Split image Patrick stewart Hugh Jackman

Each year, 13 May marks X-Men Day, a day dedicated to celebrating mutantkind.

We’re honouring the occasion this year by revisiting the battle between two X-Men icons (and several Spider-Man ones) for the record of longest career as a live action Marvel character.

Hugh Jackman, who plays the character Wolverine, and Sir Patrick Stewart, who plays Professor X, were the first record holders.

They were jointly awarded the title after appearing in Logan (2017), 16 years 228 days after debuting as the characters in X-Men (2000).

The record title was worded slightly differently back then; it was 'longest career as a live action Marvel superhero'. However, 'superhero' was later modified to 'character' in order to encompass anti-heroes, villains, and side characters.

Hugh Jackman certificate

Hugh was awarded his certificate in 2019 on the set of ITV’s This Morning by Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday, where he revealed that breaking a record had been his childhood dream.

"When I was a kid, the Guinness Book of Records was it," he said.

However, in 2021, Jackman and Stewart had their records snatched away from them by a trio of Spider-Man stars: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe and J.K. Simmons.

They all appeared in Spider-Man (2002), then reprised their roles 19 years 225 days later, in Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). In between, they also featured in Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007).

Their much-rumoured return to the franchise was all but confirmed by No Way Home’s trailer, which featured numerous references to past Spider-Man films, such as Green Goblin’s pumpkin bomb and an appearance from Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus.

It was so popular that it became the world’s most viewed movie trailer in 24 hours, racking up 355.5 million global views. The record was previously held by Avengers: Endgame with 289 million views.

Molina also earned a record for himself, for the longest gap between character appearances in Marvel films. 17 years 170 days separated his appearances as Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2 and No Way Home.

Patrick Stewart receiving his Guinness World Records certificate in 2017

Patrick Stewart’s appearance in Logan was presumed by many to be the final time he played Professor X, due to Stewart’s advanced age and the fact that his character was killed during the film.

However, five years later, aged 82, he took up the mantle once more, appearing in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022).

In doing so, his career as a live-action Marvel character increased to a total of 21 years 296 days, retaking the record from the Spider-Man actors.

Just as Patrick Stewart extended his record by appearing in a non-X-Men film, Hugh Jackman will likely win the record back by doing the same.

Jackman is set to return as Wolverine in Deadpool 3, due for release on 8 November 2024. His record would then stand at 24 years 119 days.

After this, the record could perhaps be put beyond reach for anyone else, unless Patrick Stewart re-emerges to one up his former castmate again.

There are, however, several other actors who could put themselves into contention if they remain part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in years to come.

Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor, first entered the MCU in 2011. His latest appearance came in Thor: Love and Thunder (2022). Although his 11-year career currently pales in comparison to Jackman’s and Stewart’s, Thor is one of the only original Avengers still alive, and he remains one of the most popular, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he continues for another decade.

Samuel L. Jackson is another contender – he first played Nick Fury in Iron Man (2008) and will reprise his role in The Marvels (2023). The character has popped up many times in numerous Marvel films and TV shows, and he doesn't seem to be done yet. However, now aged 74, Jackson may have retirement on his mind soon.

Of course, other obvious contenders include the rest of the cast from X-Men (2000), who would only need to act as their character one more time after the release of Deadpool 3 in order to snatch the record. These actors include Sir Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, James Marsden and Famke Janssen, just to name a few.

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