Roger Ebert   **½
The X-Men is seen by many people as backing the rights of many different minority groups. It was first published in 1963, right in the middle of the American civil rights movement. By the year 2000, the minority group that was battling for its rights in America was the gay community. In one of the first scenes there was a hearing about having mutant register. A McCarthy-like character says "I have here a list of names of identified mutants living right here in the United States." He goes on to say "The truth is that mutants are very real and they are among us. We must know who they are."
On Ian McKellen's website, he said in an interview:
"When Bryan Singer first talked to me about X-Men he explained the Xavier/Magneto axis in terms of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. It's true that each civil rights movement splits between the integrationists and separationists : the proponents of non-violence versus violent activism. I have noted that amongst activists in the gay rights movement. Some of us move between the various approaches, me included. Any member of a minority facing discrimination can relate to the mutants' dilemma. So before I ever saw the comic, I knew what would be central to the film script - an ever-relevant political argument. That attracted me as a gay man and as an actor."
Bryan Singer, the director and writer, - who is gay - was attracted to the movies by the idea of persecuted minorities. He is also Jewish and as an adopted child is also searching for his true identity -- which is why he focused on, and identified with, Wolverine in particular.
Ian McKellen was also attracted to the X-Men movies by its symbolism for struggling minorities. And Singer said he would often direct McKellen with a gay reference. In an interview in Total Film magazine (issue 44, September 2000), Singer was asked how he got the actors to find their characters (they were not allowed to read the comics), and he responded: "You find tricks and ways of getting them to speak, or intellectually: 'Look, Ian, this is a society of people who want to wipe out homosexuals. What do you feel about that?' There's ways to do it."
In the same interview, Singer says: "The idea about reluctant superheroes, born the way they are, searching for acceptance in a world that hates and fears them, it's interesting. It's what every adolescent experiences at one point or another. It's what I experience every day."
Producer Lauren Schuler Donner said in the same magazine article: "Thematically there's a lot to relate to. It's about oppression. It's about prejudice, it could be the Jews in World War Two, it could be gay people."