In this post, I am offering up a quick rundown of the Spider-Man movie series, so you can catch up on the Spider-Man films, without having to watch them! Time is precious, and if you simply do not have enough hours to work your way through a large collection of movies, then this post can help.
To make things easy, I’ve divided the films into easy to navigate categories:
- The 1970s era of Spider-Man movies
- The Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy
- The Amazing Spider-Man movies
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe
- The Sony Marvel Universe
Let’s get started.
The 1970s era of Spider-Man movies
During the 1970s, Spider-Man appeared in two live-action television shows: The Amazing Spider-Man (which aired in the US) and Supaidāman (which aired in Japan). These shows spawned four movies.
- US movies: Spider-Man (1977), Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978), and Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge (1979)
- Japanese movie: Supaidāman (1978)
Here’s what you need to know about these movies.
The US Spider-Man movies were originally episodes of The Amazing Spider-Man television show, which starred Nicholas Hammond in the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The pilot episode of the show was released theatrically as Spider-Man (1977), while two, two-part stories were edited together to form the films Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978) and Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge (1979).
The films are largely products of their time, and outside of Nicholas Hammond’s involvement, there is not much you need to know about these stories. The movies did not feature any comic book villains (just generic bad guys) and they are not as well remembered as other superhero adaptations of the era (The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman etc).
As for the Japanese Spider-Man movie, well this was a theatrically released episode of the Supaidāman TV show. Shinji Tōdō played the role of Takuya Yamashiro/Spider-Man, in an adventure which pitted Spider-Man against the Sea Devil.
The main things you need to know about Supaidāman (both the show and the movie) is that Spider-Man worked with a robot called Leopardon. This robot has a cult following and is occasionally referenced in comics/geekdom.
If you want to know more about the Supaidāman show, then read through my post: ‘What is the Japanese Spider-Man movie and show?’
The Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy
In 2002, director Sam Raimi helmed three Spider-Man movies, with Tobey Maguire in the lead role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. These films – Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007) – were hugely successful and gave many cinemagoers their first understanding of Spider-Man and the world he inhabits.
What do you need to know about these movies?
Across the course of three films, Peter Parker became Spider-Man, learned about the importance of power and responsibility and fought a succession of villains, including the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom, the Sandman, and the new Goblin. The movies also explored Parker’s romantic relationship with his on/off girlfriend Mary Jane Watson, as well as his fractious relationship with best friend Harry Osborn.
The key things to know about this series:
- Spider-Man’s mantra – ‘With great power, comes great responsibility’ – is an important part of this trilogy.
- Spider-Man can shoot his own webs in these films – which is different to most adaptations of Spider-Man where he uses mechanical web-shooters.
- The black costume/Venom is introduced in Spider-Man 3.
- A fourth entry – titled Spider-Man 4 – was in development, but it was cancelled before cameras started to roll, so the trilogy doesn’t have a completely satisfactory conclusion.
If you can make the time, The Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy is worth watching – especially Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004). These two movies explain who Spider-Man is, what his core values are, and what spurs him on each day.
The Amazing Spider-Man movies
In 2012, director Marc Webb reset the Spider-Man movie series with The Amazing Spider-Man. The film was followed in 2014 by a sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
What do you need to know about these films?
Andrew Garfield took on the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man for the two entries in this series, which saw Spider-Man go head-to-head with the villains The Lizard, The Rhino, Green Goblin and Electro. The films also put the spotlight on Parker’s romance with on/off girlfriend, Gwen Stacy.
The key things to know about this series:
- Andrew Garfield is VERY good as Peter Parker.
- The movies spend some time discussing Peter Parker’s parents – characters who are largely ignored in the Spider-Man film series.
- Emma Stone is the stand-out star of The Amazing Spider-Man collection even though *SPOILER* her character dies *END SPOILER*.
- A third Amazing movie – titled The Amazing Spider-Man 3 – was in the pipeline, but it was cancelled due to the poor reception of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The Amazing Spider-Man film collection had a lot of potential, but it never quite took off in the way it should have.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe
The Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and The Amazing Spider-Man movies were produced by Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures, under a contractual arrangement with Marvel and this brought the studio a great deal of financial success. However, as the series progressed, the movies were not as profitable as Sony Pictures wanted and this ultimately led to a new way of approaching the character on film.
What do you need to know?
In 2016, Sony entered into a production partnership with Marvel Studios to allow Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). For these movies, Tom Holland took on the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, where he appeared alongside Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) and Chris Evans (Captain America) as an Avenger.
In addition to fighting alongside the Avengers in MCU movies, Spider-Man also appeared in a series of solo films, co-produced by Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures. In these movies, Spider-Man took on villains including the Vulture, Shocker, and Mysterio.
The key things to know about this series:
- The Spider-Man movies in the MCU are part of a wider collection of connected Marvel movies that date back to 2008’s Iron Man.
- The MCU Spider-Man made his debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
- The films largely take place during a period of time where Peter Parker is a high school student – something which has only partially been the focus of previous Spider-Man movies.
If you wish to follow Spider-Man’s journey in this collection of films, you can do so without having to watch every film in the MCU. For more details, check out my post: ‘What is the best order to watch the MCU Spider-Man movies?’
The Sony Marvel Universe
In addition to working with Marvel Studios on the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies, Sony Pictures also established its own run of Spider-Man-related movies. The movies, which first hit screens in 2018, fell under the banner of the ‘Sony Marvel Universe’.
This universe was created to provide a platform for Marvel characters who were in some way connected to Spider-Man (but who are not necessarily Spider-Man). These films cover anti-heroes, such as Venom (2018) and Morbius (2021), as well as other Spider-folk, such as in the case of Into the Spider-Verse (2018). The series also includes Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021).
OK, so the above information should give you a basic understanding of the Spider-Man movies without having to watch them all. But what if you do want to watch a few, just to get a general flavour of the character?
Well, if you really are pressed for time and you simply want to take in a couple of Spider-Man films before watching whatever the latest Spidey movie is (i.e what is currently playing at the cinema), then I recommend you watch the following three films:
- Spider-Man (2002)
- Spider-Man 2 (2004)
- Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
These three films will give you a clear understanding of who Spider-Man is and what his core values are. These movies will present the key characters, while serving up enough spectacle to keep your attention.
For further information about the Spider-Man movies, please feel free to take a look around my blog, Don’t Tell Harry, where you will find answers to many Spidey movie-related questions. In addition, I recommend you read the posts below.
- Can Spider-Man shoot his own webs?
- Who are the cast of the Spider-Man movies?
- Spider-Man movies: A reference guide