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Evan Peters’ Quicksilver proves that comic accuracy isn’t always necessary for an iconic performance in the X-Men franchise. Another version of the character could still appear in the MCU. Kelsey Grammar’s Beast perfectly captures the character’s intellect, but it’s unclear if another actor will outdo his performance in future X-Men movies. Josh Brolin’s Cable embodies 90s grit in Deadpool 2, and it’ll be tough for anyone else to top his performance. Whether he continues in the MCU is uncertain.

The MCU is slowly building to an X-Men movie reboot, but several of the franchise’s new actors have incredibly high standards to meet, established by Fox’s long-running mutant franchise. Fox’s X-Men movie timeline may have started off relatively simply with a trilogy of movies released in chronologically appropriate order, but things got more complicated after X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). The series jumped back in time for a Wolverine prequel (which turned into its own trilogy), which inter-spliced entries in the X-Men: First Class-led prequel trilogy and Deadpool movies.

While there’s no way to make sense of what is supposedly one giant, interconnected timeline, there’s little doubt that even the more disappointing X-Men movies have some great performances. The franchise impressively mixed acting veterans with talented newcomers that embodied a wide range of superheroes and villains in a genre that was still young when X-Men was released in 2000. It’s assumed that the vast majority of Fox’s X-Men actors will not return for the team’s MCU debut, and these 10 performances in particular will be difficult to top.


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10 Evan Peters’ Quicksilver Proves Comic Accuracy Isn’t Always A Must

Last Seen In X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Evan Peter’s Quicksilver is a wonderful example of comic book accuracy not always being necessary for an iconic performance. While Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Pietro Maximoff in Avengers: Age of Ultron is much closer to the character’s personality in Marvel Comics, Peters’ version’s whimsical confidence instantly clicked and became the more talked-about of the two simultaneous interpretations. Even though Quicksilver has already died in the MCU, it’s not out of the question that another version could appear if the X-Men enter the franchise from another timeline. If so, a bold new direction may be best to avoid director comparison.

9 Kelsey Grammar’s Beast Perfectly Captures The Character’s Intellect

Last Seen In The Marvels

Beast is one of the original X-Men in Marvel Comics, and he’s defined by an impressive intellect that contrasts his animalistic appearance. While Nicholas Hoult did an admirable job in the X-Men prequel series, Grammar’s interpretation stands as the performance to beat. The actor sells Beast’s political and intellectual savvy, but it’s unclear if another actor will even have to try to outdo it. Grammar’s Beast appears in The Marvels‘ post-credits scene, but it’s hitherto unclear if he’ll go on to be part of the MCU’s eventual team or if it’s just a temporary callback.

8 Josh Brolin’s Cable Capture’s The Character’s 90s Grit

Last Seen In Deadpool 2

Cable has only appeared in one live-action movie, but Josh Brolin perfectly walked the line between 90s-era over-the-top grittiness and legitimate swagger in Deadpool 2 that’ll be tough for anyone else to top. As of now, Josh Brolin has not been announced as part of Deadpool 3‘s cast, and even if he does end up with a cameo or small role, it’s unlikely he’ll continue into the main MCU as a recurring character. In fact, Cable has also been a younger man at times in Marvel Comics, and the MCU may want to go that route for the character to differentiate him from Brolin’s fantastic performance.

Josh Brolin played Thanos, making him one of the few actors to have a major role in both the MCU and Fox X-Men franchises.

7 Ryan Reynolds Is Inseparable From Deadpool

Deadpool Last Appeared In Deadpool 2

Ryan Reynolds’ unique personality and style of humor are such a perfect fit for Deadpool that it’s hard to imagine anyone else stepping into the role and coming off as much more than a Reynolds impersonator. Wade Wilson’s quick wit and low-brow humor come through effortlessly with Reynods’ physical humor and improvisation skills, and the lead-up to Deadpool 3 has made it clear that the Merc with a Mouth isn’t changing as he gets his first movie in the MCU. It’s perfectly possible that Reynolds will continue to play the role in the MCU, but if not, it may be best to give the character a rest after his departure.


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6 Michael Fassbender Managed To Live Up To A Legend

Last Seen In X-Men: Dark Phoenix

When Fox announced that they’d be jumping to the past for a prequel series following the conclusion of its original X-Men trilogy and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the first question that came to mind for many is how anyone could follow up the wonderful performances of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan as Professor X and Magneto, respectively. While James McAvoy did an admirable job of playing a younger Charles Xavier, it’s Fassbender who most succeeded in elevating his character and creating something new while honoring the performance that came before him. Fassbender’s Magneto is steeped in righteous rage and is regularly the best part in some of the franchise’s more disappointing films.

5 Ian McKellen Gave A Unique Take On A Classic Villain

Last Seen In X-Men: Days Of Future Past

While there are exceptions, superheroes and villains have traditionally been young and physically imposing, and Ian McKellan’s older, more world-weary Magneto stands as a fresh take on Marvel antagonists – especially for the early 2000s. McKellan perfectly captures the nuance of Magneto, who’s less a classic villain and more someone pushed to extremes with reasonable justification. Without the immense talent and chemistry between McKellan and Stewart, the X-Men franchise very well may have never taken off, and it’s hard to imagine a different take on an older Magneto carrying quite the same gravitas.

4 Brain Cox Made The Potentially Boring William Stryker Memorable

Last Seen In X2: X-Men United

Though the X-Men have faced several wildly powerful villains, the most terrifyingly realistic threat is arguably William Stryker. Stryker was first played by Brian Cox in X2 and subsequently portrayed by Danny Huston in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Josh Helman in X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse. While the latter two are proven talents, only Cox was able to elevate a character who can easily fall into banality as a morally gray military man.

While many X-Men villains are inherently interesting by virtue of their superpowers or unique visual design, Stryker is noteworthy due to the gravitas he’s imbued with by Cox’s performance. While other villains give and take punches with style, Stryker’s mental and emotional manipulation of Wolverine as the man who put him through the Weapon X program (that gave him his adamantium skeleton) is a unique type of villain who’s harder to get right. If Stryker re-appears in the MCU, his new actor will need to bring a similar level of complexity to stand out.

3 Alan Cumming Redefined Nightcrawler

Last Seen In X2: X-Men United

21 years later, X2‘s opening with Nightcrawler fighting his way through the White House still stands as one of the best superhero character introductions in the genre. Moreover, Cumming’s take on the character markedly changed how he’s written in Marvel Comics. While Nightcrawler has always had a religious side, it was put front-and-center in X2, and it became a much more focused-on part of who he is in Marvel Comics after that. Nightcrawler was portrayed by Kodi Smit-McPhee in the X-Men prequel series, but that interpretation, while perfectly fine, didn’t quite capture the tortured complexity of Cumming’s work.

Depsite being a breakout star in X2, Nightcrawler isn’t in the sequel, X-Men: The Last Stand. It’s never explained why on-screen, but X-Men: The Official Game clarifies that Nightcrawler was displeased by the level of violence required to be an X-Men member and retired to a peaceful life in Germany. In real life, Nightcrawler was cut as Alan Cumming didn’t want to undergo the extensive make-up process for another film.

2 Patrick Stewart Is Charles Xavier Come To Life

Last Appeared In Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness

There are few pairs of superheroes and their actors that have become borderline inseparable in the public consciousness, and Patrick Strewart’s Charles Xavier is undoubtedly among them. It helps that the actor bears an uncanny resemblance to the leader of the X-Men, but his stoic confidence and reserved charisma perfectly bring to life the Charles Xavier that’s been in the pages of Marvel Comics for decades. James McAvoy already took a shot at continuing on a younger version of the character and did a great job, but Patrick Stewart remains the most iconic interpretation and the one a new actor will have to overcome.

1 Hugh Jackman Won Over Audiences Despite Not Really Resembling Wolverine

Last Appeared In Logan But Set To Appear In Deadpool 3

Hugh Jackman is in the prestigious sphere of actors who seem completely inseparable from their most famous character, so it’s hard to forget that he was quite the controversial choice when he was announced. Traditionally handsome, quite tall, and relatively lean in the first X-Men movie, Jackman is a far cry from the stout, gruff, and 5’3” character from Marvel Comics. That being the case, it’s even more impressive that Jackman has been synonymous with Logan for over two decades.

Of course, Jackman is still set to reprise Wolverine one more time in 2024’s Deadpool 3 after seemingly retiring from the role in Logan (2017). However, the return is almost surely a one-off (a two-off if Marvel Studios can snag him for an Avengers movie), and the MCU will need a fresh Logan, given how important the hero is to the X-Men canon. The best way to follow up such an iconic and long-lasting embodiment of the character may be to go more traditional, finding an actor that more closely resembles Wolverine in Marvel Comics.

Key Release Dates

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Blade (2025)

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