An Uncanny Timeline: Making Sense of Where Every 'X-Men' Movie Fits
The trailer for Logan makes it clear that the movie takes place further in the future of Fox's X-Men movie universe than audiences have yet seen — even further out than the dystopian future of 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past, although that future was undone by events in the 1970s in that very movie. Which is to say, it's understandable to be confused by the when of the X-Men movie franchise.
What would already be a more-complicated-than-necessary topic becomes even more complicated by the ways in which the X-Men movies love to contradict or rewrite themselves on a regular basis. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) are the biggest victims of this tendency; the deaths in the former and origins of Cyclops and Deadpool in the latter having been entirely undone by later entries in the franchise. Perhaps no one should be that surprised, of course, considering that the entire point of Days of Future Past was to change the timeline of the entire universe.
Heat Vision breakdown
Nonetheless, with flash-forwards and flashbacks as the primary focus of the franchise — this year's Deadpool was the first movie in the franchise where the majority of the action was set "now" since 2013's The Wolverine — it's worth taking a moment to try and map out a rough timeline of what happened when in regard to the X-Men movies. Hold onto your hats.
Mostly Takes Place in: 2000 or thereabouts (it's described as the "not too distant future")
Does It Still Exist in X-Men Mythology? That's a good question. The end of X-Men: Days of Future Past shows a school that seems to reflect the one seen here, and more important, it shows Logan as part of that school, which is one of the primary plots of the movie. Let's go with "yes," in that case.
X2: X-Men United
Mostly Takes Place in: 2003 or thereabouts
Does It Still Exist in X-Men Mythology? No. If nothing else, the fact that Nightcrawler encounters the X-Men for the first time in this movie is contradicted by 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse, which shows Nightcrawler becoming one of the team two decades earlier.
X-Men: The Last Stand
Mostly Takes Place in: 2006 or thereabouts
Does It Still Exist in X-Men Mythology? Not in the slightest. The coda of 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past made it explicitly clear that the deaths of Cyclops and Jean Grey had been undone, and even if that hadn't been the case, the introductions in this movie of Angel and Beast don't line up with current continuity. (There's also the question of whether or not Xavier's death in this movie is contradicted by later movies; that's up for debate, as The Last Stand does end with a scene suggesting Xavier has somehow resurrected himself.)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Mostly Takes Place in: various points in the 1970s
Does It Still Exist in X-Men Mythology? Kind of. Certain parts of it clearly still happened — there's a sequence in X-Men: Apocalypse this year that directly ties in with the escape from Weapon X — yet other parts, whether it's the first version of Deadpool and Gambit or the cameo of a young Cyclops and Emma Frost, are contradicted by later movies. File under "Don't think about it too much."
X-Men: First Class
Mostly Takes Place in: 1962
Does It Still Exist in X-Men Mythology? Yes. Not only is this movie the first in the new sequence of X-Men movie continuity, but it also doesn't self-invalidate through time-travel shenanigans like X-Men: Days of Future Past. Sadly, that means that we're seemingly stuck with January Jones' wooden version of Emma Frost, but what can be done.
Mostly Takes Place in: 2013 or thereabouts; epilogue in 2015 or thereabouts
Does It Still Exist in X-Men Mythology? No. Not only is Wolverine's emotional state in the movie informed by the events of X-Men: The Last Stand — events which are explicitly undone by 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past — but the movie ends with Professor Xavier and Magneto recruiting Wolverine for the mission in Days of Future Past, which place this entire movie in the timeline that's rewritten in the subsequent movie.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Mostly Takes Place in: 1973, and two different versions of 2023
Does It Still Exist in X-Men Mythology? Most of it does — specifically, basically, everything that happens after the opening fight with the Sentinels in the darkest timeline version of 2023. Quite how that works when the timeline that sent Wolverine back in time is itself undone, which would mean that Wolverine wasn't sent back in time, is an unanswered question, but let's chalk that up to timey-wimey-ness. Also, if anyone can explain how Cyclops and Jean have only aged a decade or so in two decades, given that the revised future is still meant to be in 2023…. Actually, never mind; this is a movie franchise in which no one appears to have visibly aged in the 20 years between First Class and Apocalypse.
Mostly Takes Place in: 2016 or thereabouts
Does It Still Exist in X-Men Mythology? Other than the fact that Deadpool continually talks to the audience, the answer would appear to be yes. There's possibly a case to be made that it exists entirely outside of regular X-Men movie continuity altogether, but the appearance of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead suggests otherwise.
Mostly Takes Place in: 1983
Does It Still Exist in X-Men Mythology? Yes. It's the first movie to be explicitly part of the "revised timeline" created in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and as such, is the most reliable indicator of what is in the mythology currently. At least, until some future movie ends up sending someone else back in time to mess with the timeline for a second time….
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