Ranking All The Spider-Man Movies | From Worst To First (Updated With No Way Home)
This article was updated on December 20th, 2021 to include Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is now playing exclusively in theaters.
Now that Spider-Man: No Way Home has been officially released and I’ve had a chance to see it a few times, the time has come for it to be added to my Spider-Man rankings. I want to say upfront that I enjoy all of these movies to some degree, even if a couple in particular were especially disappointing when I originally saw them. I appreciate the good things in all these movies more with time, and I’m glad we’ve had such a rich cinematic presence for this iconic character. Peter Parker/Spider-Man is one of my favorite characters from any medium, and that’s what makes this list so fun for me. That being said, let’s get going! From worst to first…
9) The Amazing Spider-Man 2
This movie isn’t awful, but I was very disappointed with it when it first came out and it remains my least favorite of the theatrically released Spidey flicks. The big problem here is that it drifts away from the most compelling parts too often in order to focus on world building. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it’s better to take your time and to focus on giving us one great story at a time than it is to tease a bunch of “come back next time” adventures. That being said, there are highlight moments. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have great chemistry once again, and the tension behind Gwen’s fate is actually really effective, although it’s occasionally drowned out by mediocre villain arcs that feel rushed and one note. Jamie Foxx as Electro is a mixed bag of super odd choices such as puns delivered completely straight in a menacing tone. Dane Dehaan doesn’t get much of a chance to make us *like* Harry Osborn, so him being sick with a deadly disease carries less impact than it should. Not to mention the Oscorp baddies are about as generic as they can be (bad cooperation is bad, we get it). However, the opening scene is actually quite thrilling. This movie delights in showing Spidey flying through the air and swinging through the city, and those bits are still impressive. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more Garfield movies, but this one bit off way more than it could chew in under 2.5 hours. Oh yeah…and Paul Giamatti does an embarrassing and cartoonish accent while playing “Rhino.” It’s bad. Hard to watch such a great actor be reduced to such a terrible performance, even for his very limited screen time.
8) Spider-Man 3
This movie has a lot of great ideas in it. My favorite version is the “editors cut” released just a few years ago. It makes the symbiote a little scarier thanks to better editing and the original music tracks being restored. This is great as the theatrical score feels off to me, and the music in this edition makes the time significantly more consistent. It tightens up of the edit itself by rearranging a couple scenes and shaving the movie down a few minutes (yes, it’s the rare post theatrical cut that actually *shortens* the film). If you like this movie or just want to see a better cut, definitely check that version out. As for the film itself, I think we all know some of the “bully/emo Parker” stuff can be pretty cheesy and out of sync with the rest of the movie. Raimi nailed the the mix of camp, awkward, raw emotion, and action in his first two outings. Here it can be distracting. Still, Maguire is damn good at times, especially during the scene where he confronts Harry and nearly kills him. Franco is having a blast as both evil Harry Osborn and then Harry with amnesia (and then evil Harry Osborn faking still having amnesia). We also get some solid J. Jonah moments, such as his assistant helping him take his medication and a little girl charging him a ton for a disposable camera. The end with Peter and Mary Jane (Kristen Dunst) dancing is beautiful and bittersweet. It’s a moment befitting the finale to a trilogy. This is *not* a bad movie. It just mishandled a lot of elements, including fan favorite Venom (although Raimi conjures up a really good jump scare with him in the third act). Part of the problem here is Raimi didn’t want to use Venom, and after two great outings, he should have been allowed to end his trilogy the way he wanted.
7) Spider-Man: Far From Home
I know. Some of you are mad about this. Here’s the thing, this movie is consistent and well made on a technical level. The problem is it is also wildly silly and lacking in the drama department for me. The core of the story relies yet again on Peter Parker being Iron Man, Jr. as he inherits glasses from Tony that Mysterio, who hates Tony, wants. I could go on about how dumb I find many of the elements of this story, but it would be its own article. This movie is committed to being a fun adventure story, so the events of the snap on the teenage characters is mostly played for laughs in the few moments they bring it up. Aunt May once again gets virtually nothing to do other than be someone Happy (Jon Favreau) gets some jokey romantic adjacent scenes with. The best part of the movie for me is probably when Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) puts Peter through a trippy sequence that includes an undead Iron Man. Gyllenhaal is really solid in this flick, at one point being forced to deliver a “I’m the bad guy!” monologue that requires all his on screen charisma. It’s just him describing his entire plan in a bar to the people who helped him pull off the plan, which of course is a very lazy way to break everything down to the audience. But it’s Jake Gyllenhaal doing it, so it doesn’t come off as stupid as it rightly should. The main cast still has solid enough chemistry, even if the movie isn’t interested in getting all that deep about anything other than Tony Stark dying. Still, I enjoy this movie for what it is, but it’s illogical and far from great.
6) Spider-Man: Homecoming
Yeah, so, these top five Spidey movies are *really* good overall. I know a lot of you adore Tom Holland, which is great, but my reasoning for ranking this lower has nothing to do with him. It’s the writing. While he overall is a great teenage Peter/Spidey, this movie also takes away the elements that Peter stand as his own character. Aunt May gets very little to do as Tony is the paternal character in the film. Compare her role to that of the Aunt May and Uncle Ben in the other versions of Spider-Man. It’s shocking how little she gets to do. In every one of Maguire’s films, Aunt May gives a great speech that speaks to the themes of the movie. Both Martin Sheen and Cliff Robertson as Uncle Ben get to give life lessons to Peter about how to be a good person, that so speak to the core of humanity that those lessons also apply to being Spider-Man. Peter also is much more relatable in the above films, because his family struggles with everyday problems like paying rent and putting food on the table. Here, Peter’s mentor is one of the wealthiest people in history. These things add up. It took me a while to figure out why I didn’t click with this solo film as much as I did with my favorites, and these, among many others are why. Still, Michael Keaton is fantastic as Vulture, Ned and Peter have a great friendship, and Holland is charismatic and likable as both Peter and Spider-Man. I’m very much looking forward to him being out from Tony’s shadow in No Way Home.
5) The Amazing Spider-Man
Andrew Garfield is a spectacular Spider-Man. His Peter Parker is a very nice person who is also an emotional, snarky, and socially awkward young man. He’s uncomfortable in his own skin at times and Garfield gives him very fun ticks and body language. He also stands up for others long before he gets powers and he’s the only live action Peter Parker to outwardly struggle with what happened to his parents (something that would be a factor for someone growing, and I speak from experience). This Peter is nuanced as hell. He’s nerdy and awkward, but also brave and rides a skateboard. He’s quite but also cocky. That cleverness is elevated significantly when he’s behind the mask (“knives…my only weakness!” is still perfect btw). Garfield also has killer chemistry with Emma Stone, to the point where it’s among my all time favorite romances in Superhero films as a result. The scenes between Garfield and Martin Sheen are powerful, and could be straight out of an indie film about a family struggling to get by. They bring that kind of heft to it. Garfield is in my opinion, the best actor to have ever played Peter Parker. That doesn’t make his version the best, but it means watching his grieve Uncle Ben or Captain Stacey is heartbreaking. He’s a miraculous performer who can do it all. We feel his need to know more about his parents (an element often glossed over by other iterations), but we also feel his love of his Aunt and Uncle. We feel him forming a bond with Dr. Curt Conners, which is what makes Peter’s battle with the Lizard so tragic. Peter’s villains are always deeply personal, because this is a tragic character. Sally Field’s Aunt May put it best when she said, “secrets aren’t for free, Peter. There’s a cost.” Brilliantly Spider-Man. As is the score by James Horner, which is one of the absolute best superhero scores from the last ten years. The tragedy present in this movie, combined with Stone and Garfield’s chemistry is what puts it a tick above Homecoming for me, even if Michael Keaton’s Vulture is the better villain.
Back in 2002, the superhero genre wasn’t close to what it is today. This movie helped change the game and grossed over $400M domestic alone, something no other Spidey film has done since (despite years of inflation). While some try to suggest the movie is not as good today, I respectfully disagree about as much as possible. Sam Raimi always blended this old fashioned sensibility into the proceedings, and it provides a sense of goody fun and comedy in several moments. It’s very purposeful and can best be seen in J.K. Simmons’ portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson. The best thing about this movie is what an emotional journey it is for Peter. Uncle Ben tries to give his nephew life lessons, and like a teenager with a lot on his mind, Peter shuts him down during their last conversation. It feels so organic and natural, all the while creating a devastating death for Ben that will haunt Peter for the rest of the trilogy. Before that they struggle financially, as Ben digs through the classifieds looking for a job early on in the film. Peter is a goofy guy, but Maguire often gets knocked for being too much so. I’d argue that’s more the memes talking. Maguire brings rage and comedic chops to his performance whenever necessary, and does a great job playing this character as he ages into a young adult in college. Dunst is solid as MJ, James Franco is great at showcasing the entitlement, self doubt and loneliness that makes up Harry Osborn. And of course, one of the absolute best things about any Spidey flick is Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. He brings his all to every scene, and finds a voice that it as disturbing as it is entertaining. He’s a character who is dominated by anger and fear. Watching Dafoe play the baddie with every ounce of himself couldn’t be more fun. I can’t imagine a better casting choice.
3) Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
This movie is perfect in nearly every way. Miles shines and becomes a character we love immediately, Peter B. Parker is one of the best versions of Peter ever put to screen, the take on all the villains is exciting and unique. Spider-Gwen is a character who only gets more interesting as the story progresses. The decision to have Miles exist in a world where his universe’s version of Peter Parker is dead was brilliant. It raises the stakes and takes the opportunity to do something different and runs with it. Miles and his family have several scenes that bring me to tears. The multiverse is used to brilliant comedic effect without ever overpowering the core story. The first time I heard “What’s Up Danger” in this movie is among my favorite film going experiences from the last five years. I was floored by how well out together the third act of this movie was. This is very thoroughly a Mile Morales movie, which is great because I was worried this would end up being a gimmicky, multiverse animated movie. This movie also has one of my all time favorite Stan Lee cameos. I love this movie and the only reason it’s not number one is.l because the top three are in a league of their own. They’re great movies that completely understand these characters and give them great arcs. This movie just happens to be able to do some things a live action movie can’t do, and I respect that, especially because there are some outlandish and fun things (Spider-Ham!). However, with this one being animated, it’s going to be easier for it to age better, as there’s no mixing of live action and CGI effects and backgrounds to worry about or any other of the dozens of things that can “date” a live action flick. I honestly think that the top three can be ranked in any order by anyone and it’s a perfect answer.
2) Spider-Man: No Way Home
I’m not going to get into spoilers at all. So to keep it vague, this is by far the most I’ve liked Tom Holland as Peter and as Spider-Man. It’s also the first time I’ve cared about Zendaya’s MJ and him as a couple. It’s also the most I’ve liked Ned (Jacob Batalon). This trio feels like three very close friends, who are also teenagers and make mistakes. They’re relatable and highly entertaining. The centerpiece of the film is Peter and his relationship with them and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). The inciting incident happens as a direct result of Peter trying to help them. Another great thing about this movie is it only gets better as it goes. Yes, there are a few too many stabs at humor, but most of it works and when it doesn’t it’s not distracting or annoying. In fact, most of the jokes have landed with various audiences I’ve seen it with. That being said, I have to give so much props to Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe, who slid effortlessly back into their roles as Doc Ock and Green Goblin, respectively. Molina’s Otto has always been a tragic figure, and he still is here. It’s great to see him again. Meanwhile, Dafoe is bonkers good, and I haven’t stopped thinking about how much he nailed it since I saw it. These supporting roles are not massive, but they’re effective. Tomei as May also gets by far the most she’s had to work with in these MCU movies, and she does a wonderful job with the material. This movie can also get dark, and I love that because Parker is a character all about having struggles. The score by Michael Giacchino is also the best for an MCU Spider-Man by a mile, and it all ends on a perfect note. This movie is not perfect overall, but the fact that this all works as well as it does is a testament to how much these filmmakers understand and love these characters.
1) Spider-Man 2
This film is still the perfect Spider-Man movie for me. It also stands out for being a movie where Peter Parker is the only superhero in this universe, which adds to his loneliness. He has nobody to turn to for advice because nobody else really gets what he’s going through. Plus he obviously is trying to keep his identity secret. As for the antagonist, well, Doc Ock is one of the greatest supervillains of all time. Now and forever. Outside of that obvious fact, this movie provides a relatable Peter Parker going through financial difficulties, work problems (pizza time), and of course issues at college. All of this while Aunt May is in the midst of losing their family home no less. Not to mention Harry has now ramped up a strong hatred of Spider-Man that provides a ton of tension. Kristen Dunst as MJ provides a great representation for how Peter has to find a way to both be the hero and live his own life, and how that complicated path will never be easy for him. This movie captures all the best elements of Spider-Man in a well paced, exceptionally character driven action spectacle. The train fight between Doc Ock and Spidey is one of the best superhero action sequences to this day. Doc Ock in the hospital is classic horror Raimi goodness, complete with all the screams and cheekiness you can imagine. Alfred Molina’s Otto is a good man who created a monster, and his performance is flawless. Rosemary Harris has my favorite Aunt May speech to date here, while also getting to smack Doc Ock in the face with an umbrella. This movie wasn’t just good for the time, it’s great now. Is Maguire a little goofier and nerdier than some would like? Sure. Still, Raimi’s two best Spidey films also have real emotional stakes and well executed character arcs that leave an emotional impact. The suit is killer, Danny Elfman’s score and theme is perfect, and Rosemary Harris is still the best Aunt May (she gives a hell of a speech here). They hold up just as intended on that front. I also need to shout out J.K. Simmons in perhaps his finest outing as J. Jonah Jameson so far, because I will not die a monster.