Over the last ten years, Spider-Man has come in many shapes and forms on the big screen, with several incarnations adapted from the comics to live-action. While we have a number of actors taking on the web-slinging role, all of the films have had several iconic Spidey villains come to life from the pages of the comics. With the latest Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Far From Home, hitting theaters recently, it’s time to rank the many villains that we have seen on the big screen.
Disclaimer: this list is focusing solely on the villains who pretty much served as the big bad or shared the position as the main antagonist in the same film. So don’t expect any of the Shockers, the supporting villains from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and more. If you haven’t seen Spider-Man: Far From Home, be aware of some major spoilers below.
The controversial disaster that was Spider-Man 3, the end of Sam Raimi’s trilogy, came with more negatives than positives for several reasons. One of them was Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock a.k.a. Venom as the sequel brought the Symbiote to life in live-action. Given that Raimi hadn’t even planned for Venom to serve a large role in this installment, it’s understandable why the execution was also a mess in the end. At the same time, this is also one of those cases where the actor was completely wrong for the role.
While the Marc Webb franchise started strongly, it, unfortunately, ended too soon with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. In an effort of fleshing out an attempted cinematic universe rather than make a strong sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was crowded with plot points and baddies. One of them was Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn who in this re-imagination of the Spider-Man universe became the Green Goblin way too fast.
There was never a problem with DeHaan as Harry, but it was the idea of making him into the Goblin so quickly. In a film that was already dealing with a major threat, introducing Harry for the first time in this franchise and making him into a villain without getting to explore the character first, was a big downfall. It almost felt like his transformation only happened so he could fulfill the role of getting Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) killed, adapting the classic comic.
With James Franco's Harry Osborn, this is where things went into the right direction. The trilogy took its time to get Harry from being Peter Parker's (Tobey Maguire) to one of his enemies, only to be redeemed in the end. Despite the many rushed aspects of Spider-Man 3, Harry's journey into being the next Goblin felt earned. It also helped that at the end, Harry does make the heroic sacrifice after the big showdown.
Jaime Foxx brought Max Dillon a.k.a Electro to life in the second installment in the Webb franchise, meant to be the big antagonist of that film. Setting Max up as someone who had a pretty sad life, it was easy to connect with him and understand how his messed up transformation got to his mind.
It was also brilliant setting Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) up as his idol only for him to be turned into the person Max hated the most. While it was inspired to use the Ultimate Electro look, it would have still been appreciated if his green and yellow costume had somehow been adapted rather than some dull black leather suit.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse brought the Spidey universe into animation and did a lot of characters right. One of them was the powerful Wilson Fisk a.k.a the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) whose plot was both villainous, but also tragic. Wilson has always been one of the more complex forces in the Spider-Man mythology and this film made sure to introduce that aspect to new fans. The idea that he was simply trying to find his family from a different universe was heartbreaking, despite the fact that it was putting New York at risk.
Set to be the actual main baddie in Spider-Man 3, Thomas Haden Church was actually the best villain out of the trio we had. Similarly to other villains, Flint Marco was also set up as a tragic foe for Spider-Man. From him initially trying to save his very sick daughter to being the man who accidentally shot Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) in the first movie, you were able to feel for Sandman.
One of the pivotal scenes that pulls your heartstrings is when Flint explains to Peter what actually happened that night and how Ben's death was a complete accident. Despite this sequel's weakness, the Sandman was definitely not one of them.
While we have yet to see Norman Osborn join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Willem Dafoe's take on the character in the first Spider-Man movie is still one of the most iconic portrayals. While the costume can be discussed, it doesn't take away from the great performance of Dafoe and the role he would play in Harry's journey despite dying at the end of this film. There is too much to love from this incarnation, from the fights with Spider-Man, the famous Goblin voice, and so much more.
In The Amazing Spider-Man, we got off to a strong start in terms of villains with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) a.k.a. the Lizard. This is definitely that franchise's best villain simply because this was a man who didn't actually want to be evil. All he wanted was to help humanity evolve further when it came to health as he was looking to gain a new arm. The connection that they set up between him and Peter through Richard Parker (Campbell Scott) was one of the brilliant moves of that film. It also helped that the design for the Lizard was absolutely amazing. Similarly to Electro, this was also another tragic enemy who wasn't evil for the sake of being evil.
When Spider-Man officially joined the MCU, the franchise got off to a strong start and part of that was Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes a.k.a. the Vulture. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, we see Adrian as pretty much Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) but as a regular guy. It was a smart move to open the film up from Adrian's point of view where the system screwed him over when all he wanted was to be a good man for his family. You could actually understand where he was coming from even though his methods were probably not ideal. However, it still doesn't change the fact that the Vulture is one of the best villains we have seen in the live-action Spider-Man films.
From the Raimi trilogy, the award for the strongest antagonist goes to Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius a.k.a. Dr. Octopus. Sticking to the tragedy that some of these Spidey villains go through, in Spider-Man 2 we see how a good man like Otto was taken by the darkness after an unfortunate accident. Setting him up as a role model for Peter only to become one of the most dangerous men that New York ever faced was compelling in itself. Then we have the Octopus aspect that needs to be praised given that this was done back in 2004. All of this is what makes Molina's performance of Dr. Octopus so memorable to this day.
While we have had so many powerful portrayals of some of Spider-Man's greatest foes, Jake Gyllenhaal's Quentin Beck a.k.a Mysterio took the idea of being a Spidey villain to a whole new level. It's hard to pick what is loved more about his Mysterio. For starters, the film really showcased the idea of a villain who was a special effects maker while also being a complete mastermind. It could have been easy to make him cheesy, but instead, Spider-Man: Far From Home made him the best villain that any Spider-Man film has had thus far. He also gets bonus points for being able to mess with Peter (Tom Holland) big time despite the fact that he is dead. From all the amazing action scenes against Spidey to the execution of his trickery and illusion, Gyllenhaal's Mysterio earns the number 1 spot without a doubt.