With the release of “Spider-man: No Way Home”, we figured it might be helpful to put together a guide to the Spider-man films, especially considering we’ve had three live-action takes on Peter Parker in the last 20 years! So if you’re new to the webslinger, or just need a refresher course, this is a good starting point.
THE SAM RAIMI ‘SPIDER-MAN’ TRILOGY (2002-2007)
Before Spider-man’s official introduction into the MCU (with Tom Holland as the web crawler), this is a great point to revisit the original Spider-man trilogy, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker!
In the first Spider-man, Peter Parker is bit by a genetically enhanced spider on a field trip that gives him superhuman abilities. After losing his Uncle Ben to a mugger, Peter learns that “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” and decides to use his gifts to help others. He soon crosses paths with his best friend’s dad, Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) who became ‘The Green Goblin’ after a super soldier serum experiment went awry. The Goblin soon learns Peter’s identity and uses his love for Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) against him!
In Spider-man 2, Peter goes toe to toe with his deadliest foe yet, Doctor Otto Octavius aka “Doc Ock” (Alfred Molina), a brilliant scientist who became fused to four mechanical tentacles after a freak accident while testing his fusion reactor. Between struggling with his failing powers and trying to find balance in his love life, Peter considers giving up being Spider-man for good…
Spider-man 3 had Parker facing off against Harry Osborn (James Franco) who blames him for his father’s death, Flint Marko aka ‘the Sandman’ (Thomas Hayden Church), and Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) who becomes possessed with an evil alien symbiote called ‘Venom’!
While the third film was a bit of a letdown, the first two Spider-man films still hold up really well as great superhero movies in their own right. This version of the character took a lot of inspiration from the original Stan Lee/ Steve Ditko Spidey comics from the 1960’s.
THE ‘AMAZING SPIDER-MAN’ MOVIES (2012-2014)
Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-man” (and it’s sequel), rebooted the character with an alternate take on his origin story, played by Andrew Garfield, before he was rebooted once again into the MCU.
In The Amazing Spider-man, Peter Parker meets Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) while trying to learn more about his father, who used to work at Oscorp. While on a field trip at Oscorp, Peter is bitten by a radioactive spider that alters his DNA, giving him enhanced strength and senses. In this version, like the comics, Peter builds his own web shooters and creates his own costume. Peter ends up dating Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) before realizing that her father is the police chief currently hunting down the vigilante known as “Spider-man”. Doctor Connors is forced to test a mutagen on himself that regrows his arm, but ends up turning him into a mutant lizard / human hybrid! Spidey manages to stop ‘The Lizard’, but Captain Stacey is tragically killed in the confrontation atop Oscorp tower.
The Amazing Spider-man 2 introduces Jamie Foxx as ‘Electro’, and a different version of Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) who turns into the Goblin while trying to cure himself from a genetic disease that killed his father. (We also get Paul Giamatti as ‘The Rhino’ and hints at other villains with Doc Ock’s arms and the Vulture’s wings at Oscorp.) The movie tragically ends with Peter failing to save Gwen from the Goblin, just like in the comics…
Overall, the Amazing Spider-man duology was a bit of a convoluted mess (especially that second one), but they did take the character in a more serious direction, with a more ‘modern’ approach, taking heavy inspiration from the newer (at the time) Ultimate Spider-man comics.
INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018)
“Into the Spider-verse” isn’t just one of the best animated superhero movies, I’d argue that it’s one of the best comic book movies ever made (Click here for more on that…)
This one follows Miles Morales, a young African American highschool student who is bitten by an irradiated spider, gaining powers and abilities similar to Peter Parker. After the death of his universe’s Spider-man at the hands of Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin, Miles is mentored by a displaced Spidey variant, Peter B. Parker, who is currently going through a mid-life crisis. Miles learns to become his own Spider-man as he teams up with an alternate Gwen Stacey (who became Spider-woman in her universe), Spider-man Noir (voiced by Nicholas Cage), Penny Parker (and her anime robot from the manga-verse), and even Spider-Ham / Peter Porker… A cartoon pig?!
A two-part sequel is in the works, “Across the Spider-verse” which seems to be pitting Miles and Spider-Gwen against Spider-man 2099!
THE VENOM MOVIES (2018-2021)
In recent years, we’ve gotten not just one, but two Venom movies starring Tom Hardy as Eddy Brock: “Venom” and “Let There Ne Carnage”. While they’re not on par with the MCU movies, Tom Hardy does a great job in the role. In the comics, Venom started out as a Spider-man villain, but in the movies, he takes on a more anti-hero role, without the direct Spidey connections.
SPIDER-MAN IN THE MCU
The Marvel Cinematic Universe first kicked off with Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man” in 2008, and has since become one of the most successful movie franchises of all time, thanks in part to producer Kevin Fiege, with each movie tying into a larger story arc.
Tom Holland was introduced as the MCU’s version of Peter Parker, making his debut in “Captain America: Civil War” and later starring in “Spider-man: Homecoming”, “Spider-man: Far From Home”, and “Spider-man: No Way Home”, as well as appearing in “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame”.
Although this version was never given an origin story, like Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire, rumor is we’re finally getting a version of his origin in the animated “Spider-man: Freshman Year”, coming soon to Disney Plus.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)
“Captain America: Civil War” was the third Captain America film, and the 13th entry in the MCU, following the events of “The Winter Soldier”, “Ant-Man”, and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. Civil War introduces both Black Panther and Spider-man into the series and features several of the Avengers prominently, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) as the main antagonist.
The movie centers around the Avengers being divided over the Sokovia Accords in the fallout from Ultron’s attack, with Tony Stark taking sides against Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Stark heads to Queens, New York and enlists Peter Parker to his side, supplying him with a new high-tech suit.
Spider-man swings into the battle, stealing Cap’s shield at one point, and webbing up several heroes including Falcon and Bucky, quipping the whole time. While it’s not a proper Spider-man movie, right away fans were thrilled with this interpretation of the character, and couldn’t wait for more.
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)
Following his official MCU debut in “Captain America: Civil War”, where he fought alongside Iron Man and the Avengers against a rogue Captain America, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is back home in New York, and trying to find his place in the world as the ‘friendly neighborhood Spider-man’.
“Spider-man: Homecoming” (directed by Jon Watts) opens with a flashback to the devastation in New York following the Avengers battle against the alien invasion (see: The Avengers), where Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton!?) is a construction worker, recovering alien tech from the rubble. Toomes and his crew lose their jobs when Damage Control takes over, and Toomes begins a personal vendetta against Tony Stark.
As Peter tries to balance his life of crime fighting and high school, while eagerly awaiting a call from Happy Hogan (Tony’s bodyguard, see: Iron Man 1-3) about his “Stark Internship”, we meet: his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), his best friend Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), his crush Liz Allen (Laura Harrier), the school bully, Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr), and MJ (Zendaya).
On a field trip to Washington DC, Peter comes in to conflict with “The Vulture” – Adrian Toomes in a high-tech flight suit, reverse engineered from the alien tech. Tony Stark warns Peter to stay away from the Vulture, after using an Iron Man drone to save him. Peter goes behind Stark’s back to try and prove himself, but ends up messing up an FBI operation to try and capture Toomes, and a ferry is destroyed in the process. Tony shows up in person and demands the Spider suit back, because he’s proven himself irresponsible.
Peter tries to go back to his normal life, and asks Liz out for the homecoming dance. However, in a shocking twist, Adrian Toomes turns out to be Liz’s father! Toomes quickly figures out that Peter is Spider-man, as he’s dropping them off at the homecoming dance. Peter chooses to leave Liz at the dance in order to try and stop her father, and suits up in his original, home-made Spider-man suit to take down the Vulture!
Peter manages to stop the Vulture from hijacking a Stark plane full of Avengers tech, and even saves his life. In prison, Toomes decides to protect Peter’s secret identity. Later, Tony Stark thanks Peter for stopping the Vulture and was about to offer him a new suit and a place on the Avengers, but Peter turns him down, realizing he still needs to grow into the hero role. Tony then proposes to Pepper Potts. At the very end of the movie, Peter comes home from swinging around as Spider-man, only to have Aunt May walk in and realize his secret identity!
After a cool credit sequence set to the Ramones, we get a funny post-credit scene with a PSA from Captain America.
Note: This movie also introduces us to proto-versions of several other Spider-man villains, including: The Shocker, The Tinkerer, and The Scorpion!
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)
During the events of “Infinity War”, Peter Parker suits up as Spider-man once again, when Thanos’s forces attack New York in search of the Infinity Stones. Spidey teams up with Iron Man and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). During the conflict, Stark gives him a new nano-tech ‘Iron Spider’ armor and they end up on an alien spacecraft headed for the planet Titan, where they meet up with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
When Thanos (Josh Brolin) shows up for the Time Stone, Spider-man helps to try and seperate him from the Infinity Gauntlet, but they’re quickly overpowered. As a last ditch effort to save the universe, Doctor Strange hands over the Time Stone knowing that it’s the only way to ensure their victory in the future.
The movie ends with Thanos obtaining all six Infinity Stones and using their power to wipe out half the population of the universe, along with several heroes, including Spider-man himself, who all vanish into dust…
AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)
5 years after ‘the Snappening’, the remaining Avengers regroup with a plan to go back in time and retrieve the Infinity Stones to set things right. Their plan is ultimately succesful, and Banner / Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) manages to weild them to bring everyone back, including Spider-man.
“Endgame” ends with a massive climactic battle as Captain America, with Thor’s hammer, leads hundreds of heroes against Thanos and his forces. Thanos nearly manages to retake the Gauntlet, but in a surprise twist, Tony Stark sacrifices himself to save the universe by using the stones to erase Thanos and his armies from existance…
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019)
In “Spider-man: Far From Home”, Peter Parker is still struggling with the ramifications of “Avengers: Endgame”, with the death of his mentor, Tony Stark, and having vanished for five years. Peter and his friends are on a class trip to Europe, when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) approaches him to help Quentin Beck aka ‘Mysterio’ (Jake Gyllenhaal), on a mission to save the world from four elemental creatures invading from an alternate universe.
However, it all turns out to be a ruse by Beck to trick Peter into handing over control of Stark’s drone tech. Mysterio is revealed to be a master of illusions using holographic imagery, and Spidey must learn to trust his spider sense to overcome his tricks. At one point, Peter and MJ reveal their feelings to one another, and she reveals that she already figured out he was Spider-man. Happy Hogan shows up in a Quinjet in London to help Peter out, and gives him one of Stark’s 3D printers, allowing him to make a new red and black suit, with a built in web glider.
After Mysterio seemingly dies by his own hand, the movie ends with J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) announcing Peter’s secret identity to the world with a video left behind by Mysterio, implicating Spider-man in the attack on London!
During the movie, Fury is also revealed to be a shape-shifting Skrull (see: “Captain Marvel”), while the real Fury was off planet!
SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (2021)
“Spider-man: No Way Home” picks up immediately after “Far From Home”, with Peter’s identity being revealed to the world by Mysterio and J. Jonah Jameson, which causes ramifications for everyone close to him: MJ, Ned, Aunt May, and Happy Hogan. At one point, Matt Murdock aka Daredevil (Charlie Cox) shows up to represent Peter as his lawyer. In desperation, Parker turns to Doctor Strange for help.
Strange casts a spell to erase everyone’s memory of Parker, but something goes wrong and instead of erasing everyone’s memory of Peter being Spider-man, it pulls in several villains who knew Spider-man’s identity from across the multiverse: Otto Octavius aka ‘Doctor Octopus’ (Alfred Molina), Norman Osborn aka ‘The Green Goblin’ (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church), and the Lizard (Rhys Ifans)!
After learning that each of them died fighting Spider-man in other realities, Peter tries to cure each of them before sending them back, against Strange’s warnings. In order to save them, Peter temporarily traps Doctor Strange in the Mirror Dimension, before recruiting help from MJ and Ned.
Peter manages to fix Octavius’s inhibiter chip – putting him back in control of the AI in his mechanical arms, and finds a way to drain Electro’s powers, but Osborn suddenly turns the tables on them! The Goblin convinces the other villains to fight back. Electro manages to steal one of Stark’s Arc Reactors, amping him up, and blasts Doc Ock out of a window! During a brutal fight between Peter and the Goblin, Aunt May is fatally stabbed before Norman pumpkin bombs the hell out of the place! Her last words to Peter are “With Great Power, there must also come Great Responsibility.”
It then turns out that two Spider-man variants: Tobey Maguire (from the Sam Raimi trilogy) and Andrew Garfield (from the Amazing Spider-man movies), also crossed over into this universe – they find Tom Holland’s Peter Parker and convince him to not give up, sharing their own tragic backstories. Together, the three Spider-men concoct a plan to take down the four villains, determined to cure them all and send them back to their own timelines.
After an epic fight at the Statue of Liberty, the trio of Peters manage to subdue Electro, Lizard, and Sandman, curing each of their conditions, with the help of Doc Ock, but Tom Holland loses it and goes after the Green Goblin with a vengeance for killing Aunt May, but Tobey and Andrew manage to talk him down from killing Osborn. Instead, Peter injects Norman with the anti-serum, vanquishing his darker half, leaving him horrified as he realized what he had done as the Goblin.
Meanwhile, Doctor Strange shows back up from the Mirror Dimension and manages to finish the spell to set things right, and send everyone back to their respective universes, and erase the memory of Peter Parker from everyone on the planet, including those closest to him, leaving him truly on his own for the first time.
Peter decides that MJ and Ned are safer without him in their lives and sets out creating a new classic red and blue spider suit, before swinging through the snowy streets of New York City!
The mid-credits scene of “No Way Home” gives us a random cameo of Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock briefly crossing over into the MCU at a hotel in Mexico and leaving a piece of the Venom symbiote behind…
So To Recap…
The Spider-man Trilogy (Tobey Maguire):
- Spider-man (2002)
- Spider-man 2
- Spider-man 3
The Amazing Spider-man Duology (Andrew Garfield):
- The Amazing Spider-man (2012)
- The Amazing Spider-man 2
Spider-man in the MCU (Tom Holland):
- Captain America: Civil War
- Spider-man: Homecoming
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Avengers: Endgame
- Spider-man: Far From Home
- Spider-man: No Way Home
The Spider-verse / Miles Morales (Animated):
- Into the Spider-verse (2018)
- Across the Spider-verse (2023?)
- Venom: Let There Be Carnage
- Kraven the Hunter (coming soon-ish?)
We’ve yet to see what awaits Spidey in the future of the MCU, but we’re hoping to see him team up with Daredevil, the Punisher, Deadpool, the Fantastic Four, and Wolverine at some point!
For our rankings of the Spider-man movies, check out Episode 10 of Comic Zombie, and click here for a full breakdown of the MCU timeline here!