In 1944, in a Polish death camp, Nazi scientist Dr. Klaus Schmidt witnesses a young Erik Lehnsherr bend a metal gate with his mind when the child is separated from his mother. In his office, Schmidt orders Lehnsherr to move a coin on his desk, and kills the boy’s mother when Lehnsherr cannot. In grief and anger, Lehnsherr’s magnetic power manifests, killing two guards and destroying the room. Meanwhile, at a mansion in Westchester County, New York, child telepath Charles Xavier meets young shapeshifter Raven, whose natural form is blue-skinned and scaly. Overjoyed to meet someone else “different”, he invites her to live with his family as his foster sister.
In 1962, Lehnsherr is tracking down Schmidt, while Xavier graduates from the University of Oxford. In Las Vegas, CIA officer Moira MacTaggert follows U.S. Army Colonel Hendry into the Hellfire Club, where she sees Schmidt (now known as Sebastian Shaw), with mutant telepath Emma Frost, cyclone-producing Riptide, and teleporter Azazel. Threatened by Shaw and teleported by Azazel to the Joint War Room, Hendry advocates deployment of nuclear missiles in Turkey. Shaw, an energy-absorbing mutant whose powers have de-aged him, later kills Hendry.
MacTaggert, seeking Xavier’s advice on mutation, takes him and Raven to the CIA, where they convince Director McCone that mutants exist and Shaw is a threat. Another CIA officer sponsors the mutants and invites them to the secret “Division X” facility. MacTaggert and Xavier find Shaw as Lehnsherr is attacking him, and rescue Lehnsherr from drowning, while Shaw escapes. Xavier brings Lehnsherr to Division X, where they meet young scientist Hank McCoy, a mutant with prehensile feet, who believes Raven’s DNA may provide a “cure” for their appearance. Xavier uses McCoy’s mutant-locating device Cerebro to seek recruits against Shaw. Xavier and Lehnsherr recruit stripper Angel Salvadore, cabbie Armando Muñoz, Army prisoner Alex Summers, and runaway Sean Cassidy. They all create nicknames, and Raven dubs herself “Mystique”.