Not counting the 1977 TV movie—and it’s best for everyone that we not count that one—Spider-Man: Far from Home marks the eighth solo venture for everyone’s favorite spider-bite-irradiated teenager. By the immutable laws of internet entertainment media, that means a ranking must be done! (Because we’re very inclusive, we’re letting Venom onto the list, as well.) Compared to his costumed peers with a similar number of films dedicated to them, Peter Parker and his alter ego have, all things considered, had a pretty good run, batting over .500. Taking that metaphor further, Spidey has had two towering homeruns, three triples, a single, two strikeouts and one … um … maybe that was catcher interference?
Ruben Fleischer’s unabashedly pulpy Venom sometimes feels quite special. It exists on its own—it concerns itself with modern problems in a modern world, but it acts like an early-2000s sci-fi blockbuster, molecularly unable to take itself seriously. It relies on a popular existing property within a genre enjoying unprecedented popularity, populated by Oscar-winning actors and unheard-of budgets, but it doesn’t pretend to have any claim to the well-established universes it can only point to, would seem to never dream of awards talk or critical love. It has Tom Hardy chewing so gleefully through its celluloid we should have talked awards and should have flirted with better critical love, but it also doesn’t quite do much of anything, doesn’t quite go far enough, with the insanity it potentially wields. It’s not a buddy comedy, but it’s also not not a buddy comedy. Venom could have been the most original superhero movie to come out in a long time, had it been released ten years ago. They just don’t—and one could argue for good reason—make movies like this anymore. —Dom Sinacola
Freed from much of the awkwardly executed origin re-retelling of its 2012 predecessor, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 should have more life to it. In his second turn at the helm, director Marc Webb has a solid cast of returning stars and high-caliber newcomers, and a budget befitting one of Sony’s big gun properties. Nonetheless, in many ways this second installment of the rebooted Spidey is worse than the first. How can that be?
Oh, yeah … the script.
When not being presented with yet another Screenwriting 101 exercise in ratcheting up dramatic tension through the accumulation of subplots, the movie feels like a test pilot of Young Spider-Man on The CW. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have nice chemistry, but whoever thought moviegoers would rather watch the two of them talk about their relationship rather than Spider-Man, Spider-Man, doing whatever a spider can … well, that person doesn’t understand what makes a good superhero flick tick. Ultimately, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is noteworthy for one thing—not waiting until the third or fourth film to achieve the overstuffed, increasingly garish look one associates with less popular (2007’s Spider-Man 3) and outright ridiculed (1997’s Batman and Robin) franchise efforts. (See full review.) —Michael Burgin
Marc Webb’s film proves that rebooting a successful franchise is no sure thing. First, a reboot works best with properties that have become stale, over-burdened by conflicting bits of canon or weakened by over-exposure. Only ten years removed from the first film (and five from the third), it’s not like Raimi’s trilogy was a distant memory for viewers. Considering the films occupy spots #1 through #3 in all-time box office for Sony/Columbia, it’s tough to argue flagging interest, either. Finally, unlike another popular rebooted property, Star Trek, where its heroes’ early days have been untouched on film—and thus make for intriguing fan-bait—Spider-Man’s origin story is a central part of his Big Screen tale. As a result, Webb was faced with a daunting proposition: Retell a story that was just told (and told well) a few years earlier—and, oh yeah, no major changes to the origin allowed. Perhaps this stricture explains why The Amazing Spider-Man feels less like a reboot than an extended paraphrasing of the plot points and emotional beats from the first two films in the Raimi/Maguire trilogy. But whether judged in relation to Raimi’s trilogy, compared with successful superhero franchises as a whole, or just rated on its own terms as an action film, the only thing amazing about Webb’s reboot is how quickly a Hollywood studio can forget the lessons its own films have taught it. (See full review.) —Michael Burgin
A cautionary tale in how a successful franchise can maintain most of the ingredients in its creative team, and yet still be derailed by what seems like the smallest of adjustments. Sure, Spider-Man 3 was a financial success—$890 million or so in worldwide box office on a budget of $258 million—but it also sported some “classic” transgressions of the genre. There’s the overly convenient—and worse, unnecessary—sewing together of plot points that were originally disparate. (Flint Marko is also the man who shot Unca Ben!) There’s the cramming of too many subplots and villains into the movie (the latter tendency perhaps best thought of as a Schumacher Effect). And then there’s a few eyebrow-raising moments unique to the film, like, sigh, that Jazz club scene. All in all, it represents a sudden low for anyone relishing the high of its predecessor, and the end of the Raimi-Maguire era. —Michael Burgin
Coming on the heels of the hefty hunk o’ cinematic event that was Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far from Home is, as one would expect, much lighter fare. That doesn’t stop this 23rd and final entry in the MCU’s initial Feige Phase barrage from serving as an effective coda for Endgame even as it presents what is, in many ways, a classic Spider-Man adventure.
Along with having a Grade A capturing of a C-tier villain (Mysterio), Spider-Man: Far from Home is (relatively) small, sincere and funny, and has more than your usual MCU allotment of post-credit bombshells. Though a comparatively recent addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is already Tom Holland’s fifth film as Spider-Man in three years. Like so many other casting decisions made in the MCU, he’s proven himself near perfect in the role. No Golden Age lasts forever, and the MCU will eventually stumble—but as long as they can spin box office (and audience) gold from relatively the Mysterios and Vultures of Spidey’s rogues gallery, it won’t be Holland’s Spider-Man that is the first to stumble. (See full review.) —Michael Burgin
It’s simultaneously easy and impossible to forget that Spider-Man: Homecoming is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Easy, because unlike most every MCU film before it, with the partial exception of Doctor Strange, it manages to extricate its characters (and especially its scope) from the world-ending catastrophes faced by The Avengers to tell a story that is a little bit more “close to the ground,” to use Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) own words. Impossible because, well, Tony Stark is in this. Quite a bit, actually. Nevertheless, Homecoming manages to pull off the most difficult feat for just about any franchise installment: It justifies its own existence. Briskly paced and charming to a fault, it’s a Spider-Man movie that fully embraces both its source material and the perils of 21st century teenage life. (See full review.) —Jim Vorel
If this was a list of the most influential or important superhero films, then Sam Raimi’s 2002 film would come in well ahead of its 2004 sequel—perhaps even top three. Though there had been a few Marvel movies before it (X-Men, Blade), Spider-Man showed how exhilarating it could be when a film strove to do the Marvel universe justice rather than apologizing for and obscuring the source material. Granted, a few decades and casting iterations from now, Tobey Maguire will likely not be considered the best Spider-Man ever, but he was good enough. (And J.K. Simmons’ turn as J. Jonah Jameson will likely never be touched.) More importantly, in the hands of Raimi, a Spider-Man fan with chops, Spider-Man carried with it the same species of wonder that Jurassic Park had—instead of “Wow, this is what it would be like to see real dinosaurs,” we got to see what it was like for a comic book to come to life. —Michael Burgin
Sam Raimi’s second turn at the franchise helm yielded what at the time was arguably the best superhero film ever, and one that, as its ranking on this list shows, holds up well a decade later. Spider-Man 2 relies on the same formula which made the first so well-received—non-intrusive fan service/call backs to the classic comics coupled with a faithful-enough rendition of a classic Spider-Man villain. Though his origin drifts a bit from the comics, Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus is a delight, giving the film an emotional resonance on both sides of the classic hero/villain dichotomy even as it provides the wall crawler with an intelligent, deadly foe. The film also features one of the best fight scenes in the history of comic book films, made even better by the emotional punch of its conclusion, as an unconscious Spidey is supported and protected by the New Yorkers he has saved. Sadly, this effort would prove the apex of the Raimi/Maguire/Sony collaboration—and the best of the Spider-Man films thus far—though with the webslinger’s inclusion in the MCU, there’s hope. —Michael Burgin
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is that rare film where ingredients, execution and imagination all come together in a manner that’s engaging, surprising and, most of all, fun. Directors Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey, writer-director Rodney Rothman, and writer Phil Lord have made a film that lives up to all the adjectives one associates with Marvel’s iconic wallcrawler. Amazing. Spectacular. Superior. (Even “Friendly” and “Neighborhood” fit.)
Into the Spider-Verse shoulders the immense Spider-Man mythos like it’s a half-empty backpack on its way to providing Miles Morales with one of the most textured, loving origin stories in the superhero genre. It also provides simultaneous master classes in genre filmmaking. Have you been wondering how best to intersperse humor into a storyline crowded with action and heavy emotional arcs? Start here. Do you need to bring together a diverse collection of characters, nimbly move them (together and separately) from setting to setting and band them together in a way that the audience doesn’t question? Take notes. Do you have an outlandish, fantastical concept that you need to communicate to the viewers (and characters) without bogging down the rest of the story? This is one way to do it. Would you like to make an instant contemporary animated classic? Look (and listen).
Ultimately, this particular intensely collaborative endeavor clicks on all cylinders in a manner even the MCU could learn from. As a result, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse vaults into consideration not only as one the best Spider-Man films ever, but as one of the best superhero films yet made. (See full review.) —Michael Burgin