We rank every Spider-Man movie ever
Spider-Man: Homecoming has swung into theatres. This iteration of the wise-crackin', web-slingin', wall-crawlin' wonder, played to perfection by Tom Holland, has won the hearts of fans and critics. The movie he adorably fumbles and flips and swings around in isn't half bad either, working as both an emotional coming-of-age story and a breezy high school comedy. It's arguably the first good Spider-Man flick we've gotten since 2004. 2004. Wow.
In any case, Spider-Man has obviously been in the big-screen game long enough to have been through all the peaks and valleys of blockbuster-dom. Each version of Peter Parker, whether it be Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, or Tom Holland, has brought something unique to the role. It's been a road that's worthy of looking back on. So, without further ado, here are all six Spider-Man films, from worst to best.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Spider-Man 3, the capper to the original trilogy by Sam Raimi, did great business but fan and critical reception was middling at best. The answer was not a sequel but a fresh start, a corporate mandate to sweep the board clean. The Amazing Spider-Man's Peter Parker was portrayed by an expressive Andrew Garfield doing his best with lousy material. Starring as the fledgling superhero “high schooler” (c'mon, he was like 28) and a new love interest to be interested in (Gwen Stacy, Emma Stone), and a new villain to contend with (The Lizard, Rhys Iffans), The Amazing Spider-Man was primed to be something different. Alas, the board isn't swept clean so much as it is smashed and then re-assembled with grit and spit. It's a drab, remarkably un-fun movie that reuses many of the beats and themes from Spider-Man. The only new aspect, a whole sub-plot concerning the mystery of Peter Parker's father was excised late in the game even though it was the selling-point; “the untold story” the advertising bragged. One could argue it's not the worst film of the series, but I'll fight anyone who says it isn't the most hollow.
5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn't feel so much like a film. Rather, it feels like one prolonged panicked reaction. People didn't like the lack of colour and fun in The Amazing Spider-Man? Spruce it up with colours and jokes, no matter how badly done! Just do it! Marvel is reaping all of the money and adoration with their extended universe? Well here's this throws Doc Ock tentacles, Rhino costume, Vulture Wings, purposefully dangled plot threads, and minor villain cameos, and the fucking kitchen sink. To describe the plot is futile; we'd be here all day. Let's just say it plays out quite randomly, like a grab-bag of a bunch Spider-Man comics from the last 50 or so years. Most of it is awful or boring (Peter Parker's dead parents are still a point of focus), a few scenes here and there are wonderful and charming in isolation, and none of it coheres meaningfully. By then, it had been on a whole decade since a good Spider-Man movie, or even one where I couldn't predict the story beat by beat. I brought my friend along to see this with me. "How many times have you seen this?" she asked. "This is the fifth time," I replied. "Jesus, how many times do you need?" she asked, bewildered. "Until I fuckin' love it!" I said through a veil of fanboy tears.
4. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
And now we're at the good stuff. However, Spider-Man 3 is the least good of the good stuff. Simply put, Spider-Man 3 is a case study in going too far: there are too many villains, there are too many sluggish conversations, there is too much syrupy melodrama, and there is too much dancing. The performances are by and large fantastic, though the actors are given dialogue that'd make George Lucas blanch. The action scenes are inventive fun, though the CGI holds up the least when compared to every other Spider-Man film. But within this ham-fisted slog, there are moments that positively sing. The birth of the villainous Sandman works great as a self-contained kind of silent movie and can still move me to tears; Peter Parker, after having finally ridden himself of the toxic black costume, sitting alone in the dim corner of his cruddy apartment; daring to end not in triumph with an eye towards the sequel, but with an air of mature wistfulness. Maybe it's a bad movie, but not one to be dismissed completely.
3. Spider-Man (2002)
Some will say that X-Men and Blade kicked off the modern superhero craze we're still in the throes of. But in my opinion, they are clear examples of late 90s action movies with very light superhero flavouring. It was Spider-Man that really showed you could make comic book movies that were reverential towards the source material while still functioning as crowd-pleasers. Director Sam Raimi finds a terrific Peter Parker in Tobey Maguire. No cool dude, no thin avatar for the audience to feel awesome, Maguire plays Peter Parker exactly as he is in the comics I remember reading - as a dorky, earnest dude full of aw schucks goodness, but without coming off as facile and insufferable. JK Simmons as his cantankerous, cigar-chewin' boss at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson, is a consistent delight. Willem Dafoe as Norman Osbourne/Green Goblin was expert casting as well. When it begins with Peter narrating, “This, like any other story worth telling, is all about a girl”, I was assured that its heart was in the right place, bad Green Goblin costume be damned. And name a movie kiss more iconic than that upside-down kiss in the rain. I will wait.
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
I love this little gem. While still keeping it in the larger Marvel Universe, where soars Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, Spider-Man: Homecoming wisely opts to keep Peter Parker in high school and Spider-Man in his local little neighbourhood. But being young and hungry to prove himself, he's itching to participate in the much larger adventure going on outside of Forrest Hills, Queens. Thankfully, there's no death of Uncle Ben yet again here, no repeated origin story. Peter already knows that with great power there must also come great responsibility. But he hasn't got the maturity to wield that power responsibly. This is illustrated best with the spiffy, hi-tech Spidey suit that Tony Stark gifts him with -- but rather than being a convenient plot-device, it's just another thing that gets in his way, another thing to amplify the badness of the "ol' Parker luck"; it's classic Spider-Man stuff. So even has he intends to do good, he causes much damage and screws up, as fifteen year olds do. But he tries and tries and tries, undeterred by his failures. I loved that seemingly everything was conspiring to keep Peter Parker down and yet the film itself never became funereal or overly sombre. And the last twenty minutes, far from devolving into a flurry of emotionless CGI action, truly does justice to Peter Parker's character and why this humble li'l nerd has endured in the popular consciousness for so long. Being far away from high school now, I didn't expect to care so much for this Parker kid and his troubles. But I did, and the movie earned that. It's a spunky, youthful blockbuster that's brimming with heart and wit. And Tom Holland is shaping up to be the best Spider-Man we've ever seen.
1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
One of my favourite films of all time, so this one's personal. It's difficult to distill the essence of one of your favourite films, it being closer to your heart than your mind and all, but I will try. I was 11 years old when Spider-Man 2 came out. I consumed many superhero stories – tv shows, movies, comics, whatever – but I didn't yet know that they could be human stories; I didn't quite grasp that the superhero mythology could be a potent metaphor for grappling between personal desires and larger responsibilities; I didn't know that doing the right thing often meant doing the hardest, least rewarding thing; I didn't know these stories could be about letting your friends and family down – letting yourself down – and the persistent feeling that life would never stop wearing you down; I didn't know that mundane selflessness, especially within the realm of fantasy, could be the most miraculous thing of all. To paraphrase from a Kanye album, Spidey-2 taught me. The villainous Doc Ock is the secondary bad guy in Spider-Man 2 (I'd argue that Life is the main antagonist here) and he is as fearsome as he is sympathetic. Though that all sounds a bit heavy, Spider-Man 2 still contains the most exciting action of any comic book movie ever, Danny Elfman's score is working at full force, and Sam Raimi is operating at peak flow, effortlessly going through the textures of thrilling adventure, campy humour, gentle romance, and startlingly soulful introspection. Revisit this if you haven't for a while; it's worth it.