From Web-Head and Wall-Crawler to Menace, Spider-Man has about as many nicknames as he does feature films over the past two decades. He is easily one of the most recognized superheroes from Marvel Comics and the comic book collective as a whole. Through the years, multiple actors have taken on the mantle in propelling this beloved character onto the silver screen.
Spider-Man and his web-slinging adventures may have kept audiences thrilled for the past twenty-odd years, but not all of these films have fared well over time. Since the emergence of Spider-Man in cinematic form, discussion of the quality of each iteration has quickly set discussion boards ablaze. While some of these heroes might be described as amazing, the same cannot be said for all films.
The debate over the “best” and “worst” of Spider-Man is bound to continue as even more films are released (Audiences can look forward to two sequels to the Academy Award-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse –Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is set for release in this year, followed by Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse in 2024).
In the meantime, however, here are the Spider-Man movies, ranked.
Updated May 12, 2023: If you’re a fan of the Spider-Menace, you’ll be happy to know that this article was recently updated by long-time fan Amanda Minchin in order to keep up with the ongoing franchise.
12 Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Unlike the other two films in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, it’s hard to dig into Spider-Man 3. There’s just too much going on in the final leg of a series, which was supposed to be a distinguished finale to Tobey Maguire’s inaugural run.
A Spider-Manmovie is only as strong as its villain, and Spider-Man 3 has one heck of a villain problem. There was a clear-cut opportunity for the plot of the film to strictly focus on Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), Harry Osborn (James Franco), and the generational transfer of the Green Goblin mantle from father to son. Keeping it simple would have allowed the franchise to conclude with Parker being forced to face off against his closest friend, a fitting bookend indeed.
Unfortunately, the studio had other plans. Instead of following a singular plot line, two more villains are brought into the picture. Raimi had always wanted to adapt Sandman as he was a fan of what the character’s powers could look like on screen. At the same time, Sony and Spider-Man producer Avi Arad forced the filmmaker to also include the popular villain Venom as well (even though Raimi was not a fan of the character). From there, Spider-Man 3 begins to crumble under the weight of its intermeshed plots, causing the attempt to show Peter Parker’s life as even more complicated to fall flat.
This threequel is also out of touch with the rest of Maguire’s time as Parker in that isolates itself from what the character of Spider-Man is meant to represent. While the reaction to Spider-Man 3 has softened over time, it certainly feels like a step-down from Raimi’s two previous entries.
11 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
After New York City suffers under the siege of Oscorp, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is asked to step up and become the hero that the city needs. Unfortunately, he’s a bit preoccupied by his infatuation with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Throughout the film, Parker struggles with the responsibility of being Spider-Man while still protecting those whom he cares about the most.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a polarizing title among Spider-Man fans, and not just because of the pre-leaked death of one of its main characters. Sony’s heavy interference created a rift between the studio and the story attempting to be told by director Marc Webb. As melancholic as Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin may have been, he was an odd choice for such a prominent villain. Jaime Foxx’s Electro feels like he was written in for the sake of including yet another looming threat.
Shailene Woodley was cast as Mary Jane Watson but was cut from the finished movie, in hopes of setting up spin-off projects like the Sinister Six (which never wound up happening). The final cut of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 attempted to marry too much together, making it an overcrowded and busy mess.
10 Venom (2018)
Sony kicked off the release of its Villains of the Spider-Verse with Venom in 2018, and with good reason. Not only had the IP been previously introduced to the Spider-Man cinematic universe in the ill-fated Spider-Man 3, but the character of Venom was dynamic, edgy, and suitable for a more modern audience.
In 2007, the role of Venom had been played by Topher Grace, hot off the last season of That ’70s Show. Despite his performance, the film suffered from one too many plot dynamics (including a laughably Goth Peter Parker). Fans and the studio alike hoped that a stand-alone movie for the character would help to solve this problem, and in that, they were partially right. This new, more gritty version of the character was played by Tom Hardy, who brought a sort of odd-couple chemistry to the role as the titular antihero of Eddie Brock, a failing journalist who becomes one with an alien symbiote.
Reviews for this movie are decidedly divided, with a 30% Tomatometer score compared to an 80% Audience rating. That being said, the film raised just over a respectable $850 million at the Box Office upon its release. One reason for this dissonance is that the film suffers from the same fate as many a newfangled origin story. It gets too bogged down in creating the framework necessary to promote an ongoing series. It also lost fans who wanted a stronger attachment to the existing Spider-Verse. Still, diehards praised its entertaining blend of comedy and action, which was enough to carry the film to a sequel.
9 Morbius (2022)
Is Morbius connected to the Spider-Verse? Apparently yes, in more ways than one. Not only do characters in Morbius actively talk about Venom’s reign of terror in San Francisco, but the main character himself is seen reading The Daily Bugle, a tabloid staple in the Spider-Man franchise. Even more telling is the reports on the page about characters Black Cat and Rhino next to Morbius’ headline. The appearance of Michael Keaton’s Vulture in the trailer has since also reassured fans that Morbius is indeed in the Spider-Man Universe.
Much in the vein of many a Spider-Man character, Biochemist Michael Morbius’ inception is more scientific than supernatural in origin. His transition stems from an ill-fated attempt to cure himself of a rare blood disease that ends with a nasty case of vampirism instead. Attempts to bring him to the screen in the Blade franchise or as a stand-alone film had all previously failed. Originally set for release in July 2020, the date was delayed several times due to the pandemic.
Reviews of this film since then have been decidedly mixed as well. A quick look at its Rotten Tomatoes page is telling, with a 16% on the Tomatometer and a 71% Audience Score. Fans of the film found both the action and actors enthralling, whereas dissidents lament a flat-lined attempt at a plot. The movie only grossed just over $150 million worldwide. It also went on to receive several Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Award nominations for Worst Picture, Actor, and Supporting Actress, respectively.
Sadly, a series of memes praising the film in jest was seen as an impetus for Sony to re-release it in theaters (perhaps hoping for a Deadpool-like comeback). The result was an average gross of less than $300 per theater. That’s right… $300.
Sony’s latest attempt to reboot the franchise with adjacent villains in a Marvel-run world may have fallen flat, but this film is not without merit. With even more on the way, only time will tell if they too will be worth the wait.
8 Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)
Tom Hardy reprised the role of Venom in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The sequel placed Eddie Brock at the center of a potential career revival gone awry. Now, he must stop his once-in-a-lifetime interview subject before he becomes even more of a terror to society.
This take on the titular anti-hero/villain was at times more serious and silly than the previous iterations. The introduction of the arguably better-known character of Carnage was a welcome reprieve for fans. Not surprisingly, the film also promoted advancements in CGI from the first just three years earlier. More importantly, the end-credits scene in this movie once and for all solves the problem of just where in the Spider-Verse Venom takes place.
While this film grossed far less than its predecessor, it is arguably the more well-rounded of the two. While not insignificant, the gap between critics and audience members alike was greatly diminished from the previous adaptation. One thing to note is this film’s joke of a PG-13 rating. While other Spider-Man adaptations are usually made well within these parameters, Venom’s storyline is just not as well-suited for the same category. Allowing an R-rated Venom film might actually do wonders for the fledgling franchise in the future.
7 The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
The Amazing Spider-Man proves that Garfield is better suited for Spider-Man than he is a young Peter Parker, though his short-lived two-parter legacy still remains a controversial divide for fans. His first film, however, rings true to Parker’s transition into Spider-Man in plot, though Garfield takes a more mature approach to the role. He feels like he’s shed the boyish spirit that Holland brings. His effortless coolness takes the position of a character that’s loosely based on the idea of Parker.
This film chose to play it fairly safe; an age-old origin story, with a familiar cast of characters, and a plot that doesn’t overstimulate. The Amazing Spider-Man is easy enough for newcomers to the superhero genre to digest but might be too simple compared to its potential.
6 Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, new recruit Tom Holland needed to establish himself as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man past his first canonical appearance in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Holland may be Marvel’s most accurate version of Parker yet: A wide-eyed, baby-faced, and over-eager high schooler whose double-life disguises him as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Holland’s version of Peter Parker satisfies those who can either relate to the character’s personality through their own life experience or have been torn over how Maguire and Garfield didn’t quite lock down the “socially awkward high-schooler” personality. Aside from the targeted niche, those who may have been hoping for an elaboration on Parker’s personality may struggle to take a liking to him.
The actor may have the boyish look and the bubbly personality down, but Spider-Man: Homecoming still tells the same story that has been told for decades, just with a father figure and a new villain at play. Spider-Man: Homecoming is flashy and contemporary enough for the modern-day audience, but it isn’t original enough to be considered a step forward for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While this movie kicked off the MCU version of the character, its introduction is easily overshadowed by its sequels.
5 Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
A direct pipeline into Spider-Man: No Way Home, Spider-Man: Far From Home breathed a little life into Holland’s Homecoming trilogy as the series became more comfortable with itself. It feels less stiff than its predecessor and gives way for Holland to elaborate more on Parker’s character, aside from being the anxious teen with superhero-level responsibilities. Spider-Man: Far From Home challenges Holland to push past the self-doubt that he previously shrouded himself in as Parker, and embrace the spirit of Spider-Man with more vigor.
Spider-Man: Far From Home offers an exciting new villain with the debut of Mysterio, who is reimagined in a fresh way that also serves as a semi-meta take on the nature of superhero films. Taking the classic sequel set-up laid out with films like The Great Muppet Caper and National Lampoon’s European Vacation, Spider-Man: Far From Home uses a classic international trip trope to also stay true to the classic teen-centric storylines of the early Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Spider-Man comics. Instead of stifling itself, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming gives Holland’s secondary solo venture the jolt it needed to push the franchise, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, forward.
4 Spider-Man (2002)
Prior to the development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sam Raimi set out to portray a simplistic origin story that streamlined a singular objective with 2002’s Spider-Man. It laid bare the bones of a hero’s journey through a more narrative-driven story that still held true to Parker’s comic book character. The result was this film sensation, which set the record for the biggest opening weekend at that time, and launched a new age of superhero movie adaptations in its wake.
Tobey Maguire is clearly stronger as Parker than he is as Spider-Man, and in this way, he captures the legitimacy of a street-level hero. There is an emphasis on Maguire honing in on aspects of Parker’s life when he’s not donning the Spider-Suit, which adds to the film’s overall authenticity. Being able to view Parker through this everyday lens as he keeps his alter-ego at bay contributes a tremendously human tone to Maguire’s defining role. Combined with Willem Dafoe’s incredible turn as Norman Osborn, a.k.a The Green Goblin, and an iconic kiss to boot, Spider-Man set the template for how audiences would imagine Spider-Man for generations to come.
3 Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Tobey Maguire is the OG of the franchise in what is easily Maguire’s best Spider-Man film. Spider-Man 2 transitions cleanly from its predecessor, keeping in stride with everything Raimi did right with Spider-Man. It pushes the story and themes of the first one forward, while also working as a standalone film. As a result, this is a story any viewer could pick up.
The film is utterly charming, in the most early-2000s sense imaginable. Elements of post-911 are scattered throughout, grounding its reality. The theme of doing the right thing, even when it’s hard is perfectly demonstrated by Tobey Maguire’s Parker. Even as a superhero, he’s clearly struggling… and that’s okay. Aside from this, Spider-Man’s epic train scene is easily one of the most iconic of the series. Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock is often regarded as one of the greatest comic book movie villains of all time, so much so that Kevin Feige decided just to bring him back into the MCU years later.
Together Raimi and Maguire created an incredibly quintessential comic book movie to the best of their ability. There is the possibility to extend the sentiment and make the bold claim that Spider-Man 2 may still be one of the best Marvel movies ever made. This sequel not only paved the way for the phenomenon of comic book genres in the cinematic arts but re-established what makes Spider-Man a character that audiences connect with.
2 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a welcome surprise. Teeming with creativity, this animated delight set Parker in the background and diversified the narrative.They even pioneered a new animation style to perfectly execute Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, establishing new technology to bring pop art to the big screen. In a stunning move straight out of geekdom, the viewer can pause the movie and see a still from a comic book.
This new Spider-Man, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is given his silver-screen debut without beating around the redundancies of live-action films. Though Morales’ radioactive spider bite and coping with the loss of his uncle are two beats found in other Spider-Man material, the filmmakers lean into that familiarity to show how it connects Miles to the larger legacy of Spider-Man’s past.
Stacked with a talented voice cast and an even more vibrant array of characters from other Spider-Verses, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a fascinating, entertaining, and wholeheartedly uplifting alternative to the trio of Spider-Men we’ve already met.
The movie became a sensation when it came out, and became a favorite even among those who might not traditionally like superhero movies (some even say it’s the best superhero movie). The film even went on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. All this has elevated the anticipation for the sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, set to hit the theaters on June 2, 2023, with the sequel set for release the following year.
1 Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
The anticipation for Spider-Man: No Way Home was unlike any Spider-Man movie before it…. and it almost didn’t happen after Sony and Marvel Studios nearly ended their contract with one another. For over a year, audiences devoured news of the casting of prior Spider-Man villains like Jamie Foxx’s Electro and Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, all of which hinted at an event film like none other. Showing that the rumors had been true all along, both Maguire and Garfield appeared in the 2021 film as their own respective Peter Parkers before teaming up with the MCU’s Tom Holland. Those who had the privilege of seeing Spider-Man: No Way Home in theaters can surely attest to the eruptions of celebration upon seeing the surprise-guests stars appear.
This film became an instant smash at the COVID-19 box office, showing that there was potential for audiences to return to pre-pandemic levels of attendance. From there, Box Office returns continued to grow to $1.9 billion.
Yet Spider-Man: No Way Home is far more than a fan service movie. The appearance of the prior two Spider-Man movie actors is a love letter to the character that shows just how far he’s come in twenty years… All while still managing to tell a classic Peter Parker Spider-Man story. The trio idealizes Spider-Man as a cinematic icon whose perpetual lessons of great power and great responsibility continue to transcend generations.
This story originally appeared on Movieweb