6. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Spider-Man 3 is the one film from the Spider-verse that people jump to when imagining a “worst Spider-Man movie”, but the reality is much more complex, as illustrated by its relatively lofty 6th position on this list.
As referenced in earlier entries, Spider-Man 3 set the benchmark for how to not introduce characters just for the sake of building a wider universe, and it undoubtedly has some of the most cringe-inducing moments ever put to screen in any superhero movie ever, but to relegate this relatively ill-fated conclusive entry from Sam Raimi’s red hot superhero trilogy to the status of “worst Spider-Man film” or “one of the worst superhero films of all time” is to grossly underestimate and, frankly, misunderstand the very nature of Spider-Man 3 as a viable and complex examination of ego, self-expression and grandiosity.
By Spider-Man 3 Peter Parker is no longer a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, he’s an icon of New York, he’s the saviour of men, women and children, and he’s got the girl. His once shy persona and determined attitude is thus replaced with a fundamentally more arrogant one, crowd-pleasing public kisses and photoshoot-ready web-slinging included.
The picture’s most fundamentally divisive sequence is, ironically, the best evidence of this, Venom turning Peter Parker “emo” to the chagrin of all who’d anticipated the iconic character’s debut. This scene, in context to the other two films, illustrates two important things to us as viewers: Parker’s view of “cool” is fundamentally a 2000s alt-rocker with a film noir twist, and that for all of his bravery, values and strength of character, Parker may ultimately fall victim to the only villain he can’t catch in one of his webs… himself.
Spider-Man 3 is not without its issues and there’s no doubt that this, like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, ended one version of the character for good. But, unlike its more modern counterpart, Spider-Man 3 remains memorable, its depth evident of a time when filmmakers still (for the most part) ruled the roost. Sure, this Spidey entry is Sam Raimi pulled in all sorts of different directions, but the heart and intention behind each creative decision remains. It may be seen as a failure to many, but it is one built upon a passion that is rarely illustrated within the genre in modern times.
5. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
The picture that could go down in history as the last big-screen collaboration between Sony and Disney, Spider-Man: Far from Home was the first canonical MCU film to be set in the aftermath of Iron Man’s death in Endgame, and as such had an emotional hook more sizeable than its considerable franchise counterparts.
Visually, the film also had the significant advantage of having the eccentric con-man Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) as its latest draw, the visual splendor and expressionist sequences revolving around the character’s most deadly motives making for groundwork that emphasised all that is good within superhero films in the modern day. Under the surface, Mysterio was also an interesting tool for superhero cinema examination – as outlined in Far From Home – Throwing Shade At the Superhero Factory by Sam Sewell-Peterson – but the groundwork did not make for a sequel more interesting than its predecessor; the heart, comedy and minute personal risk to Parker all-but dismissed in favour of the film’s more grandiose topics, Parker’s trials and tribulations as a young boy being less a central concern than in Homecoming, the character losing something as a result.
A considerable step up from some of the entries already outlined in this list, Far from Home was by no means a poor movie – it was actually very enjoyable – and it did set the groundwork for a more grown up, post-Endgame-trauma version of the character that will hopefully expand this version of Peter Parker beyond the restrictions of previous iterations and see his conquests begin to explore deeper themes. This movie also provided all of the enjoyment and happiness of Marvel’s mid-level hits, its position at number 5 on this list therefore less to do with the film’s lack of quality and more to do with the quality of those to come.
Recommended for you: Far from Home – E.D.I.T.H. and the Morality of the MCU
4. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
The debut of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in a solo outing under the banner of Marvel Studios was one that became the talk of comic-book-town (which is definitely a real place) once the character stole the show in Captain America: Civil War. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, most people got more than they could have wished for.
This teen comedy with a superhero twist had all the tools for success – it had a fantastic cast including recent Oscar winner Michael Keaton, Oscar nominee Marisa Tomei and Iron Man himself Robert Downey Jr., as well as a funny script with a cleverly endearing version of Peter Parker, and the guts to finally aim a Spidey movie squarely at the teenage market. The benefits of these decisions played out to glorious effect as the film went on to make just under $900million at the box office and launch a new version of the web-slinger that many consider to be the best to date.
Homecoming, from its strong coming-of-age plot likened to the John Hughes movies of the 80s (only with more ‘splosions) to its relatively identifiable and menacing villain, ticked all of the right boxes and was an undeniably great launching point for new Spider-Man, but it sits as low as number 4 here for one major reason: Spider-Man: Homecoming lacks the depth, and therefore the rewatchability, of the films to come.
For as satisfying and enjoyable as Homecoming was, and for as wholesome and perfectly cast new Peter Parker Tom Holland most certainly was, this Jon Watts directed franchise entry has not withstood the tests of many a rewatch that its higher ranked brethren have, mostly due to the plot’s reliance upon its twist and the film’s slightly less compelling character journey at the heart of its narrative. It’s not that Homecoming is bad… it’s that the Spider-Man franchise is simply too good to include this one in its top three.