Why is Spider-Man still the ultimate, iconic Marvel superhero? Peter Parker's down-on-his-luck charm, truly iconic costume and memorable rogue's gallery of villains means he's still the number one. That's been cemented by Parker's constant presence on-screen – in 19 years, there have been eight theatrically released films based on Spidey. And just over half of them are actually good.
Just for fun, the TechRadar team decided to vote on which Spider-Man movies are the best – and it's fair to say the last and first place movies here were the clear winners, but it does get a bit muddier in the middle section of the rankings.
Check out our guide to the Marvel movies in order if you're looking for a more ambitious superhero marathon than just the eight Spidey films that Sony has made too. Otherwise, read on below, starting with the eighth-best (worst) Spider-Man movie on our list.
8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a messy follow-up to the 2012 movie. It's not short on villains, packing in Electro (Jamie Foxx), the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and to a lesser extent, the Rhino (Paul Giamatti) – but none of them really stand out. It's a scattered film with a lot of plot, but not a satisfying one, and it actually could've benefitted from a more pared-down approach like its predecessor. It was also a mistake for the film to try and retread the ground of Peter Parker and Harry Osborn's friendship – something explored so comprehensively in Raimi's trilogy.
The two Amazing movies just couldn't help but feel inessential, and the running plot thread in these two films about what happened to Peter's parents feels weirdly off-brand for a Spider-Man story – not to mention boring. Still, Andrew Garfield's excellent portrayal of Spidey deserved a better final movie than this.
7. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
The laughable dancing, the overload of villains, the messy structure of the film – Spider-Man 3's issues are well-documented. The film isn't a total write-off, but it lacks the strong characterization of the first two movies – both of which focused on a single villain with a believable motivation, and made Peter Parker's personal life fit around that to interesting dramatic effect. Instead, Tobey Maguire's Parker is (deliberately) harder to like, and the introduction of Venom to the series was a bit botched. It feels like a film that had too many cooks behind-the-scenes.
Still, given how The Amazing Spider-Man movies turned out, we can't help but wish Raimi had one more roll of the dice to get Spidey back on track with a fourth movie...
6. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
A perfectly fine reboot of the Spidey series saw Andrew Garfield take on the role of Peter Parker, and convincingly bring his own vibe to the web-slinger. Unfortunately, the movie itself lacked a fundamentally different and interesting creative angle to the Raimi movies, and only seemed to exist at all because Sony needed another Spider-Man film in theaters at the time.
Rhys Ifans made for a decent enough villain as Curt Connors, aka the Lizard, and Garfield had terrific chemistry with Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. The world just didn't really need The Amazing Spider-Man, and the end result showed.
5. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Spider-Man: Far From Home is the ultimate post-Avengers: Endgame tonic. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) takes a school trip to Venice, trying to win the heart of MJ (Zendaya) – in the deeply sanitized and un-horny way we've come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Along the way he encounters Quintin Beck, better known as Mysterio, who (spoilers!) is essentially a con artist masquerading as a superhero. This villain is brought to life with real gusto by a fun Jake Gyllenhaal.
While the way Mysterio is introduced as a hero works really well, Far From Home definitely lacks the impact of the Raimi movies on an emotional level. That said, the ending reveal (featuring JK Simmons reprising his role as J Jonah Jameson from the Raimi films) suggests the third movie might be a step up for Holland's Spider-Man movies in terms of stakes.
4. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
The MCU's Spider-Man made an extremely strong debut in Captain America: Civil War as the thankless comrade of Tony Stark, tasked with fighting a bunch of rogue Avengers in Leipzig airport, Germany. This film definitely brings the best out of Holland's Marty McFly-esque nice boy Peter Parker, and actually explores what student life is like for Spidey, which the previous two actors' older versions didn't do so much.
Michael Keaton's Vulture is a pretty solid villain with an interesting working class edge, and the subject of a great twist, while the brief appearances from Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark are the icing on the cake – even if the film feels a bit safe overall as the first Spider-Man solo effort in the MCU.
3. Spider-Man (2002)
While Fox's 2000 X-Men movie came first and set the stage, Spider-Man felt like the real start of the superhero boom in the early '00s. Sam Raimi's film set a template of putting the hero's personal life at the center of the story, with the superhero action growing out of that. Pretty much every MCU solo film uses a similar template.
Tobey Maguire's affable Spidey was spot-on casting, and while Willem Dafoe is often mocked for a touch of overacting as Norman Osborn's Green Goblin, everything about this film felt right. It's still enjoyable to rewatch, almost two decades later, and will always feel like the primary on-screen version of Spidey to a certain generation.
2. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Raimi's dual focus on Peter Parker's personal and superhero lives is perfected in one of the best superhero movies of all time. Alfred Molina's Doc Ock is a brilliantly-conceived, tragic villain – a scientist with good intentions, who ends up terrorizing New York after his wife is killed in an accident, and his brain is warped by a chip that alters his behavior. And oh yeah! He has robot arms.
Meanwhile, this movie explores the idea of Peter Parker stepping away from the limelight of being Spidey when it all gets a bit too much, lifted from a famous story in the comics. This film features numerous great set pieces – most memorably Spider-Man's efforts to stop a runaway train by firing as many webs off as possible in order to stop it. This is probably as good as live-action Spidey movies will ever get.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
As well as being one of the nicest-looking animated films of all time, Into the Spider-Verse is a funny, inventive and well-written crossover movie of multiple Spider-folk. Peter Parker is dead at the hands of the Kingpin, and young student Miles Morales looks to take Spidey's place – except he's not alone.
He's soon joined by another universe's slightly less perfect, dadbod-bearing Peter Parker, and other Spider-heroes from across different realities, including Gwen Stacy's Spider-Woman and Spider-Man Noir (played by Nicolas Cage).
Not only is this a great, ambitious sci-fi spin on a superhero team-up movie, it's incredibly heartfelt, with terrific characterization across the board. It's one of the best animated movies ever made, and we're happy to call it the greatest of all the Spider-Man movies too.