Spider-Man: Ranking the films from Maguire to Holland (2002, 2004, 2007, 2012, 2014, 2017, 2019)
Directed by: Jon Watts, Marc Webb, Sam Raimi
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Bryce Dallas Howard, Emma Stone, James Franco, Kristen Dunst, Rhys Ifans, Tobey Maguire, Tom Holland
There was a time in a long gone era when every Spidey fan was excited over the news that James Cameron was planning his own webbed, wall climbing flick with Arnie in the role of Dr Cyclops and Michael Bien playing the role of Peter Parker.
A Terminator reunion in the Sony/Marvel world may have been a surreal experience and many would have loved to have seen how that version panned out, it wasn’t until 2002 when Sam Raimi stopped playing with his much loved cabin the woods and introduced Tobey Maguire in the iconic suit, that the franchise exploded.
Since then we have had a further seven movies with the face of Peter changing more times than the guy who spins around in the Tardis and while there really isn’t an awful Spider-Man film, there are some that are better than others.
So, with great power, comes great responsibility and having spent the last few days re-watching each film and with those words of Uncle Ben, still ringing in my ears, here is our ranking of the Spider-Man franchise (from bad to good).
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Before I started this look-back, I honestly had an idea that there would only be one film at the bottom of the list and now that I am compiling it, I am shocked to find a different entry at the bottom!
Released a mere five years after the original Maguire trilogy, its a new origin story that for most fans, never really wanted to see told again. While its approached in a vastly different way, all the familiar beats are there, this time through, sprayed with a more darker edge in which some parts work and some don’t.
But no matter how you dress it up, its still about a boy getting bitten by a radioactive spider!
Andrew Garfield plays his Peter like an awkward young man, a skateboarder with the obvious looks that would appease the Twilight fans. He really doesn’t convince in his first outing, his version of Peter coming across unlikeable and then failing to get the right essence of Spider-Man when suited up.
The back story of his parents death and the reasons why only add to the frustration when re-watching as we know that we’ll never get the resolution it needs and while Rhys Ifans is a pretty good Lizard, the criminal plot never reaches the danger or tension the film so desperately requires
The only truly captivating aspect is the relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacey in which the chemistry between Garfield and Emma Stone (they were dating in real life) is so electrifying that it gives this entry a real believable love story, that raises the emotions towards the finale.
The score by the late James Horner is also a particular highlight, that soars the well made action scenes to new heights, but even with that, you just can’t escape that nagging feeling that the film would have been better if the origin story hadn’t been re-told, something that Marvel themselves realised when they rebooted the franchise yet again only a few years later.
Even though it added the word “Amazing” to its title, the first outing for Marc Webb’s take on our much loved Superhero does have some pretty grand ideas, but a title of The Unremarkable Spider-Man may have been more fitting!
No.7 Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Still mocked by fans to this day, the final entry in the Tobey Maguire era is not half as bad as its reputation suggests. Yes its a sorry mess to end what was a barn storming franchise by Sam Raimi, but in-between the questionable creative decisions, there was still that heartbeat between the characters that the fans grew to love over the five years they had spent with them!
The biggest problem and there are a few, is the way Maguire’s Peter Parker somehow has had a personality transplant from the last time we saw him. Even before he wears the infamous black suit, Parker is a total douchebag!
His awful behaviour towards Mary Jane (Kristen Dunst) is still a head scratcher, from hanging upside down and kissing another girl for all the world to see, to ignoring her sadness, many fans by the end of the film really wanted MJ to reject his apology and move on with her life, more so after he wallops her in the the face.
Accidently, yes! But we still have a Spidey film where our hero hits the love of his life. Strange one!
The film just feels like its bogged down by its own weight, too much seems to be happening when in reality its not and by the time Mary Jane gets kidnapped once more for the umpteenth time, you’ll find yourself no longer feeling the peril anymore.
The iconic character of Gwen Stacey (Bryce Dallas Howard) is bizarrely underused and vanishes half way through, while Raimi’s disdain for the character of Venom is clear throughout and there are too many bad guys popping that it dilutes any real threat!
But there are a few highlights! The Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) really is a fantastic creation and the film sparkles when he appears. We get some closure on the Green Goblin story with James Franco really enjoying himself and I do love the final scene which ends with Maguire doing something good without the need of his suit!
But despite all that, the lasting impression from this film and in fact the entire franchise is the image of Peter Parker, bizarrely dancing his way down the street, a scene that even today is still laughed at by fans. Its utterly surreal and has unfairly become the central point to this era of Spider-Man.
You shake those hips Maguire…..
No.6 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Once more Marc Webb went all dark in this much improved sequel that saw Garfield fully embrace the role of the webbed Superhero. Wisecracks aplenty and oozing confidence, this is the entry that saw Garfield became a better Spidey and matches Maguire, even though Toby’s Peter was still more likeable!
Sadly though the film tries to hard with its own plotting, setting up a shared universe that will now never see the light of day and the writers sadly did not learn from the mistakes made in Spider-Man 3,
There is way too much happening and the entire film seems too chaotic, when all it needed was to take a breather now and again and to let the viewer take sense in what was happening.
For those who moaned about that costume and the Green Goblin from the Raimi era, the second outing of Garfield’s Spidey, truly made up for it with a nightmarish sequence that for years to come will terrify kids watching.
The Goblin’s arrival is a little to late and probably needed another sequel to stretch out, while Jamie Fox is a bit underused as the bad guy Electro but when its good, it really, really excels and its nowhere near the disaster many people believe it to be!
The first fight scene between Spidey and Electro is one of the best in the franchise and no other Spider-Man film offers up such a downbeat and emotional finale that is one of the best in the superhero genre.
Once again its the relationship between Parker and Stacey that carries the film through out its own plot padding, the only plot vice that we the viewer actually care about. Both actors deserved better, because what they were starring in wasn’t the ambition to make the best Spider-Man film, but to create a Shared Universe and to get Sinister Six movie, which of course never happened after the gate receipts showed this was a total dud!
The reason it doesn’t finish at the bottom of the pile, is because of that emotional finale, the rip roaring action sequences and of course the moment where a young boy dressed as Spider-Man bravely steps up to stop Rhino.
All those are hints that underneath the mess, there was a golden chance to do something interesting and you just can’t help but feel that the Garfield era was nothing but a wasted opportunity!
No.5: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
After the downbeat ending of Avengers: Endgame, the universe needed a pick me up and thankfully the next film on Marvel’s roster was the second outing for Holland’s Spider-Man.
The death of Iron Man lingers on in Peter’s life, as does the infamous finger snap of Thanos, so Peter does the right thing and takes a holiday with his school friends, Trouble is, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and a new bad guy in the shape of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) make sure that those plans are virtually impossible.
The confidence on show here, gained from the critical acclaim of its predecessor is fantastic. The plot zips around with with a stunning pace and the menace of Mysterio really does offer a new different kind of threat to what we have seen Spidey face before..
By now Holland was Spider-Man. Fans had taken to him and he was the hero for this generation, a young boy who was on his way in taking over as the most important character in the MARVEL universe.
Far From Home works because it downscaled its ambition and focused on great characters, funny gags and some stunning deft action scenes, which resulted in a glorious end chapter to the phase three of Marvel’s output.
The “twist” may have not been the big shock to those who knew their comic books, but for those who had no prior knowledge it was a brilliantly executed reveal in which we really felt that our hero was in danger, with this nemesis being one of the best that the franchise has offered.
While there was no Thanos shaped danger to the world, the battle between Mysterio and Spider-Man is truly epic, with some dazzling scenes in which Spidey tries to figure what is real or not as he battles to stay alive.
Topped off with cliff-hanging end credit scene that left us all stunned and our jaws wide open in shock, Phase 4 may be coming without the big hitters, but with Spider-Man leading the charge, we are still in safe hands!
No.4 Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Having made a small appearance in the Civil War fight between Captain America and Iron Man, Tom Holland swung into action for his first solo Spidey flick that was unlike any other we had seen before.
Gone was the tall skyscrapers with our hero swinging around them, here was a stripped down tale where Spidey was actually a young boy in school and all he needed to be was a friendly neighbourhood masked guy, saving those in need!
With no “bitten by a spider” scene in sight, Homecoming finally felt refreshing and new, with the influence of an 80’s comedy by John Hughes rippling through its heartbeat.
Even though Tony Stark pops up now and again to remind us that there is a bigger world out there, by scaling back and making Spidey feel small was a brilliant creative decision.
Getting Michael Keaton back into a Superhero flick was also a massive coup and while Vulture may lack the menace of those before him, the villain was exactly what the franchise needed at the time and his involvement meant that two scenes were provided that are one of the best in any recent Superhero flick!
The shocking “twist reveal” I never saw coming and was really blown away on my first watch, while the car scene where Vulture starts to interrogate Peter with questions regarding Spider-Man was a real nail biting, gripping sequence that showed you don’t need a Green Goblin in a crappy suit to bring the terror.
After the Garfield era divided fans, Spidey’s Homecoming was the film that united them all and is equally as important as the 2002 original. Some grumble that Iron Man takes away the spotlight from its main hero and the high tech Spidey suit he wears is unsuitable and while I can see their point, the fact that Holland’s Spider-Man is the closest feel to the comic books character more than makes up for any misgiven.
With its unique, warm tone and brisk pace, once we get to the final shot of Aunt May uttering the word “F…….” we sit back and be thankful that Marvel managed to bring this Spidey home!
No.3 Spider-Man (2002)
I am going to be honest with you and admit that I originally had the first Spider-Man movie in fifth position.
But as I was reading the finished article, doubts began to form in my mind, so I slept on it, thought again and edited my feature to put the debut of Toby Maguire’s era in third place.
Let me explain. I still feel Homecoming and Far From Home are better films, but in the scale of the franchise itself, the 2002 film is the most important and deserves the respect it needs.
If this had flopped badly, then we may never have had an Iron Man or an Avengers team up and the much cherished big screen Marvel Universe would have been nothing more than a pipe dream for fans everywhere.
I’ll start with the negatives and despite a fantastic turn by William Defoe as Norman Osborn, I totally detest the way the Green Goblin looks, even more 18 years later. You can not help but feel that he has walked in from the early 90’s Power Rangers TV series and it has personally been a massive negative for me and one of the main reasons why I don’t “love” this film!
And yet there is so much to love here!
Sam Raimi’s astute direction, Maguire a Spidey for the noughties generation, Dunst a perfect MJ, that iconic kiss in the rain and for a kids film, people have forgotten just how brutal it actually is.
The Green Goblin’s attack on Aunt May will still frighten kids, the final fight scene shows more blood than you’ll remember as this Spidey really does take a battering from the bad guy, while the score by Danny Elfman which is often overlooked and yet majestic, makes the action scenes soar to huge heights!
Its true that while Maguire looks great as Peter, his Spidey badly lacks the witty comebacks and is nothing like the comic book character we all truly love, even though the film more than made up for it by its casting of J.K. Simmons, which even now to this day, I can only applaud!
There’s a reason why Marvel skipped an origin film for Holland, because it had already been told perfectly years before and for anyone who wants to introduce a newbie to the world of Spider-Man, will find this the most perfect starting point and its that reason alone why I moved it from 5th to 3rd!
So yes I repeat, Homecoming and Far From Home may be better films, but they might not have been around if it wasn’t for the hard work of Raimi, Maguire, Dunst and everyone else. This film is that important!
No.2 Spider-Man 2 (2004)
This should be number one.
The reason its not is because the film it loses too is just damn perfection, but believe me, Spider-Man 2 is one of the greatest Super hero films ever made!
After the stepping stone and learning curve of its original, Sam Raimi returned to the directors chair with such confidence that the film just oozes quality. Everyone involved is on top form with Maguire now a fully fledged Spidey, Dunst once more the perfect MJ and in Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus, a terrifying foe that makes you feel actually scared for Peter.
In the sixteen years that’s passed, its seems people have forgotten just how good Molina is in the role and he really delivers one of the greatest bad guy performance in any Comic Book film!
Raimi showcased his unique talents behind the camera and delivered a film that horrifies and yet excites. There is something quite Evil Deadish on how Doc Ock gets his extra arms and the plot really piles on the misery and conflict for Peter in which he tries to hang up his Superhero life but realises “With great power…….” well you know the rest!
We also have what many fans believe is the best moment in the franchise and that is of the course the now infamous train sequence that showcases the power of Spider-Man and also the love the New York residents have for the guy who looks after them.
The finale swings with action and emotions and the MJ moment in which she finally discovers what Peter Parker does in his life, still pulls on your heartstrings and makes you realise just how much you care for these two.
Honestly, Marvel can do another twenty years of our Spidey swinging in live action and finding new foes to fight, but nothing can match what they achieved in 2004.
Its aa shame the same crew got the the third film so badly wrong because on re-watch, the moment Spider-Man swings away from MJ at the finale of this, a sadness comes as you realise this was when the franchise peaked and we’ve never had it as good as this again….well apart from the next on the list!
No.1 Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)
Innovative, bold, dazzling, original….are only four of the many words that describe this film.
Spider-Verse is a mind-blowing achievement by everyone involved in which a comic book finally explodes into life on the big screen. Not only that, but the history of Spider-Man is fully embraced in a way that no one expected, the Spider-Verse had everything you needed and more.
How Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman managed to pull this off is a huge credit to them all as they made fans of all ages, sit back in awe, with a huge smile on their face as the vivid imagery seduced the comic book nerd within us all!
While the theme of Parallel Universes had been used to great effect in The Flash TV Show, for those unfamiliar with the many earths in Barry Allen’s capers, this must have been a much welcome surprise as for the first time ever, a horde of Spider-Men and women were together with the likes of Peter, Mike Morales, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir Peni Parke and of course Peter Porker, all combining for an action adventure that was a bursting with creative, original ideas, that you wonder why it took so long to be brought to the big screen.
Not only did it give us a brand new Spidey for the next generation it also somehow made the dreaded origin story feel fresh and exciting, a tale we all wouldn’t mind being told again!
Not only does it raise the bar for any future Superhero movie but by the finale it makes you believe that anyone can wear a mask and be a Spider-Man.
Spider-Verse is a masterpiece, an artistic achievement that will stand the test of time. But most of all, any film that can carry a heartfelt message, be totally faithful to the character and its history and yet ends by hilariously lampooning one of its very own creations, then you’ll know that what you have just watched, was something very…..very….special indeed….