Before the first X-Men movie came out in 2000, the only superheroes movie audiences had ever been exposed to were a couple guys known as Superman and Batman. But when Bryan Singer brought mutants to the screen for the first time, the world at large was introduced to a certain indestructible bad-ass with knives in his hands. Thirteen years and six (going on seven with next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past) movies later, Hugh Jackman’s take on Wolverine, while taller and less outright feral than his comic book counterpart, is one of the most fun live-action heroes in recent memory.
While not all of the movies he’s appeared in have been very good, Wolverine’s awesomeness is always worth the price of admission.
When it comes to an iconic character like Wolverine, it’s important to establish expectations from the beginning. It’s only fitting, then, that the first time we see him in the original X-Men, he’s kicking ass. If you’re trying to show us that someone is of the “not to be effed with” variety, having their first appearance be in a dive bar that hosts regular underground cage fights is probably a good start. Not only is it clear that this guy can take some serious punishment, but he dishes it out as well with impressive brutality. It’s only made all the better when the claws come out when he’s confronted by his opponent after the match. The way he sloooooowly extends the middle claw toward the guy’s windpipe is amazing.
Giving Cyclops the bird
I grew up on the ‘90s X-Men cartoon. I knew from a very young age that while Cyclops was the leader and supposedly deserved that title, Wolverine was the coolest guy on the team (except for Gambit, because “Cajun who throws exploding playing cards” is tough to trump). But when it comes to “most whiny, boring stick-in-the-mud in all of mutantdom,” cartoon Cyclops doesn’t hold a candle to movie Cyclops. That guy totally sucks. Which makes it ultimately satisfying when Wolverine pops his middle claw when Cyclops says something stupid towards the end of the first movie. Seriously, though. Old Eyebeams the worst.
Stabs himself with his own claws
This is a pretty quick moment in the first movie, but it’s just another example of how sweet it must be to have a healing factor. Tied up by Magneto inside the Statue of Liberty, Wolverine realizes that he is the only one with the ability to escape. Magneto has bound Wolverine so that his fists are pointed toward his own chest, but proving once again that no action movie can be complete without the villain underestimating the hero, Logan unsheathes his claws through his own body, therefore cutting through the metal on his back and freeing himself.
Battle vs. soldiers in the mansion in X2
One of the biggest issues with the first X-Men was that we never got to see Wolverine just go off. Sure you knew he was still dangerous, but there was no moment where he simply unleashed his rage. Well, Singer certainly made up for that in the sequel. As a squadron of mercenaries infiltrates an “undefended” mansion (but let’s get one thing straight – nothing with Wolverine within five miles of it is undefended), Wolverine is on a late-night quest for a beer at a high school, like ya do. He smells something fishy in the air just as these goons start unleashing tranquilizer darts on all the unsuspecting kids, which he really doesn’t appreciate. For the first time in the series he goes totally berserk, plunging his claws into anything wearing night-vision goggles. The leap from the second floor, arms and claws outstretched, onto a group of soldiers is just a beautiful sight.
Shot in the head
We all know that Wolverine is invulnerable, but we don’t ever really see how hard he is to kill until the second movie. While he’s trying to recruit Iceman to come back to the Xavier Institute, the family’s fear of mutants causes the younger brother to call the police. Naturally the cops don’t react too well to a guy who appears to be holding six knives on a suburban family, so they do what any “reasonable” person would do and shoot Wolverine right between the eyes. But if you’ve been paying attention, you know that no mere bullet can put Wolverine down for good. After a few minutes his body pushes said bullet back through the hole it created in his head, he stands up, cracks his neck like a baller, and gets on his super-jet. It’s just about the coolest sequence of events that could ever come from a gunshot wound. It’s certainly better than the “adamantium bullet somehow wipes Wolverine’s memory” sequence that we were given in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Cameo in X-Men First Class
Another quick moment that solidifies how few craps Wolverine gives. Young Xavier and Magneto are traveling around the world putting together the first group of X-Men (which in movie time, somehow takes them, like, three days – but I digress) and head off to some middle-of-nowhere to try and recruit Wolverine, who is sitting alone at a bar. Before the two can even start their pitch, Logan tells them to ever so kindly please leave him alone. Nah, I’m just kidding – he tells them to go eff themselves, eliciting cheers in movie theaters all over the world.
Opening credits of X-Men Origins: Wolverine
If the entire movie had been like its opening credits, we may have never needed another entry in the Wolverine franchise. The great thing about having an immortal-ish character as your focus is that you can show him living in different eras, experiencing various periods of history that no normal person could see in one lifetime. And when your character is a charismatic killing machine, the possibilities are endless. Those credits showing Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting their way through history, taking on enemy troops from the Civil War all the way to Vietnam, showcase all those possibilities. Seeing him take part in this country’s most influential conflicts, getting shot by muskets and cannonballs only to keep coming, is just wonderful. If only the remaining two hours hadn’t been so god-awful.
The Wolverine is out this weekend, so I’m sure there will be several more moments I can add to this list once I’ve seen it. If you ask me, it’s really hard to go wrong putting the guy up against hordes of ninjas and tossing him around atop a high-speed train. I know I’m looking forward to seeing how many things wind up with claws inside them when all is said and done!