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A Critical Ranking of the Eight Theatrical “Spider-Man” Films

Courtesy of Flickr (Giri Trisanto)

8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the second film in the Marc Webb duology and easily the worst of the eight “Spider-Man” films. The film features the best live- action suit, good performances from Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Sally Field, but not much else. Filled with shallow references to “Spider-Man” lore, this film is an absolute mess. The credits to see this film had four credited screenwriters — Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, Jeff Pinker and James Vanderbilt — which makes a lot of sense, especially when two of those screenwriters are known for Michael Bay and J.J. Abrams movies. Between Jamie Foxx’s Electro, Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin — if one wishes to want to call him that — Paul Giamatti’s Rhino, Hans Zimmer’s score and the messy script, it’s hard to say what the worst aspect of this film is. The image of Paul Giamatti is a Russian mobster in an Adidas tracksuit is still haunting to this day.

7. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Spider-Man: Far From Home is Marvel’s second swing at the Web-Head. It’s not a film that is necessarily bad — none of the films from this point on are but this movie is often too indistinguishable from a typical Iron Man movie, Avengers movie or any other Marvel movie. Tom Holland commits fully to his starring role as Peter Parker, Zendaya gives a solid performance as MJ and Jake Gyllenhaal really brings it as Mysterio, but it’s not enough to save a script that’s too focused on making the next episode of the Marvel Cinematic Universe instead of producing an individual “Spider-Man” film. References to “Tony” or “Iron Man” are abound throughout the 129-minute runtime. 

The script plays it far too safe, never letting anything feel consequential; Peter “blipped” and disappeared for five years, but it’s okay because all his friends and family did as well. He has to keep abandoning MJ to save the day, but it’s okay because she’ll figure out he’s “Spider-Man.” It’s these easy fixes and MCU references that make it hard to really love this film and this version of the character. From the special effects to the humor to the constant Iron Man references, this film really fails to elevate itself among its MCU contemporaries. It’s a competently made film but one that lacks the true heart of the Spider-Man character.

6. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a better film, and a better Spider-Man depiction than its successor, but not by much. With the fancy Iron Man-like suit and Peter’s constant desire to impress Tony Stark and join the Avengers, this film too often relies on references to the greater MCU. With the film taking place after the events of Captain America: Civil War and the movie’s villain being motivated by the events ofThe Avengers, many elements of this film just don’t work for someone who has never seen an MCU film. Homecoming itself is very visually bland and jumbled in its narrative. Holland really fits the role really well and comedy veterans like Martin Starr and Hannibal Burress really elevate the film, but for the most part, the movie misses the mark. The climax and the car scene with Michael Keaton are the best sequences in this series, providing real tension and emotional stakes; if only the rest of the film was more like its finale. Homecoming provides a pretty standard Marvel movie with some great moments and sequences.

5. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

The final installment in Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy is a mess. It tries to balance three completely different villains in one film and it mostly fails at doing so. Known for its controversial usage of the black-suited Spider-Man, the flaws of “Spider-Man 3” are not in its content but in its structure. With so much to put together, this film is really all over the place, bouncing from character to character and never really taking much time to breathe. Despite this, the individual scenes and characters themselves are mostly good. Much like its predecessors, this film is packed with charm, wit, and excellent cinematography. Spider-Man 3’s exciting finale provides some of the most heartfelt and moving moments in the series. One thing that really holds the film together, despite its inconsistent writing, is its strong and resonant themes of revenge and pride. These ideas can be seen within the characters of Peter — played by Tobey Maguire — New Goblin, Venom and Sandman, help shape the film. The film is full of Spider-Man’s charm and is very entertaining, even if it is the most poorly built film in the trilogy.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Following in similar footsteps of the 2002 Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man is able to establish itself as an aesthetically unique albeit inconsistent “Spider-Man” film. This movie shines at capturing the outcasted Peter Parker from the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko “Spider-Man” comics of the early 1960s. Featuring great performances from Garfield, Field, and Martin Sheen, the first half of this film is truly amazing. The second half is less spectacular, as it diverts from the character-centric nature and becomes very plot-heavy. The Lizard is a very bland villain and the climax of the film is underwhelming. Where the film shines is in its more personal moments; Peter and Gwen Stacy, Peter and Uncle Ben, Peter and Aunt May — really anything that contains Garfield’s Peter is excellent both in and out of the suit. The clear studio interference in the second half diverts from the quality of the first half, however,  it still contains a couple of endearing moments, one with Gwen’s father and one with the father of a boy who Spider-Man saved earlier in the film. The Amazing Spider-Man is a mostly amazing Spider-Man film packed with great performances, a moving story and a lot of heart. 

3. Spider-Man (2002)

Raimi’s first “Spider-Man” film was once the biggest superhero film of all time. Its spectacle, charm and heart captured audiences all around the world. Bursting with camp, grit and passion, this film feels ripped from the pages of a classic “Spider-Man” comic book. Spider-Man contains a great narrative, a main character the audience could root for and the best on-screen Spider-Man villain to date. Inspired by the work of Lee and Ditko as well as classic Hollywood, Raimi and screenwriter David Koepp poured their heart and soul into this film and what they produced is a thrilling superhero movie. Danny Elfman’s opening theme and Maguire’s opening narration set the tone for this film. Some effects are dated and the movie can be rushed at points, but none of that takes away from this being one of the best films in the history of the genre. The final battle between Spider-Man and Green Goblin is the most “Spider-Man” set piece in any “Spider-Man” film. Packed with Raimi’s style, visceral performances all across the board, as well as fantastic visual storytelling, the original Spider-Man is one of the most exciting Hollywood blockbusters ever made.

2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider- Verse (2018)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the most unique superhero films ever made. Containing mind-bending animation, hip-hop music and an extremely diverse and unique cast of characters, this film tells a fantastic Spider-Man story. The voice work is incredible, especially from Shameik Moore and Jake Johnson. Moving at a breakneck pace and feeling rushed at times are the only flaws present in this film. Packed with unique visual style and heartfelt, hilarious writing from the great team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller along with great performances, this is one of the best films of the past decade. This film can be incredibly funny, exciting and motivational and none of those feelings come at the expense of others. In the current superhero climate, it’s honestly a miracle this film was even made. Introducing the audience to the great character of Miles Morales, as well as Spider-Gwen, Penny Parker, Spider-Man Noir, and the hilarious Spider-Ham, Spider-Man: Into the Spider- Verse is an all-time great superhero film and an amazing Spider-Man film. A special shout out to John Mulaney, who is hilarious in this movie.

1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 2 takes everything about the first Spider-Man and improves it. Spider-Man 2 plays like a great dramedy with some classic Spider-Man action mixed in. This film is so well-written and paced, while the characters and themes are developed perfectly. Bill Pope’s cinematography is some of the best in any movie, not just a superhero one. The visual storytelling is off the charts in this movie and the character of Peter is so authentic and true to everything he stands for in the comics. This film is loaded with “Parker Luck” — truly the quintessential “Spider-Man” film. It’s hilarious, sad, uplifting and exciting. In the film’s great climax, Spider-Man doesn’t save the day by punching his way out, he saves it by appealing to Dr. Octavius’ humanity and using the lessons he learned along the way, which perfectly nails the character of the superhero. From the inventive opening credits recapping the events of the first film, to the excellent performances, to the brilliant, subtle and emotional script all the way to the thrilling and groundbreaking action set -pieces, Spider-Man 2 is the best “o Spider-Man” film ever made, and one of the best films of all time. 

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