Ranking all 8 Spider-Man Movies
I didn’t include the MCU films Tom Holland has appeared in that aren’t Spider-Man films proper, because They’re just hard to compare. And a few of the best parts of his scenes in Civil War are also in Homecoming.
8. The Amazing Spider-Man (dir. Marc Webb, 2012)
Not only does this one have the worst Spidey costume, but also the worst villain design in any of the films so far in Rhys Ifans as The Lizard. His body and tail look pretty great, but giving him a human face instead of a giant...lizard head is disturbing and strange. I know that making non-human animal mouths talk is tricky (who else is nervous for The Lion King in a few weeks?), but he is truly nightmare fuel.
This film also suffers from us not really needing another Spider-Man origin film, coming only 10 years after the first film. Spider-Man’s origin can easily be summed up in a few comic panels, and adding the twist about Peter’s father researching animal hybrids really does not make it that much more interesting. So about half of this film feels like a rehash, and by the time we get to the Lizard stuff, it’s beginning to overstay its welcome. No reason this should be over two hours long. However, the cast is a saving grace. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone’s chemistry justify this movie existing. And Martin Sheen and Sally Field are wonderful as Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Denis Leary is also great in his brief appearance. The emotional stuff in this movie is more grounded than Raimi’s version and works well despite being overstuffed.
7. Spider-Man 3 (dir. Sam Raimi, 2007)
This one used to be at the bottom of this list for a long time. The film is still kind of a mess, and there are a few things that don’t work for me, Peter Parker’s character being the biggest damning flaw. I wrote about the film here last year, and noted that the Sandman stuff is great, as is the theming:
So I really like how Raimi approaches this film’s two major themes of forgiveness and duality. Especially since–at least in my experience–the person often overlooked for forgiveness is ourselves. And certainly for Spider-Man given his ethical foundation. Each of the films’ two villians are tied to one of these themes, with Flint Marko/Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) personifying forgiveness (and Peter wrestling with revenge) and the alien suit/Eddie Brock/Venom (Topher Grace) representing the dual nature of man. They’re powerful themes for Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) to wrestle with, and really worthy for a superhero film to examine.
Definitely read that breakdown for all of my thoughts on this film.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (dir. Marc Webb, 2014)
I earnestly believe there is a great movie trapped in this bad one. Again, the chemistry between Garfield and Stone carry a lot of the emotional weight of the film, and it actually pays off the weird stretch the first film makes so that Peter experiences two of the most impactful deaths of his life in the first film (Uncle Ben and Gwen’s dad). Peter seeing Denis Leary everywhere he looks weighing on him, as well as more broadly trying to find balance between being both Spider-Man and Peter Parker works really well in this film. I even like Jamie Foxx’s take on Max Dillon/Electro. The choice to make him blue is a weird one, but as a parallel to Peter–an outcast nerd suddenly imbued with power–provides not only a nice dark shadow for Peter, but also allows the film to demonstrate the compassion Peter has for his villains (until the film decides he has to die).
The Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) stuff in this movie mostly doesn’t work at all. None of it is inherently bad, but this movie feels like a 10 hour season of television edited into a 2.5 hour movie. By being new to this film and happening mostly outside of Peter’s perview, the Osborn stuff falls flattest, and is not helped by DeHaan’s performance choices. However, the easter eggs, and the hint of the larger world of Spider-Man stuff is really fun, especially since we get Paul Giamatti doing a Russian accent.
The score for this film is extremely underrated, and is one of Hans Zimmer’s overlooked gems. The use of the solo clarinet for Max Dillon’s leitmotif reworked into the bizarro electronic composition for Electro is second only to Mark Mothersbaugh’s “Ping Island” music from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming (dir. Jon Watts, 2017)
This is where it gets tough. The main reason Homecoming is ranked so low is that it doesn’t always feel like a Spider-Man movie. And while I appreciate the mileage that Marvel has gotten from the pairing of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), the presence of Iron Man–and especially his technology–diminishes some of what makes Spider-Man such a fun character. I also find some of the action beats a little lackluster compared to other outings by the wallcrawler.
That said, I love how much this is riffing on being a high school movie. The casting is especially fantastic with Jacob Batalon’s Ned and Zendaya’s MJ being standouts. I also love the reinterpretation of Flash Thompson as a class status bully rather than a physical bully for Peter, played excellently by Tony “Lobby Boy” Revolori. The Peter Parker stuff, though only mildly intertwined with the Spider-Man stuff, is the best part of the film. And when they do finally collide in the back of Adrian Toomes’ (Michael Keaton) car on the way to the big dance, it's one of the best uses of tension in any MCU film.
4. Spider-Man (dir. Sam Raimi, 2002)
Almost 20 years on (it physically hurts me to write that out), what I love about Raimi’s film is the sense of place and style they create. While they nominally take place in the present, the trilogy really takes place in a timeless, idealized version of New York past, albeit one that has room for Macy Gray. When taking the long view, this movie feels much more stylized when it comes to setting than any earthbound movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also allows the melodramatic tone to exist, which reemphasizes the soap opera-like romances that have been scrubbed from the genre in the years since. Everything here is as heightened as Burton’s Batman even if the visuals aren’t quite so outlandishly designed. In some ways, the combination of melodrama, B-movie flourishes, and an incredible special effects budget allows this to remain as one of the best examples of a true comic book superhero movie.
3. Spider-Man: Far From Home (dir. Jon Watts, 2019)
I’m a big Mysterio guy. My review explains as to why this is now my second favorite live action Spider-Man film. I will likely be re-arranging these top three every time I watch one of them.
2. Spider-Man 2 (dir. Sam Raimi, 2004)
Everything present in the first Raimi Spider-Man is done even better in the second. The melodrama is even more heightened, and Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship is really put through the ringer. All in the name of trying to answer if there is room for both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Coupled with this is the threat of Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), perhaps the most sympathetic villain in any film. He seems like a good person: loving marriage, successful scientist, able to make a joke and give life advice. But a combination of ego, hubris, and a faulty ‘inhibitor chip’ turn him into someone willing to burn everything down just to prove that he’s right. Spider-Man 2 is a cautionary tale with no easy answers, merely urging us to give as much as we can without destroying ourselves. That’s not an easy thing to convey, but Raimi and writer Alvin Sargent manage to do so in the context of delivering some of the most incredible action.
As in his first Spider-effort, Raimi shows us a New York as it should be, and fills it with superheroics, horror-style camerawork, and an abundance of love. This is a filmmaker working at the top of his game and bringing a timeless version of a beloved character to life.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (dirs. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, 2018)
There’s so much in this movie. My quick take from when it came out barely a half year ago:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse combines every ingredient a superhero movie should have: great characters, a love for the source material (without being beholden to it), and a keen sense of visual style, and then some. And further proof that strong design and style trumps “realism” any day. This movie is at its best when all of those elements are colliding inside the Kingpin’s reality-ripping machine, filling the space with Jack Kirby-style energy blasts, colors from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and enough Spider-People to keep the jokes and sense of fun soaring through the chaos. Truly sublime.
And there’s the importance for representation in putting Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) front and center. I love these characters in the comics, and I am so happy the whole world has now fallen in love with them.
But the heart and soul of this movie is Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson). In his world, he’s alone, feeling like a failure, with a broken up marriage because he couldn’t handle the responsibility that came with his power. And then he gets sucked through a portal and ends up in a parallel dimension, confronted by the perfect version of himself. That impossible standard that he was trying to live up to, the vision of himself that he could never actually reach, and in his happiest moments tried to delude himself by saying it was an impossible standard–it’s real. And yet, while he tries to laugh it off and joke about it, he finds real purpose in helping Miles and the other spiders. And by the end of the film, he has found the hope and resolve to fix his problems. To try to live up to his own potential again. Whenever he gets knocked down, he gets back up. He keeps swinging forward. Because that’s what Spider-Man does.
Also, it features Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham.