X-Men Animated: Ranking The Top 5 Episodes

5 X-cellent Episodes

Beast:They only fight because they fear us. Because they don’t yet understand.
Magneto:But they do understand: Our mutant powers make us superior to them, and that is why they fear us.

“Enter Magneto” (Season 1, Episode 3)

The 90s were a peak time for superhero cartoons. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and others had series popular enough to influence their comics. The X-Men led the charge with X-Men: the Animated Series.

28 years later, the show is reborn as X-Men ‘97. We went through all five seasons of the original series to bring you the five best episodes to watch in preparation. So what are the best episodes of X-Men: the Animated Series? Let’s find out.

#5 Weapon X, Lies, and Videotape

Beast: A lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies.” 

Weapon X, Lies, and Videotape (Season 4, Episode 16)

Wolverine has been a central part of The X-Men since his debut, but the 90s was his golden age. This X-Men Animated episode delves into his past.

Synopsis: Wolverine receives a picture of former colleague Silver Fox with a set of coordinates. The numbers trigger flashbacks of a Weapon X base. Thinking it might hold secrets about his past, Wolverine and Beast fly to the base, where many familiar faces await.

Why This Episode?: Weapon X, Lies, and Videotape exemplifies Wolverine’s tragic backstory. Enemies, allies, and a former lover gather at the base and learn many secrets about the organization that ruined their lives.

Beast plays the audience surrogate, giving Wolverine a reason to introduce new characters and discuss his past with Weapon X. Loss, uncertainty, and fear pervade the episode, interrupted occasionally for superpowered brawls. The ending is tragic, but hopeful.

#4 X-Men Animated: Deadly Reunions

Magneto:When I was a child, my people talked while others prepared for war. They used reason, while others used tanks! And they were destroyed for their trouble. I won’t stand by and watch it happen again. I won’t!

“Deadly Reunions” (Season 1, Episode 4)

X-Men: The Animated Series spent several episodes setting the stage for future seasons. After three episodes of introducing the cast and establishing the conflict, it was time for the team to face their first villains.

Synopsis: The X-Men have captured Wolverine’s archnemesis Sabretooth and attempt rehabilitation. They are interrupted by Magneto attacking a chemical factory and split up, half going to fight Magneto while the rest stay behind to keep Wolverine from killing Sabretooth. Little do they realize that a cornered animal is always dangerous.

Why This Episode: Deadly Reunions mixes complicated themes into a standard superhero romp. Wolverine struggles with his frustration over being unable to murder an enemy who has caused him a lot of pain. The X-Men learn that there are villains they can’t talk down who are even stronger than they are.

Desperate circumstances lead to cruel tactics. Sabretooth gaslights new hero Jubilee before getting into a brutal battle with Wolverine. Magneto’s overwhelming power forces Professor X to weaponize Magneto’s memories of the Holocaust. The X-Men win the skirmish, but a war for the future of Mutantkind is imminent.

#3 Beauty and the Beast

Jubilee:Weird. Wolverine using his head, and Beast going berserk? What’s the world coming to?”

“Beauty and the Beast” (Season 2, Episode 10)

The X-Men’s greatest enemy has never been Magneto, Apocalypse, or any other supervillain; it is hatred and bigotry. This X-Men animated episode explores those themes while telling a tale as old as time, as true as it could be.

Synopsis: Beast has fallen in love with a patient named Carly while working at a hospital for the blind. Her bigoted father disapproves, as do the Mutant-hating Friends of Humanity. Carly is kidnapped after an attack on the hospital. Beast hunts for her kidnappers while Wolverine infiltrates the Friends.

Why This Episode: Beauty and the Beast flips the script on two X-Men. Beast is far more mopey than usual over romantic issues, evolving into rage once Carly is taken. Wolverine plays it smart rather than rushing in, ingratiating himself with the kidnappers while fishing for information.

The Friends of Humanity had appeared as disposable mooks before, but this episode explores their leader, Graydon Creed. He is affable on the surface, but that slimy mask barely conceals his bigotry. He’s terrified and furious every time he confronts a Mutant and wants them all dead.

#2 X-Men Animated: Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler:Ve are alike, you and I. My appearance drove me to seek God, your rage drove you away.”
Wolverine:I used to buy into all that, but I’ve lived too long. Seen too much.”

“Nightcrawler” (Season 4, Episode 8)

There’s only so much time for characters in TV shows, even in an ensemble like X-Men: the Animated Series. One of the most popular X-Men had to settle for a handful of appearances, but damn me if he didn’t play this one for all it’s worth.

Synopsis: Wolverine, Rogue, and Gambit are vacationing in Germany. Gambit is injured during an avalanche and the X-Men bring him to a nearby monastery to heal. They quickly discover that it is home to a demonic-looking Mutant named Nightcrawler.

Nightcrawler’s idealism and Catholic faith grate on Wolverine, who has neither remaining. The theological debate quickly gets pushed aside when superstitious villagers catch sight of Nightcrawler. Can the X-Men protect the monastery from a full torches-and-pitchforks mob?

Why This Episode?: Nightcrawler focuses on drama characterization over fisticuffs. The cynical Wolverine can’t believe in a God who would let him suffer through Weapon X while Nightcrawler espouses His love for all. Nightcrawler himself is an unflappable, empathic Mutant who wants to help others despite their fear of his appearance.

Gambit and Rogue play lesser roles, investigating a monk who revealed Nightcrawler’s existence to the village. The superstitious mob represents The X-Men’s greatest enemy in its most base form, an army of scared, hateful, and heavily-armed assailants.

Fun Fact: The writers were mandated to lean into Nightcrawler’s religious elements over fears that viewers would think he was a demon. Usually, the exact opposite would happen and they would order the religious elements scrubbed.

#1 A Rogue’s Tale 

Apparition:I’ve been waiting a long time for this, sister!”

A Rogue’s Tale (Season 2, Episode 9)

If an X-Men episode didn’t focus on Wolverine, then it almost certainly featured one of the X-Women. Jubilee and Storm were the popular choices, but Rogue’s backstory was hers to tell.

Synopsis: The X-Men battle the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants until Rogue suffers a panic attack. The sight of Mystique’s disguise triggers long-suppressed memories of her past. Torn between fear and loss of control, Rogue finds her way to a hospital, a comatose woman, and a battle she’s feared for years.

Why This Episode?: A Rogue’s Tale is a tragic horror story about redemption. Rouge spends much of it terrified and furious about what she’s remembered: Mystique’s manipulations, an unforgivable sin, and the comatose woman’s secret. But who is she?

A ghostly vision of the comatose woman spends the episode harassing Rogue, raging about what she did. It falls to Phoenix to play psionic cavalry, venturing into Rogue’s mind to help her regain control.

What is your favorite episode of X-Men: the Animated Series? Will you be watching ‘97? Tell us in the comments.

Image: (L-R): Morph (voiced by JP Karliak), Storm (voiced by Alison Sealy-Smith), Gambit (voiced by AJ LoCascio), Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase), Rogue (voiced by Lenore Zann), Wolverine (voiced by Cal Dodd), Bishop (voiced by Isaac Robinson-Smith), Beast (voiced by George Buza) in Marvel Animation’s X-MEN ’97. Photo courtesy of Marvel Animation. © 2024 MARVEL.

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