When it comes to offering a wide and wildly inventive array of superheroes, many would argue that Marvel just about shades ahead of DC. On the flip side, when it comes to the discussion on which has the better selection of iconic villains, DC probably comes out on top, with Batman’s rogues gallery leading the way in that respect. In fact, the only Marvel comic book icon that really comes close to matching the Caped Crusader for offering the coolest and most recognizable a collection of iconic villains is Spider-Man.
By and large, Batman villains have translated well to the big screen, save for the travesty that was Batman & Robin (the nightmares involving those endless Mr. Freeze puns just won’t go away). That’s not quite been the case for Spidey, who, like Batman, has undergone any number of reboots and sequels over the years, bringing several notable villains to the multiplex, but often with mixed results.
So, which soared and which sank? Here are Spider-Man’s Best Cinematic Movie Villains Ranked from Worst to Best, including all the latest names from Spider-Man: Homecoming.
16. Dr. Curt Connors – Spider-Man 2 & 3
Spider-Man fans may rant and rave about seeing some of their most beloved comic book villains disappoint on the big screen, but what about the villain that never really got to be a villain?
Dylan Baker came on board to play Dr. Curt Connors, the one-armed professor who transforms into the Lizard, from Spider-Man 2 onwards, and he did a solid enough job with a limited role that essentially required him to look academic and spout science-based mumbo jumbo.
Yet even his mere presence was a hint at something big on the horizon. Dr. Connors is a pretty iconic Spider-Man villain with a well-established and important handicap. There was a feeling that, sooner or later, Baker would be expected to jump into the role of a lifetime as Lizard. That role could have come with the aborted Spider-Man 4. Sam Raimi was reportedly keen to finally turn Dr. Connors into the lizard for the fourth film, potentially alongside the Vulture, but ultimately exited the project, taking Baker’s dream with him.
15. Scorpion/Mac Gargan – Spider-Man: Homecoming
Michael Mando’s role in Spider-Man: Homecoming amounts to little more than two meetings with The Vulture – one on a Staten Island ferry and another in the post-credits prison encounter – but there could be big things to come from the character. Listed as Mac Gargan in the credits, all the signs point to the nefarious foe playing a pivotal role in the sequel to Homecoming, with the character sharing the name given to another of Spidey’s most memorable villains, The Scorpion.
In one single chat with Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, during that prison encounter, Gargan may have set in motion the events that will result in fans finally seeing some incarnation of the Sinister Six – a collective of villains that team up to take on Spider-Man. And in casting Better Call Saul’s Mando, Marvel and Sony have chosen wisely, with anyone who regularly tunes into the understated Netflix show happy to attest to the actor’s abilities. Deliver on that potential and his place on this list may need revising.
14. The Gentleman/Gustav Fiers – The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2
In years to come, the late Michael Massee’s version of the Gentleman, Gustav Fiers, may end up ranking as being The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2’s biggest cinematic sin. And that’s not because Massee does a poor job, but quite the opposite – the brief glimpses we do get of the character tantalize but ultimately never deliver.
Amounting to little more than a post-credits teaser in the first film and a vehicle to shoe-horn the idea of the Sinister Six movie that was meant to follow the second film, that we never really got to see more than a glimpse of The Gentleman is a real shame, and the studio only has itself to blame. Having taken their eye off the ball somewhat with the Electro-led sequel, The Gentleman is reduced to little more than the cinematic equivalent of a Netflix TV series end-of-episode teaser.
Sure, Massee is suitably mysterious in the role and deserves some credit for what he does with extremely limited material, but it ultimately amounts to a wholly unsatisfying cameo and reminder of what could have been if Sony hadn’t been in such a damn rush to expand the Spidey universe.
13. The Shocker/Jackson “Montana” Brice – Spider-Man Homecoming
There’s a point, late on in Spider-Man: Homecoming, when Tom Holland’s Peter Parker quips, while facing off against the Herman Schult (Bokeem Woodbine) incarnation of the Shocker, that the “other guy was way better with those things” in reference to the shock firing gauntlets the character wears – and he’s kind of right.
Though only in the film for a limited time, Logan Marshall-Green’s Jackson “Montana” Brice is actually pretty darn effective as the Shocker and more than capable of wielding those gauntlets to devastating effect. Maybe it’s down to the fact that Marshall-Green is the spitting image of Tom Hardy, but he brings a certain devilish charm to the role, serving as one of Adrian Toomes’ hoodlum foot soldiers, responsible for bank robberies and arms deals.
Sure, he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but Marshall-Green knows that, and plays the role with the right mix of brutishness and short-sighted behavior. What a shame then that he’s ultimately turned to ash by Toomes after making empty threats about informing the Vulture’s family about the truth behind his ill-gotten gains.
12. Rhino/Aleksei Sytsevich – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Another wasted opportunity in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and something of a bizarre bookend to the actual, central events of the movie itself, Rhino would have been mentioned earlier on in this list were it not for the fact that Paul Giamatti gives it his all in what is a largely thankless role.
The idea of Giamatti, better known for gentler, more indie-focused fare like Sideways and American Splendor, would transform into a crazed, tattoo-laden, bank-robbing Russian sounded fantastic prior to the film’s release. But, as has often been the case with Spider-Man sequels of late, it’s been a case of one villain too many, with Giamatti’s Aleksei Sytsevich sidelined from much of the movie’s main action and left to serve as little more than a teaser for an Amazing Spider-Man 3 movie that, ultimately, never ended up being made.
As over-the-top as Giamatti’s brief stint as Rhino may have been, everyone still wanted to see how that fight with Spider-Man that serves as the movie’s cliffhanger would have turned out. That the film cut to black before the payoff leaves something of a sour taste in the mouth
11. The Tinkerer/Phineas Mason – Spider-Man: Homecoming
Arguably the brains behind the Vulture’s underground operation, it’s Phineas Mason’s the Tinkerer who develops Toomes’ flying suit and the Shocker’s gauntlets. He’s even the one who pushes for the gang to rob Tony Stark’s private jet, all from the comfort of his workshop, where he spends countless hours developing weapons capable of turning enemies (or out of control colleagues) to ash and making walls disappear.
Evidently not a man to be messed with, it’s also unclear as to the Tinkerer’s whereabouts come the end of the film – the Vulture and Shocker are both captured, but there is no mention of any further arrests. Given that Orange Is The New Black star Michael Chernus was recruited for what amounts to a bit part role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the suspicion is that there’s more to come.
With the potential for a Sinister Six movie featuring Shocker, Vulture and the Scorpion alongside a few more, as-yet-unknown Spider-Man villains – the Tinkerer could come to the fore as the brains behind another, even bigger operation. As it is, he’s understated, intelligent, and also compellingly real.
10. Venom – Eddie Brock – Spider-Man 3
When news first broke that Venom would feature in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, the follow-up to the Evil Dead filmmaker’s two near-perfect Spidey entries, pretty much everyone was excited. When it was later confirmed that Topher Grace, the scrawny lead character from That ’70s Show, had landed the part of Eddie Brock, pretty much everyone was … confused. As good a comedic actor as Grace undoubtedly is, few if any Spidey fans would have picked him as the big and brash Brock.
Fans went with it though, confident that Raimi could deliver a film and eke an appearance from Grace that would be everything Venom fans had been imagining for all those years. Heck, Michael Keaton was largely viewed as a comedic actor prior to landing the part of Batman, so why not?
Then they saw the film. Not only is Grace a thoroughly lightweight Brock, lacking any real characterization and coming off more like a less savvy Peter Parker, but Grace was barely given enough screen time to make a real impression in the role, combining for a thoroughly unsatisfying incarnation. Bring on Tom Hardy’s Venom, so everyone can forget this ever happened.
9. Green Goblin – Harry Osborn – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
While Dane DeHaan did a solid enough job in the early goings of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the latter half of the film sees him emerge as the Green Goblin, and it’s a muddled take at best. Fans had already seen Harry Osborn’s tale of anguish over the death of his neglectful and demented father and the anger he felt towards Spider-Man play out over the course of Raimi’s trilogy with largely underwhelming results, but that doesn’t stop Webb’s movie from going over pretty much the same ground, albeit in a much worse way.
In this version of Spider-Man, Norman Osborn is rendered into little more than footnote, seemingly introduced to plant the idea of Harry being terminally ill and in need of Spider-Man’s special blood, which later becomes the motivation for his murder of Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. Hmmm.
Along the way, there’s boardroom frame jobs, an unlikely pairing with the loose cannon Electro, and the world’s most convenient secret supply of Green Goblin exoskeleton-led weaponry and an evil magic potion. Sure, Dane does a good job of looking demented once he becomes to Goblin but, Willem Dafoe had already done that, and a damn sight better too.
8. Electro – Maxwell Dillon – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Jamie Foxx is an Oscar-winning actor who would have been capable of turning his hand to pretty much any character in the Marvel universe. That he will be forever remembered for this mannered and disappointing Electro in what is far and away the worst Spider-Man movie to date is a crying shame. While Foxx comes off a little mannered in the role, he can’t be blamed for the fact that the character he is playing is such a tired combination of superhero clichés and ill-advised stereotypes.
A Rain Man-esque computer programmer Dillon essentially becomes electric after falling into a vat of … electric eels (don’t try that at home, it won’t work). Electro scores some points for at least looking the part, with the visuals that go into creating the character being pretty eye-catching at least.
But he’s hardly a compelling villain, and he lacks a killer backstory or real motivation for his actions. It’s also somewhat problematic that Spider-Man’s first major African American villain on the big screen should not only be turned a blueish white, but also be characterized as something of a weirdo, especially after a glut of super-smart white inventors turned crazed monsters in the movies previous.
7. The Shocker – Herman Schultz – Spider-Man Homecoming
As anyone who watched the excellent second season of Fargo will attest, Bokeem Woodbine has looked primed for big things for some time now, and after several years spent paying his dues with smaller roles in films like The Rock, this fine character actor is finally getting some time in the spotlight.
He may be the second man to earn the title of the Shocker in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but it’s a title that fits, as Woodbine’s Herman Schultz is the perfect sidekick to Keaton’s Vulture, with the pair combining to great effect during the film’s standout Staten Island ferry showdown with Spidey.
There could be even better things to come from Woodbine as the Shocker too, who is left incapacitated but very much alive by the end of the film. With the movie’s post-credits sequence hinting at the potential for a Spidey outing that sees Peter Parker going up against the Sinister Six, Woodbine’s solid turn as Schultz could become something with a little more substance in the next movie. Fingers crossed.
6. Hobgoblin – Harry Osborn – Spider-Man 2 & 3
It may not have quite come together in the way Raimi hoped, but there are plenty of positives to Franco’s overall performance as Harry Osborn across his three Spider-Man outings. Franco is certainly great as Harry, capable of imbuing the character with plenty in the way of affable charm, while also showcasing a sense of glaring inadequacy in several aspects of his life, whether it’s his initial courtship of Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane or his various failed attempts at imitating his dad’s business acumen.
It’s only when he shifts into the role of the New Goblin that he wobbles a bit. Franco simply isn’t sinister enough to be among Spider-Man’s biggest and best adversaries, coming off more as an angry teenager than the crazed son of a former Spidey foe intent on revenge.
There are some fine moments – the initial confrontation between himself and Spider-Man that results in his concussion is great – while his subsequent manipulation of Peter and Mary Jane is also memorable. It’s just a shame that, after all that, his sacrificial demise in Spider-Man 3 feels rushed.
5. Sandman – Flint Marko – Spider-Man 3
In the mess that is Spider-Man 3, Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman stands as the one saving grace in a movie full of otherwise underwhelming villains. After three films, Harry’s Hobgoblin(ish) baddie doesn’t really get the payoff he deserves, while the less said about Topher Grace’s Venom, the better.
Raimi gets it just about right when it comes to the Sandman, though, even if his origin story does feel a tad contrived, with the inclusion of the revelation that Church’s character Flint Marko was responsible for Ben Parker’s death. Get past that, and Church’s suitability to the role shines through. He’s physically imposing, monosyllabic, and a much simpler type of criminal, which makes for a refreshing change after back-to-back mad scientists in Green Goblin and Doc Ock.
There’s a sadness to Church’s Flint that can be found in his every grimace, with the character embarking on a life of crime in a bid to pay for his terminally ill daughter’s expensive medical treatment. Then there’s the sand itself, which is well-rendered on the screen and helps the character stand out as one of the most eye-catching villains in the Spider-Man cinematic universe to date.
4. The Lizard – Dr Curt Connors – The Amazing Spider-Man
Spare a thought for Rhys Ifans, who puts in a fine shift as Dr. Curt Connors aka The Lizard in Sony’s otherwise shameless attempt to reboot the Spider-Man franchise by…essentially serving up the same movie with The Amazing Spider-Man, minus much of what made Raimi’s original so endearing.
After waiting so long for Dr. Connors to become The Lizard (see: #16), fans finally got a worthy incarnation with Ifans, who has an undeniable rapport with Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker as his friend and mentor turned foe.
Like many of the villains on display in the Spider-Man movies, Connors transformation is the result of self-experimentation gone wrong, losing his sanity in the process. There’s an honesty to Ifans’ Connors though, who views the world in scientific terms, even when he’s losing control of his mind. It’s reflected in a restrained performance that gives the character a different feel to the likes of the Green Goblin and Doc Ock. It’s just a pity that fans never got to see Ifans reprise his role for that long-discussed Sinister Six movie. Blame Rhino.
3. Green Goblin – Norman Osborn Spider-Man
Willem Dafoe is at his demented best as Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s debut Spider-Man outing, but it’s the initial groundwork he lays as billionaire industrialist turned baddie Norman Osborn that really sets this apart.
The disappointment he feels towards James Franco’s Harry Osborn is palpable on the screen, with Dafoe doing a fine job of adding an extra dimension to a character that, in other hands, may have come off very differently. The contrasting admiration he has for Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker not only provides the perfect contrast, but further lays the foundation for much of the tension that exists between Harry and Peter for much of Raimi’s trilogy.
Once Osborn tests his super soldier formula out on himself, going insane in the process, Dafoe does an equally fine job as a exoskeleton suit-wearing, jet gliding maniac, with a crazed series of facial expressions and vocal range that make you feel that he was born to play the role. Even when he meets his comeuppance, it’s tinged with a humanity and sadness that takes the character off the page and into something approaching the real world.
2. Vulture – Spider-Man Homecoming
After three failed attempts at bring the Vulture, Adrian Toomes, to the big screen, Jon Watt’s Spider-Man: Homecoming succeeds where so many before have failed, and boy, was it worth the wait. Not only does Michael Keaton look the part, complete with a receding, Vulture-like hairline, crow’s feet, and shaggy leather jacket, he totally inhabits the character of Toomes to the point where Keaton doesn’t even see him as a villain.
“I found a really interesting approach to what you all wanna call a villain,” Keaton explained in a video for Disney Channel’s A Fans Guide To Spider-Man. “He does corrupt things in order to fight what he sees as corruption and I think he has a pretty strong argument.”
Coming across like a dark version of Tony Stark, Keaton’s Toomes has been busy making a living trading in illegal Chitauri technology that was left over after the events of the original Avengers flick when Spider-Man arrives on the scene. He and his comrades have built a pretty incredible Vulture suit, along with some awesome weapons for him and his gang, along the way.
Street smart, sneaky, and highly watchable, Keaton’s’ Vulture might be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best and most grounded villain to date. He’s not intent in taking over the world or turning everyone into lizards or octopuses – he just wants to make money, lots of money, for his family.
1. Doctor Octopus – Dr Otto Octavius – Spider-Man 2
Make no mistake: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is far and away the Marvel icon’s greatest cinematic outing to date, boasting memorable action set pieces, a real emotional punch, and some genuinely funny, sweet, moments. Above all else, Spider-Man 2 features the web-slinger’s most compelling cinematic villain yet. Alfred Molina damn near steals the show entirely as Dr. Otto Octavius, a genuinely tragic figure turned mad by his own invention (and the shock death of his wife) during the failed experiment that results in him becoming bound to the robotic tentacle arms that come to define him.
At the center of a densely plotted but perfectly balanced plot, Octavius isn’t just a good villain – he’s arguably the scariest Spider-Man villain put to screen, with Raimi pulling all his old Evil Dead tricks to bring the Marvel icon to life. You half expect Bruce Campbell’s Ash to turn up during the scene where doctors attempt to remove his tentacles, a sequence that turns very nasty, very quickly.
Doc Ock’s character arc also has the most satisfying conclusion of any in Raimi’s trilogy, earning some form of redemption in the process. Combining Molina’s three-dimensional take on an iconic character with a compelling and thoroughly satisfying character arc, this is as close to Spider-Man villain perfection as you are likely to get.
Do you disagree with our Spider-Man movie villain ranking? Have your say in the comments!
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