It's hard to believe, but the upcoming film Logan will be the tenth film in the X-Men movie franchise. The series kicked off in 2000 with X-Men, which is largely credited for starting the modern superhero movie phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down today (four of the top ten films at the box office in 2016 were superhero movies). But Logan looks unlike any X-Men movie that's come before it in both tone and content, leading fans to wonder where Logan fits in the X-Men movie timeline.
If there's one criticism many people have with the X-Men films, it's that the movies' timeline makes zero sense. Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has maintained cohesiveness and consistency across their 14 (and counting) films, the X-Men movies have done a number of soft reboots, killed and brought back characters, changed characters' ages, and even deliberately messed with the timeline — though it's worth saying that the timeline was already seriously messed up before anyone decided to use time manipulation as a plot point. Also, a number of the films feature flashbacks and scenes that take place further in the past, but I'll be focusing on each film's present timeline for its setting. So as near as I can figure it, here's the order in which everything occurs.
X-Men: First Class
This film, which takes place in the early 1960s, depicts the formation of the X-Men by a young Charles Xavier and Eric Lehnsherr. Logan makes a cameo as a bar patron with no interest in joining the group.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Although it starts with Logan's birth in the 1800s, the bulk of the movie takes place in the mid to late 1970s, and features Wolverine's past (and a version of Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool that is later discredited) as a government assassin with the Weapon X program.
Taking place in 1983, this is the first film in the "rebooted" universe after the events of Days of Future Past, when the timeline became reset. It features young versions of Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Storm, and Logan cameos as a prisoner at a Weapon X facility — possibly negating the events of Origins.
The first film in the series takes place in the early 2000s, and features the X-Men (namely Storm, Cyclops, and Jean Grey) battling Magneto. Wolverine is introduced as an amnesiac cage fighter in Canada, who ends up joining the team.
X2: X-Men United
A direct sequel to X-Men, the franchise was still observing continuity at this point. In it, Wolverine starts to learn about his mysterious past, which will later be revealed in Origins.
X-Men: The Last Stand
The third film produced in the series, this movie features the deaths of Jean Grey, Cyclops, and even Professor X; and the loss of Magneto's powers. Wolverine is still a committed member of the X-Men at this time.
Taking place chronologically after The Last Stand around 2015, Wolverine takes a leave from the X-Men and explores more of his past in Japan. He loses his claws in the film's climactic battle. Then, at the end of the film, a re-powered Magneto and a very much alive Professor X show up saying they need Logan's help as a way to lead into Days of Future Past. It's not explained why Professor X is alive, or why Magneto has his powers back.
More of a spinoff than anything, the fourth wall-breaking film features a completely new version of Deadpool than the one seen in Origins, with an entirely new origin story. It does, however, feature some X-Men, with a new version of Colossus not seen in other films and new character Negasonic Teenage Warhead. It takes place in the present day, around 2016.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Although the end of The Wolverine seemed to lead right into this film, it actually takes place years later in a post-apocalyptic world, around the year 2023. Wolverine inexplicably has his claws again, but the X-Men are being killed off by an army of robot Sentinels. Kitty Pryde possesses a new time-traveling ability that allows the X-Men to continue fighting this battle while they try to figure out a way to survive longterm. They decide to use Kitty's powers to send Logan's consciousness back into his 1973 body, where he teams up with the First Class-era X-Men to prevent the founding of the Sentinel program. He succeeds, which somehow results in resetting the timeline, even bringing Cyclops and Jean Grey back to life in a now-peaceful 2023.
Logan takes place further in the future, and proves that the timeline-resetting did little to ensure the world would be a safe place for mutants. Director James Mangold told Comicbook.com that the film is set in 2029, meaning that just six years after the new present of Days of Future Past, nearly all mutants have been wiped out once again, Logan has aged and his powers have deteriorated, and Professor X's mind has begun to break down due to old age. It seems like a lot for just six years, but compared to the other X-Men movies, it's definitely plausible.
Logan takes place further in the future than any X-Men movie so far, which hopefully should allow it to avoid the many plot contradictions that have plagued the franchise.