If there’s one iconic superhero who epitomizes the emotional journey one would inevitably go through when acquiring an extraordinary superpower, it’s Spider-Man.
As arguably the most popular superhero in the world, it’s no wonder why Spider-Man has the most movies in modern cinema compared to any other superhero. And as of this writing, three actors have played the role: Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland.
On the animated side, we’ve even seen the introduction of the Miles Morales iteration of the character in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—a film that was met with critical acclaim and described as one of the best superhero movies of all time.
Of the different Spider-Man movies since the turn of the millenium, which ones reign supreme? Well, let’s dive into the best Spider-Man movies, both animated and live-action.
8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
It’s unfortunate for Andrew Garfield that his tenure as Spider-Man came to such a “meh” ending. He wasn’t a terrible Spider-Man by any stretch; he just never had the great material that Maguire and Holland were able to work with.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a mess, evident by its all-time franchise-low box office return and all-time low Rotten Tomatoes score of 51%. The performances are mostly over the top, and director Marc Webb seemed to have lost interest in the material.
Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Jamie Foxx were the only people to come out of the movie with any credibility for their work.
7. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Spider-Man 3 is a total anomaly when you compare it to the two films that came before it. Its predecessors were tight and visceral movies that played on Peter’s responsibility to the power he had. The third film was an over-the-top, overly hammy, overly cringeworthy conclusion.
It did have its good moments, such as Thomas Hayden Church’s Sandman and Peter’s removal of the symbiote. But on the whole? Spider-Man 3 doesn’t feel like a continuation of what Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire did with the first two films.
For many fans, Tobey Maguire is still the best live-action Spider-Man because he was the actor who best understood the mantra: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
6. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
When Sony decided to reboot Spider-Man yet again in 2012, they had to make an important move away from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series and strike a different tone altogether.
The plan worked well for Sony, who saw The Amazing Spider-Man reap over $700 million at the box office and garner solid reviews.
Andrew Garfield’s version of the superhero, along with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, had a spark that spoke to fans, and it appeared that Sony had a solid foundation on which to build a universe.
The film has a great villain in Rhys Ifans’ Lizard, and the set pieces and strong cast worked well for the movie, even if they weren’t as good as Raimi and Maguire’s best efforts.
5. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
The highly anticipated sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming delivered a fun, action-infused adventure with abundant humor. Tom Holland once again proved that he could mature into the role of Peter Parker, and Jon Watts proved he could be the director that Spider-Man needed.
The film lacks that certain feeling of dread that the best Spider-Man movies all have, but it has an emotional core that makes up for it. Peter’s battle against himself and his grief over losing his mentor in Tony Stark are portrayed well by Tom Holland.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is a fun villain, but Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Nick Fury feels tired and worn out—so it’s good to see Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange returning in No Way Home.
4. Spider-Man (2002)
May 3. 2002. That was the first time any of us saw Spider-Man on the big screen in live-action.
The story was just right, the message was clear, and the cast was stellar. Now, 20 years later, it’s clear that Spider-Man played a pivotal role in launching the modern superhero cinema phenomenon.
The picture feels dark and foreboding in many aspects. The final fight with Spider-Man facing off against Green Goblin is bloody, gritty, and utterly brutal, as Spider-Man is battered from post to gravestone.
Tobey Maguire carried the whole movie on his back, and his performance still represents the great and mighty burden it is to be the Spider-Man. Sam Raimi’s direction was grand and Willam Dafoe was brilliant as Norman Osborn.
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
That first announcement to bring Spider-Man to the MCU in joint cooperation between Marvel and Sony was met with adoration from fans, who wanted to see what the MCU could do with the character after Sony’s failed attempt with The Amazing Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Homecoming follows Peter’s journey that began in Captain America: Civil War, exploring what it’d really be like to be a teenage Spider-Man.
Tom Holland’s first full performance showcased his skill in the role. And to see a film made with the same kind of feeling as Spider-Man 2 from years prior? Oh, so refreshing.
The film’s treatment of a younger Peter and his relationship with his mentor, Tony Stark, gave the character a new cinematic tone—and adding a resurgent Michael Keaton as the villainous Vulture into the mix made it all the more brilliant.
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Not many films can claim to be true game-changers, either for its protagonist or for its genre, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of those rare movies that qualify.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse tells the story of the death of Peter Parker, the rise of Miles Morales, and the introduction of the multiverse. What sets Into the Spider-Verse apart from the rest isn’t that it’s animated (which it is), but its bold ambition to be special.
Miles Morales’ introduction to the big screen was a huge step for diverse representation in mainstream cinema. The multiverse’s introduction was an important step for the superhero movie genre and its conventions. The animation style was truly groundbreaking.
The cast, led by the perfect Shameik Moore as Miles, were all excellent in their roles, but particular credit must go to the performances of Jake Johnson as Peter B. Parker, Mahershala Ali as Prowler, and Hailee Steinfeld as Spider Gwen.
1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Spider-Man 2 remains the best Spider-Man movie of all time and a blueprint for all other Spider-Man films to come after it.
It improved upon the original in monumental ways. It gave us a complex and compelling villain. It made us believe in the hard choices that are required for someone to carry the burden of being Spider-Man.
Tobey Maguire’s exhausted performance showed us a Peter Parker who couldn’t have what he wanted because of his responsibilities. Sam Raimi’s direction was less restrained here than in the first film, and the picture demonstrates that.
Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock is one of cinema’s greatest villains (and he will be returning in Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home) while Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson was more assured and complex than she had been in the first film.