Spider-Man is an absolute powerhouse of a superhero. Combining relatable wit, a youthful exuberance, and a litany of abilities unmatched by others, Peter Parker’s alter-ego has made for many a memorable film throughout the decades. With Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse set to become a summer blockbuster, we thought it was a great time to count down the greatest movies starring the character that have ever been made. We have to make sure we clarify a few things first: the only movies on this list will be ones in which Spider-Man is the main character. So even though Spider-Man appears in other Marvel films, if he’s not in the title card, it’s not his movie. We’re also not including any foreign interpretations or TV movies on this list. Let’s begin!
Everything people disliked about the first Amazing Spider-Man film was heightened in this sequel. Peter Parker digs deeper into his familial history while battling with Jamie Foxx’s version of Electro, a rivalry that many felt was uninspired compared to other conflicts in the Spider-Man universe. This was the last Spider-Man film before the character got incorporated into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).
The third Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie is a disappointing night-cap to the first two legendary films. Too many villains, uneven characterization of Peter Parker, and an unclear vision of what the film was trying to accomplish made this one an unpopular film in the Spider-Man canon. One of the positives of the film is the continued excellence of J.K. Simmons in the role of J. Jonah Jameson.
The first Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movie is a mixed bag, but it may not be as bad as some fans make it out to be. Emma Stone provides good chemistry with Garfield, and his interpretation of the character’s arrogance is a nice change of pace from the subdued nature displayed by Tobey Maguire. The movie feels somewhat inconsequential in the grand scheme of the Spider-Man story, though, something that was corrected in future movies with Tom Holland.
Spider-Man: Far From Home has severe middle-child syndrome. People often overlook this film’s stylish and scenic European location and great villain work by Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio. Spider-Man has to juggle the struggles of high school life with his friends while on a field trip with the burden of being part of the Avengers. This film was also a perfect prelude to Avengers: Endgame.
Of all of the Spider-Man movies that have come out, Spider-Man: No Way Home was the biggest spectacle. Bringing together all three of the actors who have played the web-flinger since the turn of the century, the film felt like a fan fiction brought to life, for better or worse. Villains such as Doc Ock and the Green Goblin returned to the picture as well to form a true mega-flick. We can only wonder what the MCU will do with Peter Parker from here.
When Marvel decided to reboot Spider-Man for the MCU, there was obviously some trepidation over yet another reworked version of the character. But with Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr.’s chemistry at the forefront of the film, Spider-Man: Homecoming became one of the best movies in the entire Marvel universe. Peter Parker uses a lot more of his comic book wit in this movie, something longtime fans loved. Zendaya provides excellent supporting acting as Spidey’s love interest, and her real-life romance with Holland probably helps to make the relationship on the screen more authentic.
Some might argue that the second Sam Raimi film in the franchise, Spider-Man 2, is even greater than the original. We’ll still take the first one on the grounds of how revolutionary it was, but there’s no escaping how entertaining and thrilling this follow-up is. Expanding Peter Parker’s story with a brand new villain (Doc Ock played by Alfred Molina), Spider-Man 2 explores themes like arrogance, family, betrayal, and morality. The fight scenes are even grander than before, and other characters like MJ (Kirsten Dunst) and Harry Osborn (James Franco) are fleshed out in greater detail. The iconic train rescue scene is always instantly re-watchable, too. This is how you make a sequel!
Every hero can find his or her origins in a comic book, right? So why don’t more movie adaptations celebrate the authenticity of their heroes’ creations? Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse demonstrates the greatness that lies in animated storytelling. The movie follows Miles Morales as he explores his responsibility amongst many other Spider-Men in the multiverse of like-named heroes. Putting Black heroes at the forefront of the story is an incredibly important decision here, as well. As we talked about in the intro, the sequel in summer of 2023 is sure to expand on all of the madness and beautiful graphics used in this film.
Director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man is an absolute masterclass in hero plotting and characterization over 20 years after its release. From the innocence and genuine authenticity of Tobey Maguire in the role of Peter Parker, to the creepy villainy of Norman Osborn/Green Goblin depicted by Willem Dafoe, this movie still has the best casting of any Spider-Man movie. From an even larger-scale legacy perspective, the MCU probably wouldn’t exist without this film. Spider-Man proved there was an audience for superhero movies as summer blockbusters, that the special effects and the time and energy used by directors and actors towards these projects could turn into something truly special. With great power comes great responsibility, and this version of the character has carried that load for two decades and counting!
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