Fans of Spider-Man haven't suffered any kind of shortage of Marvel's flagship superhero up on the big screen. The character has been rebooted twice since 2002, one of the rare instances of possessing three different film franchises. With the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, there are now six Spider-Man films, some of them great, some of them not so much. Now that we've all had a little time to digest Homecoming, it's time to put these films against each other and see how they stack.
Spider-Man sits in a unique position. His six films have marked both the high and low points of the superhero genre, a legacy of adventures that can't be ignored by anyone. These movies are warnings of what to avoid and symbols of what can be achieved. Hollywood keeps trying to perfect the Spider-Man formula, and these are all the Spider-Man films ranked from worst to best.
Spider-Man 3 was the third and final movie of the Sam Raimi trilogy and it killed the entire franchise. In the film, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is basking in his newfound popularity with the people of New York and looking to take things to the next level with his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). But then along comes some black ooze from outer space to muck things up, warping Peter into an emo jazz demon while the Sandman (who's actually pretty good here, but making him Uncle Ben's killer was unnecessary) and Harry Osborn have villainous plans of their own.
Spider-Man 3 is almost forcibly bad -- which might just be the case if those rumors of Sam Raimi purposefully tanking the film have any weight. It's a huge decline in quality from the previous entry as it gives in to some of the worst of Raimi's vices. The campy humor is way too over the top here, to the point where the film has been transformed into an endless meme factory. It's hard to take anything that's happening seriously when you're laughing at James Franco gush about pie (So Good).
This is the first of the Spider-Man films to buckle under its own weight. Studio meddling forced Venom into the scenario, giving it three villains to contend with and thus wasn't able to devote a satisfying amount of time to any of the storylines. Filled with poor story and acting choices, Spider-Man 3 -- despite having real solid action -- was ultimately a big disappointment that forced Sony to reboot the franchise.
Amazing Spider-Man 2
The shadow of the Marvel Cinematic Universe looms large over Amazing Spider-Man 2. In the wake of the success of The Avengers, every studio was looking to build their own superhero cinematic universe, including Sony. They attempted to use Amazing Spider-Man 2 as a platform for future movies but sacrificed a memorable story to do so.
The Amazing franchise is one that never quite learns the mistakes of its predecessor. In the superhero sequel, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) battles three villains -- all of them forgettable -- while grappling with relationship drama and the conspiracy surrounding the death of his parents. It's just too much to grapple with in 150 minutes and the result leaves the audience not caring about any of it. It also doesn't help that the writers make really poor story decisions like including magic blood, secret subway tokens, and basically anything to due with the Osborn family. It's another superhero film that succumbs to trying to set up movies that don't even exist yet.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does benefit from a more jovial Wall-Crawler. Andrew Garfield never quite nailed Peter Parker, but he was great with the humor of Spidey. The chemistry between Garfield and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy (the two were then a real-life couple) was also a highlight, as the Amazing series has always been more about the romance. Then they killed her, leaving no more reason to stick around.
Amazing Spider-Man was the beginning of an all new Spider-Man series following the success of the Sam Raimi trilogy. Marc Webb stepped in to direct and Andrew Garfield was cast as Peter Parker with Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey. In an attempt to separate itself from the previous trilogy, Sony tried to zero in on the mystery surrounding the death of Peter's parents, and it's about as interesting as it sounds.
The main problem with Amazing Spider-Man (and the rest of the Amazing series) is that it's unfortunately very average. It doesn't do things well enough to be memorable but it isn't bad enough to scorn. It just kind of exists. The action is fairly blockbuster CGI generic and the movie doesn't really have anything interesting to say about Peter Parker or Spider-Man that hasn't already been said. It was also a miscalculation on Sony's part to retell the origin barely 10 years after Spider-Man. The film is ultimately the first Spider-Man but with a darker coat of paint on it.
That being said, the film is a smoother ride than its sequel and does demonstrate great chemistry between its two leads, who carry the weight of the film on their star-crossed romance. Emma Stone is delightful as Gwen Stacey, though, Andrew Garfield suffers a bit more due to an angsty Peter. The film misunderstands Peter, making him a cool skateboarding loner long before the spider bite and then making him kind of a jerk after it. This Spidey's got jokes, but the film fails to make any lasting impact.
One can't ignore the impact that the first Spider-Man movie had on the superhero genre. At the time of its release in 2002, it was the only film to have grossed $100 million in one weekend, making it the largest opening weekend gross ever and the most successful superhero film. It firmly proved that comic book movies could be financially viable and, most importantly, good.
While the film is fairly dated by modern standards and it's supremely cheesy, it wears that cheese like a badge of honor. It's simply the way the movie is and it tries to capture the spirit of the original 1960's comics that made Spider-Man so endearing. The film is one of the de-facto origin stories, introducing audiences to Peter Parker, his supporting cast, and the creed he lives his life by: "With great power, comes great responsibility."
Spider-Man doesn't waste any time getting its title hero swinging through Manhattan, but you completely understand what drives him to be such a hero and to put his life on the line. The movie might take itself (and Spider-Man) a bit too serious at times, and Green Goblin's costume sucks, but there's no denying that the film completely sells the story of Peter Parker and created a legion of new Spider-Man fans. Also, that final fight with Gobby is seriously kick ass.
The very existence of Spider-Man: Homecoming is one in a million, as two different studios came together to bring Web Head back to his friendly neighborhood. Even though this marks the beginning of a third different Spider-Man series, it sets itself apart from the rest by leaning into the character's high school days, taking advantage of the MCU setting, and keeping things light and fun -- basically doing everything fans had been asking for years.
After first being introduced in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland's Peter Parker tries to prove himself worthy of being an Avenger to Tony Stark by taking on a high-tech weapons ring run by the Vulture (played to perfection by Michael Keaton). Homecoming is an extremely entertaining movie, filled with great jokes and a refreshing high school setting. Holland's take on Spidey may be the best version of the character that we've gotten yet, focusing on the humor while still striking the dramatic beats of a rookie superhero just trying to find his place in the world. This movie gets it. It puts a smile on your face while still remembering the sacrifices that Peter always makes in his social life to do the right thing.
However, having the best Spider-Man does not make it the best Spider-Man movie. While the movie is a whole lot of fun, it doesn't pull off the dramatic themes quite as well as some other entries. This is a problem with a lot of MCU films, which never quite connect the dots enough to different elements. The Vulture twist, for example, is terrific, but there's something missing in the villain's relationship to Peter to tie it all together with his ultimate choice at the end of the movie. But this is a comedy more than anything, and it succeeds at its ultimate mission of cementing a great Spidey into the MCU.
One of the best sequels and one of the best superhero movies of all time, Spider-Man 2 is a damn near perfect Spider-Man movie. It takes the themes introduced in the first Spider-Man and builds upon them in a satisfying way, all the while balancing a romantic subplot, great villain, and some of the best action in the entire genre.
Spider-Man 2 sells how much it can absolutely suck to be Spider-Man. Peter Parker's social life is essentially nonexistent and his seeming flakiness is driving his loved ones away. He can't hold a job, he's struggling in school, and the people he protects despise him. The viewer completely sympathizes with Peter's decision to give up being Spider-Man, only to then prove exactly why he needs to be the one who makes these sacrifices. It's a beautiful look at the push and pull of a dual identity and what it means to be a hero.
Everything comes together just right in Spider-Man 2. Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina) is still one of the all time best superhero movie villains -- just as sympathetic as the hero and one that reflects the themes and lessons learned by Peter. Sam Raimi even dialed back a bit (just a bit) on the campy humor! And let's not forget the action! The train battle with Doc Ock is absolutely thrilling and even ends with an improvement on the "Regular People Save Spider-Man," moment from the original movie.
Spider-Man 2 is Grade-A superhero material that plays with heavy themes but never gives in to darkness. It should be what all comic book films aspire to beat.