Everyone’s favorite webslinger, Spider-Man, is in an interesting place right now. Caught in the middle of a corporate feud between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios, the famous superhero could find himself removed from the Marvel Cinematic Universe if the studios are unable to reach an agreement regarding the character’s big-screen presence.
With so much of his future in doubt, it seems like a good time to look back on Spider-Man’s past — particularly the eight films that have made him one of Hollywood’s most successful box office heroes of all time. Here’s a ranking of all the Spider-Man movies so far, counting down to his greatest cinematic adventure to date.
Director Marc Webb’s 2014 sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man holds the dubious distinction of being both the worst-reviewed Spider-Man movie in the franchise and the lowest-grossing installment of the live-action films. As such, this was a pretty easy call. An overstuffed adventure that crams in multiple iconic story arcs from the comics while simultaneously introducing not one but three major villains — with a few more tacked on as cameos and Easter Eggs — Amazing Spider-Man 2 managed to drop the ball on just about everything it tried to do.
Perhaps its most amazing feat (titular pun intended) was to somehow miss out on making any of the film’s villains memorable, which can’t be easy when you have Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti portraying two of Spidey’s most colorful foes. A dramatic sequence featuring Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), adapted from one of the character’s most tragic moments, also ended up being one of the film’s worst-kept secrets in the lead-up to its release, dulling one of the few good elements of the movie.
Almost universally regarded as the worst Spider-Man movie until The Amazing Spider-Man 2 came along, Sam Raimi’s 2007 franchise-killer is filled with so-bad-they’re-good scenes that have become the stuff of bad-movie history. From Tobey Maguire’s black-suited, jazz-club dance sequence (see below) to the inexplicable casting of Topher Grace as Eddie Brock, the whining alter ego of Venom, Spider-Man 3 is full of head-scratching creative decisions that are even more conspicuous given the film’s proximity to one of the best installments of the franchise, Spider-Man 2.
To its credit, Spider-Man 3 does offer a memorable performance from Thomas Haden Church as the villain Sandman, even though it was constrained by the CGI of the time. It’s too bad that his character is both underused and so obviously pushed aside in favor of more screen time for a disappointing Venom.
To be fair, Andrew Garfield’s first adventure as Spider-Man is actually a very good one. Although the film labors through the too-soon retelling of Spider-Man’s origin story, Garfield manages to differentiate himself from his predecessor (Maguire) in some clever ways. He’s a leaner, quicker-witted Peter Parker more in line with the modern versions of the character than the original, classic bookworm. Emma Stone also delivers a great performance as Gwen Stacy, and her chemistry with Garfield is better than anything the prior films gave audiences with former franchise stars Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.
Still, despite everything it does well, Amazing Spider-Man falls short with a villain — Rhys Ifans’ Dr. Curt Connors, the reptilian bad guy known as The Lizard — that relies on too much CGI and never feels like an organic part of the story.
The film that started it all, 2002’s Spider-Man defied expectations by doing right by both the character and his fans — something that comic-book movies had been largely unable to do in the years leading up to the film’s premiere. Much like 1978’s Superman made you believe a man could fly, Spider-Man made you believe that a teenage nerd could become a web-shooting, wall-crawling hero.
Director Sam Raimi proved skeptics wrong time and time again with this vision for the character, whose evolution managed to be faithful to his comic-book legacy while also firmly rooted in the modern era. The film was made even better with the presence of Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn, with Dafoe going all-in on his character’s descent into madness as the villain Green Goblin. If there’s any flaw to be found in Spider-Man, it’s that the film feels a bit too much like a product of its time now that we’re living in a “Golden Age” of superhero cinema. It might not hold up as well these days, but without Spider-Man, the movie landscape would look a lot different these days.
Tom Holland’s second solo feature as Spider-Man had a lot to live up to, as it followed on the heels of the MCU’s biggest movie to date: Avengers: Endgame. Not only was it expected to give audiences an understanding of the new, post-Endgame status quo in the MCU, but Far From Home also needed to give Spider-Man an adventure that would stand on its own amid all of the questions that Endgame left in its wake. Fortunately, it succeeded in nearly all of those efforts, and also managed to introduced a compelling new villain in actor Jake Gyllenhaal’s master of illusion, Mysterio.
On the flip side, the scale of Endgame and Spider-Man’s role in the massive crossover left Far From Home feeling a little too small, a little too inconsequential, and a little too open-ended with all of the questions left answered. Despite a great performance from Gyllenhaal, Mysterio also seemed a little less interesting when compared to Spider-Man’s prior foes: Michael Keaton’s nuanced, complicated Vulture and Josh Brolin’s cosmic conqueror Thanos.
The best-reviewed installment of the live-action Spider-Man movies and one of the highest-grossing of those films (in the U.S.) to date, 2004’s Spider-Man 2 perfectly hit just about every note a fan could want. Freed from the confines of telling Spider-Man’s origin story, Sam Raimi gave audiences an exciting, expertly filmed sequel to Spider-Man that added more depth to the famous hero and let the supporting cast carve out unique roles for themselves in Spider-Man’s universe.
Maguire struck just the right balance between Spider-Man’s freewheeling heroism and the sense of responsibility that’s at the root of so many of his defining moments. On top of all that, actor Alfred Molina gave Otto Octavius — a villain that could have easily slipped into silliness — a level of tortured brilliance that made him as terrifying as he was compelling. Raimi and the film’s cast had a tough act to follow after Spider-Man, but this sequel improved on the original in all the ways the second chapter of a saga should.
All the reboot fatigue in the world couldn’t dull the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the webslinger’s first feature film set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Director Jon Watts cleverly sidestepped a retelling of Spider-Man’s origin story and jumped right into the action, casting the ridiculously athletic, gymnastically trained Tom Holland in the lead role and bringing Michael Keaton back to the world of superheroes as the film’s villain, Vulture, a former scrapper turned arms dealer.
Both decisions proved to be brilliant ones, with Holland bringing a level of physicality and youth to the role that neither Maguire nor Garfield ever approached, and Keaton giving audiences one of the MCU’s most complicated villains to date. That the film featured cameos from some of the MCU’s most popular characters was just icing on the cake. Fun, vibrant, and finally feeling at home in the MCU, Homecoming was everything fans hoped for from a Marvel-made Spider-Man movie — and then some.
It might not be set within the MCU or focus on the most famous iteration of Spider-Man, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse just might be the best Spider-Man movie ever made — and one of the greatest superhero movies of all time, too. The 2018 animated feature follows a young Miles Morales as he comes into his own as the new Spider-Man with some help from a group of alternate Spider-heroes from other dimensions.
Into the Spider-Verse currently boasts an impressive 97% positive score on review aggregator RottenTomatoes, while the best-reviewed MCU movie to date, Black Panther, has 96% positive reviews. That says a lot about just how impressive Into the Spider-Verse really is. The film’s visual aesthetic is unlike anything typical to animated features, and it manages to be equal parts heartfelt, exciting, hilarious, and genuinely faithful to everything that has made Spider-Man one of the world’s most popular, enduring superheroes. We vicariously explore the evolution of a hero through Miles’ eyes and experiences alongside the larger-than-life characters around him, and the film’s most important lesson comes through time and time again: When it comes to Spider-Man, anyone can wear the mask.
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