When it comes to the Spider-Man movies, there have been extreme ups and downs over the many years of rebooting the franchise. Starting as a Marvel comic, and quickly growing into a pop culture empire, the Spider-Man movies aren't going anywhere any time soon.
Back in 2002 we got our first live-action cinematic look at Spider-Man via Tobey Maguire directed by Sam Raimi. Now, 16 years later, the movies are still going strong. Of course, as any Spider-Man fan knows, it hasn't been without major mishaps. From the travesty that was "Symbiote Spidey" to the all-around mess that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, fans have been through the ringer.
Some unexpected actors have come into the Spider-Man franchise and completely wowed audiences. Other actors, even some of the most well respected in the industry, just couldn't deliver. While writing and editing can take a big part of the blame for failed characters and story lines, some casting choices were just as damaging too. It's not an easy task to cast a comic book adaptation, and sometimes the mark gets missed big time.
Thankfully the bad comes with even more good, which is why the Spider-Man movies have been able to stand the test of time.
Superhero movies have become the next big thing in Hollywood, and much of that is thanks to the original Spider-Man trilogy starting it off. Let's take a look back at all of the casting decisions that were either able to make or break these comic book characters.
These are 13 Casting Decisions That Saved The Spider-Man Movies (And 7 That Hurt Them)
20 Saved - Tom Holland as Spider-Man
In an industry that often likes to cast actors in their late 20s to play high schoolers, Tom Holland is like a breath of fresh air. It finally feels like we get the high school Spider-Man we deserve - goofy, athletic, and actually young. Not only does Holland look and act the part of a high schooler, but he does a ton of his own Spidey stunts in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Holland is a trained dancer and gymnast. He is able to flip on command and perform tricks that his Spider-Man predecessors weren't able to pull off without a stunt double.
Overall, he's really the whole package.
If you need more convincing that Holland is the perfect choice for Spider-Man, it turns out he has also been a huge fan of the superhero since he was a kid - Spider-Man bed sheets and all.
19 Saved - Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin
It's hard to imagine a role Willem Dafoe can't play. His turn as the Green Goblin in Spider-Man completely captivates the character in both looks and persona.
His big, devilish grin already gives Dafoe a Green Goblin look, but what was more impressive is how Dafoe plays the green super villain. As the movie goes on, it's clear that the Green Goblin is slipping more and more into madness every day. Not only is he a well-developed character, but his madness seems real. Dafoe even has a conversation with himself in a mirror convincingly enough to make the reflection seem like someone else.
What can't this man do?
18 Hurt - Topher Grace as Venom
There's not much to write home about when it comes to Spider-Man 3, including Topher Grace's performance as Venom. Spider-Man 3 is a movie riddled with problems as it is, and is considered the worst Spider-Man movie by many critics and fans. Even the director of the film Sam Raimi agrees that the movie was a failure.
Though the movie may have been doomed from the start, Grace's performance didn't help.
He makes for an incredibly unconvincing villain, and after Spider-Man 3 trailers teased Venom heavily, it left many fans underwhelmed. At one point in the movie Grace actually says "I like being bad, it makes me happy!" Terrible dialogue aside, we're just not buying it.
17 Saved - Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man
Andrew Garfield will unfortunately always be remembered as the Spider-Man who couldn't stick it out for the entire trilogy. After the disaster that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we never got to see the third part to the saga.
Problems with the film as a whole aside, Garfield actually made a great Spider-Man.
You would never guess that Garfield has a heavy English accent while he plays an American high schooler. He is the perfect mixture of awkwardly nerdy and confident that Spider-Man needs to be. His chemistry with Emma Stone - who plays Gwen Stacy - added to the romance of the story as well and really made the audience care about their relationship.
Maguire may have started it all, but Garfield was able to pull Spider-Man off better.
16 Hurt - Jamie Foxx as Electro
Jamie Foxx's portrayal of the villain Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a strange case of seemingly good casting gone wrong.
Foxx is without a doubt a talented actor, but Electro was one of his worst characters to date.
Electro - or Max Dillon - was just all over the place. Foxx goes from mumbling science nerd to completely unrecognizable supervillain, and it isn't captivating in the least. His character basically disappears for the second half of the film, only to come back for a messy, anti-climactic finale.
It's almost easy to forget Foxx's performance altogether, which is never a good sign. It was incredibly hard to take Electro seriously, and overall, Foxx's turn in the Spidey universe was a flop.
15 Saved - Jacob Batalon as Ned
Jacob Batalon, as Peter Parker's best friend Ned, is by far one of the best additions to the MCU. He serves a purpose far beyond comic relief, and makes Spider-Man: Homecoming all the more relatable.
Batalon has the comedic timing needed to play the goofy best friend and side-kick to Spider-Man. When he finds out that Peter is really Spider-Man, he naturally completely loses it. One thing many comic book movies are missing is genuine reactions to superheroes. Ned leaves no stone unturned, asking Peter tons of questions and being all-around amazed at his abilities.
Ned also becomes an asset in the form of "the guy in the chair." There are endless funny moments that Batalon delivers perfectly, solidifying his spot in the upcoming films.
14 Saved - James Franco as Harry Osborn
While James Franco is often known for his comedy, his role as Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man trilogy was one of his better dramatic performances. Franco is able to bring a maturity to Osborn, although he was young at the time.
Osborn agonizes over his friendship with Peter Parker, even when going crazy. Franco is not only able to convey a range of emotions, but he's incredibly likable while doing so. His charm and charisma is a huge reason why the character was so successful in the trilogy. The dramatic conclusion to his character's story was the icing on the cake.
13 Hurt - Dane Dehaan as Green Goblin
Dane Dehaan's cartoonish portrayal of the Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was far too outlandish even for a comic book movie adaptation.
Initially, Dehaan's performance as Harry Osborn seemed perfect, but things quickly went south as the movie progressed.
When Dehaan plays the Green Goblin's real world persona, Osborn, he does so very well. Dehaan had no problem playing a young, rich kid who nobody can stand. Unfortunately, when it came to turning into the Green Goblin, it happened way too fast.
Teaming up with the equally strange and underwhelming Electro - played by Jamie Foxx - didn't help things either. Both villains were too ridiculous to take seriously, and the film suffered for it.
12 Saved - J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson
Another performance that will be beloved for years to come is J.K. Simmon's portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man movies. Jameson is the loud, crass editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle.
He makes it his life's mission to make all of New York City hate Spider-Man along with him, and boy, is he convincing.
Who better to play a comically angry, cigar-smoking editor than J.K. Simmons?
His acting range is impressive, but he always seems to shine in the more outlandish roles. He even won an Oscar for a similarly unpredictable and fiery character in Whiplash.
Simmons really brought the comic aspect of the movie to life. Many fans would love to see him in future Spider-Man movies.
11 Saved - Zendaya as MJ
The mystery that Zendaya brings to Michelle aka MJ is a huge part of the character's appeal. While Peter Parker spends most of Spider-Man: Homecoming fawning over Liz - played by Laura Harrier - we know MJ will play a much bigger role in Peter's life in the next films.
A big appeal of Spider-Man is that, in a world of older, more serious heroes, he's a young, goofy kid, which allows for a lot of comic relief in the films. Zendaya, on the other hand, plays the opposite to Holland's bubbly character. She is a relatively quiet book worm who throws out a cynical comment every now and then - usually just to make Peter or Ned feel stupid. She adds dark humor to the film that makes her stand out even in her minimal screen time.
10 Hurt - Joe Manganiello as Flash Thompson
On paper, Joe Manganiello made for a good Flash Thompson in the Spider-Man movies. He has the whole big, tough, convincingly dumb jock thing going on, but there is still a disconnect on screen.
To point out the obvious, Manganiello looks nothing like a high school kid.
He was 24 when shooting the first Spider-Man film. Many of the cast members were in their 20s, but Manganiello looks like he's pushing 30. Surrounded by a bunch of much younger-looking castmates, he stands out in a comedic way that almost helps his character, but it's just too much.
At least Manganiello will always be remembered fondly for the entertaining hallway fight scene.
9 Saved - Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man
While you may not agree that Tobey Maguire is the best rendition of Spider-Man, he will always be remembered as the first live-action portrayal. Maguire kicked off the Spider-Man movie franchise, and arguably the superhero movie takeover still lasting in Hollywood today. Not only that, but he did a pretty good job with the role too.
While he may not be as charming as Garfield or as athletic as Holland, Maguire made Spider-Man his own.
A huge reason why his performance is so beloved could be nostalgia, but Maguire made us care about the guy under the suit. As long as we all agree to pretend the symbiote street dancing never happened, Maguire will always be remembered as the godfather of the Spider-Man films.
8 Saved - Michael Keaton as Vulture
Michael Keaton is so convincing as Vulture that it actually makes you wonder whose side you should be on. While it would have been easy to make Vulture purely motivated by evil intentions, Keaton's Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming is far more realistic.
It can be hard to find realism in comic book adaptations, but Marvel's best villains always have a solid backstory and reason behind the madness. Keaton plays Vulture in a way that makes the audience understand why he does what he does. Believe it or not, Vulture even makes a convincing argument as to why we shouldn't glorify people like Tony Stark and anyone else who profits from alien technology.
Overall, his motivation is complex, and Keaton's acting chops make Vulture a memorable villain.
7 Hurt - Elizabeth Banks as Betty Brant
Reducing Elizabeth Banks to a bimbo secretary character is a huge disservice to the talented actress. Banks plays Betty Brant in the Spider-Man trilogy, and while she wasn't as well known at the time of the film, she still deserved better.
There's almost no material to work with when it comes to the live-action version of Betty Brant. In the comics she has a bigger role, actually being Peter Parker's love interest, but in the movies the most we get is some coy flirting. She spends most of the rest of her time being yelled at by J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson.
It's easy to forget that Banks was in the films at all, and her acting skills were definitely wasted here.
6 Saved - Alfred Molina as Doc Ock
Alfred Molina as Doctor Otto Octavius - aka Doc Ock - is considered one of the best supervillain performances in Spider-Man movie history.
His portrayal of the complex character is nuanced in all the right places, and Molina ends up being the highlight of the film.
Too often movie villains seem like an afterthought, but Molina's Doc Ock shows us that a film can benefit from spending more time on its bad guys. Doc Ock's tragic loss of his wife and work makes for one of the most moving scenes in Spider-Man 2.
He decides to give into the influence of his tentacles to truly become Doc Ock. The faithfulness to the source material along with Molina's acting chops made Doc Ock outshine the other characters.
5 Saved - Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
While The Amazing Spider-Man franchise had many flaws, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy was not one of them. She is incredibly charming on screen and has an effortless chemistry with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker (which makes sense, seeing as how the two ended up dating in real life).
This Oscar-winning actress made sure to give it her all, even in these movies riddled with bad dialogue and messy plots.
Whenever Stone comes on screen it is like a breath of fresh air. With bright blonde hair, a big smile, and mesmerizing eyes, her look is spot on.
Stone's performance is equal parts clever and dramatic. Her undeniable screen presence makes for a nice break from the craziness.
4 Hurt - James Cromwell as Captain Stacy
In Spider-Man 3, we meet George Stacy, Gwen's father, and he is played by James Cromwell. Unfortunately the character is just okay, and it seems to be the blame of both parts writing and acting.
To be fair, Cromwell isn't given a ton of material. The material he is given, however, is wasted. Cromwell plays a convincing enough officer, but as a father he is lacking. He doesn't seem to urgently care about anything, even his daughter being in danger.
Cromwell is usually a good actor, but it honestly seems like he phoned it in for this performance. Denis Leary goes on to play a great rendition of George Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man, making us forget about Cromwell's portrayal all together.
3 Saved - Donald Glover as Aaron Davis
If you think about it, Donald Glover doesn't have much screen time in Spider-Man: Homecoming. In fact, he's really only in two very short scenes.
Glover goes to show that even when given a small role in a film, such as Aaron Davis, you can still find a way to shine.
Glover's many fans already know that he's a genius with comedic timing. He even gives Spider-Man tips on interrogating someone while his hand is webbed to the trunk of his car.
Though Glover only plays a small-time criminal, he leaves a big mark in the movie. We can only hope he'll make an appearance along side Tom Holland again in the upcoming Spider-Man films.
2 Hurt - Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy
Bryce Dallas Howard's portrayal of Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3 left far too much to be desired. She had a relatively small role in the movie, and just wasn't able to shine as the comic favorite love interest of Peter Parker.
Howard was okay in the role, playing a slightly superficial and bubbly rendition of Gwen Stacy.
Unfortunately, there was simply nothing special about it. It's almost easy to forget about her as she disappears for half of the movie in order to make way for Peter's true love, Mary Jane.
While Howard may have been the first to play her on screen, Emma Stone holds the place for best Gwen Stacy portrayal so far.
1 Saved - Marisa Tomei as Aunt May
Marisa Tomei landing the role of Aunt May in Spider-Man: Homecoming was initially confusing to many fans. While Aunt May has slowly been getting younger as the Spider-Man films are remade, in the comics she is still an old, grey haired woman who can't keep up with Peter's antics.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming we get an Aunt May who is more on top of what her nephew is doing. She doesn't take any nonsense from Peter.
A few jokes in the film revolve around how surprisingly young and lovely Aunt May is. The writers were clearly aware of this big change, and decided to have fun with it.
Tomei makes Aunt May her own.
Who's your favorite Spider-Man actor? Let us know in the comments!