Although the magical Hogwarts adventures of Harry Potter and the super villaininfested New York City of Spider-Man are worlds apart, the two franchises have a common history in this century. The first Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, arrived in theaters in November 2001. Six months later, Spider-Man marked his big-screen debut in May 2002. Both film series went on to be among the highest-grossing franchises ever.
There isn’t a true rivalry between Spider-Man and Harry Potter fans in the way that fans would pit comic book heroes against each other. Comic book crossovers actually exist that have put Spider-Man in stories opposite Superman and Batman, the only superheroes who are on his level or beyond. A Spider-Man and Harry Potter crossover is unlikely to ever happen outside the realm of fan fiction, but their similar history makes it an intriguing matchup. So we’ve decided to compare them in five key categories in order to determine who would be the winner in a Spider-Man versus Harry Potter battle.
When Peter Parker was a teenager in the comics, he could have easily passed as a Harry Potter lookalike. Like Harry, Peter wore glasses, he was nerdy, and kind of gangly. Getting bitten by a radioactive spider changed all that, and Peter quickly got the superhero body type to go along with his new powers. Between superhuman strength, speed, and agility, a “spider-sense” to warn him about danger, and the ability to stick to almost any wall or surface, Peter hit the jackpot in the superpower lottery.
Harry’s gift is that he has a natural aptitude for magic, and an almost innate understanding of how to cast spells. Harry may not have gone through all seven years of training at Hogwarts, but he established himself as one of the top wizards in the world. While that wouldn’t make Harry the physical equal of Peter, it would definitely give him a real chance to prevail in any hypothetical one-on-one battle.
In terms of personality, Harry and Peter also share certain traits, including altruism and compassion, even for their enemies. They have both been reluctant heroes at certain points in their lives, but they have also risen to the occasion time and time again. Because of his inherent powers, Peter gets the edge here. But it was a closer call than expected.
Spider-Man was one Marvel’s first new heroes during the Silver Age of comics in 1962, and he became the flagship character for the company. Since then, there have been thousands of Spider-Man comics across the decades, as Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s signature creation won fans around the world.
J.K. Rowling’s first novel, which was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K, was originally published in 1997 before it sparked a worldwide fandom and six sequels. The success of these books can’t be overstated, as each subsequent release was treated like the premiere of a blockbuster movie, with midnight release parties and other events. The phenomenon continued for 10 years, through the release of the seventh and final novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in 2007. There have been some subsequent Potter-related books and spinoffs, including the script of the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. But none of the follow-ups have matched the intense popularity of the initial Pottermania.
There have also been Spider-Man novels, as Marvel licensed the character out to book publishers in an attempt to expand the audience. But none of them have come anywhere close to the success of the Harry Potter novels. The one thing that Spider-Man has over Harry Potter is that the comics are an ongoing narrative that may never end. But this also means that Spider-Man’s adventures are chronicled by multiple writers, and that definitely hurts the quality. The current run of Amazing Spider-Man comics is particularly hated by fans, and a black mark on the title character’s long history. Harry Potter doesn’t have to worry about that. Since Harry’s story is finished, his legacy is secure.
Winner: Harry Potter
At the moment, there are eight live-action Spider-Man movies and eight Harry Potter films, not counting spinoffs. There were also theatrical releases for a few of The Amazing Spider-Man TV episodes from the ’70s, but those don’t really count either. It seems fitting that the two franchises have the exact number of films to compare, although this will surely change whenever Marvel and Sony line up their plans for the next Spider-Man adventure on the big screen. Whether another Harry Potter movie ever materializes remains to be seen.
Unlike the Potter films, the Spider-Man movies have undergone two complete reboots in the last two decades. In 2012, Andrew Garfield succeeded Tobey Maguire in the lead role in The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel. When The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was rejected by audiences, that paved the way for Spidey to enter the MCU in 2016 with Tom Holland debuting in the role in Captain America: Civil War before starring in his own successful Spider-Man trilogy.
Harry Potter has the edge in this category because none of the eight films flopped and the original cast was largely able to stay together. It didn’t need a mid-series reboot. The spinoffs are another matter entirely, since the Fantastic Beasts franchise is dead in the water. But that failure can’t be placed at Harry’s feet.
Winner: Harry Potter
The early Harry Potter movies had the benefit of landing one of the greatest living film composers: John Williams, who lent his unmatched talents to the franchise and created an iconic theme that has become a recurring part of the entire Wizarding World. Spider-Man’s first composer, Danny Elfman, is no slouch himself, and a strong argument can be made that he is also one of the all-time greats in the realm of film music. For Spider-Man, Elfman gave the Wallcrawler a terrific theme of his own that carried through the Sam Raimi-directed trilogy, although composer Christopher Young tagged in to score Spider-Man 3.
After the initial trilogies, the musical matchup becomes easier to decide. Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper, and Alexandre Desplat scored the five remaining Harry Potter films. The two Amazing Spider-Man movies were scored by James Horner and Hans Zimmer, both of whom are also among the top composers. More recently, Michael Giacchino gave the MCU Spider-Man movies their own musical identity before masterfully blending themes from all of the previous movies in Spider-Man: No Way Home. With that kind of musical firepower, there’s no topping Spidey.
Since Spider-Man video games go back 40 years to the Atari 2600, the sheer number of titles in the ensuing decades means that the Harry Potter games will likely never catch up to that total. So to be fair, we’ll limit our comparison between the two to the most recent video games in each franchise: Hogwarts Legacy and Spider-Man 2.
Hogwarts Legacy has been well-received by Harry Potter fans, and the game cleverly sidesteps the events of the books and films by setting its story almost 100 years prior. That allows gamers to get the Hogwarts experience without the expectations of dealing with the previously established story. Critics have largely given the game good reviews, while also pointing out that it isn’t a particularly innovative title.
By contrast, Spider-Man 2 has already been hailed as one of the best superhero games ever made and was a strong contender for Game of the Year. The game lets players control either Peter Parker or Miles Morales as they find their friendship sorely tested when Peter is bonded with the Venom symbiote. It’s simply a fantastic game on every level that surpasses all previous Spidey titles, even the previous Spider-Man video game that was released in 2018. So in this head-to-head category, there’s a clear winner.
With a score of 3-2, we declare that Spider-Man is the victor in the head-to-head matchup with Harry Potter.
- All the Spider-Man actors in order
- 5 best animated movies of 2023, ranked
- 10 best Netflix movies to watch after Thanksgiving
- The best MCU sequels, ranked
- One of 2023’s best-reviewed movies is now on Netflix. Here’s why you should watch it