3. Quentin Beck / Mysterio – Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
“Unless you’re flying around with a cape, or shooting lasers with your hands, no one will even listen. Well I’ve got a cape and lasers.”
Former Stark Industries designer, who uses his late employer’s technology to masquerade as an inter-dimensional superhero, eventually planning to take control of and sell Stark’s global defence drone network to the highest bidder.
Mysterio is a tricky customer to say the least, coming to Peter Parker as a friend and powerful ally, but in reality he is only after the Stark technology Peter has been bequeathed. He’s also the one and only Spider-Man villain to date to expose the hero’s secret identity to the entire world and to continue a smear campaign against him even after his death. Mysterio’s actions set in motion the events that lead to Peter asking Doctor Strange to magic away the world’s knowledge of his civilian identity and thereby tearing open the multiverse and bringing heroes and villains from other dimensions together.
He may not have been that much of a threat to Spidey without his illusory tricks and toys but his petty need to be noticed and to be taken seriously after being ignored by Tony Stark eventually resulted in Peter having to undo everything and send everybody back where they came from to keep reality intact. Not bad for a guy wearing a fishbowl on his head.
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2. Norman Osborn / Green Goblin – Spider-Man 1-3 (2002-07), Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
“This is why only fools are heroes – because you never know when some lunatic will come along with a sadistic choice. Let die the woman you love… or suffer the little children?”
The Oscorp CEO whose personality and mind is fractured when he takes an untested strength and agility-boosting formula and uses a prototype military flight suit and glider to take his revenge on the company who ousted him. After pursuing Peter Parker’s loved ones to “attack his heart”, Norman inadvertently kills himself with his own glider in a fight to the death with Spider-Man. Norman is summoned to another universe and accepts the offer of a potential cure from Peter, but the Goblin side takes over once more and he resumes his path of destruction at the head of a group of dimensionally displaced supervillains.
Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis from the comics and his first and biggest threat in the movies, Norman Osborn and his enhanced, heavily-armed darker side could very well have ended an inexperienced Spidey’s adventures before they began if he hadn’t enjoyed tormenting his young opponent so much.
Both times he fights “Peter 2” he quickly gains the upper hand and physically dominates his adversary soon after he has attacked him on an emotional level. He torments Mary Jane, Aunt May and the other Spider-Men’s loved ones gleefully, and the ambitious, cold but ultimately decent “something of a scientist” that Norman is at his core is inevitably overwhelmed by the Goblin persona who only seeks to cause pain, wreak havoc and prove himself a god. Willem Dafoe brings one of the great evil cackles to the big screen and his demonic smile is perfect for playing such an unhinged character.
1. Dr Otto Octavius / Doctor Octopus – Spider-Man 2 (2004), Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
“Find him. Or I’ll peel the flesh off her bones.”
A brilliant nuclear scientist who, during an accident while testing a fusion reactor, had four mechanical tentacles fused to his body before the AI that controls them begins taking over his own mind, driving him to complete his experiment, whatever the cost. Doctor Octavius is brought across to a neighbouring universe along with Norman Osborn and, as the first and only villain who is successfully cured of his maniacal tendencies, becomes an unexpected ally of the three Spider-Men.
You know the drill, as J. Jonah Jameson puts it, “crazy scientist turns himself into some kind of a monster. Four mechanical arms welded right onto his body”.
Doc Ock is the best version of a complicated, compelling and understandable villain played to perfection by Alfred Molina. He’s an intellectual and a romantic still besotted by his wife and lab assistant Rosie, driven to take a risk for the potential gains of endless renewable energy via engineering a successful fusion reaction in a laboratory environment. His showpiece test, funded by Oscorp, goes horribly wrong when his reactor breaches its containment, causing millions of dollars worth of damage, tragically killing Rosie and fusing Octavius to his own scientific instruments. Awaking in hospital as a frightened, confused tool of destruction, his sentient metal appendages brutally defend themselves against the perceived attack from surgeons with power tools. Without their in-built safeguards, the tentacles take over, forcing Otto to stage a bank robbery to fund another fusion experiment.
Dock Ock is more than an adversary to Spider-Man; he is an equal. They both have brilliant minds and are cursed with their otherworldly gifts that lead to some truly spectacular multi-tiered clashes. A timely shock at the hands of Spider-Man restores Otto’s consciousness, and seeing the destruction he has caused convinces him to end his experiment prematurely and die with his machine. If not a hero then, he is certainly a flawed anti-hero.
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Do you agree with where Spider-Man’s greatest enemies have been placed? Who is your favourite Spider-Bad-Guy? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for more insightful movie lists.