Since 2002, there have been a grand total of six Spider-Man movies (with a seventh on the way), two reboots, and three different actors to play the infamous web-head – but with the introduction of Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spidey’s future has never looked brighter.
With the heartbreak of Infinity War behind us (until part two, of course), now seems as good a time as any to look back on – and rank – the cinematic history of a certain web-slinger. Upon inspection, I realized I’m not a fan of any of the Spidey films for the plot – it’s always the little things that makes the movies for me, like the character details. So, fair warning – my opinions may differ from the vast majority.
I’ve been a fan of Spidey since I was a kid, I grew up on the Riami Trilogy (my parents and I even won a contest at a local comic store for tickets for the first movie) and the various animated series that preceded (and followed) it – needless to say, trying to rank something I hold so near and dear to my heart was damn near impossible. So, here goes: my official(ish) ranking of all the Spidey films.
#1 Spider-Man (2002)
Quite possibly the one non-Star Wars movie I know like the back of my hand, Spider-Man is filled with pure nostalgia for me (rewatching it on my prized VHS tape, waiting impatiently for the Hero music video at the end of the credits). Sure, it’s a little cheesy by today’s standards, but are we really going to complain about having something stupidly fun to watch? I’m not.
Spider-Man is probably the most comic accurate Spidey film to date, but it leaves some things in the comic pages (like why MJ is a party girl to mask the damage her home life has done; and webshooters) – but that’s mostly okay, because you can’t deny how iconic it is. The upside down kiss? A Spider/Goblin fight on a bridge that didn‘t end with fridging any female characters? Amazing.
Plus, you have that sweet, sweet slowburn between Peter and MJ that won’t come to fruition until the end of the second movie. Seriously, I love a good slowburn.
#2 Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Admittedly, this one ranks higher for me than the others for personal reasons: just days before seeing it in theaters, I had my first ever panic attack, which left me embarrassed and annoyed that people probably thought I was – god forbid – fragile. The last thing I expected to help me realize I wasn’t weak for having one, was Spider-Man Homecoming. But lo and behold, it did.
Toward the film’s climax, Peter goes to confront Toomes aka the Vulture in a warehouse, which leads to a startlingly brush with death – Toomes caves in the roof before escaping, leaving Peter piled under rubble and dust. The scene that follows is truly the best scene in the entire film; Peter is terrified. And it feels so utterly real. For all his wise jokes and enthusiasm, this is the scene where it hits you that he’s just a kid, and Tom Holland just absolutely nails it (leaving my poor, poor heart in a million shards on the floor), as Peter finally calms down long enough to find the courage and confidence in himself to push through and escape.
Seeing my childhood hero break down like that on screen, panicked and sobbing breathlessly like I had just days before, impacted me in a way I never expected. And honestly? I’ll always love Homecoming for that reason.
On a lighter note, other gems from the movie include Zendaya’s character Michelle, who was a breath of refreshing air with her snark and her ability to never shy away from the truth (and for being so woke) – although I’ll always be a little bitter they chose not to make her Mary Jane, and just gave her the nickname “MJ” as a nod to the comics. Not to mention, the humor on the film is on point.
(And Pepper and Tony are back together! Hallelujah! Love is real!
#3 The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Please remember what I said about not loving the movies for the plot. For all intents and purposes, I should hate the movie. It’s truly a trainwreck with editing problems, plot problems – hell, it ended a franchise. But I love it.
It’s a chaotic mess, for sure, but it’s also so very real. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion – you want to root for Peter and Gwen so badly, but you know how it’s going to end. You fall in love with Peter and Harry’s friendship, and when it slowly falls apart, your heart breaks.
And then, just as you think everything is going to be okay, Electro has been defeated, Peter and Gwen are finally together – the Green Goblin appears. And the following scene is absolutely heartbreaking.
Ultimately, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 is about hope. It’s book-ended with that theme with Gwen’s graduation speech, reminding us that life is a rollercoaster, it’s long but it’s also short, and that regardless of whatever happens, you must never lose hope – and a little boy in a Spidey costume, standing tall in front of the Rhino, reminds us to always have courage and do what’s right.
(Plus if you’re a Star Wars fan, it has Jyn Erso.)
Quite honestly, my only complaint about the movie is – yeesh – the epilepsy nightmare that is Harry’s transformation into the Goblin. Sony, next time? Please warn audiences about it.
#4 Spider-Man 2 (2004)
To be honest, Spider-Man 2 has probably the most solid plotline of all the Spidey films – it makes a careful balance between Peter’s two lives, develops its characters in a natural way that feels right, and finally sends the slowburn between Peter and MJ to a head – but it’s not my favorite by any means, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on.
My favorite moments, though, aren’t the action-packed scenes, but the quieter moments: Aunt May’s beautiful speech about why heroes are important, a powerless Peter running into a building to save a little girl, a group of civilians on a train helping Peter after he collapses from exhaustion, and promising to keep his identity a secret?
God, if there’s one thing these films do right it’s humanity, and restoring my faith in it.
My only complaint here is that Doc Ock waking up in the hospital and the arms attacking the surgeons traumatized me as a child, so thanks for that.
#5 The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Alright, I’m going to be honest with you – I have no idea how this one managed to rank so low. I genuinely like this movie. And yet…
I lose interest whenever I try and rewatch it. Maybe it’s my short attention span (it probably is), but the slow buildup to Peter being bitten at Oscorp is a little too slow. And I’m still a smidge bitter about how they handled Uncle Ben’s death – it invoked little no emotional reaction to me due to the circumstances of it, and Peter never found the guy who did it, so there was no closure there.
Honestly, my favorite parts of the movie aren’t even the superhero parts, even though Andrew Garfield makes a hilarious Spidey. No, my favorite part of the movie is the blossoming romance between Peter and Gwen, because I’m an old softie, and their chemistry is perfect. Peter is positively adorable as he slowly falls further and further in puppy (spider?) love for this genius of a girl, and it’s nice that they expanded on Gwen and her family life before her fate was sealed in the sequel.
(Side note: the soundtrack? Friggin amazing)
#6 Spider-Man 3 (2007)
I’m less confused how this one ranked so low. Nothing I can say will be new complaints – there were too many plotlines, too many villains, and it’s hard to like a movie when the protagonist is a bonafide jerk who cares about only what he wants for half the movie, which is exactly what Peter does under the influence of the Venom symbiote.
However, I do commend it for not bringing Peter and MJ back together at the end of the movie, and having him out of the suit for the end scene. He made mistakes – lots of them – and hurt the people around him because of it, especially Mary Jane. Giving them that space, hinting that they would take time to heal before moving forward, was probably one of the best moves the movie made – that, and not killing Gwen off.
(But was the dancing worth all the second hand embarrassment? Was it, guys? Was it?)