We didn’t want to do this. Sorry for the listicle. But our petty disagreements with other recent Spider-Man movie rankings forced our stupid hand. So here TV-VCR’s definitive list of the worst-to-best Spider-Men.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
This is for sure the worst. Jamie Foxx’s combover nerd cartoon who turns into veiny Dr. Manhattan is an atrocious antagonist wrapped in an awful performance. That, in No Way Home, Foxx (and Sony/Marvel) improved upon it by just making him play the role as the insufferable Jamie Foxx himself is telling of just how bad he was initially. Similarly telling is how he completely overshadowed how bad Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin also was. Just this sort of jaundiced, gross guy? The only good things about TASM2 are Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and her subsequent death, and the best Spider-Man costume to that date. Paul Giamatti’s Rhino should be a highlight, but he’s barely there—and there’s ever the nagging feeling that, instead of putting him in this big mech suit, we should have put The Wire’s Domenick Lombardozzi in a proper rhinoceros costume.
The Amazing Spider-Man
This one barely even clocks. Again, Garfield and Stone were well cast, as was Rhys Ifans as Lizard, but no one remembers what even happened in this. It was a dull and disappointing reboot but ultimately wasn’t that notably shit. Like its narrow superhero predecessor, 2011’s Thor, it set a good cast up for success even as it was not at all good in itself. Also like Thor, it ended up actually getting worse with its sequel. Shame Garfield never got his Ragnarok redemption, huh?
The third Raimi movie is of course stupid as hell, but like the Star Wars prequels, it has its dumbass, extremely meme-able charms. Thomas Haden Church was a great Sandman, too. It’s absolutely trash, but it’s something.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Look, as we said, this movie wasn’t even bad. It was a fun time. This is the first movie in the list not to be pretty bad. But as we also said, it isn’t great. For as much as its fan service ultimately pleases, its nonstop hokum, shoddy effects, and awkward pacing muck it up. And there’s far too much meta nonsense going on for it to really stand on its own legs—however many familiar legs and tentacles there are.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
The sequel to Homecoming was nearly on par with its predecessor, and the updated take on Mysterio—plus, casting him as the fantastic Jake Gyllenhaal—was quite good. But this was the first sign of leaning even harder into Tony Stark tech crap that should have been shrugged off (as it finally was by the end of No Way Home). It likewise clings to the nearly Avengers-level high stakes. Could have been better if it were a bit more grounded, but it’s solid. It’s an enjoyable one.
Look, this is probably going to draw some shit, but the first Spider-Man movie was not all that spectacular. Everyone does a great job—Dafoe as Norman Osborn is of course brilliant, and J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson is perhaps the most inspired casting ever seen in a superhero movie. It’s a success but a relatively slight one. It’s like Richard Donner’s Superman: it works at a lot of levels, but let’s not champion it too much. It’s not great. A lot of strong elements, but not great.
For as much as it had to deal with the larger Marvel universe, Homecoming was a reboot that did about as well as it could. It’s a charmer that doesn’t require the audience to fully get the broader backstory; regardless, it works as a high school adventure-comedy. And for the more initiated dorks, it’s a fantastic reinvention of known characters. Zendaya’s MJ as a droll outsider; Tony Revolori’s Flash Thompson as not a burly bully but a social media-conscious rich prick; Tom Holland’s stammering, awkward Peter Parker; and his best friend, Jacob Batalon’s properly geeky Ned, unite for a modern reinvention that works better than it should. That Parker finally hits up familiar bodegas just adds another layer to Homecoming plopping Spider-Man into a proper Queens not seen before.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Forgetting about it as a Spider-Man movie, Into the Spider-Verse still rules. It’s slick and stylish yet entirely original. It’s a uniquely and gorgeously-animated effort. And like so many of these Spider-Men, it’s absurdly perfect in its casting. There are too many amazing castings to even list, but they’re largely fantastic. Coming from a screenplay co-written by Phil Lord—half of the Lord-Miller brand that keeps refusing to fail on otherwise seemingly-doomed projects like the 21 Jump Street movie, The Lego Movie, and more—it’s not surprising it exceeds expectations. But it’s so dynamic, fun, and thrilling! It even uses Bill Sienkiewicz’s ridiculously-hulking Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk! It would certainly be the best Spider-Man movie, were it not for…
Yeah, 17 years on and still the GOAT. Into the Spider-Verse almost gets there but Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus, Tobey Maguire’s hot dog chomping, the out-of-control-train heroism, the wildly-Raimi-style horror of the surgery tentacle scene, and the tragic finale keep Doc Ock’s head above the rising waters of the river where he dies. Brilliant but not at all lazy.