With the release of the latest Spider-Man movie upon us, we thought it made sense to go back, re-watch, and marinate on what these films have meant to comic book movie culture over nearly two decades before ranking them from worst to best. We pored over everything — from the iconic upside-down kiss to Spider-Pig, sinister villains, ill-advised bouts of street dancing, awkward high school moments, astonishing acrobatics, life lessons, quips, and thwips — to do this exploration into the expansive spiderverse.
8. Spider-Man 3 (Amazon)
There’s a certain stink of failure attached to this film owing, in part, to nice guy Peter Parker’s oft-mocked transformation into a hip-thrusting mega-douche after coming into contact with a space symbiote. That and this being the end of this particular series. But it wasn’t like Sam Raimi and company were cast out in disgrace. Spider-Man 3 actually had killer box office (better than Homecoming) and a not-horrific critical reception (though, audience numbers are split down the middle). The prospect of another film in the series was very real until a few years later when Raimi and Sony couldn’t land on the right idea, and the studio decided to do a reboot instead. So, Spider-Man 3 may not be the complete trainwreck that you remember. At least not in the traditional sense. It is, however, afflicted with a sense of largesse that undermines its established characters. Something Raimi basically acknowledged when he was on the Nerdist podcast in 2015:
I think [raising the stakes after Spider-Man 2] was the thinking going into it, and I think that’s what doomed us. I should’ve just stuck with the characters and the relationships and progressed them to the next step and not tried to top the bar.
The villains also fail to stand out. Venom (the aforementioned symbiote) is wasted, Sand-Man is utterly forgettable, and Harry’s transition to the Green Goblin is undermined by a weirdly delayed update from his butler that undoes a film and a half’s worth of Spidey-hate, setting up an obvious hero’s death. All in all, this very much feels like the third film in a series. But it also feels like the loosest presentation of these characters by this group, meaning Raimi and company weren’t taking themselves too seriously. That didn’t translate to glory in this film, but it’s enough to make you sort of wonder what Spider-Man 4 could have been.
7. Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Amazon)
The final film from the first Spider-Man reboot suffers from some of the same problems as the final film from the original trilogy with, perhaps, too much going on. Peter’s dive into the mystery of his parent’s disappearance is understandable and a departure from the past series, but it’s ultimately unexciting. Also, there’s the absence of a compelling and challenging villain.
As sadsack Max Dillon, Jamie Foxx seems locked in an impression of Jim Carrey’s obsessed Edward Nigma character from Batman Forever. As Electro, his motivation, at least as it pertains to Spider-Man, is weak, giving us an (impressive) light show with no real point. Dane DeHaan has the unenviable task of breathing life into a character, in Harry Osborne/The Green Goblin, that Raimi had exhausted a few years prior. And with that role he does … eh, not much. The motivation is amped up as he fights a genetic death sentence and the after effects from a last-ditch effort to mutate his sick away are more intense than Norman or Harry Osborne’s were when they took on the mantle, but his real impact comes from what he takes from Peter in the midst of an epic aerial fight at a power plant.