I am confused and curious about the meaning of "First Class" in X-Men: First Class. What does it refer to?
They're the "first class" of Xavier's school for gifted youngsters, as well as the "first class" of the X-Men.
With regards to the title being some sort of pun intended to denote the characters as "high quality", I'm going to argue that it's not and is simply intended to indicate they are the first class of both Charles' school and the X-Men.
From the section on the film's development on Wikipedia:
As producer Simon Kinberg read the comic series X-Men: First Class, he suggested studio 20th Century Fox to adapt it. Kinberg, however, did not want to follow the comic too much, as he felt "it was not fresh enough in terms of storytelling", considering them too similar to Twilight and John Hughes movies, and also because the producers wanted an adaptation that would introduce new characters. Both Kinberg and Shuler Donner said that they wanted characters with visuals and powers that had not been seen and that worked well as an ensemble, even if they did not work together in the comics. Shuler Donner later said that the original idea was to green-light First Class depending on the success of X-Men Origins: Magneto. That project was seeking approval to film in Washington, D.C., and by December 2008, Goyer said filming would begin if X-Men Origins: Wolverine was successful. The story was moved forward to 1962, and involves Xavier and Magneto battling a villain.
Given they're also referencing the previously intended Origins series of the X-Men franchise, this would further indicate that "first class" is merely intended to convey that the cast of characters involved are merely the first X-Men.
Additional research on the comic series X-Men: First Class mentioned in the excerpt would indicate that the comic follows the early adventures of the very first X-Men team.
As such, the title of the movie shares its name with the title of a short run comic series, which was designed to detail the exploits of the "first class" of the X-Men team. Any inference of the term "first class" to indicate a high level of quality would therefore seem to be either inaccurate, personal interpretation, or both, but certainly not an intended pun.
2Isn't there "class one" etc of mutant's power classification? Any information if the title is referring to that?– A J ♦Mar 6, 2018 at 5:33
5No. Only the films use numeration to classify mutant powers and when this notion is first introduced in 'The Last Stand', Castillo states that Magneto (and Pyro) are the only mutants in the room above 'Class 3' (it is later stated that Jean is the only 'Class 5' mutant they have ever come across so its a safe assumption that Eric and John are 'Class 4'). Eric is clearly a central member of the 'First Class' in Vaughn's film so MattD's answer is absolutely correct. Mar 6, 2018 at 5:43
2You've just used “first class” twice in the answer, without explaining either time what the phrase means. Mar 6, 2018 at 19:52
1I figured this answer was to be taken literally as in they are the first class as supposed to the second.– MattMar 6, 2018 at 20:09
3What's necessary to explain what "first class" means? Some appear to be taking it as a pun, but I honestly don't see it as much of a pun. They go to a school for mutants that also happens to end up being the home of the X-Men, so they're the "first class" of students at the school and thus the "first class" of X-Men. Given how hodgepodge they are as a team, I'd hardly infer it's meant to refer to them as "high quality". They're very much rough around the edges.– MattDMar 6, 2018 at 20:23
It's a pun.
'First-class' as in 'excellent' or 'high quality', and "first class" as in they are the initial group of students.
5This should be the accepted answer. It's basically the same that MattD's answer (most voted at the time of writing this) but this one actually explains the different meanings. Also, it explicitely states that it's a play on words.– xDaizuMar 6, 2018 at 11:50
7It's not a pun. They are the first class of X-Men. Mar 6, 2018 at 17:27
11@Michael Can you provide anything to support that claim? A line from the movie? A statement from the director/writer/cast member? The movie was about the first class of X-Men that Xavier trained. There's no pun there. You simply stating it doesn't make it so. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is about the origin of the X-Man known as Wolverine. Me saying that it's a pun meaning Wolverine is more original than the other X-Men doesn't make that the case either Mar 6, 2018 at 17:38
6@iandotkelly It is generally considered good question form on most, if not all, stack exchange sites to provide some sort of citation/evidence for an answer. The onus of evidence is on the one providing the answer. Furthermore, it's not, in my opinion, a reasonable interpretation. A pun is a joke based on a play on words. Where is the joke? If this was a parody and the "heroes" were all losers or something, calling it a punt might make sense. As is, it's just some coincidence in the words possible meanings that Michael noticed Mar 6, 2018 at 19:49
3@Kevin I would always encourage someone to include references, quotations from the movie or from writers and directors - but you and I are going to have to disagree with the reasonableness of an interpretation that it was intended as a pun. It was my interpretation as well. Yeah, its a mild joke, hardly side splitting - a play on words that it means both a class of students and that they are the best– iandotkelly ♦Mar 6, 2018 at 19:51