OPINION: All The Spider-Man Films, Ranked
Spider-Man, arguably the world’s favorite arachnid-based superhero, has enjoyed a pretty consistent popularity since his introduction in 1962. Out of all of the things that have ensured that popularity, the movies starring the character are usually the first to come to mind when someone thinks of Spider-Man. From the Sam Raimi trilogy to the MCU incarnation, to the Garfield movies in between, multiple generations have had their own definitive Spider-Man films.
Despite the consistency of the releases, the consistency of the quality of those releases has sometimes been noticeably lower. In this article, I’m going to rank all six of the live-action Spider-Man solo films that have been released in this century. In case it wasn’t obvious, this is just my opinion.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield’s second outing with the friendly neighborhood web-slinger is not only their weakest but also the franchise’s weakest. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffers from the same kind of overstuffing problem prevalent in Spider-Man 3 (we’ll get to that later), but it was handled better in the latter film because Raimi was able to make the characters compelling. Harry Osborn’s turn into the Green Goblin worked much better because we as an audience had two previous movies to witness his struggles, deterioration, and relationship with Peter. This film, however, introduces him for the first time, boils down his relationship with Peter into expository dialogue, and then crams his deterioration in between the major conflicts in this two-and-a-half hour movie. As a result, Osborn as a character isn’t fleshed out enough for us to be truly invested. The more immediate villain in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is Jamie Foxx’s Electro, who - again - has an introduction and turn that feels rushed. Paul Giamatti as Rhino also makes an appearance in here as well, disappearing after his first scene under the half-dozen clashing subplots all juggling for attention before reappearing in the final scene in a tease to the sequel that, fortunately, never happened.
5. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
The first Amazing Spider-Man film is a less problematic version of its sequel, even though it is still not without its faults. The potential for this film to do well feels trapped in its origin story plot, which falls under the shadow of Sam Raimi’s excellent version of it only ten years prior. Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is cool and charismatic, which is slightly at odds with Parker’s usual characterization as an underdog intellectual of sorts. The strongest element of the film is the relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy, a strength that I’d attribute to Marc Webb, who had previously shown his talents in regards to relationships in the excellent 500 Days of Summer. The directing on the action scenes is generally solid, and one of those action scenes contains one of my favorite Stan Lee cameos. Overall, though, The Amazing Spider-Man has too much holding it back to really live up to its title.
4. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
I will admit, I used to be harder on this movie than it deserved. Is it the worst of the Raimi films? Yes. But is it a bad movie? Not at all. Granted, having to follow up the masterpiece that is Spider-Man 2 is asking a lot of any movie, but Spider-Man 3 does an admirable job. While the overall execution of scenes showing Peter’s darker side is not always the best, the idea behind those scenes makes sense and is genuinely interesting. The character-driven approach taken by the Raimi trilogy is still firing on all cylinders, and the film still manages to feel light and breezy despite its overall darker tone. As touched on earlier, Harry Osborn’s transformation into a villain is one of the strongest aspects of this movie for me. His plotline, as with several others in this film, is the culmination of two movies worth of growth. Sandman also gets honorable mention as an interesting villain, but in contrast, I personally feel that Venom could’ve been left out without really affecting the film in any negative way. Three villains in a comic book movie is hard to balance but even with the unnecessary addition of Venom, it’s not quite the overstuffed mess that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is, and for that, it deserves a lot of credit.
3. Spider-Man (2002)
Sam Raimi’s first crack at Spider-Man is the first thing related to the character that most people in their early- to mid-20s remember, and that’s for good reason because this is a really good movie. The things this film does exceptionally well into me are the pacing and the establishment of characters. Raimi’s films are very character-driven, and this is the perfect introduction to that. It spends so much time on Peter Parker so that we’re invested in his personality and struggles before we see him truly step into his role as Spider-Man. All the main characters have an electric chemistry, something that was often lacking in The Amazing Spider-Man films. The visuals are gorgeous, especially the at-the-time revolutionary shots of Spider-Man swinging over the city. While so much of this film works, it does have a certain early-2000s cheesiness to it, which you could easily argue is all part of the charm.
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
In addition to being my second-favorite Spider-Man film, Homecoming is also one of my favorite MCU films period. It’s consistently light, almost comedy-like tone fixes one of my main issues with the MCU, that being the frequent disconnect between moments that are supposed to be serious and the characters constantly quipping and cracking jokes with little, if any, balance between them. In terms of characterization, this film also finds the right balance between making Peter Parker the underdog and making him “cool.” The villain has a believable motivation, and the visual cue that happens when he finally realizes that Peter is the Spider-Man who’s been a thorn in his side for so long is such a neat moment, and one of the most interesting small details in the entire MCU for me. One of the main complaints I’ve seen people make about this film is that the stakes are too small, which I’d argue makes perfect sense. Peter Parker isn’t some big tough guy with deadly weapons, he’s just a kid; the small stakes gives his obstacles the feeling of being surmountable, but still threatening. This film has me insanely hopeful for the future of Spider-Man.
1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
It’s time to pull out my cliché card because Spider-Man 2 is my favorite Spider-Man movie. If you’ve seen it, it’s not hard to see why. Everything people love about the Raimi movies is on full display here: well-developed characters both good and bad, sweeping visuals, a light-yet-balanced tone, a grand scale, and - most importantly to this film in particular - a focus on Peter Parker as a separate entity from Spider-Man. This is the most Peter-focused film of the trilogy, dealing with the idea of his numerous responsibilities, be they to himself, his family, or the city he has become the protector for. Responsibility has been a theme of Spider-Man from the offset, even down to Uncle Ben’s famous quote, but rarely has it been dealt with as directly or as interesting as it is in this film. Doctor Octopus is the perfect villain for this movie, as he also faces an internal struggle to do what’s right. In addition to being the best Spider-Man film, Spider-Man 2 is the source material for the best Spider-Man video game and one of the best movie-to-game adaptations period, which definitely shouldn’t be forgotten about when talking about this movie. It’s quite telling that in all of my years, I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like this movie. In an era before the proliferation of superhero blockbusters, Spider-Man 2 showed us what a superhero movie could truly be.