Spider-Man finally came back last week with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Thanks to a partnership with Sony, Marvel’s web-crawler makes his official feature debut in the MCU with director Jon Watts at the helm, and reviews and fan reactions couldn’t be more positive.
This time, 20-year-old Tom Holland stepped into the shoes of Peter Parker following his brief appearance in Captain America: Civil War, providing a different take on the character that has now had three big screen iterations over the last 15 years.
Spider-Man isn’t just known for his appearances in film, however. Over the decades, the character has had quite the career in television, either in live action adaptations or cartoon variations. Like the movies, these programs have ranged in quality significantly, and with Homecoming filling out an expansive roster, so we thought it would be a good time to rank every Spider-Man TV show and film out there.
For this list, we’re counting down the best Spider-Man movies and shows based on story, performances, originality, and keeping in spirit with the comic book material. While keeping these guidelines in mind, we came up with a definitive list that ranks every film and cartoon about everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Did Homecoming live up to the hype? Where does it rank among the other Spider-Man movies and TV shows? Check out our list of Every Spider-Man Movie And TV Show, Ranked, to find out.
15 The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Following the events of The Amazing Spider-Man, this sequel has Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) deal with his duties as Spider-Man as he tries to juggle his romantic relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) while battling new foes, such as Electro, Rhino, and the Green Goblin.
There’s a multitude of reasons that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is considered the worst in the franchise. Much like Sam Rami’s final entry (we’ll get to that later), director Mark Webb makes the mistake of overstuffing his movie with far too many subplots and characters, most of which are either underwritten or just uninteresting. The script is a jumbled hodgepodge of different ideas being tossed around, and it all leads up to an unsatisfying finale that feels rushed and unearned.
Worst of all, this film was originally meant to set up a shared universe set in the Spider-Man world, but, because of low box office returns and negative reviews by critics, that universe never came to fruition. However, hope for a Spidey-verse isn't lost, with Sony's recent announcements of a standalone Venom movie that may or may not connect with the MCU.
14 The Amazing Spider-Man – 1977 Television Series
Airing on CBS in 1977, The Amazing Spider-Man is one of the earliest attempts to bring Marvel’s popular superhero to life on the screen. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as successful as they'd hoped.
Besides the show appearing horribly dated (the suit looks like it was stitched together by a grade-school sewing class), the show’s producers made the terrible decision for Spider-Man to take on “real-life” criminals instead of the supervillains from the comics to keep costs manageable. Spider-Man has one of the greatest rogue galleries in Marvel, so for none of his infamous rivals to make their way onto the TV program feels like a major missed opportunity.
Co-creator, Stan Lee himself, was vocal about his dislike of show, so much so that in one interview he called it “too juvenile.” Still, it is the first live-action Spider-Man interpretation, so it at least gets some points for that.
13 Spider-Man 3
After two enormously successful films-- both critically and financially-- director Sam Rami capped off his original trilogy of Spidey flicks with 2007’s Spider-Man 3, which was not met with the warm praise of its predecessors.
Though championed by a few, Spider-Man 3 is largely regarded as the worst in the trilogy for including far too many villains and one too many emo-Peter Parker dance sequences. There are so many things going on at one given time – Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship, Peter and Harry’s fractured friendship, Peter's hunt for Uncle Ben's killer, the obvious shoehorning of Venom – that the audience isn’t sure what to focus their attention on.
In the end, Spider-Man 3 took too many missteps to come even close to its predecessors in terms of quality, and Sam Rami decided to scrap his ideas for another follow-up due to creative differences with the studio.
12 Spider-Man Unlimited
After the discovery of a planet known as Count-Earth, Spider-Man sets off to rescue a Terran shuttle crew trapped there and discovers a warped version of his world where the planet’s ruler, The High Evolutionary, distorts and controls copies of his old enemies.
If that synopsis sounds a little jumbled, that’s because Spider-Man Unlimited has anything but a straightforward plot. However, the risky narrative is more haphazard than it is entertaining. This Saturday morning cartoon aired in 1999 and has some decent visuals, as well as one of the best soundtracks, but it falls apart with the script, which is so farfetched and poorly written (Spider-Man’s puns are more cringe-worthy than cheeky here), that it drags the whole program down.
Originally, the pitch to Spider-Man Unlimited was supposed to take place in an alternate timeline, one where Uncle Ben is never killed and Peter gets taken over by Venom. Now that’s an animated Spider-Man series that we’d like to see.
11 Spider-Man – 1981 Animated Series
Created to launch Marvel Productions, that would later go on to air the Transformers and GI Joe series, the 1981 Spider-Man series follows the adventures of Peter Parker as he fights crime while trying to stay on top of his grades and take care of his Aunt May.
The show aired at the same time as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, and, while this program was intended to be the bigger of the two, it dwarfed in popularity. Though it didn’t pull in the ratings of Amazing Friends, this cartoon had a slightly darker edge while capturing the unique flavor of the comic books written in the '60s and '70s.
As opposed to other programs at the time, Spidey worked mostly alone here, upping the stakes and focusing more on the character. Although the writing is inconsistent at times, 1981’s Spider-Man marks a step up for the character in terms of storytelling and animation.
10 Spider-Man – 1967 Animated Series
As the original cartoon series that started it all, the 1967 animated Spider-Man was enormously popular during its original run. Although the animation is terrible by today’s standards, the series had a style that very much kept the spirit of the '60s, with standard sets of shots of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swinging across rooftops.
While some episodes were written from scratch, others were taken directly from the comic books and accurately portrayed the character without getting too lost in the schlock. Some of the stories land, while others are so campy and dated that they mostly inspire laughs, intentional or not.
It may not be the most sophisticated TV show on this list, but the 1967 animated series is still highly entertaining pulpy fun-- a show which doesn’t get too heavy-handed for kids to enjoy.
9 Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
One of two Spider-Man cartoons that aired in the 1980s, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends sees the web-slinger team up with super-friends Firestar and Iceman to fight crime in New York City. Together, the superheroes not only face off against Spidey’s own enemies, but a number of other major Marvel villains like Red Skull and Doctor Doom.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends is a bit of a mixed bag; it’s certainly campy and dated by today’s standards, especially in the animated department, but it’s still a good bit of fun if you’re willing to switch off your brain for half an hour. The team dynamic between the three heroes is enjoyable to watch, and the fact that the heroes battle villains from everyone including the Green Goblin to Dr. Doom keeps the show fresh and interesting.
Though it initially started as a side project until the 1981 series got off the ground, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends became even more popular, despite missing the drama and scope of what was to come with future shows down the road.
8 Ultimate Spider-Man
Totally different than anything that came before it, Disney’s Ultimate Spider-Man is like a cross between Family Guy, Deadpool, and the movies of the MCU. This cartoon sees Peter Parker being trained by S.H.I.E.L.D., with the usual superhero loner having to team up with other heroes like Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and even the Merc with the Mouth himself, Deadpool.
Ultimate Spider-Man is backed by a series of cutaway gags and rapid-fire jokes, and, while this style might work for some, it does tend to stray pretty far from the character’s comic book roots. Fans of Spider-Man might even be off put by the show’s overly cartoony style, which occasionally sacrifices plot and character for cheap laughs.
However, if you’re willing to embrace a different take on Marvel’s web-slinger, and appreciate a good slapstick cartoon backed by some brilliant voice-over work, then Ultimate Spider-Man might be just what you’re looking for.
7 The Amazing Spider-Man
After the less-than-stellar reactions to Spider-Man 3, Sony decided to reboot the franchise entirely. The result is director Mark Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, which recast Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. While the film has its fair share of flaws – poor character motivations and an underdeveloped villain – the movie still thrives with enough fresh ideas to revitalize the franchise.
Sure, most of The Amazing Spider-Man might feel like a retread of Sam Rami’s first installment; it takes way too much time in setting up an origin story audiences had already seen a mere ten years earlier. Also, while most can agree Garfield isn’t the best Peter Parker, he did make for a very compelling Spider-Man that stayed true to the comic book version.
The Amazing Spider-Man certainly isn’t the best Spidey movie, but thanks to some palpable chemistry between Garfield and Stone, as well as some thrilling action sequences with the Lizard, it is a solid entry in the franchise.
6 Spider-Man – 1994 Animated Series
Spider-Man has been given countless cartoon adaptions over the years, but the 1994 animated series is, without a doubt, one of the best. Airing on FOX in 1994, it’s often cited as one of the most consistent '90s superhero cartoons along with Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men.
Although the show was designed for kids, you don’t have to be a child to enjoy this animated series. Yes, there are censorship inconsistencies, like the villains being forced to say “destroy” instead of “kill,” but much of the themes and stories are adult in nature. The animation, while at times inconsistent, was also a huge step forward for Marvel cartoons, using traditional animation with new CGI effects.
Spider-Man is strongest in its first two to three seasons, and, while the quality dips in the later years in terms of storytelling and animation, the start of the show is strong enough to rank this as one of the best Spidey cartoons ever made.
5 Captain America: Civil War
While it’s not a full-fledged Spider-Man movie, Captain America: Civil War did reintroduce audiences to everyone’s favorite web-slinger into the MCU in spectacular fashion. Peter Parker may have not be on screen for long, but what little we do see of Spidey is some of the best onscreen moments we had of the character up until that time.
Whether it’s his introduction while talking with Tony Stark about why he wants to become a hero, or his climactic bout with Team Cap (who could forget that AT-AT takedown of Ant-Man?), there are more than enough standout moments to qualify this as one of the best onscreen interpretations of Spider-Man. Most of that praise can go to Tom Holland, who was quickly praised by fans as the best actor to portray both Peter Parker and his alter-ego.
Though he has limited screen time, Spider-Man not only steals Captain America’s shield, but he almost steals his movie, as well.
4 The Spectacular Spider-Man
The Spectacular Spider-Man is a high-tech reboot of Marvel’s famous web-slinger, showcasing again how teenager Peter Parker is bitten by a mutated spider and endowed with superhero abilities that allow him to fight crime. While Spectacular doesn’t offer a radical leap in terms of storytelling, it does offer stunning visuals with beautiful animation.
The effects in The Spectacular Spider-Man truly are extraordinary. Using a visual style that borrows from Japanese anime, yet still Western in terms of presentation, the animation is fluid and more dynamic than ever.
The fights between Spidey and his enemies are really something to marvel at, but the focus is emphasized on both action and characterization. The writing is also topnotch, providing a witty, funny tone that emphasizes some fully realized characters.
Featuring a solid origin story and electrifying action scenes, as well as a great supporting cast, The Spectacular Spider-Man offers fans something new while keeping within the spirit of everyone’s favorite web-crawler.
Released during the superhero renaissance of the early 2000s, director Sam Rami brought Spider-Man to life on the big screen for the first time with this blockbuster that went on to be the highest grossing film of 2002. The film featured an all-star cast, with Tobey Maguire in the titular role of Peter Parker, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, James Franco as Harry Osbourne, and Willem Dafoe as the villainous Green Goblin.
The film won over critics and fans with the perfect casting choice of Maguire, who provided excellent chemistry with Dunst. Willem Dafoe is an especial standout here, providing a genuine threat to the role of Norman Osbourne, despite his rather campy costume and mask. The action scenes also hold up remarkably well, with Rami taking advantage of both practical and CGI effects.
Above all else, the first Spider-Man is celebrated for Sam Rami’s unique direction and tone that he brought to the table, combining the best elements of drama, thrills, and his signature blend of dark humor. It’s not just a great Spider-Man movie, but also a great film with the ability to stand on its own merits.
2 Spider-Man: Homecoming
The MCU brings Spider-Man back to the basics with this year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming – a fun romp that owes just as much credit to the John Hughes' movies of the '80s than to the superhero epics of recent years. With a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, Marvel fans can finally release a sigh of relief that Spider-Man is back in good hands.
While past Spider-Man films focused on the great responsibility that comes with great power, director Jon Watts’ film focuses on the kid behind the mask. Tom Holland plays Peter Parker like an actual high school kid who is completely enthralled with having super powers. It’s a blast to watch him try and swing across the suburbs, make fools out of common crooks, and find himself in a journey of self-discovery about what it means to be a “superhero.”
Coupled with some fantastic performances from veterans Marissa Tomei as Aunt May, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and Michael Keaton as one of the best Marvel villains in years, the movie creates a highly enjoyable ride that stays true to the character in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
1 Spider-Man 2
While Homecoming was a solid start to the MCU version of Spider-Man, we simply couldn’t give the #1 spot to anything else other than Spider-Man 2. Sam Rami’s first Spider-Man introduced us to the world and the characters, but his sequel takes every element and amplifies them tenfold.
The film is a thrilling ride from beginning to end, with a seamless blend of practical and CGI effects that culminates in a harrowing climactic battle between Spider-Man and Doc Ock on top of a subway train. The iconic bout, which ends with the famous shot of Peter trying to save the subway car, still stands as one of the best comic book movie showdowns of all time.
Surprisingly, it’s not just the visual splendor that makes Spider-Man 2 the best in the franchise. For all its dazzling effects, it is the characters that keep viewers coming back to this movie. We’re talking about Tobey Maguire’s conflicted portrayal of Peter Parker, James Franco’s obsessed Harry Osbourne, and, of course, Alfred Molina’s tragic Doctor Octavius, who creates a fully realized character with his nuanced and dynamic performance.
It’s this perfect combination of action, characters, and drama that makes Spider-Man 2 the greatest Spider-Man movie to this day.
Do you agree? What would your Spider-Man movies and shows ranking look like? Tell us about it in the comments!