"Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward."
—Professor Charles Xavier
An adaptation of the X-Men comic book franchise to the silver screen, which pretty much singlehandedly revived superhero movies for the 2000s.The original series includes:
Inverted with Magneto. While not ugly by any means, he's considerably older than the character in the comics and much less physically imposing. While Magneto was a buff and chiseled in the comics, in the movie his white hair is the result of him being seventy-something years old. Justified, since the movies don't have the comics' sliding timescale or the multiple instances of him being de-aged and re-aged and had to make him the realistic age of a Holocaust survivor. This gets rectified when you see him in First Class, where his younger self is conventionally handsome.
Quill and Callisto get this in The Last Stand, with the former looking like an actual person rather than a freaky man/porcupine hybrid.
First Class does this to Sebastian Shaw, Darwin, and Riptide.
Adaptational Curves: Inverted in the case of Rogue. While she is often portrayed as quite busty in the comics, in the movie, she was played by Anna Paquin, who was decidedly less so.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: Mystique has no visible nipples or genitalia in her standard form. Then again, her true form is basically a scaly blue creature, so nipples wouldn't have been necessary in either case.
Anti-Villain: Magneto honestly believes what he's doing is in mutants' best interest.
Artistic License - Biology: The series has a whole collection of offenses. Mutants cannot be called another species, given that they can still interbreed freely with normal humans. Even if you don't have a biology diploma, it ought to be obvious that there could be no universal "cure" that suppressed all the flashy mutations (but not "regular" ones like, say, heterochromia?) on any given mutant without affecting anything else, and certainly not in a matter of seconds.
Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: In most of the films, whatever danger the mutants face from humans is resolved not by the X-Men, but by the Brotherhood. In the first film, it's Mystique's impersonation of Senator Kelly that gets the Mutant Registration Act defeated in Congress; in X2, Magneto stops the machine that Stryker's using to kill all the mutants; and in X-Men: First Class, Magneto stops the missiles that the US and Soviet fleets shoot at the mutants. The role of the X-Men in the films is not to protect mutants, but to protect humans from the Brotherhood. It gives a sense of why the Brotherhood might attract recruits.
Magneto is very fond of this one - in X2 he reverses Stryker's machine to target humans rather than mutants, and in First Class he throws the US and Soviet navies' own missiles back at them. Threatening to shoot cops with their own guns in the first X-Men movie may also qualify.
A notable subversion- threatening to use the Mutant Cure against any mutants willing to stand against the Brotherhood in The Last Stand.
Cerebus Retcon: Sort of, since the original incident was pretty dark in itself, but Mystique poisoning Charles in the first movie becomes much more sinister in hindsight when the prequel First Class decided to retcon that the two are adopted brother and sister.
Code Name: Yeah, um, all of them. (Many of the characters have real names, but we haven't listed them. There's a character sheet for that.) Greatest lampshade comes in the first, when Wolverine asks Xavier:
"Sabertooth? *looks at Ororo* Storm? *looks at Xavier* What do they call you, Wheels?"
First Class has a scene where the younger mutants make up code names for themselves, Charles and Erik.
Rogue in the first three movies has the comic Rogue's powers and appearance but the comic Kitty Pride's personality and relationship with Wolverine.
Stryker is a combination of the homonymous preacher from the arc "God Loves, Man Kills", and Weapon X's Professor Thornton.
Pyro combines the name and powers of his comic book counterpart with Quicksilver's attitude and original position as Magneto's Dragon.
In First Class, Angel has her comics powers but the wings of Pixie.
Shaw in First Class is a composite of Sebastian Shaw and Mr. Sinister, combining Shaw's powers and personality with Sinister's immortality and obsession with mutant genetics.
Continuity Snarl: Wolverine and First Class have plenty of inconsistencies for supposed prequels, specially with each other. (also, in X2 a human Hank McCoy makes a cameo, but in The Last Stand he's blue and hairy)
To be Fair Wolverine and Last Stand all supposed inconsistencies can be explained away if they're thought about hard enough or if you really try to make them fit. First Class however has no such luck, to the point of many fans believing that it's a reboot rather than a prequel. If taken that way, it actually works really well (being considered the strongest movie since X2 and all that).
Examples in First Class: Charles Being Crippled in the 60s when he's shown walking in the 80s, Magneto and Charles going there separate way earlier than before, Hank's blue furry form, etc.
In Hank's case, at least, his nigh-obsessive displeasure with his mutant appearance could have led him to create a serum similar to what he did in First Class, so that it at least rendered him temporarily "normal". In fact, this plot point got hit on several times in Last Stand.
Even worse is Moira McTaggert - besides being Scottish in Last Stand and American in First Class, for whatever reason she's hardly aged in 40 years.
Notably subverted with Mystique - her slow aging process is explained by her mutation's side effect, which is actually close to the explanation given in the comics (that shapeshifting into different people renews her cells to prevent the aging process or some such).
Emma Frost, who appears in First Class as a grown woman, despite the film being set decades before a much younger girl with a different background but similar powers (minus telepathy) appeared in Origins: Wolverine. The girl was supposed to be Emma Frost, but this was changed at the last minute by the producers and she is not named in the movie, and even the end credits only call her "Emma" (and not "Emma Frost"). While many accused First Class of creating a plot hole, in reality they are two separate characters.
The Silver Samurai in The Wolverine is two separate characters. Harada, Silver Samurai's civilian ID in the comics is a ninja and Mariko's childhood friend, while the actual Silver Samurai is Ichirō Yashida, Mariko's grandfather.
In X-Men, he is poisoned by Mystique and is in a coma for the entire final act.
In X2, he is subjected to illusions by Stryker's conjuring mutant son, and rescuing him is the plot. Not to mention that his powers were used against the X-Men.
In The Last Stand, he is killed by Jean Grey as she succumbs to the Phoenix. Though he apparently survived by transferring his consciousness into a brain-dead man's body....
Averted in First Class, where Xavier is active, but the bad guys have both Emma Frost and a telepathy-blocking helmet to counter him, and he's not as overwhelmingly powerful as in the chronologically-later films.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: Toad in the first film; Cyclops, Xavier, Juggernaut, Callisto, Psylocke, Arclight, and Kid Omega (Quill?) in the third; possibly Fred Dukes in Origins.
Enemy Mine: X2 has the X-Men teaming up with Magneto and Mystique because of a greater threat to mutant kind, Wolverine has Logan and Victor teaming up to fight Weapon XI and First Class has the USSR and the US uniting against the "mutant threat."
Face-Heel Turn: Pyro in X2, though even when he was with the heroes he was at best a jerk and at his worst clearly a sociopath.
Fanservice - Mystique (particularly a leg take from below in X2), some shots of the women, and the Lingerie Scene and Mystique's chest view both in First Class. Actually, all of the women in First Class (Mystique, Angel, Emma and Moira) get at least one scene where they're wearing little or nothing; for Emma and Angel it's most of their scenes. It's a little glaring.
For fans of the male form, Wolverine features Hugh Jackman's naked tush, Gambit's incredible handsomeness, Ryan Reynolds' arms and Liev Schrieber's ripped abs.
The attempts by non mutants to find a cure for mutants in the films and the mutants that are ashamed of their abilities leans more towards a Gay Aesop. This parallel has been explicitly stated to have interested Ian McKellan and X-Men/X2 director Bryan Singer, both openly gay, in the franchise.
Fire/Water Juxtaposition: Used thematically to set up Iceman's rivalry with Pyro (which is much tighter than the two's relationship in the comics). Their battle in The Last Stand is pretty much the logical extreme.
Four-Temperament Ensemble in First Class: Xavier (leukine), Havok (choleric), Beast (melancholic), Mystique (phlegmatic), and Banshee (sanguine).
Groin Attack: Mystique to Wolverine, and Wolverine to another healing mutant ("Grow those back").
Hollywood Evolution: In this universe, the concept of evolution is, some people develop a random super(natural) power when they hit puberty.
Humans Are the Real Monsters: Played with as a motif for the series. The humans for the most part are shown to be intolerant and hateful of mutants (with some like Col. Stryker going that extra mile to make things a living hell for mutants), wishing they could eradicate their kind, while mutants themselves don't want to harm anyone and just live peacefully among humans. Professor X tries to bridge this gap and be a goodwill ambassador on behalf of mutantkind, hoping humanity will lower their guard and learn tolerance while Magneto loathes humanity and wants mutants to use their higher abilities to step over these hateful beings and become the one true inheritor of the planet. However, his methods are often excessive and definitely give good pause to humankind's fear and shunning of mutants, so he's not helping his case. And of course, there are those mutants like Sebastian Shaw who genuinely are evil and destructive, caring not for humans or even fellow mutants (regardless of what rhetoric they try to convey).
I Just Want to Be Normal: Rogue. In a deleted scene from the first movie, she asks if Xavier can "cure" her. She takes the cure to become human in the third film.
In Name Only: While deviations are to be expected in adaptations, certain characters (especially in The Last Stand) are absolutely nothing like their comic book counterparts. Callisto, Kid Omega, Psylocke, Agent Zero, and Deadpool are among the most drastic examples.
Kill All Humans: In the second movie, Stryker wants to Kill All Mutants, then Magneto changes plans to Kill All Humans. In First Class, Shaw plots the extinction of humans so that mutants can replace them as the dominant species.
Lampshade Hanging: Wolverine gets a lot of screen time, just like in the comics. Magneto likes to point this out in every movie: "Once again, you think it's all about you."
First Class: Erik has a pretty brooding one. If you've made an enemy of him and it kicks in, things are about to get unpleasant for you.
Schmidt/Shaw plays a record of Edith Piaf singing La vie en rose as an establishing motif in the past and in the present of First Class.
Idiot Ball: Madrox didn't need to sacrifice himself to the military when his dupes could have fought them off while Madrox Prime escaped.
That's not how his power works. If one Madrox goes down, they all go down.
InformedFantastic Racism: Government-related parts aside (that being a common thing for the superhero genre) it honestly feels like the movies spend more time talking about how much normal humans hate and fear mutants than actually showing it. This is somewhat remedied in "Last Stand", but still nothing like the comics.
Like Cannot Cut Like: Adamantium blades, such as Wolverine vs. Lady Deathstrike and Wolverine vs. Deadpool.
Logo Joke: The first three movies feature the "X" in the 20th Century Fox logo fading out a fraction of a second later than the rest of the logo.
Made of Iron: Well, made of adamantium to be exact. Also, the Juggernaut, and Mystique is really hard to kill.
Magic Pants: Averted; Mystique does all her shapeshifting nude and forming the clothes of her disguises out of her body. Played straight with Wolverine, though, as Phoenix's attacks destroy all the rest of his clothes, as well as skin and muscle, but his pants remain. The same thing happens in The Wolverine when he shields Ichiro after the atomic bomb is dropped.
Make Me Wanna Shout: A Xavier student in X2 (implied to be Siryn), and Banshee (who is Siryn's father in the comics) in First Class.
In First Class, it's Jennifer Lawrence. But when Magneto says he might sleep with her "in a few years", she briefly becomes Romijn.
Meaningful Echo: Between two movies, highlighting the difference between the Xavier School and Magneto's views on mutants. In a deleted scene from the first movie, Bobby asks Rogue her name, she says "Rogue," and he says "What's your real name?" She tells him "Marie". Then in X2, on the plane, Magneto has a conversation with Pyro:
Magneto: What's your name?
Magneto: What's your real name, John?
Movie Superheroes Wear Black: Producer Tom DeSanto thought about the original costumes, but eventually decided they would look silly and changed to leather ones (something Stan Lee and Chris Claremont approved). Lauren Shuler Donner added that the costumes helped the X-Men "blend into the night".
Mythology Gag: Wolverine complains about the costumes. Cyclops: "What would you prefer, yellow Spandex?" Then in First Class, the uniforms are yellow spandex (and look dreadful), and the reaction of one character is "Do we really have to wear these?"
The explanation for how Rogue acquired the signature strands of white hair
Allusions to Wolverine's past
The way Mystique approaches Wolverine disguised as Storm– and how he identified her– is very similar to a scene from The Dark Phoenix Saga, where a Skrull named Raksor, also impersonating Storm, tried the same trick on Logan, with a similar result.
In the second, there is a brief exchange between Nightcrawler and Mystique who are mother and son in the comics.
In First Class, the helmet Erik seizes from Shaw and the repainted version in the final scene of the film resemble his helmet in the comics much more than the helmet worn by Ian McKellen, Banshee's wings are striped only to resemble the comics counterpart, and given that the movie is set in 1962, Xavier opened his school the following year... when the actual comic first debuted in 1963.
In the second film, Magneto says "When will these people learn to fly?", referring to the fact that some of the X-men can fly in the comics.
Not Even Bothering with the Accent - Xavier keeps Patrick Stewart's English accent, and Gambit doesn't sound remotely Cajun (in fact, he almost sounds like he's from Texas).
Somewhat justified in Gambit's case, as Louisiana and Texas, being right next to each other, share a significant degree of dialect between them.
While Halle Berry attempts some sort of accent in the first film, by the third she's not even trying anymore. Same with Anna Paquin and Rogue, who has a slight Southern accent in the first movie which disappears in the sequels.
The North Albertan bartender in X-Men Origins: Wolverine seems to be from Tennessee for some reason.
First Class de-accentizes Banshee and Moira. (though the latter goes from Brit to American - played by an Aussie)
Basically, if you're not Nightcrawler, you WILL lose your trademark speech pattern in the movieverse. (However, it's less glaring than you think in some cases - in the original comics, after being taught English telepathically, the X-Men are noted on-panel to have no accents. It's just that we hear that once ever, characters' talk is positively filled with random words from their own languages, and every adaptation ever keeps the accent.)
Also based on Mystique's origins in First Class, she probably should have gained a British accent after spending 20 years there but has none. It's kind of funny how even though they're not related British Charles's "sister" sounds completely American
Novelization: The second and third films have novelizations by Chris Claremont; the one for the third film shows a lot more of what's going on in Jean's head than the movie is able to, appropriate from the man who wrote the Dark Phoenix Saga.
It's somewhat unavoidably noticeable if he was speaking German the moment before and he's meant to be from the Eastern bloc.
Opposed Mentors: Pyro in the second X-Men movie had the choice between Magneto or Xavier. This is often the case with some characters in the comics too.
The Other Darrin: Sabertooth was played by Tyler Mane, a pro wrestler, in the first movie. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he was played by stage and film actor Liev Schreiber, best known in front of the camera as Shaw in the remake of The Manchurian Candidate and for the Scream movies. Kitty Pride was portrayed by three different actresses (though she's only a major character in the third).
Alex Burton portrays Pyro in the first movie, Aaron Stanford in the following two.
Patrick Stewart Speech: (what did you expect?) First and second films. The DVD of the third shows it would also have it.
Psychic Radar: It's X-Men with Professor X. This was going to come up. Cerebro provides him with a massive boost, allowing him to mentally trace people all over the world. He knows as soon as he scans the school that Rogue has up and run away, too.
Race Lift: Bolivar Trask is black in The Last Stand, and Blink will be played by Chinese actress Fan Bingbing in Days of Future Past.
Radiation Immune Mutants: Mutants are naturally immune to radiation, which makes Magneto's mutation device harmless to them (but lethal to humans) and it's part of Shaw's plan in First Class, since mutants would live just fine despite an atomic war's fallout.
Ret Canon: The movies inspired a number of elements that made their way into the comics and the various cartoons:
During Grant Morrison's run, the X-Men adopted black leather outfits in order to better match their movie counterparts. This lasted up until Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run, where the team started wearing colorful outfits again in order to seem less threatening.
For a time, Mystique adopted her scaled, reptilian appearance from the comics.
The depiction of the Xavier Institute as an actual school for mutants was also taken from the first movie. Prior to that, the school aspect was just a cover, and the only real "students" were the X-Men themselves.
Retcon: At least one character per movie: Sabertooth, Lady Deathstrike, Juggernaut and Deadpool.
Considering the way the movies have changed around some of the comic book characters' generations, there's likely to be more in the future if more movies are going to be made based somewhat on the comics.
First Class retcons certain elements of The Last Stand, notably the fact that Charles and Erik were still shown to be working together while middle-aged during the flashback sequences in the latter film.
Sequel Escalation: Each film was bigger/more expensive than the previous one, which is why Fox started spinoffs instead of an X4.
In X-Men 2, she seduces a guard by taking the form of a hot blonde so she can use him in Magneto's escape from prison. She later uses it on Logan by trying to seduce him in the form of Jean Grey. Logan catches her, and she goes through several other forms, including Storm and even Rogue, but he tells her to leave.
In X-Men: First Class, she upgrades her age about 15 years to please Magneto, which doesn't really work for her until Magneto tells her he prefers her without the shapeshifted appearance.
Sharp-Dressed Man: Almost everyone in First Class, with Azazel and Riptide standing out the most.
Smart People Play Chess: Xavier and Magneto, in the first film and in First Class, less obviously in the second film when Magneto's in his plastic prison, and alluded to again in the third at the end with that one scene with Magneto in the park with a board of chess...
The chess motif is also there to establish the attitudes of both men as The Chessmaster.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Wolverine. He's the main character of the first three movies even though he is central to the plots of none of them. See where he and ostensible team leader Cyclops are on the page image.
In Wolverine, Temporary Love Interest Kayla. Then subverted when we learn her death was faked and Stryker was specifically invoking this so Logan would agree to join the Weapon X program, and double subverted when she is Stuffed into the Fridgefor real. Also, the old couple who help Logan and are killed by Agent Zero, and arguably John Wraith when he is killed by Victor.
Teleport Spam: Nightcrawler, Wraith, Weapon XI and Azazel all do this.
Vietnam War: Alluded to by Stryker in X2, and the intro to Wolverine.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Magneto sincerely believes he is valiantly championing a righteous cause - at least as far as mutants are concerned.
Winged Humanoid: Warren Wortingthon III has bird wings; Angel Salvatore has dragonfly wings.
Wolverine Publicity: Wolverine is the onlly character to appear in every movie (including the upcoming ones). Some of his appearences are only cameos (First Class), while others are whole movies about him (XMOW and The Wolverine)
World War II: The first film begins with a flashback as Jews are being herded into a concentration camp. X-Men Origins: Wolverine has an even shorter one in the opening credits. First Class has an extended version of the concentration camp scene from the first film. The Wolverine opens in a prison camp in Nagasaki minutes before the second atomic bomb is dropped.