Ever since making his comic-book debut on 5 June 1962, Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man has been part of the American zeitgeist and a big-screen mainstay that has swung his way into our hearts through various cinematic incarnations and studio reboots. From Nicholas Hammond to Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland, each actor brought a new perspective to the teenage wall-crawler, expanding Peter Parker’s rich legacy onscreen and making Hollywood millions of dollars. However, not all Spidey films are created equal, with some receiving greater acclaim than others.
With the hotly-anticipated arrival of “Across the Spider-Verse”, the sequel to Sony Pictures’ Academy Award-winning film, we offer a comprehensive ranking, from worst to best, for every Spider-Man theatrical movie to date, going back all the way to 1977. Ready the torches and pitchforks, and let’s dive in.
14. Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge (1979)
Sam Raimi was not the first to bring Peter Parker to the big screen, in fact, an entire trilogy of now-forgotten films swung into theaters during the late 70s.
Running for 13 episodes, “The Amazing Spider-Man” series that aired on CBS gave dweebs a first glimpse at the wall-crawling menace. Nicholas Hammond did a solid job in his short-lived tenure as Peter Parker, which saw him travel all the way to Hong Kong to protect a Chinese official and fend off against evil rich magnate Zeidler in the threequel. Despite what its position at the very bottom of this list may imply, “The Dragon’s Challenge” is not completely devoid of fun. Much like its two predecessors, it bundles together two made-for-TV episodes with a certain soap-opera feel that works both for and against it. However, this one is particularly bogged down by droning exposition, a half-baked international conspiracy plot, and easily the worst romantic interest in the trilogy. No wonder Stan Lee hated it.
13. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Let’s start with the positives: Andrew Garfield oozes charisma as Queens’ wise-cracking, sarcastic web-slinger and shares great chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. Though it had its moments, overall, Marc Webb’s second turn at the franchise helm made the classic mistake of trying to do too much and falling short of nearly every goal it set for itself.
In an effort to set-up an entire cinematic universe including a Sinister 6 and Black Cat spin-offs, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” split its focus between Jamie Foxx’s dweeb scientist-turned-evil mastermind Electro and Dane DeHaan’s underwhelming Harry Osborn—cramming about a trilogy’s worth of character development into 142 bloated minutes. Needless to say, the result is less than exceptional. Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that this movie led to yet another franchise reboot: we’ll treasure Paul Giamatti’s post-credits cameo as Rhino and move on.
12. Spider-Man (1977)
Even if it’s outweighed by the bad stuff, the 1977 Spider-Man feature-film is a fairly enjoyable cheesy romp that deserves a ton of credit for being the first to bring the friendly neighborhood to the big screen.
Acting as a backdoor pilot setting up CBS’ “The Amazing Spider-Man” show that ran from 1977–1979, Peter Parker’s live-action debut finds him juggling responsibilities as a college student and underpaid journalist at J. Jonah Jameson’s The Daily Bugle before being bit by a radioactive spider. Even with its cornier moments and outdated action, certain scenes have an undeniable 70s charm—whether it’s Peter testing his powers for the first time by climbing buildings, throwing webs at deadly ninjas, or trying to stop criminal mastermind Edward Bryon from hypnotizing random New Yorkers and collecting $50 million in ransom. All in all, as long as you keep your expectations in check, watching this popcorn fodder will be time well spent.
11. Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978)
A tissue sample of post-Cold War nuclear paranoia, the second entry in “The Amazing Spider-Man” made-for-TV trilogy finds Spidey going toe-to-toe with millionaire tycoon Mr. White, who plans to steal plutonium, assassinate the US president, and blow up New York with a homemade atomic bomb.
Though one must endure one-too-many dull scenes in order to get to the good stuff, we are giving this one a slight edge over its predecessor on the grounds that it has higher stakes, better pacing, and provides a clear improvement in the action department, with solid stunts, high-octane car chase sequences, and even some Wild West-slash-kung fu showdowns sprinkled in for good measure. Add to the mix a catchy score and a surprisingly impressive first-person POV shot of Spider-Man swinging from a helicopter, and you get a solid piece of comic-book history that never overstays its welcome.
10. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
“No Way Home” holds the distinction of being the highest-grossing Spider-Man movie with a total of $1.9 billion raked in at the box office. And in hindsight, it isn’t hard to understand why audiences flocked to the theaters to watch Tom Holland’s third solo joint in the Marvel Cinematic Universe considering the whirlwind of casting rumors that preceded its release.
In borrowing the conceptual shtick of “Into the Spider-Verse” and bringing a crop of past iterations of web-slingers and Spidey rogues all into the fold, “No Way Home” delivered one of the marquee post-pandemic theatrical experiences—a rip-roaring, crowd-pleasing IP mash-up that tapped into fans’ nostalgia to full effect. By virtue of being a part of the larger MCU saga, though, the story feels at once overstuffed and oddly weightless: a feeling that becomes ever-so-glaring once the adrenaline rush of that initial watch wears off and you revisit the film at home. It may indulge in all the wrong ways, but strictly as fan service, “No Way Home” accomplished exactly what it set out to do.
9. Spider-Man (1978)
If you secretly wish that Spider-Man could ride a flying car and fight mecha-robots, world-destroying aliens, and a kaiju-sized anthropomorphic swordfish that shoots torpedoes out of his mouth, boy, we have just the right movie from you.
The live-action series produced by Toei Company (the famed Japanese studio behind “Power Rangers” and “Dragon Ball”) under license from Marvel won the hearts of millions worldwide and sprung a short 24-minute film that was theatrically distributed in 1978. The titular hero here is not Peter Parker but motocross racer Takuya Yamashiro, who gains his powers after an injection of blood from the last surviving person of the Planet Spider. Things get even nuttier once his secret identity is discovered, prompting the web-slinging vigilante to join forces with an Interpol agent to defeat the mighty Iron Cross Army. If you’re wondering if this movie is as unashamedly silly and fun as it sounds on paper, the answer is a resounding yes. If Japanese Spider-Man doesn’t make an appearance in the next “Spider-Verse” film, we riot.
8. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Following the disastrous reception to the third and final installment in Sam Raimi’s trilogy, Sony decided to wipe the slate clean in order to retain the rights to Marvel’s flagship superhero.
Slapping on the reset button meant moviegoers were forced to relive once again events they’d seen just ten years prior—from Peter Parker being bit by a radioactive spider all the way to Uncle Ben’s tragic death. Dr. Curtis Connors a.k.a. The Lizard, who was originally supposed to appear in Raimi’s botched 2011 film, made his splashy live action debut going head-to-head with a cooler, edgy and fundamentally less dorky Spider-Man. Goodbye Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst; enter Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, both of whom make the most out of the mediocre material they were given to work with. Though it could never hold a candle to Raimi’s origin story, labeling Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” a disaster may be too harsh. Still, there’s a reason this is no one’s favorite version of Spider-Man: it’s a reasonably well put-together, yet terribly unremarkable entry in the costumed-crusader canon.