Explore all the best Spider-Man movies and where to watch them
The highly-anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home is coming on December 17, leaving many to retrospectively think about the recent history of the Spider-Man franchise. It’s hard to believe that the fandom was transformed into a fresh and modern take nearly 20 years ago with the 2002 release of Spider-Man featuring Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire. Since then, we’ve met three versions of Peter Parker featuring Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and the latest — Tom Holland. Each young Parker performance revealed its own unique view of what it means to be a teen superhero, trying to balance life, family, school, and dark forces.
It’s important to note that the Spider-Man movies were not officially included in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) until the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming with Holland in the lead role. Before then, the movies were produced by Sony. That’s why you won’t find them on Disney+. With that in mind, explore the best Spider-Man movies over the years, ranked by their Metascores.
Released in 2018, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a rich, animated story about multiple universes and versions of Spider-Man in New York. It won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2019. Sony Pictures Imageworks created a fresh take on animation by combining hand drawings with half-toning to create a new look based on dot gradients and colors. The comic-style movie doesn’t follow the storyline you’d expect but introduces a whole other equally-fascinating story instead. If Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is up your alley, you can rejoice with other fans that the animated spin-off has a second installment in the works, set for release in late 2022.
"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a raucous, smart, self-referential adventure. The comics-inspired visuals are stunning, and the emotional coming-of-age story is relevant and inspiring, even as it acknowledges the many Spider-Man movies that have come before it. Sony is clearly looking for a way to launch its own distinct take on Spider-Man that can stand up to the live-action MCU version, and that franchise now has its first installment."
— Bryan Bishop, The Verge
Spider-Man 2 returns under director Sam Raimi with Tobey Maguire struggling with personal issues including Mary Jane’s (Kirsten Dunst) engagement to someone else and his best friend’s (James Franco) hatred for Spider-Man. Franco’s character has every reason to be mad after his father’s end in the previous movie. However, Parker was simply trying to do the right thing. Besides, there are some serious monsters to face in Spider-Man 2. Namely, Alfred Molina’s character, Doctor Octopus, who happens to be Parker’s nemesis and a metal-tentacled cyborg. You’ll want to catch up on this second installment of the Spider-Man universe — Doctor Octopus is set to return in the new Spider-Man: No Way Home.
"Aerial sequences are often thrilling. However, interpersonal relations are front and center in this installment. Not only does the heady teen romance keep us riveted, but Peter's effort to learn more about his family is fascinating."
— Claudia Puig, USA Today
The 2002 Spider-Man is the first of the Spider-Man movies and features one of the most iconic kisses of all time between Dunst and Maguire. Spider-Man hangs upside down to kiss Mary Jane while she gently pulls back his mask to reach his lips. However, it’s not all romance — Willem Dafoe is Spidey’s arch-enemy, the Green Goblin and there is trouble brewing. The Green Goblin also happens to be Parker’s best friend’s dad, setting the stage for high drama between the friends over the next couple of movies.
"Maguire and Dunst keep Spider-Man on a high with their sweet-sexy yearning, spinning a web of dazzle and delicacy that might just restore the good name of movie escapism."
— Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Spider-Man: Homecoming introduces Tom Holland and Zendaya as the new Peter and Mary Jane in a light and comedic version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe favorite. Parker must balance high school and a formidable enemy in Michael Keaton as the villain called Vulture, making it difficult to decide which is harder for Parker to deal with — an evil villain or the social awkwardness of high school. In the end, Spider-Man: Homecoming sets the stage for current and future Marvel movies about Spider-Man since agreements were reached with Sony to transfer ownership and creative license back to the MCU.
"Spider-Man: Homecoming is so joyously entertaining that it’s enough to temporarily cure any superhero fatigue. There’s wit, smarts, and a nifty, inventive plot that serves as a reminder of what buoyant fun such films can bring. It might have taken three attempts, but Spider-Man has finally spun gold."
— Benjamin Lee, The Guardian
Best for: Villain vs. hero action, Tom Holland and Zendaya stans
Where to watch: In theaters
Runtime: 148 minutes
For the first time ever in the Spider-Man franchise, Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) identity is revealed to the public. He struggles with the new inability to keep his personal and professional lives separate, and it puts the people he loves most in jeopardy. When he seeks help - and a memory spell - from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), he will only then realize how important it is to be a superhero.
"Separated from the most exciting/controversial/unexpected moments in play, and without the element of surprise, does No Way Home hold up as a good story well told? The answer is yes to a degree…but it could have gone further."
— Liz Shannon Miller, Consequence
The latest release of the MCU, Spiderman: Far From Home can be described as what happens when you send Peter Parker and classmates on a trip similar to National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Plenty of entertaining issues come up and then there’s the threat of otherwordly creatures that threaten the world — and Peter’s classmates.
"It’s a light-footed summer blockbuster that faces Endgame’s monolithic legacy head-on, before leaving it behind to embark on its own globetrotting adventure. The MCU doesn’t need a new Iron Man yet — Far From Home proves it’s more than safe in the web-slinging hands of Spider-Man."
— Ben Travis, Empire
Only one of the two Spider-Man performances by Andrew Garfield make this list, but The Amazing Spider-Man is deserving of a place. Director Marc Webb retells the story of Spider-Man’s origins. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield have wonderful on-screen chemistry which interestingly enough, led to a four-year relationship off-screen. Garfield’s rendition of Peter Parker/Spider-Man is different than Maguire’s in the first three movies. Garfield exuded depth, emotion, and a somewhat brooding character compared to Maguire’s awkward teen nerdiness. While both roles are notable, you’ll need to set aside expectations to enjoy the depth Webb and Garfield bring to the screen.
"This is a more thoughtful film, and its action scenes are easier to follow in space and time. If we didn't really need to be told Spidey's origin story again, at least it's done with more detail and provides better reasons for why Peter Parker throws himself into his superhero role."
— Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times