Magneto: “Doesn’t it ever wake you in the middle of the night, that one day they might pass that foolish law, or one just like it, and come for you and your children?”
Charles: “It does indeed.”
Magneto: “And what will you do, when you wake up to that?”
Charles: “I’ll feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul who comes to that school… looking for trouble.” – X-Men (2000)
The X-Men are Marvel’s second biggest superhero team. What can you even say about them? The X-Men have introduced countless heroes and villains into the Marvel universe. The comics have spawned six television shows and a twelve movie series that has already earned 2.7 billion dollars when adjusted for inflation. And all this because Stan Lee was lazy and wanted an excuse for new heroes to already have their powers.
There have been hundreds of X-Men. Here are the 10 best.
Debut: Giant Size X-Men #1
Played by Alan Cumming and Kodi Smit-McPhee
Nightcrawler: “You know, outside of the circus, most people were afraid of me. But I did not hate them: I pitied them. Do you know why? Because most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes.”
Storm: “Well, I gave up on pity a long time ago.”
Nightcrawler: “Someone so beautiful should not be so angry.”
Storm: “Sometimes anger can help you survive.”
Nightcrawler: “So can faith.” – X2: X-Men United
Kurt Wagner was recruited for the X-Men when Professor X saved him from a superstitious mob. He quickly became the team’s comic relief, pranking his allies and cracking jokes mid-fight. When Nightcrawler gets serious he becomes a terrifying opponent. Between teleportation and stealth, you’ll never see him coming. Nightcrawler is also a skilled swashbuckler.
Anyone seeing Nightcrawler would scream “demon!” Hard not to, considering he is covered in blue fur, has a tail, fangs, and teleports through clouds of brimstone. Despite his demonic trappings, Nightcrawler is a hero and, ironically, the most religious X-Man.
Debut: Uncanny X-Men #129
Played by Ellen Page and Katie Stuart
[a helicopter prepares to fire on the X-Men]
Nightcrawler: “Hi! I’m Nightcrawler. This is Shadowcat.”
Shadowcat: “And this is your weapon system!” [phases a hand through the system, destroying it]
Both: “Bye!” [they teleport away] – X-Men: Evolution, “Day of Recovery” (Season 3, Episode 1)
Kitty Pryde was an ordinary teenager until she developed the power to turn intangible. She was recruited by the X-Men, serving as an inexperienced viewpoint character for the team. Originally going by the names Sprite or Arial, Kitty eventually settled on Shadowcat. She grew from an uncertain teenager to a capable superhero and has even led the X-Men.
Shadowcat connects female characters from other franchises. Her appearance was based on Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley character in Alien. She was also a major influence on Joss Whedon, who based Buffy: the Vampire Slayer on Shadowcat. Whedon would later write for X-Men and turn Shadowcat into a Buffy knock off.
Turning intangible is cooler than it sounds. Shadowcat can trap foes by dragging them partway through an object and letting go. She can reach inside enemies’ bodies and pluck out their organs, or worse, leave something behind. Beyond her powers, Shadowcat has extensive hand-to-hand skills, a genius intellect, and a small pet dragon. No kidding. His name is Lockheed.
Debut: Giant Size X-Men #1
Played by Andre Tricoteux and Stefan Kapičić
Colossus: “I’ve given Deadpool every chance to join us but he’d rather act like a child. A heavily armed child. When will he grow up and see benefits of becoming an X-Man?”
Negasonic Teenage Warhead: “Which benefits? The matching unitards? The house that blows up every few years?”
Colossus: “Please. House blowing up builds character.” – Deadpool
Piotr Rasputin was an ordinary farmer in the Soviet Union. One day, a runaway tractor nearly ran over his sister, Illaniya. Piotr’s skin transformed into steel as he rushed to save her. He smashed the tractor, discovering that his new form gave him super strength. Piotr was soon approached by Professor X to join the X-Men and agreed, despite the tensions of the Cold War.
The newly named Colossus was the epitome of a gentle giant. He is also ruthless when those he loves are threatened, especially his lover Shadowcat or his sister Illyana. Colossus has even betrayed the X-Men to keep Illyana safe. Colossus’ most notable feat was when he sacrificed his life to release a cure for The Legacy Virus, aka Mutant AIDS. He has since been resurrected.
#7 Professor X
Debut: The X-Men #1
Played by Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy
Pyro: “You trust [Phoenix]? She’s one of them.”
Magneto: “So were you, once.”
Pyro: “I stuck with you all the way. Woulda’ killed the professor if you’d given me the chance.”
Magneto: [gripping Pyro’s shoulder] “Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you will ever know. My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.” – X-Men: The Last Stand
The man, the myth, the founder of The X-Men, Professor Charles Xavier was a child when his telepathy manifested. He trained his mental powers and used them to excel in school and sports. Xavier investigated the Mutant phenomena that had given him his powers and encountered another mutant named Erik Lehnsherr. Or as the world would soon know him, Magneto.
The two debated mutation and whether humans would accept mutants. The idealistic Xavier believed that the two races could coexist, but Erik feared there would be a mutant Holocaust. They parted ways with Xavier realizing the need for a mutant peacekeeping force. He named them the X-Men because of their “Ex-tra powers.” Not the worst name, but still a really stupid reason.
Debut: X-Men #1
Played by Kelsey Grammer and and Nicholas Hoult
[Beast has been captured by Bigfoot hunters]
Beast: “I have to admit, this cage is brilliant. I’m guessing some kind of convex polarity reversal?”
Scientist: [nervous chuckles] “Good heavens! You can speak!”
Beast: “Am I right?”
Scientist: “Oh…uh…yes! Convex polarity reve- [double-take] h-how do you know of such things?”
Beast: “They’ll give anybody a degree these days.” – X-Men: Evolution, “Retreat” (Season 2, Episode 14)
He may look like an overgrown Cookie Monster, but Beast is one of the original X-Men. Dr. Hank McCoy was born with abnormally large hands and feet. As he grew older, he discovered he was much stronger and more agile than other people. He was eventually outed as a mutant and recruited by Professor Xavier.
Hank was codenamed Beast due to his oversized limbs, but the name soon became literal. Dr. McCoy developed a serum that he believed would cure his mutation. Like any mad scientist, he immediately tried it on himself. Instead of curing Hank, the serum enhanced his mutation, making him even stronger and causing him to sprout blue fur.
Beast is a comedic scientist, constantly switching between technobabble and pop culture references. He’s also a major Star Trek fan, probably because they have a Dr. McCoy as well. Beast constantly quotes poems and plays, with a particular focus on Shakespeare.
Debut: Avengers Annual #10
Played by Anna Paquin and Meghan Black
Wolverine: “Get out of here. I mean it, Rogue! These guys are highly trained assassins.”
Rogue: “Good. [absorbs a fallen ninja’s memories] Check it out! I just learned bushido.” – Wolverine and the X-Men, “Code of Conduct” (Season 1, Episode 17)
You didn’t think every X-Man started out as a hero, did ya? Rogue debuted as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants alongside her mother, Mystique. She has the power to absorb other people’s powers and memories, which she put to good use against The Avengers. Rogue permanently stole Captain Marvel’s powers when she held on for too long, which gave her superhuman strength, speed, and flight.
Each person that Rogue absorbs leaves a copy of their personality as a mental echo. Captain Marvel’s echo was especially strong and nearly caused Rogue to suffer a mental breakdown. A desperate Rogue sought Professor X’s help. He helped her and offered her a spot on the X-Men to redeem herself. She has since become a stalwart member of the team.
Debut: The X-Men #1
Played by Famke Janssen and Sophie Turner
Jean Grey: “You think you can fix me?”
Professor X: “Jean, you are not broken.” – Dark Phoenix (2019)
Originally called Marvel Girl, Jean Grey was the first female X-Man. She is telepathic, telekinetic, and widely considered one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe. And that’s before considering her as the avatar of a primordial god called The Phoenix.
There’s a lot to Phoenix’s story, so check out our exclusive Phoenix backstory.
Debut: Giant Size X-Men #1
Played By Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp
Storm: “You want my powers, Hungan!? [conjures a tornado] Here’s more than you can handle!”- X-Men: Evolution, “African Storm” (Season 2, Episode 8)
You don’t get more eclectic resumes than Storm’s. She’s been a thief, an assumed goddess, an X-Man, a teacher, an Avenger, and even the Queen of Wakanda. Ororo Munroe was a child when her parents were killed during a terrorist attack. She became a thief to survive. One day, she attempted to pickpocket Professor X, who noticed her with his telepathy.
They would meet again years later after she manifested an ability to control the weather. The local villagers believed Ororo to be a weather goddess. Unfortunately for her, she’s just a mutant. She joined the X-Men and has frequently served as their leader. Storm eventually married her old flame T’challa, the Black Panther, after a whirlwind romance.
Debut: The X-Men #1
Played by James Marsden and Tye Sheridan
[A powered-up Juggernaut is rampaging]
Mayor: “So… plan B?”
Cyclops: “No. Not Plan B. Plan 2. “Plan B” implies we only have 26.” – Fear Itself: X-Men
Scott Summers is the X-Men’s original leader. He survived a plane crash as a child that left him unable to control his power of firing lasers from his eyes unless he wears a ruby quartz visor. Cyclops is scared of his optic blasts hurting others and maintains rigid control using military discipline. That also makes him a giant stick in the mud.
Fans often deride Cyclops as boring compared with flashier X-Men, but Cyclops is pretty much Batman with laser eyes. He’s cunning, ruthless, and has no problem killing anyone who threatens the X-Men. OK, so maybe not Batman with that last bit. Cyclops even started a black ops team called X-Force to perform missions the other X-Men wouldn’t do.
Debut: The Incredible Hulk #181
Played by Hugh Jackman and Steve Blum
Deadpool: [opening narration] “Fuck Wolverine! First he rides my coattails with the R-rating, and then, that hairy motherfucker ups the ante by dying! What a dick. Well, guess what, Wolvie? I’m dying in this one, too.” – Deadpool 2
Show of hands, who didn’t think Wolverine would be our number one X-Man?
C’mon, you know Wolverine’s deal. Healing factor, claws, adamantium skeleton, heightened animal senses, the ability to serve on at least three teams and simultaneously have solo adventures, the whole shebang. And on the off chance you don’t, check out our Wolverine Backstory.
Vote for your favorite X-Man in a comment.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.