With the latest instalment of our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man swinging into cinemas around the world we ask ourselves – where does it rank amongst the best and worst of the Spider-Man films?
Number 8 – Spider-Man 3, 2007
Well, if you were hoping for a shock, you may have to look further along the list. Spider-Man 3 is bad, plain and simple. Following the success of Spider-Man 2, the prospect of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man going toe to toe with Spidey’s most noted villain Venom was enough to bring cinema-goers in droves to see the film, which topped both of its previous instalments at the box office.
We left disappointed though, as odd plot choices including Emo Parker, a retconned Uncle Ben murder and some very contrived memory loss resulted in a story which misused the franchise’s best villain, while also massively underplaying the best part of the film in Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman.
Number 7 – The Amazing Spider-Man 2, 2014
Suffering from some of the same flaws at the previous entry on this list, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 followed up a largely successful debut for Andrew Garfield as the web-slinger. The actor gave a geeky but charming awkwardness to Peter Parker that went down well with fans of the character’s comic book origins.
However, it was quickly apparent that the studio executives weren’t sure what they wanted to achieve, resulting in a tone that swung from light to dark just like Spidey in downtown New York. Add on top of that a muddled plot that felt like it was written by a ‘generate a Spider-Man movie’ website, and it’s no wonder that this instalment was the last in the franchise. The Amazing Spider-Man sequel put a swift end to Garfield’s time in the role, prompting a reboot with more than half a hand from Marvel with Spider-Man: Homecoming a year later.
Number 6 – The Amazing Spider-Man, 2012
In contract to its successor, the Amazing Spider-Man was seen as a decent showing following the abysmal third instalment of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man, with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone breathing fresh life into the Spider-Man story.
The film managed a good balance between establishing the age-old Spider-Man story and adding elements which gave comic book fans a slightly different take on the character, as well as introducing new characters which hadn’t yet been seen on the big screen.
That being said, Spider-Man is one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, and even those who have never picked up a comic book are broadly aware of his whole ‘got bit by a spider, uncle Ben’s death’ origin story, which had even been done by the previous big screen iteration of the character. That’s why although it’s a solid addition, the Amazing Spider-Man was always unlikely to rank any higher on this list.
Number 5 – Spider-Man, 2002
Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man was part of the original wave of Marvel movies which released in the early 2000’s along with the X-Men, Hulk and to a lesser degree, the Blade franchise which started slightly earlier. Maguire had a tough job to do, bringing the – at the time – most popular and recognisable Marvel character to the big screen for the first time, a long way before the Marvel Cinematic Universe made comic book films a massive part of main stream media.
Spider-Man was a hit with audiences, performing well at the box office and turning Maguire into a household name. The film focused on the classic story well known to comic book fans, and translated well to the screen with great performances by not only Maguire, but a strong supporting cast in Willem Dafoe, James Franco, Kirsten Dunst and who can forget J.K Simmons’ transformative performance as J. Jonah Jamerson?
Number 4 – Spider-Man 2, 2004
For those who believe Marvel films only got good when the Marvel Cinematic Universe came along… you’re only half right. Marvel sold many of the rights to its most popular characters to established studios like Fox and Sony, the latter producing the Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man franchises. Therefore, while these aren’t really Marvel films, they are films based on Marvel characters.
There have actually been plenty of good films based on Marvel superheroes; studios even showed some talent at being able to follow-up those films with good, if not sometimes better, sequels. Spider-Man 2 is a great example of a sequel that did just that – continuing the good character building in its first instalment by adding the brilliant but tragic Doctor Otto Octavious (or Doc Ock to his friends) wonderfully portrayed by Alfred Molina.
This sequel very much showed its audiences that there was some staying power in comic book films by seamlessly continuing the Spider-Man journey from where the last film left off. We see Maguire’s Spidey still struggling to come to terms with the balance between the man behind the mask, the troubles of the wall-crawler’s alter ego as Peter Parker, his life with fiancé Mary Jane and fighting against friend turned enemy Harry Osborn.
Number 3 – Spider-Man: Far From Home
So where did Far From Home rank? Well, it made out our top three without breaking a sweat, but was just beaten out by our number 2.
Spider-Man: Far From Home follows on from the Marvel integrated incarnation of the character, with Tom Holland bringing a younger, and perhaps more believable, friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. As opposed to another actor in his late 20s running around a high school.
He is very much out of the neighbourhood though, as Holland and friends (including the girl he’s cute on) take a school trip around Europe, thinking that after the crazy events of Avengers: Endgame, the world is going back to normality – at least for a while. But Nick Fury isn’t going to let that happen, is he?
Far From Home does a spectacular job in following on from both Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Avengers: Endgame, a truly difficult task which it pulls off without feeling jarring in any way. It’s a movie full of humour, great moments and some amazing fan service, truly deserving of its place in our top 3.
Number 2 – Spider-Man Homecoming
Homecoming was neck and neck with Far From Home, but stole the number 2 spot for one simple reason.
Marvel have done one thing better than any other film series we can think of. It’s so simple, and yet so few film studios have pulled it off just this well: Marvel respects its fan-base.
We saw this with Avengers: Infinity war – the culmination of dozens of characters from as many movies, and yet there was no handholding, no long expository monologues about ‘what happened last time.’ No, the film said, “you know what’s going on.”
And that is why Homecoming just edged in front of Far From Home. After Spidey’s short and sharp introduction in Captain America: Civil War, many of us expected two things from Homecoming: spider bites and a dying uncle. And we had never been so happy to be wrong. Homecoming gave us a great beginning to this Spider-Man, portrayed to perfection by Tom Holland as the kid from Queens that just wants to help those around him. The audience knows who Spider-Man is, we know about his powers, and the film just gets on with what we all want: a great Spider-Man film.
A special mention for the casting and screenwriting for Homecoming. From Michael Keaton’s Vulture (In our opinion maybe the best one-time Marvel bad guy) being painted as a genuinely complex and sympathetic villain, to a modern interpretation of Aunt May as a kick-ass strong and independent surrogate single mum, Marvel does it again with the best live action Spider-Man film to date.
Number 1 – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Don’t get us wrong, we loved Homecoming and Far From home, but while feeling much fresher than the older Spider-Man franchises, they can’t touch on Into the Spider-Verse in terms of sheer innovation, artistic style and nerve.
Watching Into the Spider-Verse feels like the first time you’re watching a real comic book movie. Not just a movie based on a comic, but a comic book that moves before your very eyes. The animation styles (yes, multiple styles) are the best we’ve seen in an animated film that captures the true beauty of a comic or graphic novel, without ever feeling out of place or unnecessary.
The film could have stopped there, and told a fairly by-the-cards Spider-Man story. But instead we get a hugely ambitious and complex narrative centred around the newest incarnation of the character from the comics, Miles Morales, who exists in a world with a Spider-Man at the height of his powers, and goes through his very own journey, which feels pleasantly familiar and yet thrillingly different.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse gives us the most diverse, interesting take on Spider-Man story, not just for one Spidey, but several, each with their own enticing story and all captured in a film under 2 hours. As great as other films are on this list, Into the Spider-Verse has revolutionised the animated superhero film – and we can’t wait to see what may come next.
Phew, that was difficult!
The reality is, of course, that what you consider the best Spider-Man film will be based on what you like most about the character and what you like most in your movies. Homecoming gave audiences a real friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man and Far From Home was the biggest and grandest. Into the Spider-Verse was really one for the comic book fans, with a lot of heart and relatability for people of all ages to enjoy.
If you want to know more about Spider-Man: Far From Home, check out our review. (But see the movie first, there be spoilers!)