A popular thing with comic book fans is debating who played a certain role best. For Batman, there are fights between fans between whether it was Michael Keaton and Christian Bale (with Ben Affleck having his defenders). For Superman, there are fans of Christopher Reeve vs. fans of Tom Welling vs the fans of Henry Cavill. Wonder Woman fans can debate Gal Gadot vs Lynda Carter. Sure, there may be only one on-screen Wolverine but so many other roles have had multiple actors to put their takes on it. That includes Spider-Man.
First, Tobey Maguire played the role in 2002’s big-screen movie and the two sequels that followed. Andrew Garfield was next for 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man which had only one follow up. Now, Tom Holland has taken on the role in the movies. Each actor has his fans and each brought something different to the part. Many love Holland for his youthful vibe as Peter and how he connects to the MCU. Maguire is also loved for how he brought the part to life on screen first. Sadly, Garfield is mostly forgotten due to how poor his movies were. Fans, however, do love each Spider-Man for their own reasons, but the consensus seems to be that Tom Holland outshines them all.
MAGUIRE: HE WAS THE FIRST
The reason Maguire gets attention is obvious. It took years for Spider-Man to reach the big screen and thus the first actor was going to make an impact, no matter what. It’s the same for Michael Keaton as Batman or Christopher Reeve as Superman. The first person gets to make the mark.
Maguire won fans over by being the first major Peter Parker and thus many fans will insist he was the best. He set the standard for superhero films to come, playing someone who is trying to adapt to his new powers. He was believable in fights and even fit the costume well.
MAGUIRE: MADE YOU FEEL FOR PETER
Peter Parker was always Stan Lee’s favorite hero and many fans agreed it was because of how relatable he was. Yes, he was a superhero but he struggled with school, finances, a messy personal life, and many other issues. Maguire captured that pretty well; he was able to portray Peter feeling the weight of responsibility on him, as well as pulling off some lighter scenes.
The moment in the first film when he realizes he was partly responsible for his Uncle Ben’s death was truly moving and made fans feel sorry for him. Fans are always rooting for him to come out on top.
MAGUIRE: SAW THE GOOD IN THE BAD
One of the best parts of Spider-Man 2 is that Doctor Octopus isn’t a pure villain. The movie shows how Peter looks up to Otto as he is a genius scientist warped by a tragic accident. Even during their fights, he’s trying to redeem Otto. That leads to the great part at the end where Peter reveals his identity and convinces Doc Ock to save the day.
That’s the essence of Spider-Man: the guy always willing to see the best in people, even the “bad guys.” He also tried to help his friend Harry Osborn see that the path to darkness was destroying his life. True, Peter being infected by Venom in the third film was rough, but it also showed him how to face his own inner darkness and come through in the end.
MAGUIRE: ICONIC IMAGERY
The chemistry between Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane was terrific. The two got along great in the trilogy with Peter pining for MJ and eventually winning her over. That included a scene that’s since become an iconic moment for all superhero movies. After saving MJ from muggers in a rainstorm, Peter hangs upside down in his costume.
To reward him, MJ pulls up the lower part of his mask and gives him a steamy kiss in the rain. It was an amazing shot that could have been cheesy but instead came off warm and even romantic. It’s a scene that could only work for a Spider-Man film, specifically a Maguire Spider-Man film!
MAGUIRE: HAD THE BEST ACTION SCENES
The direction of Sam Raimi was another major reason the first Spider-Man movies worked. Raimi brilliantly used CGI to make Spider-Man move like no other hero. He was bouncing around, twisting, and all the web-slinging scenes were fantastic. This led to great bits, like his fight with the Green Goblin and rescuing MJ from a falling building.
The second movie has what might be one of the best superhero fight scenes ever as Spidey and Doc Ock go at it on top of a rushing train. Even the third movie, although it does not have the best ratings, still had amazing fight sequences. Raimi really helped bring the comic book fights to life.
GARFIELD: TOO OLD
Having an actor in his twenties playing a high schooler is nothing new in Hollywood. However, when he landed the role of Peter Parker, Garfield was hitting 30 and looked like it, too. Trying to accept him as a teenager was way too much to ask for and it threw the whole movie off.
The producers tried to age him up fast by sending him to college, but it still did not achieve the youthful vibe that they were going for. The movies as a whole had their share of problems, but this was perhaps one of the larger ones.
GARFIELD: TOO SERIOUS
It’s obvious that the ASM movies were going for the same vibe as Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The issue is that a “dark and gritty vibe” does not fit Spider-Man as a character. The character is about hope and his adventures are much lighter. He should be enjoying his hero life, not dealing with so much angst.
The scenes where he was up against the Lizard were good but the movies seemed to go overboard in incorporating the dark angst. Homecoming showed how a lighter Spidey can work wonderfully for viewers and can fit the character much better. Trying to capture the Dark Knight aura for Spider-Man just caused too many messes for moviegoers.
GARFIELD: THE STUDIO MESSED THINGS UP
It was obvious how Sony wanted to turn Spider-Man into its version of Tony Stark, trying to make him the face of its own cinematic universe. ASM 2 was built to help a spin-off focusing on the Sinister Six. Other movies were planned for Black Cat, Silver Sable, Venom and the studios even wanted an Aunt May solo film. The issue was that the studio was more interested in this “franchise” than making ASM 2 work.
The results of that decision came with a poor movie that wasted time trying to build up a bigger universe rather than make the main story work. The failure of the strategy was shown when ASM 2 underperformed so much that Sony let Marvel have the character back. Now, Venom is the only one of the spin-offs to exist.
GARFIELD: A BLOATED BACKSTORY
Spider-Man’s backstory is meant to be rather simple. He was orphaned as a child and later learned his parents had been secret agents. True, the comics have thrown some twists into it (many of which fans prefer to ignore), but it just shows how Peter’s life wasn’t too wild before he got bitten by that spider. The ASM movies felt the need to have a ridiculously complex backstory of Peter’s scientist father being taken out because of his research.
Thus, Peter wasted a lot of the films delving into the past and had a murky connection to Norman Osborn that led to some bad plot twists. The MCU was smart to just skip the origin entirely as this bloated addition to the mythos hurt the Garfield movies, and did not convey it as well as the original trilogy did.
GARFIELD: NOT THAT ENGAGING
Andrew Garfield is a very good actor. He has a Tony and been nominated for an Oscar, so his talent is proven. However, he just wasn’t a good pick for Spider-Man. Garfield lacked that special ingredient needed to truly captivate fans and make the part work.
He was okay with some dramatic stuff and had good chemistry with Emma Stone, but somehow, Garfield just couldn’t win fans over in the costume and the movie really suffered. Just because someone is a good actor doesn’t always mean they’re a natural fit for a superhero role. Garfield sadly proves that.
HOLLAND: FRESH-FACED, YOUTHFUL EXUBERANCE
While Peter Parker has aged in the comics into his 30s, fans still enjoy the classic version of the shy teenage kid. Holland captures that better than anyone before him. It definitely helps that the actor is 22 but looks much younger. Unlike Maguire and Garfield, you can truly believe this is a high schooler and that adds more impact to his performance.
Seeing this kid hanging around with superheroes and getting major thrills is a huge draw for fans and makes his Peter even more relatable. It also helps that so much of Homecoming has Peter dealing with normal high school issues. Holland definitely captures the vibe that fans were waiting for.
Spider-Man is meant to be the wittiest character in the Marvel Universe. Even when he’s getting pummeled, he always has a quip handy to shake his opponents up. While Maguire and Garfield had moments, Holland finally captures that on film. His Peter is a jokester, with the banter between his suit and him standing as a real highlight.
He has moments that make fans keel over with laughter, like when he is cracking jokes to villains or Tony Stark. Granted, some of the jokes are bad, but that's the point! Spider-Man uses them to lighten the mood and his anxiety, or get into the heads of his enemies. It’s a vital aspect of the character that Holland nails better than his predecessors.
HOLLAND: PART OF THE MCU
One of the best coups Marvel Studios made was managing to untangle years of legal red tape to get Spider-Man into the MCU. The way he was introduced in Civil War was terrific; producers did not bother with the origin everyone knows, they straight up threw him into the action. It allowed us to see how the world of already established heroes would evolve with this coming-of-age hero.
It also allowed the movie to tie in Homecoming's villain the Vulture, who started his acts of villainy because of the alien invasion that came from the Avengers film. Of course, this all paid off in Infinity War, with Spidey working with Iron Man, Doctor Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
HOLLAND: HE HAS THE BEST SUPPORTING CAST
The first Spider-Man movies had some good supporting turns (especially J.K. Simmons as an absolutely perfect J. Jonah Jameson). The Garfield movies had Sally Field as Aunt May and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, yet seemed to lack the special vibe needed to help Peter out. Homecoming gives Peter a much better supporting cast of friends.
Ned was a great addition as the best friend who thinks Peter’s life is completely awesome. Their banter helped ground Peter more for the audiences and make him more likeable. Zendaya was also good as the sardonic classmate with a nice twist to her true identity. Marisa Tomei made a lighter and more vibrant Aunt May. Overall, Holland just had the best supporting cast of any of the films to stand out.
HOLLAND: AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
Considering everything that came from the last decade, Infinity War was a dream come true. Spider-Man also got his first flight into space in this movie. His cool armor suit was a nice addition and led to thrills in his fight with Thanos. Then came that incredible moment when Peter is among those taken by the “Snappening” that Thanos unleashes.
Holland sells every second of it as Peter feels the end coming before the others, thanks to his Spider-Sense. He holds on to Tony desperately and begs him to help him stay. His two iconic lines "Mr. Stark, I don't feel so good," and "I don't want to go," have destroyed fans all over the world. It was an incredible moment that Holland pulled off brilliantly and it has become the most tear-jerking scene in the MCU.