It really is true: Spider-Man does whatever a spider can. And across 10 theatrically released films, in live-action and animation both, he (or sometimes she) has spun a web any size, catching those thieves just like flies. Still, not all webs are created equal, and some of those captured thieves have made for better cinematic opponents than others.
Indeed, alongside Batman, Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man has probably been blessed with the most consistent series of superhero movies released by Hollywood, with millions of fans ready to swear that either Tobey Maguire, Tom Holland, or the kaleidoscopic animation led by Miles Morales (and Shameik Moore’s voice) is the best Spidey. Heck, there are those out there who will defend the Andrew Garfield years.
Yet while Spidey has been fortunate to lead a number of good movies, some are better than others, and several more missed the Staten Island Ferry completley. So we here at Den of Geek have put our heads together and polled our staff to come up with the definitive ranking of wallcrawler flicks, from worst to best.
*Editor’s Note: While Peter Parker did appear in several Avengers films, as well as Captain America: Civil War, he was a supporting player in all three. We have thus elected to not include them in the ranking of Spidey-led movies.
10. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Sony Pictures and producer Avi Arad’s attempt to reboot Spider-Man is one of those model examples of how not to build a cinematic universe. After pointlessly retelling Peter Parker’s origin story in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, this sequel (directed like its predecessor by Marc Webb) does its level best to jam a multitude of plotlines into its two-hour-plus running time, frantically trying to lay down a framework for sequels and spinoffs without giving us a valid reason why we should care.
As a result, you have a feeble attempt at building out multiple villains as a prelude to the Sinister Six, conspiracy theories regarding Peter’s parents, the old “magic blood” canard favored by hapless screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and yet another bad guy with a personal vendetta against our webslinging hero—in this case a heavily reconfigured Electro (Jamie Foxx). It all adds up to a frantic, overstuffed mishmash that goes nowhere.
But wait, there’s more! The movie also tries to jam one of Spidey’s most famous storylines, the death of Gwen Stacy, into all this, blunting its emotional impact as well. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have undeniable chemistry as Peter and Gwen, and do their best with the muddled material, but Garfield and Foxx’s undercooked Electro would have to wait for No Way Home to get the closure they deserved. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes across as the most soulless and calculated of all Spidey’s live-action adventures, and no amount of reappraisal will ever undo that. – Don Kaye
9. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
When Andrew Garfield appeared nearly a decade later in a movie further down on this list, he and some writers got laughs from the actor admitting he’s the “lame” Spider-Man. It didn’t have to be that way. Garfield brought a sincere affection to the character in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, as well as an impact web blast’s worth of charisma. Unfortunately, other than in the scenes where Garfield and Emma Stone’s chemistry could smolder, little of that talent or passion made it to the screen in what was a confused and wholly underwhelming reboot.
Prematurely remaking Spider-Man’s origin story just 10 years after Sam Raimi’s relatively perfect rendering of it in 2002 was always an odd choice, and Sony and director Marc Webb’s attempts to justify this by creating an unresolved conspiracy theory about Peter’s parents and clumsily imitating the tone and aesthetic of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight films only made things worse. It shouldn’t need to be stated that Spider-Man is not Batman, and even the film is aware of this since the “gritty” aesthetic is so half-hearted and contradictory to a film about a giant Lizard. Also, on that note, as someone who loved Lizard comics as a kid, turning the tragedy of Doc Connors into one of the worst comic book movie villains of all time puts this squarely at the bottom of the list. – David Crow
8. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Bully Maguire is good. He was good in 2007 and he’s still good today. Look, there’s no denying that Spider-Man 3 is a marked step down from its two predecessors, with the struggle between Sam Raimi and the movie’s producers resulting in an overcrowded script. But there’s also no denying that Raimi has a compelling take on Peter Parker, one with a strong emotional core that remains even when the story goes to ridiculous places. Taking advantage of Tobey Maguire’s ability to play vulnerably, Raimi’s Peter is an achingly sincere dork, even when corrupted by the Venom symbiote. So of course his bad-boy persona will be doofy and somehow sweet in its desperation.
In fact, that emotional core drives Spider-Man 3 past its clunkiest moments. For every misstep (the monologue delivered by Harry’s butler), there are two resonate—character-driven scenes, such as Peter and MJ lounging in a web or Harry’s final monologue. Even the prayer Topher Grace delivers as Eddie Brock begs God to kill Peter Parker has an undeniable truth of narcissism to it. But nowhere is that blend of sincerity and silliness more clear than in the Sandman transformation scene, a beautifully shot sequence of the newly destabilized Flint Marko overcoming his grainy state and his sadness to re-solidify. At once absurd and heart-wrenching, the scene captures everything great about Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. – Joe George
7. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
For all the valid gripes thrown at the MCU version of Peter Parker, there’s one thing the trilogy has nailed: Peter’s high school buddies. Part of the appeal to the Spider-Man comics under Steve Ditko, and later Gerry Conway and John Romita Sr., was the character’s rich supporting cast, consisting of crushes, bullies, and best buds. Spider-Man: Far From Home messes with the comics canon a bit, swapping out Peter’s high school crush for Michelle Johnson and making Peter’s best bud Ned Leeds instead of Harry Osborn, but it nails the breezy vibes and melodrama of high school life.
That high school focus works particularly well given the movie’s placement in the MCU timeline. Hot on the heels of the galactic stakes of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Far From Home immediately deflates the pretensions of those films, with a cheesy tribute full of Getty Images and a silly look at the return of the Blipped. Even the battle between Peter and Mysterio (an undeniably great Jake Gyllenhaal) over the legacy of Iron Man undoes the hagiography of the previous films, with a narrowly-averted drone strike on a school bus reminding viewers that Tony Stark was an arms dealer. Somehow, despite its European location and shared-universe plot, Spider-Man: No Way Home manages to feel small-scale, friendly-neighborhood located, and ultimately relatable. – JG
6. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
The dilemma posed for Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in Spider-Man: No Way Home is a conundrum almost straight out of a classic Spider-Man comic book. Peter decides to do the right thing, not the simple thing, but his actions have ramifications for him and his loved ones that put the teenager through the ringer like never before. Despite all he’s seen and done in his young life, he’s still a kid, as his friend Doctor Strange notes, and the decisions he makes can be impulsive and even wrong—only in his case, they can create terrible consequences.
It takes a little while for Spider-Man: No Way Home to get to the heart of the matter, and some of the first half of the film takes some awkward plot turns to get there, but once director Jon Watts, helming his third Spidey film, hits the crux of Spider-Man’s conflict and raises both the stakes and the emotional impact, No Way Home becomes something of an epic.
As we all know now, there’s lots of fan service in No Way Home thanks to the presence of not just five villains from other franchise iterations, but a couple of alternate Spider-Men as well. While both Marvel and DC have struggled with the multiverse concept these past few years, No Way Home somehow makes it work. At the heart of it all is Tom Holland, taking Pete to extremes he has never reached before, and the climactic battle hits some unexpected emotional beats not just for him but for the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield versions of the character. It’s clearly difficult for a single movie to pull together three different universes and provide them with closure, but this one, incredibly, brings it home. – DK
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Forget for a moment that Spider-Man’s path in the Marvel Cinematic Universe eventually leads into confronting both universal and multiversal threats. In his second appearance (after Captain America: Civil War) and in his first headlining movie, Tom Holland’s take on Peter Parker is as close to the most ideal version of a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man as we’re likely to ever see in live-action. Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming understands something important about the character that many other iterations don’t; he’s just a little guy.
Yes, Peter Parker is a literal superhuman endowed with big power and even bigger responsibilities. At the end of the day though, he’s also a kid trying to impress his crush and get into the right college. On that front, Homecoming works marvelously. Blessed with Holland’s perpetually cherubic face, this Peter Parker is heartachingly endearing and recognizable. So too are Zenday’s Mary Jane, Jacob Batalon’s Ned, and really Pete’s entire class. An obligatory Iron Man plotline keeps Spider-Man: Homecoming grounded in MCU lore while also making space for this prolific character to feel fresh yet again. – Alec Bojalad
4. Spider-Man (2002)
People tried to bring Marvel’s most famous hero to the big screen for literally decades, with the rights passing from one company to another and getting caught up in legal hassles, bankruptcies, and the kinds of business dealings that even Spidey couldn’t swing his way out of. At one point James Cameron himself was going to make the movie; but in the end, once the lawsuits were settled and the smoke cleared, the person perhaps best suited to the job got to do it: Sam Raimi.
And Sam mostly knocked it out of the park. Spider-Man not only teamed up with Fox’s X-Men movies to definitely prove that Marvel Comics heroes were viable on the big screen—paving the way for the MCU just six short years later—but the film was a joy in itself, a celebration of this popular, eternally empathetic character and a homage to the pages out of which he came. Sure, Tobey Maguire was…a little older than one might have expected, and the debates still rage on over organic web shooters and the Green Goblin’s costume. But the movie was and is a blast.
Faithful to Spidey’s origins and conflicts in the comics, utilizing the best visual effects possible at the time to finally show our hero swinging on his webs over the streets of New York City, superbly cast throughout (no one can ever play J. Jonah Jameson again after J.K. Simmons), Spider-Man was Sam Raimi’s affectionate love letter to both the magic of comic books and this most human of all superheroes. – DK
3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s competitive advantage over other superhero films is apparent from looking at any one of its still frames. Sony’s 2018 maiden voyage into the animated Spider-Verse is quite simply gorgeous. Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman and produced by animation heavyweights Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, Into the Spider-Verse is like the most beautiful comic splash page you’ve ever seen brought to immaculate life over and over again for 117 minutes. And that’s before you even get into the multiverse angle of it all that brings Spidey favorites like Gwen Stacey, Peter B. Parker, Spider-Man Noir, and even Spider-Ham into the fold.
But all of this movies’ obvious visual creativity and easter egg mastery somehow still sells it short. For, at the center of its story, is one of the most touching coming-of-age spider sagas ever told. Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is the beating heart of Into the Spider-Verse and its soon-to-be two sequels. What should feel tired and trite at this point (oh let us guess: Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider?) instead somehow feels like the very first time you’ve experienced the Spider-Man myth. Miles is a real, lived-in young man and by the time he’s ready to accept the arachnid gauntlet that fate has dealt him, your entire body had better be covered in goosebumps. – AB
2. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
If there is a platonic ideal of what a Spider-Man movie should be, Spider-Man 2 is it. Not until Across the Spider-Verse has another Spidey film taken the time to really delve into why the character was always so popular in the comics: He is a young man with young people problems. His life is a teenage soap opera where occasionally a death-defying fight with a supervillain of the week breaks out. Still, just due to its simplicity, Spider-Man 2 might get that essence best.
Clearly enjoying more creative control on his second go-round, director Sam Raimi spends real time living with the irony of Peter Parker’s life. He’s a superhero, but it makes him miserable. Raimi understands there’s a wistful sense of sacrifice and nobility in this, but it can also be quirky entertainment, with Tobey Maguire’s Peter becoming a true neurotic New Yorker—only his ennui means he cannot stick to walls (unless he’s enjoying a free slice of cake).
Built around that ongoing anxiety attack, as well as the Peter and MJ (Kirsten Dunst) story at its most complex and interesting in this trilogy, the film has dramatic heft that makes the fights against a sublimely no-nonsense Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) soar. Special effects have improved in the nearly 20 year since Spider-Man 2, but no live-action Spidey scene has been as viscerally thrilling as when Raimi brought his mad visual alchemy to Spidey and Doc Oak fighting atop a runaway train. – DC
1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)
As excited as we get for big superhero sequels around these parts, we sometimes find ourselves tempering our expectations for one that attempts to follow up a great movie, just in case it falls well short. With Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, it seemed at least a little unlikely that any sequel could improve on the standout 2018 Miles Morales feature, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This film needed to go hard to defy expectations if it was going to deliver two perfect cakes to the party. And boy, did it go hard.
Across the Spider-Verse is packed with easter eggs, nostalgia, and multiverse twists, but those aren’t what make it the greatest Spider-Man movie ever made. The filmmakers understood that all the multiverse chaos and easter eggs in the world wouldn’t have made this a platinum tier movie if we didn’t really care about the characters. As such, the sequel spends quality time with Miles and his family, and Gwen Stacy and her father, and it does so at the “cost” of adding a third movie to the franchise later and potentially angering fans who expected there to be no cliffhanger ending, let alone the Spider-Man equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back.
But how can anyone be angry about an abrupt ending after sitting through Across the Spider-Verse? It’s an astonishing visual achievement that gets everything right, from its groundbreaking animation to its perfect voice cast, as it sets about building a Spider-Man dream team, doubling down on the unique Spider-People of the first movie and introducing Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Punk, and Spider-Man: India to the masses in daring, dazzling ways. This one is going to be hard to beat. Mind you, we said that last time… – Kirsten Howard