The original live-action X-Men movie hit theaters 20 years ago today. A landmark moment in comic book movie history, this is the film that largely helped usher in the modern era of superheroes as we know it. Two decades later, Hollywood is showing no signs of slowing down as these adaptations continue to dominate the box office.
Released by 20th Century Fox, the film was adapted from the Marvel Comics characters that have been going strong since the 1960s. At the time, Marvel had some luck with Blade, which hit theaters two years earlier in 1998. The difference is that Blade was R-rated and was based on a character few outside of hardcore comic book readers were familiar with. Even though comic book movies weren’t taken as seriously at the time, the X-Men were far more well-known.
The other key differences is that the first X-Men movie was PG-13. It was being tailored for a wider audience. This was intended to be a big, summer movie. It was also treating the source material very serious, in a way we hadn’t truly seen before. This is something that movies like The Dark Knight would take to heart in the years that followed.
Another key is that the cast included A-list stars. Patrick Stewart (Professor X), Ian McKellen (Magneto), Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), James Marsden (Cyclops), Halle Berry (Storm) and Famke Janssen (Jean Grey) led the way. It all equated to big success.
X-Men was a critical and commercial hit. It earned $296 million at the global box office against a $75 million budget. While that isn’t huge by today’s standards, it opened the door for a long-running franchise, spanning nearly two decades, that earned $6 billion. It also paved the way for the likes of Spider-Man and, eventually, the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it.
Dark Phoenix concluded Fox’s version of the franchise last year. With the Disney/Fox merger, the franchise is set to be rebooted within the MCU sometime in the future. But 19 years is one heck of a run for any franchise. And few can say they have had such a lasting legacy.
Here is a synopsis for X-Men.
“They are children of the atom, homo superior, the next link in the chain of evolution. Each was born with a unique genetic mutation, which at puberty manifested itself in extraordinary powers. In a world filled with hate and prejudice, they are feared by those who cannot accept their differences. Led by Xavier the X-Men fight to protect a world that fears them. They are locked in a battle with former colleague and friend, Magneto who believes humans and mutants should never co-exist.”