Which Spider-Man is the best Spider-Man? We fought it out.
Over the past 57 years, we’ve seen Spider-Man rebooted, rebranded, spun-off, multiversed (sp?), memed, turned into a popsicle, and more. He’s been Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy, and, on one particularly noteworthy occasion, an anthropomorphic pig voiced by John Mulaney.
In Marvel’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker’s latest on-screen appearance, the iconic hero is portrayed by none other than MCU golden boy Tom Holland. It’s Holland’s fifth time in the role, and arguably one of his best performances.
But the debut of yet another Spidey installment got us thinking. Sure, Tom is great. Like really, really great. But is he the definitive best Spider-Man?
Mashable staffers staked out their respective Spidey camps to settle the question, defending their own personal Spider-Men (and Women!) amazingly.
Peruse our thoughts – organized in chronological Spidey order – and then cast your vote below!
Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Tobey Maguire is the best Spider-Man. Hear me out.
Andrew Garfield nailed the physicality. Tom Holland’s got the sweet-natured comic relief and inner heroism on lock. (He’s also in human form.) Shameik Moore showed us that anyone can be a hero. He’s also the owner of the single best Spider-Man movie to date. But it all started with Tobey.
Together with director Sam Raimi, he wrote the book on modern big screen translations of Marvel Comics’ famed wall-crawler. The younger 2002 Maguire was perfectly cast, embodying all the best attributes of the character fans have loved for decades.
He played Peter Parker just right. Sweet and unassuming. Quietly heroic. Inherently doofy. Juuuuust the right amount of human vulnerability. Maguire showed us what a real-life version of a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” actually looked like.
His first go-round as Spidey still stands as one of the best superhero movies. It feels like a comic book in motion. That’s due in no small part to Willem Dafoe’s electrifying take on the Green Goblin, sure. But it’s the chemistry between the two that matters. Maguire was a grounded presence in the face of Dafoe’s bombast.
Without a doubt the best kiss out of any Spider-Man movie, if not any superhero movie in general.
Speaking of chemistry, Tobey’s Spidey also brought us the best iteration of the Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson love match. Maguire’s simmering chemistry with Kirsten Dunst was evident in their every scene together, but nowhere was it clearer than — without a doubt the best kiss out of any Spider-Man movie, if not any superhero movie in general.
Maguire tends to get a raw deal because Spider-Man 3 was such a pile of garbage. And yeah, it was. But don’t you have at least a shred of affection for Maguire’s emo Peter? It was disappointing and rage-inducing in the moment, sure, but it’s led to so many superb memes in the years since. The movie as a whole hasn’t aged well, but watch it again. Maguire still brings his special kind of magic to that role.
If we were talking best movie or most faithful comic book story adaptation, the conversation would be very different. But best Spidey? It’s no contest. Tobey is the modern original. He set the standard. -Adam Rosenberg, Senior Entertainment Reporter
Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
For me, Spider-Man is all about humor and heart – and no Spidey is funnier or more felt than Andrew Garfield’s Spidey.
Over the years, Peter Parker has amassed fans by being relentlessly and unceasingly relatable. In the comics, he shared pithy observations on 1960s high school politics and the perils of becoming super. In The Amazing Spider-Man circa 2012, he offers up slick one-liners while skateboarding, flirting with girls, and fighting off a gigantic lizard.
“In the future, if you’re gonna steal a car, you don’t dress like a car thief, man!”
This Peter is full of style, imbued with a sense of arachnid physicality and teenage-dom perfect for the story’s early 2010s setting. On the action front, it’s spectacular to watch. On the humor front, it’s the perfect set dressing to some of the best Spidey lines ever written. (“In the future, if you’re gonna steal a car, you don’t dress like a car thief, man!”)
Yes, in some ways Garfield’s Peter is “cooler” than Peters of the past – a fact many comic book readers used to malign this embodiment of the character at the time of the film’s release.
But perceived social positioning doesn’t always translate to whether or not someone feels like an outcast, a major theme across the Spider-Man universe and a fact Garfield’s performance underscores consistently. (Notably, Holland’s MCU narrative is only just beginning to tackle the concept in the wake of Endgame.)
Garfield’s take on Peter emphasizes how the sarcastic kid rocking a sweater with DIY thumb loops isn’t always as tough as they may seem or as they may want to seem, depicting Peter’s struggle to cope with the loss of both his Uncle Ben in Amazing Spider-Man 1 and his girlfriend Gwen in Amazing Spider-Man 2 heart-wrenchingly.
If it’s true that anyone can be Spider-Man, then even those who hide their vulnerabilities are eligible. For this Peter, humor and web tricks serve as a kind of shield, protecting him from the harrowing realities of what he must do for the people of New York City.
With just two films to his arc, Garfield spent only a limited time beneath the Spidey mask, but for me it was deeply impactful. A champion of showing your true self and painstakingly breaking down your own emotional walls, Garfield’s Spider-Man is my Spider-Man. Right down to the Nike Dunk Lows. -Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter
Yuri Lowenthal in Marvel’s Spider-Man for PS4
In 2018’s Spider-Man, for PlayStation 4, the hero and his world feel both fresh and familiar. Distinct from the films, the comics, or any previous series, Insomniac Games has crafted a brand-new interpretation of the classic character. And it rules.
The films have mostly focused on a young Peter Parker – younger with each new reboot, in fact –and that’s certainly true to the character’s origin. But Spider-Man has been spinning webs for more than 50 years at this point. Is our hero really cursed to repeat 11th grade forever?
Players meet a version of Peter who has been a superhero for eight years when the game begins. Many of his familiar nemeses are already behind bars, but he faces new challenges as a young man in his mid-20s. Like the Peter comics readers grew up with, who long ago moved past high school and college into semi-functional adulthood, this webhead is trying to survive in the world and make it a better place – with or without a mask.
This is a guy who’s trying to stand on his own two feet while being weighed down by the responsibility he feels as a masked hero, and we feel it every step of the way. Thematically, the story recalls Spider-Man 2, but without Tobey Maguire’s bug-eyed wallflower energy. Insomniac’s Peter is more well-adjusted and good-humored, but driven by a solemn sense of duty. In other words, exactly what Spider-Man should be.
Peter is more well-adjusted and good-humored, but driven by a solemn sense of duty. In other words, he’s exactly what Spider-Man should be.
Voiced perfectly by Yuri Lowenthal, Peter is earnest and caring, with a wisdom and assuredness from his years of crime-fighting. And when he’s wearing the mask, he spouts quips and bad jokes endlessly in true Spidey fashion. And whether he’s swinging, fighting, or sticking to a wall, he always moves like Spider-Man too.
Other aspects of Peter’s identity also play a part; his talents for photography and science are crucial to the storyline, and his arsenal of gadgets grows as he invents new ways to disable opponents. Unlike any of his film representations, there’s never the sense that something is missing from this Spider-Man.
And not only Peter shines — much like last year’s brilliant Into the Spider-Verse, Insomniac makes the character’s history into a serious strength. Characters like Norman Osborn and Otto Octavius are remixed and updated into a modern context that feels real, as if we’re meeting the true version for the first time.
It’s worth noting that Mary Jane benefits hugely from Insomniac’s treatment. No longer a mere damsel to be saved, this MJ is a fearless reporter who works alongside Spider-Man as an equal.
The films have defined Spider-Man on screen… with varying degrees of success. But for me, going forward, Insomniac’s Spider-Man is my Spider-Man. -Bob Al-Greene, Senior Illustrator
Jake Johnson as Peter B. Parker in Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Spider-Man’s whole thing, across his many different incarnations, is that he’s relatable. And what’s more relatable than a pudgy middle-aged divorcé binge-eating pizza and weeping over nature docs?
As voiced by Jake Johnson, Peter B. Parker’s got strong sad-sack energy but also a sly sense of humor. He’s jaded and practical about the realities of superhero-dom, as well versed with the tropes of the genre as any of us are: “They always say that,” he scoffs when Miles warns him that everyone could die. Yet he still comes through in the clutch, even at great personal cost to himself, because he remains at heart a decent guy.
In Peter B. Parker, we face the long-term toll that superhero-ing can take on a person’s life, and the disappointing truth that even super-strength and spider-sense can’t protect you from the irritations and miseries of ordinary human existence, like death, divorce, and poor financial planning.
He’s a shot of reality in a wish-fulfillment fantasy, but not an unwelcome one — to the contrary, I think he’s inspiring. He reminds us that you don’t have to have it all figured out to do your part to help save the world. You just have to be willing to step up. –Angie Han, Deputy Entertainment Editor
Shameik Moore as Miles Morales in Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the Spider-Man of the people. Voiced by Shameik Moore, this version of Spider-Man is a breath of fresh air after years of nothing but Peter Parker after Peter Parker on the big screen.
One of the greatest aspects of Moore’s Spider-Man is his connection to “the people” (meaning his classmates at the public school he attended before being transferred to a private school) and understanding that Spider-Man is just a mask. After meeting several Spideys, including two different Peter Parkers, a Spider-Woman, a Spider-Pig, and others, Moore’s Spider-Man comes to the conclusion that anyone can be Spider-Man, which makes him not only the most humble Spidey out there, but also the most self-aware.
Also, Moore’s Spider-Man can turn invisible and shock people, which makes him objectively better than the other Spider-Men. -Kellen Beck, Entertainment Reporter
Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy in Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
I’m going to take the non-traditional approach and boldly claim a simple truth: Into the Spider-Verse’s Spider-Gwen, played by Hailee Steinfeld, is exactly the spidey superhero we need right now. The actress and singer stepped into this role in full *swing* and stood out in a movie filled with several heroes (and famed actors) to leave her mark.
Steinfeld was exuberant, funny, and relatable as Earth-65’s mighty Gwen Stacy. Her voice work is sublime; she gives off a real leader vibe because she isn’t afraid to take charge and speak her mind. She may be healing from the loss of a best friend Peter Parker in her reality but those walls come down slowly and at her own time.
With her independent, rad millennial approach to life and hairstyles, this Spider-Gwen is here to stay.
Most importantly, Steinfeld’s Spider-Gwen represents a world of possibilities for the new generation. We’ve seen this version of her in comics but to the movie really gifted us with a well-characterized female icon to root for. With her independent approach to life and hairstyles, this Spider-Gwen is here to stay. But don’t just take my word for it.
After Spider-Verse’s success (cough, Oscar, cough) it’s hardly surprising that not only is a sequel focused on Gwen and Miles confirmed to be in the works, but the creators have also announced a spin-off focused on several Spider-Women.
Who better to guide this crew other than everyone’s new favorite Spider-Woman? -Saloni Gajjar, Entertainment Fellow
Tom Holland in Marvel’s Spider-Man:Homecoming (2017)and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
I have never so deeply understood the phrase “You don’t know what you’re missing out on” until Tom Holland was cast as Peter Parker. When Tobey Maguire was Spider-Man, I was young enough to accept it without question. When it was Andrew Garfield, I experienced the thrill of watching my established crush rise to the mainstream, but recognized the sub-par material he was met with.
But then along came Tom, and from the first moment he was on-screen in Captain America: Civil War, I knew deep within my soul that this was my Spider-Man. As the closest thing to an actual teen cast in the role (both Maguire and Garfield were in their late 20s), Tom strikes the perfect balance of youthful innocence and adolescent self-discovery. He’s ripped but has a boyish face. The five years between us mean that I objectively recognize how crush-worthy Tom is, but frequently refer to him as my son and pray that the universe protect him from all harm.
In many ways, Tom is the ideal white male Gen Z icon, the subtly updated version of the Spideys and Chrises that preceded him. He’s secure enough in his identity to serve up a performance of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” that never fails to leave me speechless, and for Spider-Man: Homecoming to nonchalantly give Peter a love interest who’s taller than he is. Just recently, Tom admonished oblivious male fans at a Spider-Man red carpet for nearly crushing the girl in front of them, threatening to “throw [their] shit on the ground” if they kept pushing and then and then actually doing it. He loves puppies and who doesn’t but he also is a puppy in a very real sense!
In conclusion, Tom is obviously the Spider-Man for whom this, the definitely real Spider-Man theme song, was written:
Everybody likes Spider-Man
Spins a web
Like a bug
Does a good job
Gets a hug
Here comes the Spider-Man
— Kibblesmith ☃️ (@kibblesmith) April 29, 2019
-Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter