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Ranking the Best Villains in Fox's 'X-Men' Universe

Updated on August 4, 2017

Foreword

The cinematic universe of X-Men is by far the most successful superhero universe that's not owned by its original creators (such as the Marvel or DC universes). It's the longest running series (although it really does have some absolutely terrible continuity issues) without a hard reboot. Days of Future Past was kind of a reboot, but it was canon and it didn't happen between films, such as with the countless Batman or Spiderman flicks. It's arguably one of the only superhero universes where a female superhero is given substantial screen time without being overshadowed. For instance, young Mystique gets a lot more love than Black Widow.

As with all superhero stories, the heroes and plots are only as good as their villains. The X-Men have some of the best, and some we really don't care about. I figured now was good time to give my input on them.

Here's my opinionated list from worst to best. Enjoy!

I should note that small-time henchmen like Azazel, Toad, and that lame tornado guy in First Class aren't considered for this list.

X-Men Universe Villains From Best to Worst

  1. Old Magneto
  2. Future Sentinels
  3. William Stryker
  4. Mystique
  5. Sebastian Shaw
  6. Young Magneto
  7. Sabretooth
  8. Ajax
  9. The Phoenix
  10. Bolivar Trask
  11. Silver Samurai
  12. "Deadpool"

12. Barakapool

Baraka, because the pointy blades coming out of his forearms.
Baraka, because the pointy blades coming out of his forearms. | Source

Let's just get this out of the way real quick. Anybody who knew what Deadpool was supposed to be was more than disappointed with this incarnation. I could spend time telling you how his mold fit a decent villain and how the plot led to a villain afflux with various mutant powers. But the amount of distaste by naming that villain Deadpool, not giving him his trademark look, and robbing him of his most distinguishing features was a fatal flaw. Bad CGI claws and Baraka aside, I enjoyed Origins: Wolverine more than The Wolverine, but this incarnation was flat out bad. The only thing going for him was the concept of an amalgamation of mutant powers (which was admittedly overdone as an 8-year-old could have written him), which served to make him a worthy opponent to Wolverine in a brawl.

11. Silver Samurai

The Silver Samurai suit vs Wolverine.
The Silver Samurai suit vs Wolverine. | Source

Personally, I thought this was the worst movie of the bunch. At least X3 and Origins: Wolverine promised and delivered on mutants and their powers. This film gave us a faltering Wolverine, a girl who can't predict the future, and Viper.

But back to the Silver Samurai. Maybe it was because it was so close to the TMNT movie and that awful, overdone Shredder mech suit that gave me a distaste for this villain's physical appearance. Maybe it was because the villain was originally grateful for Wolverine saving his life before suddenly deciding he must be immortal and steal his savior's lifeblood that gave me a distaste for his motivations. Maybe I hate it every time a villain collects a massive amount of a supposedly rare material to the point that it's no longer rare (looking at you, Age of Ultron). Maybe it was because I hated the film he was in. Or maybe it was a combination of everything that simply bored me.

While a villain's relation to a hero usually adds to his depth, I still can't get past the Samurai's nonsensical turn on Wolverine. I feel the character would have been better utilized as some generic henchman to face off against Wolverine in another film, similar to Sabretooth in the original X-Men movie.

10. Bolivar Trask

Peter Dinklage playing Bolivar Trask.
Peter Dinklage playing Bolivar Trask. | Source

Ick, such a big picture for such a small description. I might change it.

I like Peter Dinklage a lot but this role had nothing to it. His character was a plot point without depth, relation, or charisma. Next.

9. The Phoenix

The Phoenix, played by Famke Janssen.
The Phoenix, played by Famke Janssen. | Source

Oh, Phoenix. This character's biggest letdown was the subtle promise at the end of X-2. That, and it makes Famke Janssen ugly scary, which is different from normal scary.

In the comics, the Phoenix is a universal power, capable of swallowing up planets while giving birth to new races as a mere whim of her power. However, as my villains are not being compared to their comic counterparts (because comics can get weird), I'll explain why she's bad in the film. Her character and arc compete constantly with the mutant cure arc. When being regarded as the most powerful mutant in the cast, her powers consist of telepathy, telekinesis, and directed disintegration. Two of these powers we have seen before and they didn't excel past the magnitude we'd previously witnessed.

Her disintegration ability was...a bit underwhelming. There's no grand show of it, only going from 0 to 11 without giving anyone time to think. Sometimes this works in films, but only if it's something being led up to (such as the Hulk transformation in The Avengers). While she does kill two characters that had been in the series since the beginning, Cyclops is off-screen (I would have loved to see him die, personally) and Xavier merely resurrects somehow just in time for Days of Future Past.

She's given a mercy killing too, which Logan finally performs after repeated requests by Jean. It's a flat ending.

8. Ajax/Francis

Ed Skrien as Ajax.
Ed Skrien as Ajax. | Source

Spoilers for Deadpool

Ajax just isn't very inspiring as a villain. He's a biological arms dealer, turning people into super-slaves to sell off to wealthy patrons. He fights Deadpool because he is bad for business. Deadpool only goes after him for personal reasons. Ajax just comes across very flat, especially when compared to his "heroic" foil.

7. Sabretooth

Liev Shreiber as Sabretooth.
Liev Shreiber as Sabretooth. | Source

Sabretooth comes to us in two iterations, played very differently by two different actors. Both center around Wolverine, although Shreiber's character is far more direct and in general, just better. His banter with Hugh Jackman is probably the best part of the film.

Why is Sabretooth ranked so high, especially when he was introduced as a henchman? Before the adamantium-infusion, Sabretooth had a very similar ability set to Wolverine. He has lethal claws, heightened senses, and accelerated healing. In fact, Sabretooth gets the better of Wolverine quite a bit in the original X-Men film and dominates Logan before the adamantium in Origins: Wolverine. Since Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was largely the flagship character of every X-Men movie to date (where we are largely given his POV, aside from First Class which he appeared in a cameo), having a villain that's more personal to him as well as a formidable opponent says a lot.

Sabretooth loses points for his fall-causing death and being unable to fuse with adamantium because his healing factor isn't as good as Logan's.

6. Young Magneto

Michael Fassbender as Magneto
Michael Fassbender as Magneto | Source

I'll explain more about Magneto in general when I discuss Old Magneto (it's further down, of course). Michael Fassbender's take on the character is very much in line with Ian McKellen's, only younger and less sure of himself. However, this Magneto does take to the field far more often, leading the charge or often being a one-man army capable of lifting submarines and baseball stadiums with his force of will.

He loses some points for being so inhuman, however. He casually decides that Mystique needs to die to save the future and betrays young Xavier so quickly and emotionlessly it's...unsympathetic. Especially when compared to his older iteration.

5. Sebastian Shaw

Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw
Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw | Source

First Class was a different kind of X-Men movie. There was little Hugh Jackman and there was an unmistakable smell of the 70s pouring out of it. It was refreshing, especially after X3 and Origins: Wolverine. One of the best things that came out of it was Kevin Bacon's character.

From his first scene (and what a glorious Nazi-esque scene it was), he corrupts young Magneto with hate before passing on his idea of mutant supremacy with his own death. He walks with supreme confidence oozing from him because of his power and his cunning, driving two larger powers to fight one another.

His action scenes and power are absolutely fantastic as well. He was thoroughly indestructible, but in a different way from Wolverine. Every time he unleashed his power, there's a heavy force that exuded from the scene and someone always died (except for the scene where he's tormenting Magneto on the submarine). It also seems to have kept him young.

My biggest complaint is that the character doesn't have much depth. He wants mutant supremacy, but after being spoiled by Old Magneto's motivations for so long, I expected more out of Shaw.

4. Mystique

Mystique played by Rebecca Romijn.
Mystique played by Rebecca Romijn. | Source

Let me be clear when I say this is for the older, more villainous Mystique played by Rebecca Romijn. Quite possibly the best female supervillain in movies, Mystique nearly beat every single individual she ever came across (aside from a fight with Wolverine, but you've got to admit it was a fantastic fight to lose.) She's a stalwart supporter in Magneto's cause. When he's absent, she leads the rescue. Her fighting skills are the best, hands down. While she doesn't receive a particuarly powerful ability, she does the best things with it, creating some very fun and awesome scenes.

In fact, she's such a good bad guy (girl? gal? maybe just villain) that you actually feel bad in X3 when she loses her power while saving Magneto, only to be left and forgotten by her idol.

Jennifer Lawrence has done a pretty good job with the role but it's just not the same as the unfaltering force of will that is Rebecca Romijn's Mystique.

3. William Stryker

Stryker in X2, played by Brian Cox.
Stryker in X2, played by Brian Cox. | Source

Sure, this guy has been played by at least four different actors, but he's very integral in two films (X2 and Origins: Wolverine). He's personally responsible for Wolverine's adamantium skeleton and boasts a variety of mutants at his beck and call, such as but not limited to:

  • Wolverine
  • Sabretooth
  • Lady Deathstrike
  • Cyclops
  • Charles Xavier
  • Nightcrawler
  • His son, Jason Stryker
  • The Blob
  • "Deadpool"

He's a persistent villain in both timelines and has some depth due to his horror of his son. He's also not above utilizing those he hates to bring about his objective. He's also very fond of putting Wolverine through mind games, affecting him where he's most vulnerable (considering Wolverine is nigh indestructible).

2. Future Sentinels

Future Sentinels, raw unthinking killing machines numbering in the thousands.
Future Sentinels, raw unthinking killing machines numbering in the thousands. | Source

I won't be talking about the 70s Sentinels (since they were quickly controlled by Magneto and then quickly tricked by Beast) nor the simulation Sentinel in X3 (since it was one-shotted offscreen). Neither of them come close to this iteration anyways.

Remember the opening to Days of Future Past? These things looked far more alien than human. They were fast and agile, flipping Warpath on his back like it was nothing. They were stronger than Colossus, able to take the heat from Sunspot, and melted through an immense coating by Iceman. The only wounds they seemed to take was a fully powered shot by Bishop (which didn't seem to inconvenience it in the slightest) and a limb being severed by one of Blink's portals. These Sentinels didn't appear on screen unless mutants were being killed, and they were able to adapt to every attack.

Then, in the last battle, once Storm is killed in a surprise attack and Sunspot takes off to fight, you realize you've seen this before. Everyone fighting is going to die. It's an incredible feeling that you don't get much from superhero films, where the good guys are being effortlessly slaughtered in numbers. So far, only the Sentinels have proven capable of such destruction.

1. Old/Original Magneto

Old Magneto played by Ian McKellen.
Old Magneto played by Ian McKellen. | Source

Old Magneto wins. He's played the villain/main instigator in two films while causing havoc in every other film. For screen time alone, he wins out. For his character, it's hard to disagree with him. Faithfully adapting his motivations from the comics, Magneto believes the only place in the world for mutants is one earned since the rest of humanity hates and fears them. Every chance the world has to accept mutants is lost as they are constantly fought, captured, killed, or detained in detention camps. His personal war is understandable, and one that is no delusion.

In X3, Magneto lifts the Golden Gate Bridge, a whopping 887,000 tons, which is more than the RFK Stadium in Days of Future Past (stadiums weigh roughly 310,000 tons, based on some research). Sure, Old Magneto is no longer actively running about in the field, often choosing henchmen to take fire (most obviously in X3) due to his old age. Still, Old Magneto is recognized more for his cunning and brilliance while young Magneto feels far more bullish and instinctive.

Old Magneto also has direct relations with Wolverine (if for no other reason than stomping the X-Men's most signature character), Charles Xavier (for their off-again, on-again friendship and mental sparring), and Mystique (who trusts him perfectly in the original trilogy), making him far more connected and an integral part of the universe as it stands (or stood, since what we saw has all been rebooted).

What'd You Think?

Agree with my choices? Disagree? Who do you think is the best and worst, or who would you have ranked higher? Let me know in the comments below and feel free to check out a similar but inverted list for the MCU's Villains.

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