With the release of Marvel’s latest, Spider-Man: Far From Home, we journeyed back to the history of stand-alone Spider-Man movies from Sam Raimi’s original trilogy to the extension of the MCU starring Tom Holland we have today.
Ranking every ‘Spider-Man’ movie
8. ‘Spider-Man 3’
Spider-Man 3 is the only actually bad Spider-Man movie, in my opinion. All the others on this list are at least good. This mess of a Spider-Man movie is of course most known for this insane scene, featuring an emo Peter Parker strutting down the street. I will argue that the conclusion of Sam Raimi’s trilogy isn’t the total disaster most people chalk it up to be, however.
There’s some potential in the introduction of Topher Grace’s Venom, and Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman is actually a pretty effective villain. It’s all a little overwrought and the utilization of Peter Parker’s dark-sided Spider-Man is horribly miscalculated. But…we’ll always have emo Peter Parker.
7. ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’
This might seem far down on the list, but hear me out. I love Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, and I love Zendaya’s edgier MJ. Jake Gyllenhaal absolutely delivers a menacing and unhinged performance as Mysterio, and Marisa Tomei is always a delight as Aunt May. But as much as this is a “stand-alone” Spider-Man movie, it still exists as an extension of the Avengers universe.
With Nick Fury still pulling the strings, the plot moves forward because of the need for a new Iron Man with constant references to Tony Stark’s death. The real delight comes in Peter Parker doing everything he can to make his summer vacation not about saving the world; he just wants to get the girl.
So, as good as this Spider-Man is, it ranks lower on the list because it’s more of an Endgame epilogue than anything else, and it makes me wonder where these movies go in a post-Avengers world.
6. ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’
Marc Webb’s sequel to his reboot is the opposite of Sam Raimi’s sequel and more reminiscent of that trilogy’s third entry, featuring an unfocused plot and too many villains. Jamie Foxx is unremarkable as Electro, so thankfully there’s Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin, but then Paul Giamatti randomly shows up later as Rhino, meant to set up a third installment that never happened.
In spite of this, though, the emotional through-line between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy is still very much there and very effective. This movie also contains one of the most memorable moments, at least for me personally, in any Spider-Man movie. The death of Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy as she falls, and Spidey’s web catches her a moment too late, it’s absolutely heart-wrenching.
5. ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’
This franchise reboot from Marc Webb felt completely unnecessary barely a decade after Sam Raimi’s trilogy, but Andrew Garfield stepped into the role of the web-slinging hero regardless.
Directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer), this entry retraced the same steps as 2002’s Spider-Man, recounting the death of Peter Parker’s uncle, the introduction of Aunt May (this time played by Sally Field) and the biting of Parker by a radioactive spider.
Even though it felt like a massive retread, the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy was a pleasure to watch, and Garfield delivered Spidey’s snide remarks with aplomb. For my money, Garfield’s Peter Parker is better than even Tobey Maguire. But the Lizard as a villain? Rather unremarkable. The final bridge set piece, however, is a top-tier stunner.
4. ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’
It was only a matter of time until the Marvel machine usurped Spider-Man officially into their canon. Everyone’s favorite web-slinger is now currently embodied by actor Tom Holland, and he’s arguably the best Spider-Man we’ve ever had. He’s more age appropriate, and so the youthful snark and emotional coming-of-age arc feels authentic.
Holland’s Spider-Man was first introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, and then it was one year later he got his first movie with this. Not only is it a great stand-alone Spider-Man movie, this was the first time I really appreciated the way Marvel consistently doubles back and folds in its ever-expanding universe.
Michael Keaton served as a formidable Trump-era villain, Marisa Tomei is a delight as Aunt May, Peter Parker’s high school is welcomingly diverse and looks like a real American high school with Zendaya giving us an unexpected MJ, and best of all, we could finally do away with the origin story. We know this hero, we know where he came from and this installment was smart to dive right in.
Sam Raimi’s original is an undeniable classic with Tobey Maguire first stepping into the role of Peter Parker. The upside-down kiss between him and Kirsten Dunst’s MJ remains among the most memorable on-screen kisses, and their romance stayed at the heart of this original trilogy, most notably in the sequel (which we’ll get to in a minute).
It’s hard not to think about Spider-Man’s onscreen representation without pointing to the third act set piece in this movie with Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin descending on a parade to meet his ultimate demise, which triggers the pivot to villainy for James Franco’s Harry Osborn.
This Spider-Man arrived before Marvel became what we know it today, a full decade before Joss Whedon’s The Avengers hit theaters. And because of that removal from being a cog in a larger system, it felt fresh, exciting and stayed in the spirit of classic Superman movies.
2. ‘Spider-Man 2’
Still hailed as one of the best superhero movies ever made, Sam Raimi’s 2004 follow-up improved on his original in every conceivable way. As Peter Parker withdraws inward to reflect on his purpose as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) wreaks havoc as one of the most nuanced villains every portrayed.
The action set pieces are spectacular, but what’s most spectacular here is the introspective emotional through-line regarding Peter Parker’s own existential crisis and his relationship with MJ. To quote the late Roger Ebert’s 4-star review: “Now this is what a superhero movie should be.”
1. ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’
It was a tough decision to not place Spider-Man 2 at the top of this list, but I had to follow my heart.
From the minds of Chris Lord and Phil Miller, this winner for Best Animated Film at the Oscars is a triumph, the best Spider-Man movie that’s ever been made and probably will be made. Not only a triumph of diversity, giving us the lovable hero of Miles Morales, this movie is also one of the most gorgeous animated movies ever made, boasting insanely imaginative visuals.
It’s a comic book movie that honestly, truly feels like you’re flipping through the panes of a comic book in your hand.
What could be construed as a convoluted story of different Spider-Man characters converging from alternate dimensions, it’s deftly handled and shockingly easy to follow the complex narrative threads. And beyond that, it’s a powerful coming-of-age tale about embracing who you are and who you’re meant to be.
The voice cast across the board is excellent, including a hilariously deadpan Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir and Kathryn Hahn as Doc Ock. With thrilling sequences that pack in both breathless action and an emotional punch, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was easily one of the best movies of last year. This scene, in particular, where Miles fully embraces his Spidey powers, is a stunner.