Now that Spider-Man is swinging into theatres for the sixth time, it’s time to ask where this new franchise, now under the watchful gaze of Marvel Studios in addition to Sony, ranks among the rest. You don’t have this current era of superhero movies without Spider-Man leading the way at the box office, but that doesn’t mean those films got it right every time.
Here is our ranking of all six Spider-Man movies:
• “Spider-Man 2” (2004)
“Spider-Man 2” may not be able to hold the top spot for long with more movies from this promising new franchise on the way, but for now it’s still our top Spidey-flick. Taking its cue from the “Spider-Man No More” storyline of 1967s “Amazing Spider-Man” No. 50, Tobey Maguire plays a frustrated Peter Parker who decides he’s no longer going to allow Spider-Man to get in the way of the things most important to him, mainly his love for Mary Jane Watson. Harry Osborn discovers that his best friend Peter is secretly Spider-Man and, convinced Peter killed his father, Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin, Harry goes down the dark path of becoming a Goblin of his own. Alfred Molina gives a compelling performance as classic Spider-Man villain Doctor Octopus, and composer Danny Elfman, with an assist from superstar comic artist Alex Ross in the opening credits and some fun-to-watch skyscraper web-swinging at movie’s end, gives us one of the greatest superhero movie scores ever. “Spider-Man 2,” despite now having a lot more competition, can still be considered one of the best superhero movies ever.
• “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)
Spider-Man is finally home where he belongs: Marvel Studios. Once the cinematic road to the Avengers was created, it just never seemed right that Spider-Man’s deal with Sony made it so he couldn’t fight alongside Iron-Man and company. “Homecoming” isn’t just a declaration of Avenger-hood, however – it almost magically feels like a brand new Spider Man movie, despite being the sixth one. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker leads an actually-young cast of high school supporting players. Michael Keaton gives an all-time Spider-villain performance as the Vulture (we shouldn’t be surprised, the guy was Batman) and Spider-Man has never looked better, with a suit that’s a nod to the Spider-Man art of the 60s and 70s up top with its webbed wings, mixed with some high-tech, Iron Man-like magic. “Homecoming” takes Spider-Man out of the previous movies’ dark shadows and shows it can be fun to be Spidey.
• “Spider-Man” (2002)
If you have superhero movie fatigue, you can thank the first “Spider-Man” film, the first movie ever to debut with a $100 million opening weekend. “X-Men” hit theaters in 2000, but Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” was the first superhero movie since 1989’s “Batman” to feel like a worldwide pop-culture event. Perhaps this movie’s only flaw was a silly Green Goblin suit – William Dafoe was actually much more menacing outside of it as he went to war with Maguire’s Spider-Man while slowly going insane. A classic upside down kiss with Mary Jane might be this film’s most memorable moment, and the web-swinging in New York, when seen for the first time, had a Christopher Reeve/Superman flying for the first time feel to it. “Spider-Man” feels a little dated now in this new era of superhero movies, but is still an undeniable classic.
• “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014)
Back in darker times, when we were all convinced Spider-Man would never be a part of Marvel Studios, this was the best we thought we would get from a Spider-Man film post-Sam Raimi. Andrew Garfield was a pretty good Spider-Man and an even better Peter Parker, if for no other reason than he looked like he was drawn by classic Spider-Man artist Mark Bagley. We get a well-put-together Spider-Man suit that takes influence from the big-eyed comic-book versionsof the 90s, which makes up for how bad all the villains look. Hipster Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) works wellas a friend from Peter’s past but not as the next Green Goblin. Jamie Foxx’s Electro takes on a nerdy, Jim Carrey/Riddler personality that feels too comic book-ish even for a superhero film, and Paul Giamatti’s Rhino isn’t even worth mentioning. So heavy is the shadow of Marvel Studios at this point that not even the strong chemistry of Garfield and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy can save the franchise that ended with this installment. This movie gives us a beautifully-executed Stacy death scene, one of the most powerful moments in the history of Spider-Man comics, and it wasn’t enough. At this point, Sony knew they needed the Marvel Studios touch.
• “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012)
Making a movie when you’ve got a great idea is one thing. Making a movie because you don’t want to lose the rights to one of the most popular superheroes ever is another. Raimi and Maguire walking away from “Spider-Man 4” gave birth to “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a good movie that exists because Sony thought it had to, not because fans were clamoring for it. Garfield shows some decent Spidey-potential, as a New York accented, joke-cracking version who’s likable but working with a not-so-great Spidey suit (it got better in the sequel, see above) and perhaps the least thrilling Spider-Man movie villain ever, Rhys Ifan’s Lizard.
• “Spider-Man 3” (2007)
The “Spider-Man” movie that must not be named. Raimi got a villain and a plot line that he was rumored to have wanted no part of (Venom and his black, alien suit that takes over Spider-Man for a bit) and we’re given a Spidey-movie that looks like something no one wanted to make. Once Maguire starts dancing, we know this is not going to be one of the all-time great Spidey-films. The love story of Peter and Mary Jane seems to all but disappear amid drama. Venom, perhaps the most intense, imposing Spider-Man villain of all, is played by someone from “That 70s Show,” and even Aunt May looks like she realises this was all a bad idea.