Spider-Man’s cinematic legacy dates back to 1977, with nine films starring the character to date.
That's a lot of Spider-Man to watch; here, we rank every official Spider-Man movie ever made – and we do mean every one.
12. Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge (1981)
Maybe "every one" was a bad idea, because that means including the first three Spider-Man films – which were actually episodes of the 1977 live-action TV series edited into movies. However, they did get cinema releases in Europe and other territories, so they (unfortunately) count. The Dragon's Challenge was the third and mercifully final entry, seeing Spider-Man using his spectacular powers to tackle... Chinese industrial espionage. It's slow, it's dull, and it's clearly trying to cash in on the kung-fu craze of the 1970s – but with terrible fight scenes. Also, it might come across as kind of racist now. Deservedly consigned to the history books.
11. Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978)
The second of the 1970s movies fared slightly better in the excitement department, with a chase to recover stolen plutonium and stop it being used to make a bomb (awkwardly, the target is the World Trade Centre...). The film even comes close to having an actual supervillain in the form of the scheming Mr White – albeit one closer to the unpowered Kingpin than any of Spider-Man's more colourful foes. Poor pacing, sub-soap opera performances, ropey effects and more boring fights once again damn this effort.
10. Spider-Man (1977)
Originally the pilot episode for the TV series, this starts off by sticking fairly close to the comics – Peter Parker (Nicholas Hammond) is a photographer for the Daily Bugle and gets his powers from a radioactive spider bite, but only suits up as Spider-Man to stop an evil, mind-controlling "New Age" guru from forcing innocents to commit suicide. The film lays the groundwork for the problems the rest of the 1970s films would face, with an ill-fitting Spider-Man costume, painfully slow wall-crawling(kudos for using physical effects, though), hokey battles and questionable choices such as Spidey only having one web-shooter. The world just wasn't ready for a live-action Spider-Man in 1977, and this is an encyclopaedia of reasons why.
9. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Director Sam Raimi's third and final Spider-Man movie was doomed from the start – mainly because it was never quite Raimi's film at all. The biggest problem was the producer-mandated inclusion of Venom, a fan-favourite villain, but one that jarred with Raimi's preferences. The character was also poorly executed, with Topher Grace in the role of Eddie Brock, who became bonded to the alien symbiote – but not before Tobey Maguire had to deliver an achingly awkward performance as a Peter Parker corrupted by its influence. Overall, Spider-Man 3 suffered from a messy plot, as Raimi tried to tie up the trilogy's Green Goblin arc, introduce a third villain in the form of Sandman, and try to resolve character arcs that had become overly convoluted. Throw in some of the worst costume designs of the trilogy, and it was a low point to go out on.
8. Spider-Man (1978)
Yes, the infamous Japanese Spider-Man series – where the web-slinger isn't Peter Parker but instead motocross rider Takuya Yamashiro, who gains spider powers from an alien, pilots a giant robot called Leopardon, and introduces himself as the "Emissary of Hell!" – saw a cinematic spin-off. Still, this was an official movie released under the auspices of Marvel's licensing arrangement with Japanese studio Toei. However, unlike the rest of the movies on this list, this clocks in at a mere 24 minutes, being released as part of an anthology festival, the Toei Manga Matsuri in July 1978. It's gloriously weird, though, to watch this alternative Spider-Man teaming up with an Interpol agent to fight a monster named the Sea Devil. Certainly a curiosity for western audiences, it is nevertheless hugely entertaining, despite its brevity.
7. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Director Marc Webb's second Spider-Man film gets a bad rap, but there's actually plenty to like here. Andrew Garfield continues to deliver a solid performance as Spider-Man, while Emma Stone's take on Gwen Stacy is delightful and tragic. There's also some great choreography and witty dialogue. However, throwing in a mutated Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) as a twisted Green Goblin and a bizarrely blue-hued Jamie Foxx as main villain Electro made the film overly busy again, while a complicated and unnecessary conspiracy involving Peter's long-dead parents was so ham-fistedly shoved in that even the cast didn't seem to care about it.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Too much, too soon – that was ultimately the biggest problem with Sony's post-Raimi Spider-Man reboot. Despite rehashing the familiar origin story again, Marc Webb did his best in revamping the series only five years after Spider-Man 3, with a thrilling take on long-time Spidey villain The Lizard. Andrew Garfield impressed in the lead role, better delivering Spider-Man's costumed banter than Maguire before him, but perhaps too cool as Peter. The main problem was that The Amazing Spider-Man was clearly always intended as a franchise starter from the off, meaning the film was never really allowed to breathe – it had to seed a half-dozen other films rather than focus on its own story and characters.
5. Spider-Man (2002)
Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man movie wasn't just a great film – it was an important one, showing that superheroes with difficult-to-visualise powers were finally viable. Raimi also arguably captured the most respectful take on the classic Stan Lee and Steve Ditko comics, with Tobey Maguire's dorky, unconfident Peter Parker a perfect match for the original take on the character. While a few modern twists irked fans – notably the controversial decision to give him organic webs, rather than mechanical shooters, and the armoured look for Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn/Green Goblin – it still holds up as a solid superhero outing.
4. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
After the aborted franchise that the Amazing Spider-Man duology was meant to launch, Sony struck a deal with Marvel Studios, allowing Spider-Man to 'go home'. While Tom Holland debuted in the role in Captain America: Civil War, Homecoming was the first time viewers got to know this take on the character. Wisely dodging yet another retelling of Spider-Man's origin, Homecoming instead succeeded by focusing on how Peter fit into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, further establishing Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark/Iron Man as his mentor and tying Michael Keaton's chilling take on the villainous Vulture into the fallout from the Avenger's first battle. It also delivered a more authentic take on the character's high school life – Holland was 19 when he landed the part, compared to Garfield at 29 and Maguire at 27 – and gave Peter the best supporting cast of any live-action outing yet.
3. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
The newest entry in the list, but an improvement over its predecessor in every way. Far From Home brilliantly blurs genres – equal parts teen romantic comedy, road trip adventure, and superhero blockbuster – while evolving its cast of characters in interesting ways. Holland's Peter needing some downtime with his friends in the wake of the heavy events of Infinity War and Endgame is humanising and relatable, while his romantic dalliances with Zendaya's MJ are endearingly sweet. Yet where Homecoming had to weave Spider-Man into a wider universe, Far From Home deftly navigates the restrictions of playing in a shared toy box, dealing with Endgame's aftermath without sacrificing its own story. Massive in scope while still keeping its focus on Spider-Man as a "friendly neighbourhood" hero, the latest film paints a promising picture for the character's cinematic future.
2. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Just pipping the MCU Spider-Man movies, Sam Raimi's sophomore entry remains a high point for the character, and for superhero cinema as a whole. Maguire here matured nicely into the dual role of Peter and Spider-Man, brilliantly portraying the struggle of balancing the civilian and costumed sides of his life. With Alfred Molina's perfect casting as Otto Octavius – Peter's mentor, who descends into madness and becomes the tech-tentacled Doctor Octopus – Spider-Man 2 also delivered one of the best hero-villain relationships to grace the screen, made all the more powerful for the characters' friendship before Otto's fall. Fifteen years on from release, Spidey and Doc Ock's final battle in Spider-Man 2 still ranks as one of the best hero-villain fights ever committed to film. The best of Raimi's trilogy, and still the best live-action Spider-Man.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Other Spider-Man movies may borrow liberally from the source material, but none of them are as unashamedly, joyously proud of their roots as Into the Spider-Verse. Not only does this animated movie trust viewers to understand the concept of parallel universes and a cavalcade of Spider-Men and Spider-Women from across the Marvel multiverse – notably Miles Morales, heir apparent as the next 'main' Spider-Man – its striking animation draws heavily on comic book visual language, with double-page spreads, hyper-kinet ic shots and bold designs bringing the printed world to the screen like never before. It also delivers one of the best Spider-Man stories yet – equal parts thrilling, hilarious and heartbreaking – and the finest soundtrack to any superhero movie in years. Absolutely deserving of its Oscar win and a fresh, exciting take on the webbed wonder in all his many forms.
Words: Matt Kamen