There have been eight Spider-Man movies since 2002: here's a ranking of all his solo films. Spider-Man is one of the most popular movie properties today, but it took a long time for Hollywood to realize how lucrative he could be. Until relatively recently, the wall-crawler had only ever journeyed to the small screen - he was the star of several series and TV films starring Nicholas Hammond, along with various acclaimed cartoons, such as the Spider-Man: The Animated Series - although that isn’t to say that no one was trying to bring Spider-Man to the big screen.
In the 1980s and 1990s, directors Tobe Hooper and James Cameron were thwarted by failing production companies – and the fact that Spider-Man's movie rights frequently changed hands. After numerous lawsuits and hotly contested debates, MGM gave Columbia Pictures the rights to Spider-Man, in exchange for James Bond's license. Director Sam Raimi was hired, and between 2002 and 2007, he produced the highly influential Spider-Man Trilogy. This ended when Raimi and Sony parted ways due to scheduling issues and creative differences later in the decade. In 2012, Sony rebooted the character in Marc Webb’s divisive duology, where Andrew Garfield replaced Tobey Maguire as the lead superhero. Yet, Garfield and Webb were soon dropped in 2015 when Sony and Marvel Studios joined forces. The franchise was refreshed yet again in 2017, this time with Jon Watts in the director’s chair.
Today, the future looks bright for Spider-Man’s silver screen adventures. Watt's latest installment, Spider-Man: Far From Home, has delighted critics and fans, and Sony is currently developing two separate franchises: one focusing on Spider-Man’s villains, and the other charting various alternate Spider-people in animated form. Soon, Spider-Man will have starred in more films than his fellow superhero icons Superman and Batman. But as this rocky production history suggests, each of his cinematic exploits has arrived with varying degrees of success. From his pizza-delivering days to his inter-dimensional battles, let’s look back on all of Spider-Man’s big screen adventures and rank them all, from worst to best.
Last updated: July 7, 2019
8. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Still mocked over ten years later, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 is still the weakest of the Spidey lot. Set a year after Spider-Man 2, the situation looks very positive for Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker. He has finally balanced his superhero duties alongside his career, and he plans to propose to his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). But this harmony is soon shattered by the threat of the New Goblin (James Franco), the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), and a certain black symbiote from outer space.
Like Alien 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 3 has a bad reputation for finishing a popular film series with a whimper instead of a bang. But emo street-dancing aside, it’s safe to say that Spider-Man 3 isn’t as bad as its lingering notoriety would suggest. Peter’s airborne fight with the New Goblin and his subway tussle with Sandman are still thrilling affairs. And speaking of Sandman, the character is the star of the movie’s standout scene; the moment when his disintegrating hands cannot hold his daughter’s pendant is heartbreaking, thanks to an affecting combination of detailed CGI and a touching score.
It’s a shame that this deftness is rarely seen elsewhere in the film. Spider-Man 3 is filled with many subplots and misunderstandings, and, buckling under their weight, it plods from one sequence to the next. When Mary Jane is kidnapped for the third time in the series, the movie’s tiredness is palpable, and a lot of this is due to the inclusion of one character: Venom. Sam Raimi famously disliked this villain, but Sony and producer Avi Arad pushed for his inclusion. As a result, Venom – and the symbiote arc at large – feels very undeveloped, as does Bryce Dallas Howard and James Cromwell’s Gwen and George Stacy respectively. Raimi’s dissatisfaction is evident throughout Spider-Man 3. While the film is not the crime against cinema that it has often been portrayed as, it remains a dark stain on Spider-Man’s filmic past.
7. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was released seven years after Spider-Man 3. Despite this time difference – and the backlash that Raimi’s movie received – it repeated many of Spider-Man 3's failings. Marc Webb’s second attempt at adapting Spider-Man sees Andrew Garfield’s wall-crawler wrangle with Electro (Jamie Foxx), the darkness spreading from Oscorp and Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), along with the mystery of his parents’ death, while trying to repair his troubled relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). It’s a busy movie for sure.
In their attempts to copy The Avengers’ huge success, Sony pivoted from copying The Dark Knight’s grounded approach in The Amazing Spider-Man to mimicking Marvel Studios’ breezier, jokier output in the Spidey sequel. On top of this, they tried to set up a shared universe of their own. While the new tone actually benefits this historically light-hearted character, the abundance of plots and ideas did not.
From Marton Csokas’ camp Dr. Kafka to Harry’s harrowing Goblin transformation, there are so many disparate forces and tones at work that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can’t quite coalesce in the way that it should. Moreover, the scenes in which Harry Osborn discovers his company’s illegal experiments deviate massively from the main plot. They are clearly setting up the next installment, as well as a Sinister Six movie, but it derails this story and is made all the more frustrating that both of these films never arrived.
However, even though audiences may have groaned at Alex Kurtzman Roberto Orci reuse of their “magic blood” trope from Star Trek Into Darkness, there is still enjoyment to be had in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Spider-Man’s opening chase is exhilarating, as is his confrontation with Electro in Times Square. But the keys to this film are Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. The two actors were dating while making this movie and the result is the kind of easy, authentic chemistry that many other films have failed to generate. As as result, the film’s heart-breaking climax is of the best-acted, most affecting scenes in the history of superhero movies.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Despite not being as warmly received as its predecessors, Spider-Man 3 made so much money that plans for two more sequels began in earnest. The original cast was set to return, along with director Sam Raimi, who was disappointed in how Spider-Man 3 had turned out and planned to restore the series’ glory. Yet in 2010, Raimi departed the project, saying that he couldn’t produce a quality film within Sony’s strict production schedule. Spider-Man 4's leading man and lady departing in solidarity with Raimi. As such, Sony moved forward with a rebooted franchise, now with director Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, and the added prefix of “amazing.”
Webb’s new take on Spider-Man’s mythos initially promised to tell the untold story of Peter Parker’s absent parents, yet it mostly just remixes Spidey’s origins. The bullied, nerdy Peter is re-imagined as an awkward loner, and Mary Jane Watson and the Green Goblin are exchanged for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and the Lizard (Rhys Ifans) respectively. Indeed, there’s a constant conflict between old and new within the film. Webb and co. clearly want to try something different, but they’re constrained by the comics (not to mention that Raimi’s original movie already told Spidey’s story very successfully).
The Amazing Spider-Man tries to embellish these familiar story beats, but the film often feels unfocused when it does. The power of Uncle Ben’s death is diluted because of the changes made to its surrounding plot. Similarly, Peter’s prolonged search for Ben’s murderer isn’t a bad idea. However, in the context of the film, this amendment hampers Peter’s arc. His transition from being a cocky kid with powers into a fully-fledged superhero isn’t as defined as it should be.
Still, The Amazing Spider-Man is overall a fairly solid outing for the wall-crawler. The late James Horner’s beautiful score elevates every action sequence, and the new cast performs admirably – particularly Martin Sheen, who looks and sound exactly as Uncle Ben should. Marc Webb’s edgier adaptation would have been received far more warmly if it had arrived later than it did – as would Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man.
5. Spider-Man (2002)
After Blade and X-Men began to bring superheroes to wider recognition, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man arrived and cemented their place in pop culture. The film swiftly broke records, became the biggest movie of 2002, and has been named one of the most revered superhero movies of all time. It may now be sixteen years old, but it’s still clear these successes – and the adulation that Spider-Man continues to receive – are well-deserved.
From Peter’s first web swing to that infamous upside-down kiss, Sam Raimi’s affection for the character is apparent throughout the film. It’s such an earnest and thorough telling of Spidey’s origins that, as already mentioned, Marc Webb struggled to diversify his take on the tale, and Jon Watts decided to avoid comparisons and skip past the story altogether.
Furthermore, Spider-Man also gifted J.K. Simmons’ J. Jonah Jameson to the world. Irate and constantly heckling, Simmons’ casting has been unanimously referred to as a perfect hiring, one of the best in the genre's history. Moreover, it’s very telling how Webb and Watts' movies avoided recasting Jameson. In the same way, Tobey Maguire is still praised for his shy and endearing take on the character, even if many fans decry his lack of one-liners (this is a criticism that has grown in recent years, especially since many subsequent adaptations have doubled down on Spidey’s wit).
Despite Spider-Man’s light touches of humor, the film is not afraid to go to some dark places. The way in which the Green Goblin attacks Aunt May is very unnerving, as is his assault on Spider-Man in the third act. The latter is particularly bloody for a superhero movie, and may turn off younger viewers. Newer audiences may too not find as much to love with Raimi's first film, especially since Spider-Man’s tone drastically differs from more recent superhero offerings; its approach and effects have already been referred to as “dated.” Still, it’s hard to deny just how important this movie is, and just how rousing it can be, especially during Spider-Man’s finale. Danny Elfman’s soundtrack simply makes that end sequence soar.
4. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2's disappointing reception prompted Sony to rethink their shared universe strategy. In the end, Sony decided to partner with Marvel Studios in a historic arrangement to share Spider-Man. Sony still retains the characters’ films rights and produces every new film, but Marvel creatively dictates Spidey’s franchise, and can use him in their own movies.
In the MCU, a world of superhero teams and alien invasions, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker wants to leave his high school behind, especially after his experiences during Captain America: Civil War. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) rebuffs Peter due to his age and inexperience, but when the villainous Vulture starts selling dangerous weaponry in Peter’s neighborhood, the fledgling hero sees an opportunity to do some good – and make a name for himself.
Though Peter Parker had already appeared in Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming stood as a new rebirth for the franchise, which meant that there were quite a few changes made to his mythos. For example, Uncle Ben’s death is only alluded to, and Spidey now utilizes a hi-tech costume. This re-configuring did not sit well with some die-hard fans, yet it’s completely understandable why Sony and Marvel made these changes. Indeed, it's hard to deny that the majority of these changes to the youthful hero worked to great effect.
For Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jon Watts took notes from teen comedies of the 1980s, and the result is a tone and pacing that is utterly suitable for Spider-Man. Sprightly and savvy, Homecoming captures the humor - and the rebellious spirit - of Spider-Man in a way that few adaptations have been able to. The film is assisted, in no small way, by Tom Holland’s tremendous talents, along with Michael Keaton, who makes for a formidable foe. Lending the film a chilling gravitas, Keaton’s tense car ride with Holland in Homecoming’s third act is undoubtedly one of the finest confrontations that the genre has to offer.
Homecoming’s action scenes may not be the most dazzling of Spider-Man’s set-pieces. However, with Tom Holland saying that he’s keen to play Spidey for years to come, it’s clear that Spider-Man: Homecoming has laid the groundwork for a long and stellar run of live-action Spider-Man films.
3. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Even though the world is pressuring Spider-Man to step up as its premier hero, Peter Parker desires the opposite. After Spidey was disintegrated by Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers: Infinity War and lost his beloved mentor shortly after he was resurrected in Avengers: Endgame, Peter craves nothing but a relaxing summer vacation with his class mates in Europe. But super-spy Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has other ideas. A new and dangerous threat has emerged, and to combat it, Fury must pair the reluctant superhero with the enigmatic Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).
Because Spider-Man: Far From Home has to reorient Spidey’s world post-Endgame - and establish his exploits abroad - the film, though humorous, doesn’t have that initial clarity that many other Spider-Man films immediately posses in their single-city setting. Yet when director Jon Watts finds his groove late in Far From Home’s first act, the movie really starts to skyrocket. Holland continues to dazzle as the teenage wall-crawler, and his chemistry with MJ (Zendaya) is delightful to behold. Yet it isn’t just the movie's core cast that shines. Far From Home gives greater attention to its supporting characters, making Spider-Man's world feel full of disparate, charming individuals. It also feels far more dynamic than Homecoming, since Watts’ increasingly confident direction has spawned slicker, more spectacular action sequences and richer character moments than its predecessor. Moreover, the film boasts some of the finest and most psychedelic visuals to exist (thus far) in the MCU – courtesy of the marvelous Mysterio.
Die-hard fans may have guessed Mysterio’s twist prior to his explanatory monologue, yet this doesn’t undermine Gyllenhaal’s brilliant performance or the fact that he brings forth one of the meatiest socio-political commentaries contained in a Spider-Man – or Marvel – movie yet. Plus, from Mysterio’s origin story to Peter’s “Peter Tingle,” Far From Home subtly and affectionately reinterprets Spider-Man’s lore to great effect. Several of these heavy ties to the wider MCU may displease some discerning audience members, but many of these links are present to bolster the movie’s message about finding your own way in an increasingly confusing, stressful world. Certainly, as the film progresses – and Far From Home's post-credits scene caps off the adventure with a bang – it’s clear that this fervent and funny film marks a bold new frontier for live-action Spider-Man movies.
2. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Spider-Man 2 isn’t just one of the best Spider-Man films; it’s also one of the greatest superhero movies of all time. Moreover, the fact that director Sam Raimi managed to improve upon Spider-Man is no mean feat either. Two years after the death of Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has kept his vow to fight crime. New York may be safer, but his personal life is in tatters. He’s struggling at college, verging on bankruptcy, and is forced to watch as Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) prepares to marry another man. And the situation goes from bad to worse when Peter’s new mentor, Otto Octavius, becomes Doctor Octopus.
There’s little to say about Spider-Man 2 that hasn’t already been said. Even so, it’s remarkable that the film gets so much that's right about the character. Tobey Maguire is at his best in the role, and he capably encapsulates Peter’s heartache, his torment, and his humor. Raimi’s Peter may not be the motor-mouth of the comics, but Maguire gets more opportunities to sass people than he did in the first film. He also sells many of Peter’s pratfalls – and spells of bad luck – with perfect comic timing.
Opposite him is Alfred Molina as Octavius. Though he’s a far more maniacal figure in the comics, Molina delivers such a layered and sympathetic rendering of Doctor Octopus that he is frequently named as one of the best ever superhero movie villains. Certainly, in the shared tragedies of Peter and Otto, Spider-Man 2 serves as a brilliant study about the pitfalls of power, and the sacrifices that come with superheroism. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also spectacular to watch. The infamous train fight remains a whirlwind of action, and one of the finest display of Spider-Man’s powers onscreen. And if the theatrical cut is outstanding, the release of Spider-Man 2.1 only enhances that experience, especially with the now-classic scene of J.K. Simmons’ Jameson prancing about in Spider-Man’s discarded costume.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
It may be one of the most recent entries on this list, but it’s already clear that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the all-time greats. As the ever-growing comic book movie genre diversifies, the risk of superhero fatigue eventually setting in looms large; there are only so many times that audiences will want to watch characters receive their powers and save the day, after all. Yet by delving into the previously untapped potential of alternate realities, Sony defied the odds. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman have produced a poignant and innovative movie that is reinvigorating Spider-Man, and the rest of his fellow caped crusaders.
Into the Spider-Verse follows Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who lives in a world where Spider-Man has been operating for some time. However, things soon change when he reluctantly receives the same wall-crawling powers as Peter Parker. With the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) dabbling in various dimensions – and threatening all of reality in the process – Miles must join forces with several alternate Spider-People to save the multiverse.
Writers Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman craft a film that’s very aware of Spider-Man’s place in pop culture, from his usage in memes and merchandise to his status as a titan of comic books. Into the Spider-Verse probes every part of Spider-Man’s legacy, but the film’s metatextuality never feels smug, and nor does it lose sight of what makes Spidey such a special character for so many people. His core ethos of power and responsibility are re-examined not just as Peter Parker's (Jake Johnson) motto, but a code for everyone to access. In short, anyone can be Spider-Man, because he is the everyman.
But Into the Spider-Verse isn’t just a heartfelt love letter to the wall-crawling hero – it’s also the funniest and most endearing Spider-Man movie yet. All of its thrilling chases and fights are packed with quips and jokey asides, and its attention to detail is frankly astounding. With every frame hiding a secret reference, and all of its characters rendered in different animation styles to reflect their home universes, Into the Spider-Verse brings comic book worlds to life like never before. The movie simply fizzes with an unbridled energy, warmth and wit that's unlike any other aforementioned Spider-Man film. Because it is predominately Miles and Peter’s story, audiences may not get to spend as much time with Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) or Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage) as much they’d like to, but given that a sequel has been green-lit, it seems almost certain that their short screen-times will be rectified soon enough.
Time will ultimately reveal its legacy, but even at this stage its clear that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the best animated films – and superhero movies – ever made.
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) release date: Dec 14, 2018
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019