We realize when it comes to cinematic Spider-Mans, fans have their favorites between Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield – and now that cutie Tom Holland has thrown his hat in the Spidey ring with the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming, many are calling him their favorite. Fair.
Each actor deserves props for bringing something unique to the character. Maguire’s performance in the first three Spider-Man movies introduced Peter Parker/Spider-Man to the big screen, with the sad eyes and “great responsibility” weighing heavily on his shoulders. Maguire just makes our hearts hurt so much of the time, and that’s certainly part of Spider-Man’s lore.
On the other hand, Holland truly plays Peter as the spirited teen we’ve all been waiting to see. He’s a 15-year-old who has superpowers, likes helping people out, and has a foot in with the Avengers, so yeah, he’s pretty psyched most of the time. There’s very little of the sadness usually associated with Parker’s journey as Spider-Man, and that works really well, too, we have to admit.
Garfield, however, is the only one so far who has really combined all the parts that make Spider-Man who he is. The actor embodies the boyish enthusiasm, awkwardly crushes big time on the girl, but more importantly, Garfield’s clear acting chops allows him to fully handle the character’s personal woes and ultimate sacrifices with aplomb.
So, for that, he is still at the top of our Spider-Man list. Here are 15 reasons why we feel that way.
15. HAS THE SPIDEY HUMOR DOWN PAT
Spider-Man is known for throwing out those snarky comments and sometimes terribly timed jokes before he gets the bad guys. It’s been part of his comic character since the beginning and one of the reasons we love the web-slinger so much. Unfortunately, the Sam Raimi films with Maguire lacked the right amount of humor, aside from J.K. Simmons’ colorful performance and those cameos from Bruce Campbell. It was a missed opportunity to be sure.
Then, like a breath of fresh air, we have Garfield and immediately start grinning when we see him swing into action and say things like: “Really? You seriously think I’m a cop? Cop in a skin-tight red and blue suit?” or telling Aunt May his face is dirty from cleaning the chimney. When she says they don’t have a chimney, he replies, “Whaaat?” He perfectly delivers the quips and one-liners, and looks like he’s having a blast doing it.
14. BEST AT MIXING GOOFY WITH SERIOUSNESS
Along with the humor, Garfield is also just the best at playing awkwardly goofy and charming, especially when Peter is trying to navigate his romance with Gwen Stacy. The key word here is “charming”, because Garfield just exudes charisma, more so than his counterparts, and adds little touches to the character – his glances or small gestures – that have made the part uniquely his and infinitely watchable.
But, as it’s destined to happen in the Spider-Man canon, things take a turn for the worse for Peter when his Uncle Ben is killed, and the novelty of being a superhero starts to unravel. Garfield deftly tackles the switch in emotions, and gives the web-head’s plight gravitas without being as pitiful and mopey as Maguire. Garfield’s performance stems from subtlety, and his Spider-Man’s quieter moments, filled with real pain, are heartbreaking.
13. STRONG SUPPORTING CAST TO WORK WITH
There have been some great supporting performances throughout all the Spider-Man movies, but Garfield really seems to shine the best with his co-stars in The Amazing Spider-Man. Starting with Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Aunt May and Uncle Ben, the stellar veterans add even more layers to their iconic roles, and you can see Garfield feed off their expertise, especially Field as May (see below). Denis Leary as Captain George Stacy and Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn also stand out.
We have some solid villains, too: Dane DeHaan’s more nefarious and petulant take on Harry Osborn, Rhys Ifans as the earnest Dr. Curt Connors who turns into the cold-hearted Lizard, and Jamie Foxx as Electro. He goes tad over-the-top but is still more compelling than the three villains in Spider-Man 3 (but we will give kudos to the best Spider-Man bad guy of them all – Spider-Man 2‘s Doc Ock, played brilliantly by Alfred Molina). Then there’s Emma Stone, but we’re going to delve into that a little later.
12. STRONG BOND WITH AUNT MAY
Garfield’s rapport with Field by far makes for the best interactions between Peter and Aunt May of them all. The actor was a relative newcomer when he signed on to play Spider-Man (his most recognizable credit up to that point was The Social Network), but you can see that he totally upped his game to act opposite the Oscar winner.
The one scene that hits us hard is when Peter asks his aunt to tell him the truth about his real father, Richard Parker, and she gives a heartfelt speech about how Richard wasn’t that great of a dad, how he left Peter on their doorstep, a “little boy whose whole world was turned upside down with no explanation.” She does know something about Richard but she doesn’t want to tell Peter because he is her “boy” and she’s not going to hurt him. Garfield’s response, “I’m your boy, you’re enough,” just slays us.
The emotions between the two actors is palpable, and will always stand a cut above. Even though Field would later complain about having to play Aunt May in a reduced capacity, you can tell she and Garfield totally connected.
11. GREAT AT PLAYING A TEENAGER
Okay, yes, Tom Holland has probably now become the best person to play Peter Parker as a teen because he actually was one when he made Spider-Man: Homecoming. There’s no denying that Holland nails it, from the youthful exuberance to the awkward pauses to the super geeky vlog about his Civil War experience.
Garfield, however, also does a pretty damn good job portraying the inner life of a high school student – and because Garfield is a little older, he displays the experience he has gained as actor to make it seem authentic. His Peter is at times arrogant and selfish but also a geeky and quiet outcast, who wants to fit in but feels pretty isolated most of the time. Who hasn’t had that kind of experience at one point in high school?
As the actor once describe the role to Variety, “I was very young — 25, 26 — and I felt young. I’d only done a few films, and I was feeling in the right place. I felt guided into it, and I knew it was the right thing for me to do.” We do, too.
10. ALWAYS LOVED SPIDER-MAN
One of the more definitive points in Garfield’s success as Spider-Man is that he’s been a huge fan of the comics ever since he was a kid. In the audition, he reportedly brought a picture of himself as a 4-year-old, dressed as Spider-Man.
“[Spider-Man] has been such an important symbol to me…,” Garfield told Cinema Blend. “It’s given me so much hope as a skinny little streak of piss, who feels more powerful inside than he looks on the outside. Every skinny boy’s dream.”
No wonder when he saw himself in the Spider-Man costume on set, it brought a tear to his eye. Can you imagine loving a character so much as a child and then being able to actually play him later? It’s pretty hard not to get emotional about it. In accepting the role, Garfield also took it very seriously, wanting to honor the character while bringing something new to it. Done.
9. REALLY LOOKS THE PART
Besides all the subtleties and charm, Garfield also just physically fits the Spider-Man role, more so than his counterparts. First of all, the actor is taller than Maguire and Holland. Peter Parker/Spider-Man is described as being about 5′ 10” – which is exactly Garfield’s height. His beanpole frame is also suited for Peter’s gawky, gangly body.
Of course, Garfield got his body into shape so that when he put on the Spider-Man costume, his cut abs would show through, reportedly adopting a pretty stringent workout and diet plan. As he once explained to L.A. Times, “I really wanted to do something physical that was genuine and authentic and inspired by the different artists over the years. His physicality is something which I’ve been obsessed by and I’ve loved. ”
While this doesn’t necessarily differentiate Garfield from the other two actors – who also got into amazing shape – the fact Garfield already looks the part, without exercise, makes it that much more convincing.
8. ALL THE RIGHT SPIDER-MAN FIGHT MOVES
Speaking of moves, the boy also studied up on how to fight and move like Spider-Man, including closely watching the actual insect itself.
When asked about how he approached it, he told L.A. Times, “What would having spider DNA constituting a percentage of your blood — what would that do? So I studied spiders.. and I tried to incorporate as much of that as I could.” He went on to say that spiders are also very sensitive to the elements around them, like wind, so he imagined his spidey senses would react that way. “The stillness of a spider and the lightness, I found all of that very interesting to explore as well.”
Credit does go to the stunt coordinators and the special effects team, but when Peter is fighting Lizard at his high school, jumping around the room, that serious attention to detail and dedication shows in Garfield’s performance.
7. HIGHLIGHTS PETER’S INTELLECT
And then there’s Peter’s smarts. All three of them – Maguire, Holland and Garfield – show, to varying degrees, the character’s keen intellect. One of the big sticky points with Raimi’s version, however, is that Spider-Man can organically spin webs from his wrists, rather than him crafting web-shooters, which he does in the comics. On the other hand, Holland is on the high school academic decathlon team and does make his own web-shooters, but ultimately has his suit custom-made for him by Tony Stark.
Only Garfield’s Peter sticks to the common narrative, and we see how he creates all kinds of gadgets, including his web-shooters and his suit. He also goes one step further in portraying a more scientific Parker, especially in the first Amazing Spider-Man movie, in which he helps Dr. Curt Connors come up with the equation to regenerate missing limbs. Naturally, this backfires and Connors becomes a homicidal amphibian, but still…. Garfield showcases Peter’s intellect the best.
6. PLAYS SPIDER-MAN FOR KIDS OFF CAMERA
This isn’t something new for an actor playing a superhero to don the costume for young fans when its warranted, but Garfield really took it to heart back when he was playing the role. It’s probably because he remembered how enamored he was with the character when he was a kid, so why wouldn’t he share that same enthusiasm?
While shooting in NYC in 2013, Garfield took time off set to hit the basketball court and play with some kids — in full costume. He also did the same thing at a London charity event, Kids’ City, in 2014. He then later joined the kids inside for a pizza party, first in costume and then later, he took it off and was just himself. Still cool.
We do also want to shout-out to Tom Holland for doing the same thing, having recently visited a children’s hospital.
5. HE’S THE SEXIEST
Scoff if you want to, but Garfield is just plain sexy as Spider-Man. From the word go, the actor makes us swoon. There’s teen Peter, trying to be too cool for school, killing you with the side looks and cute smiles as he runs his hands through his hair. There’s Peter as the newbie Spider-Man, clumsy but super cute with the banter behind the mask. Then there’s Peter as the nerdy scientific dude, with the glasses and the equation solving – yes, he makes even that sexy.
Of course, the soulful, wounded Peter captures our heart, but the Peter in love? Day-um. When he leans in to try to kiss Gwen (see chemistry below), but she won’t quite let him, “Easy, bug boy,” and he keeps trying anyway, whispering, “Yes. Yes.” in her neck — just stop it. We are 100% hooked.
4. MAD CHEMISTRY WITH EMMA STONE
Here it is, in a nutshell. One of the main reasons we love Andrew Garfield so much as Spider-Man is because he and Emma Stone, as Gwen Stacy, have some of the best onscreen chemistry ever. So far, none of the other two actors have come close (poor Maguire and Kristen Dunst). Naturally, it helped that Garfield and Stone started dating while making the first Amazing Spider-Man, but the spark had to have been there before they fell in love IRL.
While both movies have issues, particularly The Amazing Spider-Man 2, whenever the two actors are onscreen, things just pop. They have such an effortless back and forth, a teasing banter that is never forced. We’re pretty sure half of their dialogue is just improvised between them. It’s really amazing to watch, and we’re a little sorry their real-life love story came to an end.
3. DESERVED BETTER
It is a shame we won’t get to see Garfield play this character again, because he really deserved a chance after all the amazing work he put into it. The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel suffer from sometimes sloppy scripts. The only real bright moments are basically Peter interacting with the people he loves – Gwen, Aunt May, Uncle Ben, even Harry Osborn, in trying to bring his friend back from the brink of madness.
Thankfully, we get a lot of that in the films, but the rest relies on stale superhero movie tactics and overblown fight sequences. Sequels are always tougher (except for Spider-Man 2, which is pretty much still considered the gold standard in Spider-Man movies), and Garfield could have easily turned in a sub-par performance after seeing the writing on the wall, so to speak. But that’s not the case. He turns in an even more heart-wrenching performance, particularly with its sad, sad ending.
Garfield has recently spoken about the difficulties he had being in the Amazing Spider-Man movies, mostly due to corporate and studio interference. But one wonders what more he could have done if the Sony folks had stuck with him in their move to Marvel.
2. TRULY UNDERSTANDS PETER’S JOURNEY
While Maguire plays it too heavy handed and Holland hardly at all, Garfield seems to truly understand those famous words “with great power comes great responsibility.” Like we said, Garfield is able to turn on the pathos when things begin to unravel for Spidey, and no scene in any of the Spider-Man movies so far is more tragic than when Gwen dies. He almost saves her, that’s the awful part. His web reaches her in time, but not enough to stop the momentum of her body briefly hitting the ground. Garfield’s slow and agonizing realization that she’s dead just rips your heart out.
And still, after all those horrible things, Garfield’s Peter picks himself up and moves on because he knows he has to keep going as the hero to honor those he’s lost. His Spider-Man evolves as a character, much more so than Maguire’s (it’s a bit too early to say for Holland’s hero). In Garfield’s hands, we see Peter go from being a gawky teen to a responsible adult, albeit slightly damaged by the tragedies.
1. HE IS ACTUALLY THE BEST ACTOR OVERALL
Ultimately, it all comes down to this: Garfield is an excellent actor. As we’ve mentioned, he was relatively new to the big screen when he took on the Spider-Man role, but he still brought experience with him from such stellar movies as The Social Network and Never Let Me Go. His well-rounded preparation for the part, his passion, his dedication, his genuine connections with his co-stars, his charisma – these all stem from an actor who values his craft and wants to give fans the real deal as Spider-Man.
Garfield has carried those qualities on into his work post Spidey, scoring an Oscar nomination last year for his searing work in Mel Gibson’s WWII drama Hacksaw Ridge, and also quietly turning in another fab performance in Martin Scorsese’s Silence.
Look, Maguire did a fine job, and Holland seems to have a lot of potential moving forward. Perhaps, in time, Tom will be able to fill in those gaps – the responsibility, the romance – that Garfield so wonderfully encompasses in one fell swoop. But in the meantime, Garfield is still the best actor of the bunch.
We know there are those of you who will wholeheartedly agree with us, and some who will vehemently disagree with this assessment, so go ahead, let us know your thoughts in the comments!
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