Superhero movies are a dime a dozen nowadays; every studio wants their shot at the big bucks, and the easiest way to get said bucks is to pull from already established universes so you have a larger playground to adapt from. Believe it or not, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago at all that Iron Man seemed destined to fail and DC was poised to be riding high on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight success right into Oscar glory. Things have shifted very dramatically in the wake of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in terms of who holds the power in Hollywood right now, but one thing that hasn’t changed all that much? Spider-Man. The original Spider-Man movie was released in 2002 by Sony Pictures from director Sam Raimi to unprecedented box office success, a success which is often credited to have jump-started the golden age of superhero cinema we find ourselves in today. People all over the world have been in love with the Spidey character since that first film’s opening day, and with an Oscar-winning animated film added to his mantle, as well as Spider-Man: No Way Home opening in theaters, I thought this would be a good opportunity to go back and rank all of Spidey’s silver screen showdowns. Here is my definitive ranking of the Spider-Man filmography.
9. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Sony’s first Spider-Man sequel post-reboot had all the makings of what could have been a great movie – great actors, great characters, and what probably still holds the crown as the best Spidey suit ever put to screen. Unfortunately, however, a film needs to be more than a couple of great elements to truly be great, and the fact that the only memorable or remotely impactful part of this movie is when one of the main characters dies is a testament to just how unfocused the movie actually is. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield have terrific chemistry, but shoving in all the Sinister Six set-up, as well as throwing in a cartoonish Rhino, plus Electro (who looks nothing like himself), plus the Green Goblin makes the film too distracted and overly reliant on improvisation/shock value to tell a good story.
8. The Amazing Spider-Man
I used to like the first Amazing Spider-Man a lot (still do in some ways), but in subsequent years since I first saw it, this movie just felt lazier and lazier to me. I like that Garfield’s Spider-Man character is quippier and trash-talks more than Tobey Maguire’s original incarnation did, but his Peter Parker is way too cool and handsome to be in this movie (and just as a side note, everyone in this movie looks at least 27 and up). Peter Parker is supposed to be an awkward, jumbly, uncoordinated nerd, and Garfield just doesn’t play that side of him as well, likely because the writing feels like the studio didn’t know what they actually wanted to do with him. There’s a whole subplot about Peter’s parents that carries into the second film that we don’t need (and gets explained the same way twice), and the Lizard spilling his whole plan in one giant exposition computer scene is just ridiculous. The high school fight between Spidey and Lizard though? Pretty sweet overall.
7. Spider-Man 3
This is undoubtedly the worst of the Sam Raimi trilogy, but I don’t think it’s quite as bad as a lot of people think. Sure, the dancing scene after Peter puts on the black suit is hilariously ridiculous, but it does make sense that Peter Parker would think this was something cool; we’re not supposed to like him in the black suit. We should want him to take it off. Other than that, though, Spider-Man 3 does sort of drop the ball when it comes to the overcrowding of villains in the film, the ret-con of who actually killed Uncle Ben, and the entire sub-plot with Harry and MJ. If the film had focused more on the struggles of Peter and MJ’s relationship, and only on the Sandman as a villain (maybe Harry can show up at the end), then I feel like we’d be talking about this movie a lot differently today. That birth of Sandman is fantastic, though, and Gwen Stacy’s crane rescue remains amongst the best of Spider-Man action sequences.
6. Spider-Man: Far From Home
This is where the bad Spider-Man movies stop…but it’s also not where the great ones start. As much as there is to like in Far From Home, it’s clear that Sony was having a bit of an identity crisis when it came to this movie, not really knowing how to tell the story of what happened after Endgame and still make it fun. The result is a Spider-Man movie whose first act is extremely choppy and fails to make us care about anyone in the film except Peter, since we’ve all known him since Civil War. Luckily, the movie really picks up when it kicks into high gear in act 2, and the dual credits scenes send the movie off with the huge bomb-drops of Peter’s revealed identity and the revelation that Nick Fury has been off-world the entire time (although we still don’t know how that’s meant to pay off or if it’s just a gag). It’s also the first of the live-action films post-Sam Raimi to really dive into the struggle of great power coming with great responsibility and how that would effect someone like Peter Parker. Overall, this is a good Spider-Man movie, but a lesser one than our next entry.
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
This may not be as fitting for a Spider-Man movie as the former entry, but it’s a really solid action comedy that has better pacing, fewer exposition scenes, and a couple of action moments that are genuinely thrilling (Washington monument, anyone?). The minute Michael Keaton answers the door Tom Holland knocked on (both performances are pitch perfect), my entire theater gasped out loud, including me. Plus, it also has the MCU’s first great villain in a single movie since Loki, with Adrian Toomes being more of the relatable “working man” type who got screwed over by corporate systems and turned to crime because of it. And that scene with Keaton and Holland in the car remains one of the greatest scenes in MCU history, despite no action happening at the time.
4. Spider-Man: No Way Home
No Way Home is definitely the best of the MCU Spider-Man movies for me, but it is not without faults. What works about it the most is tough to get into without spoiling some of the film’s biggest surprises, but suffice it to say, it works really, really well. The action sequences are terrific, the performances are all really solid (although I do take issue with some of the dialogue choices for certain members of the cast), and it’s easily the most emotional of the Tom Holland iterations, a task which the lead actor really carries on his back quite admirably. Unfortunately, the film does still fall prey to the usual MCU Spidey struggles in that it continuously undercuts moments of genuine sincerity with quippy jokes and the scope is a little too ambitious for its own good, even as the story is stretched fairly thin. It’s covered up with fan service (really good fan service), but there’s only so much of that one can add to a film without needing to make its presence a lot more meaningful than this movie gives it credit for. I won’t spend too much longer on this section since the film just came out, and I have a review already running on the site, but for now I’ll just say that it’s definitely worth checking out, and definitely the best live-action Spidey film with a multi-villain setup.
The great entries start here, with Sam Raimi’s original 2002 blockbuster. It’s kind of incredible when you think about it that the character has lasted so incredibly long on the silver screen based almost entirely on this film alone. If Spider-Man didn’t work, we may not have seen anyone take a go at the character again until Homecoming, but as history points out, this movie not only worked, it was a smash hit in every arena. Box office, critical praise, and audience delight boosted this movie into the stratosphere of its day, and it’s not hard to see why. The film is written and directed with an earnestness that fully understands the heart of Spider-Man, and Toby Maguire looks just enough like a dork in real life here that his Peter Parker’s awkwardness and insecurity radiate through his performance. It’s easily one of the most underrated superhero performances ever, and even if Kirsten Dunst is one of the weaker parts of the movie (largely because the Mary Jane character just doesn’t do much), we can’t ever talk about Spider-Man without remembering the greatest superhero kissing scene of all time (yeah, I said it).
2. Spider-Man 2
No sooner had people started singing the praises of Bryan Singer’s X2 than Sam Raimi’s second entry into the Spider-Man canon began gearing up for a summer 2004 release, and when this movie hit, it was an even bigger smash than the original film. In fact, no one had broken the box office record for that first movie until this one did. This movie turns everything up to 11 – the relationship between Peter and MJ goes through new troubles, his relationships to Harry and Aunt May are both strained, Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus is a sympathetic villain we hadn’t really explored before with a super cool design, and the action sequences and VFX (which won an Oscar) are still some of the best in comic book movie history, especially the clock tower/train fight. And of course, who can forget the legend that is J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson? If I had seen this in theaters back in the day, you bet I would have gotten chills listening to that Danny Elfman theme again. In fact, when re-watching it, I sometimes still do.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
For the longest time it felt like no one could even come close to replicating the quality or spirit of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, and in truth, this one doesn’t try as hard at that, but that very choice may be the thing that most recommends it – Spider-Verse is entirely its own thing, referential of the Raimi films but not derivative. This movie pushed animation into a whole new dimension, which is fitting, considering the main premise of the movie itself. Each individual character in this movie has a distinct personality, dialogue befitting of their characters, movements unique to their fighting styles, and almost entirely different art designs that seamlessly coalesce into a gorgeous-looking whole. Miles Morales might just be the greatest of the Spider-lings yet, and the voice cast here (particularly Jake Johnson, Nic Cage, and John Mulaney) do some outstanding work. Every frame of this movie is incredible to look at, a comic book come to life, and it’s the first Spider-Man film to really understand that wearing the mask is something anyone can do. Spider-Man is about doing what’s right even when it’s not convenient or easy, and “we have to give up the things we want the most, even our dreams.” This movie understands perfectly that that’s all it takes to be a hero, and the instantly iconic “What’s Up Danger” sequence may well be the best single moment in any Spider-Man movie, becoming a whole subject of film analysts’ obsessions the world over, all by itself. Spider-Verse did go on to take home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, which is no small feat when one is up against Pixar, but if there were any other film that should have joined Black Panther in the Best Picture conversation in 2018, this should have been it.
And there you have it! That is my official ranking of every Spider-Man movie thus far! What do you think of this list? How would you rank these films? Let me know in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!
- The Friendly Film Fan
This post was originally published on July 9, 2019. It has since been updated to include Spider-Man: No Way Home. LAST EDIT: December 22, 2022.
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Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time.