Ranking the Top 6 X-Men Teams of All Time

We all know the original lineup of Marvel’s merry band of mutants. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel, and Beast were Professor Xavier’s first set of students.

Long before Krakoa’s The Five, these five teens paved the way for mutantkind. They endured public scrutiny and outright prejudice while exploring their powers and (possibly) juggling an education. Sidenote: Does anyone at that school actually attend class?

But this mutant lineup isn’t necessarily the best team in X-Men history. Actually, there are 6 others that rank higher than the 1963 team because of their impacts on mutantkind. Here are the best X-Men teams ranked — to me, my rankings!

6. Grant Morrison’s New X-Men

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Grant Morrison’s X-Men run ushered in a new era for the mutants in 2001. Partially inspired by the recent success of the original X-Men film, this new team wore sleek, leather outfits. Frank Quitely’s art was also a jarring departure from familiar designs but when it all came together, the effect was exciting. This team of mutants really did feel all-new.

On top of aesthetics, Morrison upended the usual dynamics of the team. Cyclops remained a central leader, but Emma Frost joined the lineup as a regular member. Their chemistry together soon sparked into a longstanding affair. Beast began to look more feline as he fell back into his scientific roots, Jean finally accepted her union with the Phoenix Force, and a new member of the team, Xorn, held a shocking secret. And who could forget Morrison’s knack for high-stakes drama? They introduced the mutant genocide of Genosha, the tyranny of Cassandra Nova, and the explosive consequences of the drug Kick.

5. Excalibur

The Excalibur team emerged during a time when the X-Men were thought to be dead. Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler were mourning their teammates, while Captain Britain and Meggan mourned the loss of his sister, Betsy Braddock (at the time known as Psylocke). Plus, Rachel Summers had recently buckled under the pressure of the Phoenix Force and she was on the run. However, various interdimensional forces soon brought this odd group together.

When they finally formed their team, named for Arthur’s legendary sword, Excalibur embodied the hope of the original X-Men team. They strove to keep that dream going forward even when it felt impossible to do so. Decades later, a new incarnation of Excalibur emerged on Krakoa. Led by Betsy Braddock, stepping into the role of Captain Britain herself, the team included Meggan, Rogue, Gambit, Rictor, and Jubilee. Apocalypse would also serve as a mentor to the team, helping Rictor in particular carry on the legacy of mutant magic. This ancient gift of mutantkind would illuminate the alchemy behind mutant circuits, the term for when mutants combine their power for amazing new results. Without this understanding, mutants might never have reformed Mars or maintained Krakoa’s power.

4. X-Men: The Animated Series

While the X-Men comics had been popular for decades by the time this animated show blasted onto our screens, many X-fans of a certain age will cite X-Men: The Animated Series as their entry point. During the 1990s, comic designs were big and bold, with muscles and curves and the brightest colors in the Multiverse. X-Men: The Animated Series encapsulates this iconic style.

This television adaptation of the mutant super hero team debuted in 1992, a year after Uncanny X-Men #281 delivered the slightly similar (in appearance) Gold and Blue X-Men teams. Thanks to the show, viewers fell (further) in love with Rogue’s sassy drawl and Gambit’s charming Cajun accent. Professor X sported his yellow wheelchair, which even appeared in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Storm’s white outfit is one of her most beloved looks. And of course, who could forget Scott and Jean constantly wailing each other’s names in the face of certain danger?

X-Men: The Animated Series is a dose of nostalgia, heavy on the melodrama — and that’s just how we hope it stays when X-Men ’97 continues the series in fall 2023.

3. Giant-Size X-Men

It might be hard to believe today, when the X-Men are one of Marvel Comics’ most popular teams, but there was a time when this book was in danger of being shut down. Fortunately, Giant-Size X-Men #1 burst onto the scene in 1975 — and the X-Men were forever revitalized. This new lineup introduced mainstay mutants like Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus, along with adding Wolverine to the team. Sunfire, Banshee, and Thunderbird were also featured, with Thunderbird’s tragic demise being a huge catalyst for the all-different team to overcome their differences.

The story goes that Xavier’s original X-Men, plus Polaris and Havok, have been defeated by an all-consuming sentient island named Krakoa (yes, that Krakoa!). Somehow, Cyclops manages to escape and Xavier assembles a new team to help him rescue the founding squad. Storm and Polaris display especially impressive use of their powers to send Krakoa into space and rescue the original team. With Giant-Size X-Men, the mutants were back on their way to the top.

2. New Mutants

The X-Men comics are noted for their sense of mutant family. Mutants face prejudice in a world of humans, so they find refuge in each other. Few other X-Men teams portray this as honestly and beautifully as the New Mutants. Dani Moonstar and Sam vie for the role of leader, Roberto struggles not to be a hothead, and Karma keeps them all together even when she herself is divided. Perhaps their most enduring conflict is the saga of Illyana Rasputin, AKA Magik, who must reconcile her demonic connection to Limbo. Without Charles Xavier, this young team had to find their footing both as heroes and individuals. For a time, Magneto was even their substitute headmaster. It wasn’t always easy but in the end they managed to get through it all — together.

In addition to compelling dynamics, the New Mutants have always been a source of new teams and characters. Cable stepped in as the leader of New Mutant graduates Cannonball and Boom-Boom, along with Warpath, Shatterstar, and Feral, to form the X-Force squad. Even today, the New Mutants headquarters on Krakoa hosts a whole new lineup of young mutants who need a strong support system, like Laura Kinney’s younger sister Gabby. Through Sam’s marriage to Smasher, the team furthers the X-Men’s crucial alliance with the Shi’ar Empire. The New Mutants is also home to the X-Men’s first trans teammate, Shela Sexton.

1. House of X Rescue Team / The Five

Finally, of all the mutant teams, squads, and offshoots out there, this unofficial lineup (only seen in the first days of Krakoa) is the most important X-Men roster of all. Back when the island nation was first started, the mutants’ home was not guaranteed. At any moment, their fragile safe haven could have been destroyed by outside forces. Thanks to the sacrifices of this initial Krakoan X-Men team, however, the Mother Mold’s Sentinels were destroyed.

This team combined classic X-Men like Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Angel, as well as younger mutants like Monet St. Croix and Husk. Even their villainous ally Mystique served a pivotal role on this transitional lineup. Without this unique combination of power and perspective, Orchis might have brought down Krakoa before it even started. But thanks to the team and to The Five — Hope, Egg, Proteus, Tempo, and Elixir — mutant resurrection was a success. Rather than fighting for tolerance, mutants now have the social currency to demand acceptance from the world. On Krakoa, death would only be a short chapter in the ongoing story of mutantkind.

How would you rank the X-Men teams, and who’s in your top 5? Share your thoughts with other X-fans at side.show/geekgroup, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!