With “Spider-Man: No Way Home” coming out this December, it is the perfect time to look back at and rank the seven live-action, standalone “Spider-Man” films that have been released in the last 19 years. Spider-Man, also known as Peter Parker, is a fan-favorite Marvel character and has been portrayed by three different actors on the big screen.
7. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014): 1 out of 5 stars
Andrew Garfield’s second outing as Spider-Man is at the bottom of the list due to its messy story. The film tries to be both a standalone “Spider-Man” story and a setup for a future film about the Sinister Six, but fails miserably at both. The film introduces a ton of characters, from Electro to the Rhino, but none of them are compelling enough to make up for the lack of a cohesive narrative.
Furthermore, the film messes up one of the key aspects of Spider-Man: the fact that he could be anybody. The film introduces the idea that only Peter Parker could have become Spider-Man because his dad genetically engineered the spider that bit him. Not only does this subplot add nothing to the main conflict, but it also actively goes against what makes Spider-Man who he is and takes away from the relatability of the character.
6. “Spider-Man 3” (2007): 1.5 out of 5 stars
Tobey Maguire’s third and final film is better than “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” because it is a more faithful adaptation of the character of Spider-Man, but the film struggles with its depiction of Parker. The film notoriously depicts “emo” Parker, where he goes through a phase of wearing too much hair gel and purely black outfits. This interpretation of the character comes across as silly and is tonally inconsistent with Maguire’s first two “Spider-Man” films.
The film also has three different villains, which makes the story line feel disjointed because of how much is going on. In particular, the film’s depiction of Venom is a weak spot because Topher Grace’s performance lacks the proper menace and gravitas needed for the character. He does not come across as intimidating as Venom does in the comics, which detracts from the character.
5. “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012): 2.5 out of 5 stars
This is where the list starts to improve, as “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a relatively mediocre film. The main strength of this film is the chemistry between Garfield’s and Emma Stone’s characters. The romantic relationship between the two characters holds the film together because their interactions feel genuine, which was no doubt helped by the real-life relationship between the two actors.
Despite the great chemistry between Garfield and Stone, the film falls toward the bottom of the list because it is simply bland. There is little that is memorable about the film because it essentially retells the same story as the original “Spider-Man,” just 10 years later. Due to this, “The Amazing Spider-Man” feels derivative of its predecessors and does not have anything new to say about Spider-Man.
4. “Spider-Man” (2002): 3.75 out of 5 stars
“Spider-Man” may fall right into the middle of the list, but do not be fooled: it is a great “Spider-Man” story. The best part of this film is how it tells the origin story of Spider-Man, with great portrayals of the classic comic book characters Mary Jane Watson, Uncle Ben and the Green Goblin. The only weakness of “Spider-Man” is its age, as the film has not aged as gracefully as it could have. While the effects were good for the time, they do not hold up to the current “Spider-Man” films and feel quite dated.
3. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019): 3.75 out of 5 stars
“Spider-Man: Far From Home,” in which Tom Holland makes his second solo appearance as Spider-Man, is an excellent film, with the highlight being the dynamic between Parker and the villainous Mysterio. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a charismatic performance as Mysterio that is charming enough to fool even Spider-Man. The film also explores the romantic relationship between Parker and Zendaya’s MJ, building on the tension established in the previous film.
The biggest problem with the film is that it lives in the shadow of “Avengers: Endgame” and the legacy of Iron Man in particular. The film dedicates a lot of time to reminisce about the heroes lost in “Avengers: Endgame,” which holds it back as a standalone story because too much time is spent on events that are not pertinent to the main plotline.
2. “Spider-Man 2” (2004): 4.25 out of 5 stars
Maguire’s second outing as Spider-Man deserves its spot near the top of the list for its character study of Peter Parker and what it would actually be like to be Spider-Man. The film succeeds at diving deep into just how much being Spider-Man impacts Parker’s mental and physical state. Alfred Molina’s performance as Otto Octavius also helps the film because he plays a truly terrifying villain. The only fault of the film is that it focuses a little too much on the character of John Jameson. He is used as a love interest for Watson, but his character lacks depth and is uninteresting, especially compared to the complex portrayals of both Parker and Octavius.
1. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017): 4.5 out of 5 stars
Holland’s first solo “Spider-Man” film also happens to be the best film in the franchise. Holland’s performance as Peter Parker and Spider-Man is a highlight of the film, as he actually looks like a high schooler (unlike Maguire and Garfield) and brings new, fresh energy to the character. Likewise, Michael Keaton’s take on the Vulture provides Spider-Man with a foe worthy of his time. The film also has a surprise twist toward the end, which makes sense in the larger context of the film and adds tension to the final conflict. The final reason “Spider-Man: Homecoming’’ is so good is that it is hilarious, using the high school genre to its advantage to generate lots of laughs.