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Spider-Man: every movie villain, ranked

Spider-Man: No Way Home will return to movie theaters in September. With the ridiculous subtitle of “The More Fun Stuff Version,” the film will include added and extended scenes, prompting fans to swarm the multiplex and marvel at the crossover to end all crossovers. Seeing three Spider-Men together is a huge part of No Way Home‘sallure, however, the presence of multiple villains was equally important to the film’s commercial and critical success.

Indeed, the Web Crawler has one of the best group of villains in the superhero genre. They say a hero is only as good as the villain he fights, and Spider-Man is living proof. From Willem Dafoe’s demented Green Goblin to Michael Keaton’s menacing Vulture, the friendly neighborhood’s villains are iconic and a great reminder of why Spider-Man’s films are among the best in the superhero genre … well, most of them, anyway.

Eddie Brock/Venom – Spider-Man 3

Eddie Brock with an evil expression on his face in Spider-Man 3.
Sony Pictures Releasing

Topher Grace is a genuinely funny guy. His work in That ’70s Show is proof enough, and later performances in the underrated Take Me Home Tonight and Home Economics confirmed it. However, it’s undeniable that he was miscast as Eddie Brock in 2007’s Spider-Man 3.

Grace lacks the imposing physique to portray Brock convincingly, especially considering director Sam Raimi went the bully route with his take on the character. Furthermore, Grace seems uncomfortable in the action scenes and, try as he might, he just can’t sell Brock’s transformation from regular jerk to superpowered one. Spider-Man 3 is already overflowing with characters and plot points; getting rid of Brock, a character who contributes nothing in the end, seems like a no-brainer.

Max Dillon/Electro – The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Electro looking surprised while on Times Square in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx brought Max Dillon, aka Electro, to life in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. He gives the best performance straight out of a 1985 movie; the only problem is his film was made in 2014. Foxx’s character is a combination of silly tropes and clichés that seem even more outdated in the actor’s hands.

Electro is a visually interesting villain whose powers translate well to the big screen. However, the film has no interest in developing his character, instead settling for using him as a mere plot device, and not a very good one. Foxx is clearly having fun with the role, but it’s not enough to elevate the character or his performance, especially considering the great villains the Web Crawler faced in the Raimi trilogy.

Harry Osborn/Green Goblin – The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Green Goblin in battle in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Not happy with having one villain, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 introduced another in the form of Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn. Driven mad by the serum that was supposed to cure him, DeHaan’s Harry goes from Peter’s friend to the Green Goblin in a matter of seconds.

The transformation is clumsy, rushed, and unnecessary; it feels unearned, especially in a film already struggling with multiple plotlines, many of which dangerously dangle on the edge of nonsense. DeHaan gives it his all, and the film has some intriguing ideas about the Goblin’s design and purpose. Alas, this version of the Green Goblin can’t help but pale compared to Willem Dafoe’s perfect portrayal of the iconic villain.

Flint Marko/Sandman – Spider-Man 3 & Spider-Man: No Way Home

Sandman looking up while at the sewers in Spider-Man 3.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Tragic villains can be compelling when given enough attention and development. Spider-Man 3 tries too hard to sell Flint Marko as a victim of circumstance, delivering a message as subtle as a hammer to the head. Marko’s storyline comes with enough saccharine to provoke diabetes, but he’s still the best villain in the movie. Thomas Haden Church puts on his sad puppy face throughout the entire film, and the VFX are convincing enough to sell the overall performance.

Haden Church returned for Spider-Man: No Way Home. He has nothing to do except offer the occasional commentary and serve as another threat for the climax. Still, he makes enough of an impression to be memorable, which is a triumph in and of itself, considering who his scene partners are.

Curt Connors/Lizard – The Amazing Spider-Man

Lizard subdues Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Give some respect to the Lizard. As one of Spider-Man’s most underrated villains, the Lizard hardly ever receives the attention he deserves. However, he is among the Web Crawler’s most complex and tragic enemies, a contradictory figure who serves as a dark contrast to the cheery Spider-Man.

The equally underrated Rhys Ifans portrays Curt Connors, aka the Lizard, in The Amazing Spider-Man, and he knocks it out of the park. His scenes with Andrew Garfield are perfect, with the two settling into the mentor-mentee relationship with quick ease. And while the film falls into tired monster tropes once Connor transforms into the Lizard, Ifans’ eccentricities as a performer still shine through, even when the plot is no longer interested in them. Lizard has nothing to do in No Way Home, but his short intervention there doesn’t take away from his previous performance.

Adrian Toomes/Vulture – Spider-Man: Homecoming

Adrian Toomes leaning against a table in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

After his richly deserved and long overdue Oscar nomination for Birdman, Michael Keaton played the villain in an MCU movie. The iconic actor brought his delightful brand of deranged charisma to his take on Adrian Toomes in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first Spidey film under the MCU umbrella.

Keaton’s Toomes is the ultimate working man, hustling his way to the top of the ladder. His role might seem small-scale, but it fits within the context of Peter’s journey at the time. Furthermore, Keaton’s Toomes shines a light on a segment of society that few MCU films worry about. The Vulture isn’t really a villain, but he’s very much an antagonist. Keaton walks a fine line between simple seriousness and genuine menace, enhanced by the creepy smile that’s become his calling card.

Quentin Beck/Mysterio – Spider-Man: Far From Home

Mysterio with his helmet off in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Marvel Studios / Marvel Studios

The MCU always chooses great actors for its villains, even if it doesn’t always know what to do with them. However, Jake Gyllenhaal was up to the task, playing Quentin Beck as the ultimate showman. The Oscar nominee delighted in playing an inventor whose pride got wounded, delivering a performance that was equal parts style and substance.

Mysterio has possibly the best powers out of any Spidey villain. Spider-Man: Far From Home makes absolutely no sense — seriously, the plot has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese — but Mysterio’s abilities make for excellent action sequences. His attack on Spider-Man ranks as arguably the best and most creative display of powers in any MCU film.

Doctor Octopus – Spider-Man 2 & Spider-Man: No Way Home

Doctor Octopus smiling while talking in Spider-Man 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Alfred Molina gave the performance of a lifetime in Spider-Man 2. As Otto Octavius, Molina was heartbreaking and menacing, a tragic villain if ever there was one. Spider-Man 2 is all about identity and the struggle between duty and purpose, themes perfectly brought to life by Doctor Octopus. At the core of Octavius’ characterization is a heartfelt love story, the remains of a man trying to fill the void of a broken heart. Octavius’ journey mirrors Peter’s, with the two fighting for self-discovery and relying on one basic idea to try to bring order out of the chaos of their lives.

Octavius returns in Far From Home, bringing some much-needed gravitas to the story. Molina remains as compelling as ever, wearing Octavius’ confusion and pain on his sleeve. Doctor Octopus is one of the best characters in Raimi’s trilogy, but Molina’s performance elevated him into one of the all-time best figures in the Marvel Universe.

Norman Osborn/Green Goblin – Spider-Man & Spider-Man: No Way Home

Green Goblin choking Spider-Man.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy was a game-changer for the superhero genre. It was the perfect proof that a film about individuals in tights could still find enough heart to explore the human condition beyond the basic good-guy-punches-bad-guy premise. Surprisingly, the first entry in the series, Spider-Man, uses the bad guy to prove its main thesis.

Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is the antithesis of Spider-Man, the result of “with great power comes great responsibility” gone wrong. Dafoe relishes in the Goblin’s lunacy, shining in the moments where Norman speaks to his evil other self. Spider-Man is as interested in Norman’s psyche as it is in Peter’s, to the story’s ultimate benefit. Dafoe’s Goblin returns in No Way Home, picking up the story where the 2002 film left it and proving that some things are impervious to time. Dafoe is as good now as he was 20 years ago, thanks to his understanding of the character. In Dafoe’s hands, the Goblin never feels cartoonish despite his healthy dose of over-the-top behavior. On the contrary, he is dangerous and thrilling, the perfect foe for a humble hero like Spider-Man.

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David Caballero
Freelance Writer
David is a Mexican freelance writer with a deep appreciation for words. After three years in the cold world of Marketing…
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