complex character that took years to first make an appearance in the films. Grammer was a confusing casting choice at first, but his domineering voice combined with his striking blue appearance made for a welcome entry in the franchise. While the prequels give Beast more opportunities to shine, Hoult’s character never really becomes his own and is either pining after Lawrence’s Mystique or playing sidekick to McAvoy’s Xavier. Grammer’s iteration seamlessly balances the character’s intellect with his inner beast.
ORIGINAL: Famke Janssen; X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past (uncredited)
PREQUEL: Sophie Turner; X-Men: Apocalypse
BREAKDOWN: This red-haired beauty is the first female member of the original X-Men, harboring massive powers inside her. Jean Grey has been one of the most famous characters in the franchise mainly because of her love affairs and the fear she holds for her own mutant abilities. Janssen brought a great fierceness to the role, but the original trilogy spent way too much time focusing on her love triangle with Cyclops and Wolverine. Yes, it is an important aspect of her character, but it is not the most important. Thankfully, Apocalypse fixes this by allowing Turner’s Grey to be more than someone’s love interest and instead a vital member of the X-Men. Don’t worry, she still has time to fall in love (i.e. Cyclops), she’s a multitasker.
SCOTT SUMMERS / CYCLOPS
ORIGINAL: James Marsden; X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Days of Future Past (uncredited)
PREQUEL: Tye Sheridan; X-Men: Apocalypse
BREAKDOWN: There is no question that Professor X is the official leader of the X-Men. However, on more than one occasion, Xavier finds himself incapacitated or taken hostage, making him unable to truly lead. So who is next in line? Cyclops, of course. Except, if you’re watching the original trilogy, you’ll hardly ever see him taking charge. Marsden was given little to do in the role, easily being overshadowed by Jackman’s Wolverine. Similar to Jean Grey, Apocalypse finally gives us the Cyclops we have been waiting for. He is young and naïve but incredibly brave. And yes -- he too has time to fall in love.
ORORO MUNROE / STORM
ORIGINAL: Halle Berry; X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Days of Future Past
PREQUEL: Alexandra Shipp; X-Men: Apocalypse
BREAKDOWN: Storm has been a character the films have struggled with since the beginning. While in the comics her powers are massive, the movies never gave proper service to her full potential. All that being said, the closest we’ve come to giving her justice was The Last Stand and Days of Future Past, offering no other choice but the original trilogy. Her appearance in Apocalypse starts off strong, but sadly, quickly dwindles down to a throwaway character. Here’s hoping the next X-Men outing finally gives Storm the portrayal fans have been waiting for.
KURT WAGNER / NIGHTCRAWLER
ORIGINAL: Alan Cumming; X2: X-Men United
PREQUEL: Kodi Smit-McPhee; X-Men: Apocalypse
BREAKDOWN: One of the coolest X-Men characters to grace the films, Nightcrawler’s ability to teleport makes for a delightful special effect, not to mention his blue devil-like appearance being unforgettable. Both portrayals of the role offer much-needed comic relief for the films, and both were given ample screen time to fully show off his abilities. It is a tough one, but Cumming’s version takes the win, mostly due to the iconic opening of X2: X-Men United where he embarks on a breathtaking attack through the White House.
WARREN WORTHINGTON III / ANGEL
ORIGINAL: Ben Foster; X-Men: The Last Stand
PREQUEL: Ben Hardy; X-Men: Apocalypse
BREAKDOWN: This is a tough character to compare as his appearances in the original and prequel trilogies were vastly different, which isn’t too surprising given the character’s history. Foster portrayed him as the preppy rich boy, Warren Worthington III, while Hardy took on his evil alter ego, Archangel. Unfortunately, neither version accurately captured Angel’s playboy antics, which were heavily featured in the comics. While both portrayals were somewhat weak, the prequel wins for the sheer fact that he felt like a real threat to the X-Men, as opposed to his appearance in The Last Stand, where we barely got to see him do much of anything.