There aren't many superheroes who are as universally recognizable and iconic as Spider-Man. From his first comic book appearance in 1962 to his subsequent portrayals in numerous memorable comics and movies over the years, people around the world have grown up with the image of the blue-and-red-clad wallcrawler permanently etched in their minds.
Whether you find him on the pages of a comic swinging from building to building and taking on some of Marvel’s most nefarious villains, or brought to life Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, or Tom Holland, Spider-Man will forever hold a special place in superheroes’ hearts.
An ambitious crossover like no other, No Way Home will see numerous characters from past Spider-Man movies appear in a universe-bending adventure that will connect the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man, and the MCU Spider-Man together in one massive movie (and even a little Venom on the side?).
In anticipation of the film, we thought it only fitting that we look back at Spider-Man's previous appearances in film, ranking each one of the movies he stars in from worst to best, as well as where they are currently streaming.
Let's look at Spider-Man's previous appearances in film, ranking each one of the movies he stars in from worst to best, as well as where they are currently streaming.
List Criteria: For this list, we opted to rank live-action Spider-Man standalone movies exclusively, rather than including animated Spider-Man movies or movies where he appears as a supporting character. That means, unfortunately, as great as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Avengers: Infinity War, you won’t find those movies anywhere on this list.
1. Spider-Man 3
Unfortunately, there's no sugarcoating this one; Spider-Man 3 is plain bad. Equal parts cringey as it is poorly acted, Spider-Man 3 is by far the most disappointing entry in the Sam Raimi trilogy. Topher Grace was horribly miscast as Venom, and Tobey Maguire's darker portrayal of post-symbiote Peter Parker, known today as the popular meme, “Bully Maguire”, is honestly difficult to sit through at some points.
In Raimi's third and final entry in the original Spider-Man trilogy, Peter tries to move ahead in his relationship with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). His plans to propose to her are interrupted, however, by the re-emergence of his uncle's killer (Thomas Haden Church) as well as the sudden arrival of an alien symbiote that is able to enhance Peter's powers but also brings out a much more sinister side of his personality.
It may be because Raimi's first two Spider-Man movies were so good that this one seems so bad by association (it's a lot like how Kingdom of the Crystal Skull doesn't look that bad on its own but appears supremely disappointing when compared to Raiders of the Lost Ark). Either way, it's hard to watch this movie without marveling at how far the series had fallen after the first two Raimi Spider-Man movies.
The movie does have some very strong moments, such as the symbiote's assimilation of Peter and his subsequent transformation into the black-suited Spider-Man, Flint Marko piecing himself together bit by bit and becoming the Sandman, and the church scene where the symbiote attaches itself to Eddie Brock, to name a few. But overall, there's no denying that Spider-Man 3 is by far one of the weakest Spider-Man movies to date, bringing Raimi's trilogy to a close with more of a whimper than a bang.
2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Andrew Garfield's iteration of Spider-Man tends to get quite a bit overshadowed by the more nostalgic fans of Tobey Maguire and the newer MCU fans of Tom Holland. However, Garfield himself, though he perhaps lacked the awkward comedic portrayal of Holland or the more heroic side of the character that Maguire brings out, wasn't necessarily a bad Spider-Man. If anything, the movies he found himself in were not the same caliber as Raimi's originals or the later MCU Spider-Man movies.
For example: you don't have to look very hard to see that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't a very good movie. The longest Spider-Man movie to date at two hours and twenty-two minutes, it relies too heavily on too many characters and narrative plot points, making it feel bloated, unfocused, and with no clear central storyline, the producers and director, Mark Webb (wow, that's an ironic name), instead throwing into many main conflicts at you at once.
It's not an altogether terrible movie, but it still makes for one of the more underwhelming entries out of all the Spider-Man-related movies, derailing Sony’s plans for a sequel and a potential spin-off series focusing on the villains of the Sinister Six.
3. The Amazing Spider-Man
Fans of Raimi's Spider-Man were pretty heartbroken when they learned they wouldn't be getting a fourth entry in the original Spider-Man series. After the middling disappointment that was Spider-Man 3 and Raimi's subsequent departure from the studio over creative differences, Sony attempted rebooting the character, casting then-rising star Andrew Garfield as everyone’s favorite web-slinger in the most New York interpretation of the character yet (just listen to that accent).
Fans might have been divided at first, but the resulting film, 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man, was actually more than decent, especially compared to Spider-Man 3. Rather than basing too much of his own Spider-Man off of Tobey Maguire's, Garfield manages to create his own distinct version of the character, though some fans complain to this day Garfield was too “cool” for a character that was supposed to be more geeky and awkward as he was in the comics.
Be that as it may, the movie itself still managed to set itself apart from Raimi's trilogy, creating a movie that looked and felt like a comic book in terms of visuals, dialogue, and overall story. In a plot that was fairly similar to Raimi's first Spider-Man, teenage high school student Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically altered spider, gaining spider-like abilities as a result. After his uncle's (Martin Sheen) death, Peter decides to become a superhero and must save his city from a former scientist-turned-supervillain known as the Lizard (Rhys Ifans).
The movie's casting of Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy made for some legitimately great on-screen chemistry between Peter and his love interest, and the film's antagonist was equally well-cast, with Ifans managing to bring plenty of sympathy to the role, creating a tragic villain that would've perfectly fit in Raimi's trilogy of misunderstood good guys gone bad.
It may not be a perfect Spider-Man movie (it doesn't really have the heart of Raimi's movies or the lovable geekiness of Tom Holland's Spider-Man), but it's enjoyable enough.
4. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Tom Holland's second solo Spider-Man movie was a fun followup to his earlier Homecoming and previous appearances in Infinity War and Endgame.
Following Thanos's defeat and the return of everyone who was “Blipped” (erased from existence) in Infinity War, the world is now slowly beginning to return to normal. Students of the Midtown School of Science and Technology, including the recently returned Peter Parker, MJ (Zendaya), Ned (Jacob Batalon), and Flash (Tony Revolori), resume their regular studies as they prepare to go on a class trip to Europe, until they are interrupted by the arrival of an alien species known as the Elementals.
The last film of Marvel's Phase Three series and the first MCU movie following Endgame, Far From Home was able to explain perfectly some of the more realistic repercussions introduced in Infinity War respectively, such as half the universe returning after being wiped out by Thanos’s snap. Featuring Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in a similar role as Tony Stark's in Homecoming made for an interesting dynamic, but it honestly didn't have the same father-son magic as Holland and RDJ had.
The film's live-action debut of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhall) made for a good addition to Spider-Man's cinematic rogues' gallery, but the reveal that he was actually a supervillain rather than a hero made for a tired plot twist that plenty of MCU movies had pulled off to a better degree in the past (Iron Man, Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). Gyllenhall remains probably the main highlight of this movie, perfectly playing the mischievous illusionist, Mysterio.
It's an entertaining movie to watch, manages to carry the MCU forward following the years-in-the-making climax of Endgame, and also raises the stakes for Spider-Man’s next outing in No Way Home with Far From Home’s bombshell ending.
Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man movie is seen today as one of the earliest examples of the modern superhero movie. Along with the original Blade and the 2000 X-Men, the first entry in Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy was the grandfather of the superhero genre as we know it today, paving the way for the later Marvel movies and, consequently, the entire MCU.
Before Spider-Man, the last time audiences had seen a decent superhero movie was Tim Burton's 1989 Batman and the 1970s and '80s Superman movies. But then, Raimi came along and made a film that blew everyone’s expectations about what a superhero movie could be right out of the water.
Utilizing the most up-to-date filmmaking techniques at his disposal, including extensive use of CGI, Raimi delivered a fantastic adaptation of the Spider-Man comic books. The film managed to distance itself just enough from the original comics (omitting Spider-Man’s signature comic book web-shooters, and tweaking characters’ costumes) and also paid clear homage to them as well.
In his first outing as New York's famous web-slinger, Tobey Maguire stars as Peter Parker, a nerdy high school senior struggling to fit in, and whose life is forever changed when he is bitten by a genetically engineered spider. Gaining spider-like abilities, such as extreme agility and the power to shoot webs from his wrists, Peter adopts a superhero alter-ego, Spider-Man, and soon faces off against an enigmatic villain known as the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe, who is utterly fantastic to watch in this movie).
While the movie may not be the same kind of superhero movie audiences are used to seeing produced in the MCU, the original Spider-Man still remains a remarkable movie. It’s that film responsible for sparking renewed interest not only in Spider-Man but in superhero movies as a whole. Without it, who knows what superhero movies would look like today, or if they'd even be around at all.
6. Spider-Man: Homecoming
After his successful debut as the third and most recent incarnation of the character in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland was widely praised for taking up the red-and-blue tights and portraying the MCU version of Spider-Man. In his first solo movie, Holland’s Spider-Man is attempting to balance his time spent as Spider-Man with his life as a high school student. Complicating that is Peter's crush on Liz (Laura Harrier), a popular fellow student, and his coming into contact with a villainous weapons dealer named the Vulture (Michael Keaton).
Previously, we'd seen Peter's social and personal life in significantly smaller glimpses, mostly revolving around his romances with MJ in the first three movies or Gwen Stacy in TAS. The great part of the newer MCU Spider-Man movies is the fact that it's able to balance the character's personal life and his role as a superhero without one taking precedence over the other, as had been the case prior.
The result is a great first Spider-Man-focused MCU movie, exploring Peter's insecurities both at school and as Spider-Man, and his difficulty in being able to accept his responsibilities as a superhero.
Maguire may have played a good Peter Parker and Garfield brought out the snarkier, New Yorker aspect of Spider-Man. Holland manages to balance both roles equally well, perfectly portraying nerdy high school student Peter, and his wisecracking, slightly more confident side as Spider-Man. (Stan Lee had even said Holland was the perfect actor for the role and was exactly what he envisioned when he first co-created the character with Steve Ditko in 1962.)
Other notably strong aspects of the movie are Peter's father-son-type relationship with Iron Man (RDJ and Holland are hilarious on-screen together in every MCU movie they appear in), and Keaton's role as the Vulture, who manages to play the goofy but stern father, Adrian Toomes, and the unstable Vulture equally well.
7. Spider-Man 2
There are two franchises permanently tied to Sam Raimi's name: Evil Dead and the original Spider-Man movies. Looking at the two very different series, you'd be hard-pressed to find any similarities that exist between them at all, except for one key thing: both franchises have absolutely incredible second entries in their respective franchises.
We don't know how he's able to do it, but man, can Sam Raimi nail a sequel. And just as his earlier Evil Dead II was more than able to follow his breakout film, The Evil Dead, Spider-Man 2 similarly manages to go above and beyond in the second entry in Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.
Spider-Man 2 finds Maguire's Peter Parker facing a number of personal problems, such as his inability to maintain a romantic relationship with MJ (Kirsten Dunst) manifested by his exhausting commitment to being Spider-Man.
As he contemplates hanging up the cowl and being Peter Parker full-time, his mentor and friend, Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), is seriously injured in an experiment that kills his wife and turns him into the villainous Doctor Octopus.
Widely considered the greatest superhero movie ever made, as well as one of the best sequels in existence, Spider-Man 2 is an improvement on the already impressive original movie in virtually every way. Not having to waste time establishing Peter's origin story, the movie was able to analyze the personal problems in Peter's daily life as a result of his commitment to being Spider-Man.
Facing an existential decision over whether he wanted to continue crime-fighting was a direction few superhero movies have leaned towards, but Maguire more than managed to perfectly play the unsure-of-himself but notably more mature Peter in this film, giving his strongest performance in the trilogy.
Other notable highlights include the wonderful visuals and always-impressive soundtrack, as well as Molina's performance, who manages to give Doc Ock various nuances, playing him with plenty of complex emotions that the audience is able to sympathize with.
Spider-Man is easily one of the most famous superheroes in all of comic fandom. His endless charm, clever one-liners, and relatable secret identity as the nerdy Peter Park have long been established as a favorite of superhero fans from around the world, thanks in large part to his portrayals in the numerous critically acclaimed movies he’s appeared in over the past few decades.
Whether you grew up watching Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man or prefer the newer MCU Tom Holland or Andrew Garfield's more sarcastic portrayal of everyone’s favorite web-slinger, there's no denying that Spider-Man remains one of the most popular superheroes in all of Marvel.
With Spider-Man’s next adventure seeing him battle several villains that have previously appeared in past Spider-Man movies outside the MCU, we hope this list offers a decent look at all of the movies Spider-Man has been the focus of prior to its release.
Where exactly would you place No Way Home on this list?
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