The X-Men Timeline Explained

Released in 2000, "X-Men" is one of the most important superhero movies of all time. Before that, movies in the genre were getting pretty silly. Take, for example, Joel Schumacher's "Batman" films. However, "X-Men" dared to take the source material seriously by emphasizing the deeper themes that typified the comics, with a top-notch cast that includes Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, and, of course, Hugh Jackman. The film was a critical and box office hit and helped pave the way for a slew of big-budget superhero movies, including "Spider-Man," "Fantastic Four," "Ghost Rider," and "Daredevil." It's safe to say that "X-Men" paved the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe we know and love today.

The popularity of that first "X-Men" film led to a massive series of sequels, prequels, spinoffs, and TV shows. There've been numerous high points throughout this franchise, such as "X2: X-Men United," "X-Men: Days of Future Past," and "Logan." There've also been several duds like "X-Men: The Last Stand," "Dark Phoenix," and "The New Mutants." Inconsistency has been a trademark of the "X-Men" series. Still, the biggest drawback is the franchise's confusing timeline. However, Marvel Studios now has the rights to the X-Men and have been slowly planting the seeds for their MCU debut. Hopefully, Kevin Feige and company can establish a more coherent sequence of events for their Merry Mutants. Until then, let's see if we can unravel the complicated timeline of the "X-Men" films.

A note on the films' timelines

Because time travel was introduced in "Days of Future Past," there'll be conflicting events and multiple versions of the same characters appearing here. Bryan Singer, who directed, co-wrote, and produced several installments in the franchise, commented on this in Collider when he addressed why there were younger versions of the characters from the original "X-Men" trilogy showing up in "Apocalypse." "It's not leading necessarily toward exactly where we found Patrick Stewart and the X-Men at the beginning of 'X-Men 1,'" Singer says. "There are some things that lead in that general direction that was part of the philosophy we had at the end of 'Days of Future Past' is that you can't fully change the course or current of the river, but you can just divert it a little bit..."

It's not just time travel that makes the series' timeline confusing. Sometimes it was just a lack of communication on the filmmakers' part. For example, the character of Caliban shows up in "Apocalypse," which takes place in the 1980s, and "Logan," which takes place in the 2020s. "Logan" director James Mangold told We Got This Covered, "I actually had written him into our movie, and they didn't know [he was] in Apocalypse, and then they kind of wrote it in their movie, and they cast someone in their movie, and I had not seen it and was working away on mine."

Mutants appear throughout history

Before the X-Men set out to protect a world that hates and fears them, mutants slowly made their presence known throughout history. One of the first mutants to appear was En Sabah Nur. Better known as Apocalypse, he's seen at the end of "Days of Future Past" building a pyramid with only his mind. "X-Men: Apocalypse" begins in 3,600 BC when En Sabah Nur undergoes a ritual to transfer his consciousness into another mutant body with a healing factor that enables him to live indefinitely. Although successful, the ritual is thwarted by saboteurs, and En Sabah Nur is trapped in a state of dormancy for many centuries.

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" opens in 1845 in Northern Canada, with a young and sickly James Howlett manifesting the mutant powers of an accelerated healing factor and retractable claws. He and his half-brother, Victor Creed, go on the run, fighting in many major conflicts, including the American Civil War and World War I. This happens before James and Victor are known by their more famous monikers of Wolverine and Sabretooth.

World War II

As seen in the opening montage of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," World War II was one of the many conflicts in which Logan and Creed fought. "The Wolverine" expands a bit more on Logan's time during the war, showing him imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp, where he rescues Ichirō Yashida, a man who will set out to repay Logan decades later.

"X-Men: First Class" reveals more details about several other prominent mutants during World War II. A young Erik Lehnsherr is separated from his family at the concentration camp Auschwitz, an experience so traumatic that it unleashes his magnetic powers. This catches the attention of Nazi officer Klaus Schmidt, who callously kills Erik's mother to push him to demonstrate his mental control over metal. These events send him down the path to becoming Magneto. Klaus goes on to become Sebastian Shaw of the Hellfire Club. Meanwhile, another young boy, the telepathic Charles Francis Xavier, befriends Raven, who can shapeshift. The two become as close as siblings but eventually go down different paths. As expected, the introduction of time travel gives us two different versions of their futures.


By 1962, Erik Lehnsherr, seeking vengeance for his mother's death at  Auschwitz, is engaged in a global hunt for Klaus Schmidt. Meanwhile, CIA agent Moira MacTaggert is assigned to infiltrate the Hellfire Club, headed by Schmidt, who now goes by the name Sebastian Shaw. The Hellfire Club is working on a plan to cause World War III, which they believe will annihilate the human race and allow mutants to become the dominant species on the planet. MacTaggert enlists the help of Xavier, and during a mission, he befriends Lehnsherr. With the help of the CIA, they recruit other young mutants and train them to use their powers to stop the Hellfire Club from carrying out their scheme.

These young mutants, including Hank McCoy (Beast), Alex Summers (Havok), Armando Muñoz (Darwin), Sean Cassidy (Banshee), and Angel Salvadore (Tempest), form the first iteration of the X-Men. While this team manages to stop Shaw and the Hellfire Club from starting the next world war, their mission is not without its losses. Xavier is shot in the back, leaving him unable to walk, and Lehnsherr turns his back on the X-Men to become Magneto.

The 1970s

Much of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" takes place in the '70s, which sees Logan and Victor Creed serving in the Vietnam War. They're recruited by Maj. William Stryker for Team X, a squad of mutants tasked with dangerous missions. Logan decides that being a mercenary isn't for him, so he leaves the team and heads to Canada to live a simpler life as a lumberjack. However, when his lover, Silverfox, is seemingly killed by Creed, Logan accepts Stryker's offer to undergo a procedure to have adamantium grafted to his skeleton, including his natural claws, to get revenge on his half-brother. When Logan discovers that this was all part of a plan to turn him into a mindless soldier, he wreaks havoc on Stryker's facility. He releases the mutants Stryker was experimenting on, who are soon rescued by Professor X. This ordeal strips Logan of his memory, sending him down a path to uncover his past.

Many of the events depicted in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" are dramatically altered when, in 1973, the consciousness of the older Logan is sent back into his younger self on a mission to prevent the assassination of weapons designer Bolivar Trask. This event starts a chain reaction that sees Trask unleash his mutant-hunting Sentinels, who, decades later, turn the world into a dystopian nightmare for humans and mutants alike. Logan is successful and changes the course of the "X-Men" series' history.

The 1980s

By the 1980s, Professor X has brought a young Scott Summers to his School for Gifted Youngsters. As Summers befriends some of the other students, En Sabah Nur rises again and recruits other mutants to become his Four Horsemen, including Storm, Psylocke, Angel, and Erik Lehnsherr, who was living a peaceful life with his wife and child, only to return as Magneto. Professor X and his team of X-Men, consisting of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, and Nightcrawler, stop Apocalypse's plan of mutant domination and bring Storm and Mystique into the fold.

Because of the history-changing events caused by Wolverine in "X-Men: Days of Future Past," this version of the 1980s differs from the previous depiction of it. For example, "X-Men: The Last Stand" features a scene in 1986 in which a young Professor X and Magneto (who are friends at this point) meet an adolescent Jean Grey and welcome her to Xavier's school. However, "X-Men: Apocalypse" sees an older Jean in 1983 to fit the new timeline. This is substantiated in "Dark Phoenix," wherein it's established that Professor X first met Jean in 1975.


The X-Men are assigned to rescue the stranded crew of a space shuttle that's taken a hit by a mysterious force. While the X-Men successfully save the crew, Jean Grey is exposed to the full blast. However, instead of dying or showing signs of illness, she notices that her psychic powers have received a dramatic boost. However, one side effect is emotional instability. It's revealed that Professor X blocked her memory of causing the car accident that took her mother's life, a revelation that sends Jean down a dark path.

When the X-Men confront Jean, she accidentally kills Mystique in a fit of rage. She then goes to Magneto for help, but he rebuffs her. However, Jean's prayers are seemingly answered when she encounters Vuk, one of the few surviving members of her alien race, the D'Bari. Vuk promises to help Jean control her powers, but it isn't long before she learns that Vuk plans to absorb her abilities. When Vuk makes one last attempt to take Jean's powers, Jean kills her and is consumed by the forces that possessed her.

The 2000s

The original "X-Men" trilogy ostensibly takes place in the 2000s (the only hint that we're given to this is the "in the not too distant future" subtitle when Rogue's powers first manifest). Wolverine and Rogue are taken in by the X-Men at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. Meanwhile, Magneto, along with his "Brotherhood of Mutants," consisting of Mystique, Sabretooth, and Toad, hatch a scheme to turn the world's leaders into mutants with a special machine, kidnapping Rogue as part of their plan. They are defeated by Wolverine and the X-Men, and Magneto is placed in a plastic prison.

Col. William Stryker, who oversaw the procedure that gave Wolverine his adamantium skeleton and claws, has kidnapped Professor X and other young mutants from the school. He plans to combine the psychic abilities of his son, Jason, and Professor X to kill the world's mutant population. Their plan is thwarted through a reluctant partnership between the X-Men, Magneto, and Mystique. However, Jean Grey seemingly dies while helping her teammates escape.

It's soon revealed that Jean Grey is very much alive, with enhanced psychic powers and a new personality known as Phoenix. However, she becomes more unstable, killing Professor X and teaming up with Magneto and his new Brotherhood, who are determined to stop Worthington Labs and their so-called "mutant cure." The X-Men stop Magneto and his forces, but Wolverine is forced to kill Jean Grey, whose powers have become uncontrollable.

Wolverine goes solo

Sometime after the events of the original "X-Men" trilogy, Wolverine is living alone in the Canadian wilderness, still haunted by his killing of Jean Grey, one of the few people he truly loved. He's soon called to Japan to meet with Ichirō Yashida, the man he saved during World War II. Ichirō, who's dying of cancer, offers to take Wolverine's healing factor, allowing him to live a mortal life. Wolverine declines and is about to leave Japan when he is infected by a robotic parasite that slows his accelerated healing. After Ichirō supposedly dies, his granddaughter, Mariko, is attacked by gangsters, prompting Wolverine to rescue her. They go on the run together.

However, as Wolverine and Mariko begin to develop a romantic relationship, she's kidnapped. He must team up with Yukio to find her. They determine that she was held at Ichirō's estate, but they're too late to rescue her. However, it's there that Wolverine removes the device that's blocking his healing factor. They then take the fight to Ichirō's hometown, where it's revealed that he's still alive in a massive robotic samurai suit and is still determined to extract Wolverine's abilities. Ichirō is ultimately taken down. Wolverine decides to leave Japan, but he's stopped at the airport by Magneto and a resurrected Professor X, who warns him that there is a new threat facing mutant-kind.


At this point, the world is overrun by Sentinels, massive mutant-hunting robots that adapt to nearly every kind of superpower. The surviving X-Men are on the run and hiding in an old Chinese temple. They concoct a scheme in which Kitty Pryde uses her abilities to send Wolverine's consciousness back to 1973 to prevent Mystique from assassinating weapons designer Bolivar Trask. Mystique's actions led to the production and eventual domination of the Sentinels. Kitty successfully sends Wolverine's consciousness to his younger self while the rest of the X-Men are tasked with protecting her long enough for Wolverine to achieve his goal.

However, the X-Men's plan is endangered by an army of Sentinels who discover their location. Most of the X-Men are killed, but their deaths are not in vain. Wolverine prevents Trask's death, and the Sentinel program is canceled. He then wakes up in the present to discover that the world is now safe for mutants and that all of his teammates are alive, including his true love Jean Grey.


The X-Men are no more. No mutants have been born in decades. Only Logan and Caliban are left to care for the elderly Professor Xavier, who regularly experiences intense seizures. Logan works as a limo driver to save enough money to buy a boat on which they can peacefully spend the rest of their lives. However, his plans are disrupted when he meets Laura, a young mutant girl with powers similar to his, including metal claws and accelerated healing. She's on the run from Alkali-Transigen, a corporation experimenting on mutant children with the intent of turning them into weapons.

The head scientist at Alkali-Transigen, Dr. Zander Rice, sends Donald Pierce and his Reavers to take back Laura. Caliban is captured during the skirmish, but Logan manages to get Laura and Professor X out of the fight in his limo. They set out to Eden, one of the last havens for mutants. During another battle with Pierce and the Reavers, Professor X and Caliban are killed, leaving Logan and Laura to finish their journey alone. On their trip, they meet the other escaped children trying to get to safety, but they must contend with Rice, Pierce, and the Reavers. They're overtaken by the mutant children, who make their escape but not before Logan is killed in the fight.

Deadpool's timeline

Deadpool's place in the existing "X-Men" timeline is unclear. In the Merc with a Mouth's first solo outing, we see how Wade Wilson spends his days as a  mercenary who eventually decides to settle down with a sex worker named Vanessa. While they plan to get married, Wilson's cancer diagnosis prompts him to undergo a torturous experimental procedure at the hands of the villainous Ajax. While it successfully forces his mutant healing ability to manifest, it leaves him horribly scarred. He gives himself a new identity as Deadpool. When Ajax kidnaps Vanessa, Deadpool goes on a bloody quest to rescue her.

Vanessa is killed in "Deadpool 2." Her death spurs Wade to join the X-Men, believing that's what she would have wanted. His first mission with the team involves rescuing a pyrokinetic mutant boy named Russell. However, things get complicated when Cable arrives from the future to kill Russell because he will grow up to kill Cable's family, but Deadpool is determined to protect him at all costs. He convinces Cable to give him a chance to talk some sense into Russell, but he's teamed up with the Juggernaut to get revenge on the orphanage that abused him. They're ultimately successful in convincing Russell to change his ways, and Cable gives Deadpool a chance to mess with the already-complicated timeline.

...And the New Mutants?

"The New Mutants" follows a younger generation of mutants sent to an institute run by Dr. Cecilia Reyes. There, they are trained to control their powers which have caused tragedies in their lives. The teenagers believe that they are destined to join the X-Men. Instead, they are being trained to become soldiers for a mysterious organization. Ultimately, they band together to overcome their deepest fears and guilt and take down Reyes.

The placement of "The New Mutants" in the "X-Men" timeline is even murkier than that of "Deadpool." While there are references to the X-Men, it's not apparent when the events of this film take place. However, one of the few bridges to the larger franchise is that Reyes works for the Essex Corporation. For those who don't remember, the Essex Corporation was first mentioned in a post-credits scene at the end of "X-Men: Apocalypse."  Essex also owns the orphanage that housed Russell in "Deadpool 2." This was a tease to introduce the classic villain Mister Sinister, also known as Nathaniel Essex. The character was supposed to appear in a post-credits scene at the end of "The New Mutants," but that never materialized.