This X-Men Cartoon Is Better Than the Movies—Here's Where to Watch

Would you believe us if we told you that the best X-Men stories were told not in a massive multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster, but in a cartoon series from the '90s?

X-Men: The Animated Series debuted in 1992, but it still holds up 25 years later, effectively tackling some of the biggest stories from the comics in fun, compelling and engaging 22-minute chunks. Plus, you can watch them all on Hulu—and you don't even have to watch ads between episodes.

The show works whether you're a longtime fan eager to see your favorite characters on new adventures or a total newbie to the X-Men mythos. If you've only seen a couple of the McAvoy-Fassbender-Lawrence X-Men movies, this show is the ultimate refresher course on all things X-Men.

X Men: The Animated Series intro with team running

(X Men: The Animated Series via Marvel Entertainment Group)

Obviously, no cartoon could stay completely faithful to decades of concurrent comic storylines with often contradictory details, but this animated series gets the important stuff right.

While it could easily fall victim to obtrusive exposition, it rarely does, thanks to the introduction of a young teenaged mutant named Jubilee. In the first episode, she meets the X-Men after discovering her powers, and as she learns what it means to live in a world of superpowered beings, so does the audience. It feels natural for Jubilee to discover these truths for the first time alongside us as viewers.

X Men: The Animated Series roundtable

(X Men: The Animated Series via Marvel Entertainment Group)

But the personalities of the mutants themselves are what really make the show work. With nine main characters featured in the title sequence, there's the risk of under-developing them or overcrowding scenes. Still, each one manages to shine on their own.

Plus, it reveals that the X-Men team always had a great balance of women characters just as powerful as their male counterparts. Of the nine characters in the show's intro, four of them are women, and they're all integral to the team. Watch it below—and while we're here, we dare you to listen to the theme without getting it stuck in your head.

These characters feel well-rounded because they have weaknesses and doubts on top of their strengths. Storm may be able to command the weather, but she suffers from claustrophobia. Rogue dreams of falling in love, but she can't so much as touch a boy without draining his energy and endangering his life. In fact, her own super-strength exists only because she stole it from another hero. Over the course of the series, Jean Grey also must combine with a mighty power called the Phoenix Force and ultimately sacrifice herself, and Jubilee struggles with her newfound mutant powers and feeling like a kid, often getting left out of more dangerous and important missions.

X Men: The Animated Series Rogue consoles Jubilee

(X Men: The Animated Series via Marvel Entertainment Group)

These concerns make them feel like real, empathetic people that we actually like. It's possible to become attached to them in the course of a couple of episodes, while we never get to truly know their counterparts in the big-budget movie versions of the same stories.

Speaking of the movies, the animated series even approaches many of the same stories—sometimes more effectively. In the first season alone, it covers the "Days of Future Past" storyline and sees the X-Men face off against Apocalypse.

In both cases, the cartoon X-Men series manages to do more with a couple of 22-minute episodes than the movies do in their entire two and a half-hour runtimes because of the way it establishes its characters and tells its stories succinctly. It also ties the conflicts to personal stakes for characters we already care about. Even if Apocalypse's ultimate goal is world destruction, we actually care when his plans involve enslaving Rogue, first.

And if you have a favorite X-Men character, chances are that they're featured somewhere in the show's five-season run. Along the way, you'll probably discover new characters to adore. Master Mold may just be a gigantic walking, talking Sentinel factory, but he's so, so wise.

Of course, it is a decades-old cartoon, so there are times when the show feels corny and super '90s. Gambit's New Orleans accent and Rogue's Mississippi drawl are way over the top, but over time they become charming, and some of the fight scenes look silly compared to the big action sequences we see in film TV today.

But while Jubilee's yellow lab coat and pink shades might date the show a little, they never seem out of place. The colorful uniforms represent what the X-Men always looked like in the comics. They're the purest version of what the characters were supposed to be before they donned matching black outfits for the movies, and the art style painstakingly mimics the comic book look.

It also feels true to the comics in the representation of its characters. Before we knew Wolverine as a tall and dashing Hugh Jackman-type, he was always a short and stocky wisecracker. We'd love to see that Wolverine in the movies someday.

X Men: The Animated Series Storm, Cyclops and Wolverine with claws out

(X Men: The Animated Series via Marvel Entertainment Group)

At first glance, the animated series might seem a little outdated, but the stories are worth the investment. They never feel like a public service announcement wrapped in a cartoon, and actually deal with morally ambiguous issues through the lens of characters who don't always see eye-to-eye.

There isn't any filler in this show, and the story isn't afraid to push into new territory with each episode. There may be moments where things slow down, but for the most part, this show isn't afraid to pull punches through major gestures like imprisoning mutants for multiple episodes, killing a main character, or even having a wedding.

Now that we've totally sold you on the show, there is a caveat to watching them. If you catch them in the order they appear on Hulu, the story gets super jumbled toward the end. Just click HERE for a properly ordered set of X-Men: The Animated Series episodes.

 

If you're not ready to start binge-watching just yet, click HERE to find out which female superhero you are based on your zodiac sign.