6. 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 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 for Sony and Disney 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 explosions) to its relatively identifiable and menacing villain, ticked all of the right boxes and was an undeniably great launching point for new Spider-Man.
For as satisfying and enjoyable as Homecoming was, and for as wholesome and perfectly cast new Peter Parker Tom Holland has proven to be, 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. The rest of the Spider-Man franchise is simply too good to include Homecoming any higher in this list.
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5. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
The 2021 entry into the Spider-Man franchise was true dream factory stuff. Especially for long-running fans of the character and wider film franchise.
Courtesy of a multiverse-opening spell-gone-wrong from the MCU’s Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), this generation’s Peter Parker was introduced to a rogues gallery of supervillains from generations past. And, with each character re-introduction, the Spidey-senses only tingled with more strength.
In the US, No Way Home debuted with the third largest opening in box office history – even during a pandemic – to truly illustrate the power of Spider-Man.
Unlike some of the more refined entries yet to come on this list, No Way Home did suffer from a distracting level of expository dialogue courtesy of so many characters being reintroduced, and it could be argued that some of superhero cinema’s greatest ever villains were relegated to bit-part comedy players, but in terms of delivering on a premise and completing Peter Parker’s character arc, No Way Home proved to be pretty darn good.
4. Spider-Man (2002)
The importance of Spider-Man to modern day superhero cinema cannot be understated. Ask anyone who was a child, coming of age or simply an excited adult at the turn of the century and they’ll tell you how huge it was to finally see arguably the most famous of all Marvel superheroes swing onto the big screen for the first time. Along with X-Men, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man ushered in the age of superheroes in Hollywood, new CG capabilities matching with traditional storytelling methods to offer superhero cinema without condescension and aimed firmly at the mainstream for the first time.
This Columbia Pictures release was fostered from its earliest stages to become a juggernaut of the genre, the studio hiring horror film icon and reliable gun-for-hire Sam Raimi to head up its creative, with man-of-the-moment and Oscar nominee Tobey Maguire leading the charge on screen. Also thrown into the mix were the up-and-coming talents of Kirsten Dunst and James Franco, as well as the legendary and always terrific Willem Dafoe (Green Goblin). Come release, with the world’s eyes already fixed on the film for upwards of a year in advance, the bar for superhero cinema was raised and the limits of the CG-reliant genre pushed further than ever before.
Striking the perfect note to create a moving, smooth-flowing narrative, Spider-Man’s screenplay was a large force behind its success and was widely praised by critics who tagged the movie as the ultimate summer fun-show. Spider-Man was not only a remarkable superhero film but a truly enjoyable summer blockbuster.
Even two decades on, Spider-Man remains one of the most important and timeless offerings from superhero cinema, and features some of the key iconography we have come to associate with the genre throughout the years. Who could ever forget that upside-down kiss?
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