X-Men: First Class Movie Poster Image

X-Men: First Class

Superhero film has action, thrills, tough moral questions.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 132 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While many characters embrace the brand-new idea of mutants and humans living together in peace, others can't or won't; there's lots of conflict surrounding the idea of whether mutants should try to "fit in" or embrace their differences. But ultimately the message is that it's important to be yourself, whatever that self may be able to do or happens to look like. Still, some of the mutants feel justified in waging war against normal humans, who are afraid of them. And even the heroes feel like outcasts. Though the good guys are willing to protect non-mutants, there’s still a lively debate about why they should.

Positive role models

Although some characters are clearly good (Charles Xavier) or clearly evil (Sebastian Shaw), many represent various shades of gray and are pulled in conflicting directions. Erik is driven by revenge and anger, though Charles helps soften some of his edges. Ultimately, the X-Men must take a stand to protect the regular people who fear them, even though they don't show the same willingness to watch the mutants’ backs. The movie has some strong, powerful female characters and a somewhat diverse cast.


Plenty of action, including super-powered combat featuring energy beams, fireballs, whirlwinds, and sonic blasts, as well as super-strength fistfights that send characters flying across the room. A fierce assault pits super villains against normal people, who are easily (and brutally) dispatched. There are major explosions, crashes (plane, submarine, more), gunshots, and several flying blades, and a coin is turned into a lethal weapon, shown in slow-motion close-up as it hits its mark. A boy's mother is killed in front of him, scarring him for life. A man's hand is stabbed through with a knife; people are slashed with knives and swords. Overhanging threat of nuclear war.


Frequent skimpy, Bond Girl-esque outfits and one blue, scaly female mutant who sometimes walks around nude (though it looks as though she's wearing all-over body armor). In one scene, a girl, seemingly naked under the covers, invites a man to join her in bed; other scenes show kissing/groping. One scene includes several women in lingerie who are implied to be call girls/escorts; another is set in what appears to be a strip club, though there's no actual nudity.


One memorable use of "f--k"; other language includes infrequent use of "ass," "hell," "goddamn," "oh my God," and "damn."


Tie-in to vast quantities of related merchandise.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A few scenes show people drinking, both in rowdy bars and in more quiet moments at home -- sometimes to excess. The younger mutants have one somewhat wild party. Occasional smoking (accurate for the 1960s setting).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that X-Men: First Class is an exciting X-Men prequel/origin story has plenty of action as the heroes and villains battle it out using their wide variety of special abilities, many of which can be deadly. Though overall the film has a bit of a retro feel due to the 1960s setting, there are big explosions/attacks, as well as hand-to-hand battles and a few intense death scenes -- including one in which a boy's mother is killed in front of him and another in which a coin becomes a lethal weapon. The threat of nuclear war hangs over most of the movie. Expect moderate drinking and smoking; female characters sometimes appear in their underwear, skimpy costumes, or less, though there's no actual nudity. Language is infrequent but does include one use of "f--k." The movie includes weighty discussions about morality, self-acceptance, and fear of the unknown and -- staying true to the original comic books -- makes comparisons between the Holocaust and how people react to the presence of mutants.

What's the story?

In X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, James McAvoy stars as Charles Xavier, a powerful telepath who recruits a band of fellow mutants -- each with unique abilities -- in this prequel to the popular X-Men franchise. After a World War II-era opening sequence, the bulk of the story takes place at the height of the Cold War in the early 1960s, as Xavier teams up with another powerful mutant, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), to track down the nefarious Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Shaw and his colleagues are trying to kick off a nuclear disaster, while Xavier and the newly formed X-Men (including Xavier's childhood friend/foster sister, Raven/Mystique, who's played by Jennifer Lawrence) try to prevent World War III. Meanwhile, Erik may be pursuing his own agenda.

Is it any good?


This movie isn't perfect, but it's more fun to focus on what's right: the brilliant casting, for starters, especially when it comes to McAvoy and Fassbender. Compared to the others, they're practically conducting a master class in thespianism, regardless of the movie's otherwordly plotlines. That said, X-Men: First Class is a bit too long, some scene transitions are abrupt, and the dialogue has its bumpy moments. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the messages in X-Men: First Class. What do the mutants' struggles have in common with other challenges that people have faced? Why do people tend to fear what is different?

  • What does the movie say about revenge? Is Erik justified in his pursuit of vengeance? Do the ends ever justify the means?

  • What distinguishes the "good guys" and the "bad guys" in this movie? Do any of Shaw's arguments make sense?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 3, 2011
DVD/Streaming release date:September 9, 2011
Cast:James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, Michael Fassbender
Director:Matthew Vaughn
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Run time:132 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:intense sequences of action and violence, some sexual content including brief partial nudity and language

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What parents and kids say

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Parent Written bySuperhero Sci Fi Fan June 6, 2011

Love the previous movies, but this one really put me off.

I should qualify my review by telling you I left after 30 minutes or so. The movie seems to revolve around the sexualization and degradation of women (prostitutes, strippers, many many women in next to nothing). I was so disappointed in this. A friend brought her son and walked out of the movie for this reason. Since she was upset about it, I decided to preview the movie before bringing my son. Glad I did. I saw enough in the first half hour to know I won't be bringing my son. We LOVE the previous X-men movies, so I'm highly disappointed and annoyed with how they did this one.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Adult Written byBeanBrain June 6, 2011

Families like superheros too, so quit trying to turn us away.

The movie plot and special effects were great. Character development was well-done and story line matched my memories of comic books as a kid. BUT once again movie producers worked hard to pander to the natural man as best they could. There was no real reason for underwear-clad prostitutes or several of the other scenes. Don't go thinking that it's just a few innuendos: the director does his best to make me and my family uncomfortable while staying just under the rated-R line.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent of a 11 and 14 year old Written byCSM Screen Name... June 7, 2011

Degradation of women

I'm surprised the reviewer didn't give more detail about the scantily-clad women in this movie. It's not just that they are in lingerie--- it's that the majority of women in this movie are portrayed as prostitutes/hookers. I don't have a problem, necessarily, with my 14 yo son seeing women in lingerie when they are portrayed in positive, healthy relationships-- but these women in the movie were not. Pop culture is rife with this, and I hope we can begin to address the sexualization, degradation, and violence against women in our culture. I think it's silly that we get excited about the F bomb but totally miss the boat on healthy vs unhealthy sexuality.
What other families should know
Too much sex