By now, hopefully you had a chance to see Spider-Man: Far from Home. If you haven’t, turn back now! After seeing the movie and speaking with director Jon Watts myself, I started thinking more about the Spider-Man franchise as a whole, which movies worked (in my opinion) or didn’t work (in everyone else’s opinion). Much of the time, at least for me, it came down to the villains.
Part of why Spider-Man has been one of my favorite comics is that he has such a rich and robust Rogues’ Gallery. A doctorate thesis could probably be written about Spider-Man’s villains, how they’ve evolved and morphed over the years and how some writers even tried to explain bigger philosophical ideas to tie them together…. To mixed results.
Now, if you were to tell the Edward Douglas of 2015 that he’d one day be writing a list ranking something, he’d probably tell you that you clearly have no idea what the hell you’re talking about, because “Ed Douglas doesn’t do lists.”
After thinking about the above a little more, it sounded like a fun thing to do in hopefully an original way, as well as something that can generate some comments from those who agree/disagree… although I have a feeling some might be more on the latter side than the former. Below you’ll find a ranking of all of the Spider-Man movie villains.
SPOILER NOTE: If you HAVEN’T seen Spider-Man: Far from Home, you might want to skip over the appropriate section below.
1. Michael Keaton’s THE VULTURE from Spider-Man: Homecoming
One of the best parts of the 2017 Spider-Man reboot is that it really upped the game on the villains. There’s no better proof of that then having one of Spidey’s lamer comic villains being given so much more depth by an acting vet like Michael Keaton. Granted, there have been a lot of great actors playing Spider-villains in the past (see many examples below) but Keaton was a nice change of pace after seeing him play Batman and his Oscar-nominated turn in Birdman. It’s no surprise that Vulture worked visually as far as the action scenes, even implementing the more metallic costuming of previous Spider-Man villains, plus his origin was tied into the aftermath of Joss Whedon’s first Avengers, giving Spider-Man more relevance to the MCU. Then on top of that, there’s a dark twist later in the movie that’s pulled off so well by Keaton you immediately realize why so many superhero villains in movies don’t work as well as they might in comics.
2. Jake Gyllenhaal’s MYSTERIO from Spider-Man: Far from Home
The latest Spider-Man villain is also one of his oldest foes, as Quentin Beck/Mysterio was introduced all the way back in Amazing Spider-Man #13 as a disgruntled movie FX guy who uses his movie magic tricks to commit crime. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character has a much different backstory, partially tying into the concept of Multiverses that was hinted at in Avengers: Endgame. His powers seem ore of the mystical type with a similar greenish huge as Doctor Strange’s magic. Like Keaton in Homecoming, there’s more to this Mysterio than it seems. This becomes more obvious halfway through the movie when there’s a big twist reveal that changes the very nature of the villain of Jon Watts’ sequel, giving Beck/Mysterio far more depth but also tying him into one of the MCU premiere heroes, Tony Stark’s Iron Man. For those, who enjoy the visual mind-bending nature of Mysterio’s powers, they’re also there, but giving him more physical nature allows him to be involved in more action scenes as well.
3. Alfred Molina’s DOCTOR OCTOPUS from Spider-Man 2
Before the most recent Kevin Feige co-produced Spider-Man movies, most would agree that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2was the best of the franchise. Much of that came down to the introduction of one of Spider-Man’s greatest villains, Dr. Otto Octavius aka Doc Ock. Besides appearing way back in Amazing Spider-Man #3, Octopus has managed to plague Peter Parker and Spidey equally by getting involved into his private life, dating Aunt May and even becoming the Superior Spider-Man a while back. Raimi didn’t have that more recent stuff to work from in his movie, but he did have all of the great stories by Lee/Ditko/Romita that he combined into a great character, as played by British actor Alfred Molina. Molina had been a workhorse actor in indie and foreign films despite his early role in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it was clear that he just understood how to give Octavius the humanity needed to make him more than your typical comic book movie. What’s odd is that when you go through this list, Molina is one of the few actors who has never been nominated for an Oscar, which is a shame.
4. Willem Dafoe’s GREEN GOBLIN from Spider-Man
While I had some issues with the way the Green Goblin was depicted in Raimi’s first movie, particularly that metallic costume, oddly enough, I did like how Willem Dafoe portrayed Norman Osborn, one of Peter and Spidey’s greatest nemeses. Dafoe just had a way of being menacing while still acting like the friendly extended member of the Parker family. Plus, Osborne always knew Peter’s secret identity, which made him even more dangerous. Back in 2002 when Spider-Mancame out, many knew that Dafoe was a force to contend with an actor, but he’s just gotten better in recent years, to the point where I’d love to see him be brought back into the “SpiderMovieVerse.” As we saw in one of Far From Homebiggest jaw-drop moments, nothing is impossible!
5. Thomas Haden Church’s SANDMAN from Spider-Man 3
This might be where I lose some of you, because the ire often directed towards Sam Raimi’s third and final Spider-Man movie often leaves some of the best aspects of the movie ignored and forgotten. I’ve always liked Sandman in the comics because he was such a physically-imposing villain for Spider-Man who also delivers such great visuals depending on the artist. The way Thomas Haden Church (not long after his Oscar nomination for Alexander Payne’s Sideways) brought such a sadness to his role as Flint Marko, a man who just wanted to do right by his daughter, that it made me like the comic book villain even more. Maybe the powers that be at Sony didn’t think Sandman was a popular enough villain to follow Green Goblin and Doc Ock on his own, which is why other villains were shoehorned in there, but I would have been perfectly happy if this movie was just about Spider-Man vs. Sandman.
6. Liev Schreiber’s WILSON FISK / KINGPIN from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
While I was going to stick with the live-action movies, I decided to stick one of the villains from last year’s animated Into the Spider-Verse in here, just cause I’m writing the rules here. I really liked the attitude Liev Schreiber brought to the animated version of Wilson Fisk, just by using a very specific accent. I think it was partially because I was so disappointed by the Kingpin in Ben Affleck’s Daredevilmovie or the fact that Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in the Netflix series just wasn’t as physical as the Kingpin from the comics, but this version of the Kingpin helped me like Into the Spider-Versemore than I already did.
7. Rhys Ifans’ THE LIZARD from The Amazing Spider-Man
The Lizard is one of the Spidey villains from comics who I’ve always enjoyed, especially when depicted by a great artist. Like many of the Spidey’s greatest villains, Dr. Curt Connors’ serpentine alter-ego is one that really allows for some fantastic visual designs. When the Lizard was announced for Marc Webb’s first Amazing Spider-Manmovie, the fans were excited, even if they weren’t as familiar with Welsh actor Rhys Ifans as they were with previous actors playing Spider-Man movie villains. Ifans did a decent job, as did the visual FX team on the movie, so that the movie version of The Lizard lived up to the comics and wasn’t a complete embarrassment.
8. James Franco’s GOBLIN from Spider-Man 3
Set up from the get-go in his first Spider-Man movie, director Sam Raimi introduced James Franco as Peter’s friend Harry Osborn, and astute comic readers safely assumed from the beginning that Harry would eventually take over for his father Norman to become the bane of Spidey’s existence. That eventually happened in Spider-Man 3and maybe that wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t feel so forced into a movie with both Sandman and Venom also making their debuts. I do think some of the action scenes involving the new Goblin were great, but I was never really a fan of Franco as Harry, although he was always better than…
9. Dane Dehaan’s GREEN GOBLIN from The Amazing Spider-Man 2
While each of the Spider-Man movies have tried hard to pave new ground in terms of villains, director Marc Webb knew that you couldn’t introduce a second actor as Spider-Man and not eventually bring the Green Goblin back. Norman Osborne was already gone (presumed dead) in Webb’s first movie, so it was up to Dane Dehaan’s Harry Osborn, once again friends to Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker, to take on the Goblin mantle. Listen, I’ve seen and liked Dehaan in many movies since this one, including Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planetsand Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness, but in this case, it felt like he was competing with two so-so versions of the Goblin already presented on screen. This one was clearly the worst of the three.
The only thing that could possibly make The Amazing Spider-Man 2any worse was…
10. Jamie Foxx’s ELECTRO from The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Electro is another villain from the comics who has mainly been one that can be one that’s visually interesting for artists to play around with and maybe he would have worked better as a movie villain if… THEY MADE ANY EFFORT TO MAKE HIM AS COOL AS HE IS IN THE COMICS?!? This one was just a disaster from the get-go, from casting Jamie Foxx to having him play a nerdy janitor who gets caught up in an experiment involving electric eels. It was stupid on paper and it was equally stupid on screen,
11. Topher Grace’s VENOM from Spider-Man 3
Probably the less said about this version of Venom the better, but who knows? Maybe Topher Grace was just the wrong actor to play Eddie Brock, but I just never got the impression that Sam Raimi had any interest in putting Venom in his movie. It could very well have been forced on him by Sony, so he just did the best he could with it, and that meant casting a younger actor to be on the same level as Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker. But that’s the thing. Venom was introduced during the Todd McFarlane era of the comics
12. Paul Giamatti’s RHINO from The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Yeah, sorry, Paul Giamatti. You’re one of my favorite actors, but Amazing Spider-Man 2should have learned its lesson from Spider-Man 3 and kept it at two villains rather than trying to squeeze in one more semi-popular Spider-Man villains like the Rhino. Making it worse was the Rhino’s design made him more of an armored character probably because those were so popular in the Iron Man movies. It also sucked that there wasn’t an actual fight between Spider-Man and Rhino as that’s where the Marc Webb sequel ended, presuming it would get a third chapter… but it didn’t.
How would you rank the Spider-Man movie villains? Let us know what you think of my order in the comments below, unless you disagree, in which case you’re wrong… but feel free to leave those comments anyway.